Knightshayes Court

Country House. 1869-1874 for Sir John Heathcoat-Amory, the grandson of John Heathcoat, the Tiverton factory owner, to the designs of William Burges. Designs for internal decoration partly Burges, but mostly to the designs of JD Crace, who replaced Burges in 1875. First class carved decoration by Thomas Nicholls. Smoking room of 1902 to the designs of Ernest George. MATERIALS: snecked red Hensley stone with Ham Hill dressings; red tiled roof; stacks with embattled stone shafts; some cast-iron rainwater goods. STYLE: early French Gothic. PLAN: on a west east axis. The garden (south) elevation has a vista down to Tiverton town and the Heathcoat factory in the distance. Overall U-plan, double-depth, with hall in the centre, north side with a hall bay and north porch. Principal stair rises from hall at the west end. Reception rooms along south side, overlooking formal garden; single storey billiard room projects to north towards east of main range.

EXTERIOR: front elevation: Single storey hall, otherwise 2 and 3 storeys. Gothic details include coped gables with crocketed finals; corbelled cornice to battlemented stair turret and variety of window forms including lancets and plate tracery. Irregular 2:1:4:3 window front plus single storey smoking room at right end. Single storey front left billiard room at right angles to main range. 2 irregular gables to the front at the left end. Projecting square hall bay to the right of porch and embattled stair tower with pyramidal roof at right end of main block. Gabled porch has 3 centred arched doorway. Hall, to the right, has a parapet and is buttressed with plate traceried transomed stone windows. Stair tower has a moulded string, 3 lancet windows (with 3 more on right return) and a corbelled embattled parapet. Gable to left of porch incorporates a bellcote with large carved hound on ridge above. Other carvings include deeply projecting gargoyles. Windows similar to those on garden elevation with some variations, e.g. one with a diapered tympanum and some with 2 transoms. Billiard room has 1 and 2-light trefoil headed transomed windows and a cornice of paired billiard balls below the parapet which has high quality grotesque carvings. Rib-vaulted porch has 2 leaf half glazed outer door with decorated iron grilles and glazed tympanum, also with grille. Arch of inner doorway is carved and there is an extraordinary lamp holder carved in the form of the upper half of a man over the apex. Retaining wall to the courtyard is coped and has square piers with tiered caps at intervals. The left return has three shouldered lateral chimneystacks. Scattered fenestration matching that on the front elevation. Lower roofed service wing adjoins at right angles. The right return has a first floor corbelled lateral chimneystack - windows match those on the front. Single storey smoking room added by George & Yates in 1901. Single storey projecting bay to the drawing room now leads to the conservatory. The garden elevation is more regular than the north side but not quite symmetrical. 1:5:1 window front plus service wing to right and conservatory to left. End wings broken forward and gabled to the front. There is a moulded string course at first-floor level and deeply projecting cornice with elaborate gargoyles to the roll moulded parapet at second-floor level. Iron framed windows with either glazed or blind plate quatrefoil tracery above. The wings have 3-storey canted bays, the windows with plate quatrefoil tracery to the ground floors. At ground-floor level the main range has mullion windows with double transoms. The entrance has a round headed arch with drip moulding and carved terminals of chained dogs. Stained glass and tracery overlight to 2 leaf door. Each leaf has 6 panels with top 4 being glazed with geometric stained glass. The central windows at first and second-floor levels are enclosed by an ornamental surround with carved columns, an angel figure in the gable and 3 shields above the door. Corbelled corner oriel window between the left wing and main range. The remainder of the windows at first-floor level are 2- and 3-light transomed mullion windows. Gabled half dormers at second-floor level with windows set in recessed arches. Diapered tympana. 2-light transomed mullion windows except extreme left which is 3 light. Massive stone gargoyles and fleurons throughout.

INTERIOR: well-described in Pevsner, including various alterations and an account of the restorations. The great hall is the most spectacular room with a 4-bay arch braced roof springing from first quality carved corbels. The hall was decorated by Crace but redecorated in 1914 when the timber hooded chimney-piece was reduced and the screens passage probably removed. There are plans to restore the Crace decoration on the basis of surviving evidence. The stair cell is divided from the hall by an arcaded gallery of Ashburton marble columns with French waterleaf capitals. Grand stair with elaborate treatment to the underside and a balustrade of diagonally-set balusters above a pierced frieze and newel posts decorated with blind arcading. The Burges work elsewhere in the house is characteristically flamboyant including texts; remarkably lively carvings and the extraordinary 'jellymould domelets' which decorate the drawing room ceiling.
(ref: NHLE)
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