Application to the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage and various charitable trusts was successfully boosted by Landmark’s own appeal and work started in October 2001. Stephen Oliver and Andy Brookes of Rodney Melville & Partners again were our architects. Phil Semmens was site foreman for the contractors, William Sapcote & Sons of Birmingham.
The building had been altered substantially for residential use at an early date, when the windows and loggia were partly or wholly blocked with ashlar, presumably plundered from the ruins of the main house, and a Jacobean door and one smaller window inserted. The shafts of two of the barley twist chimneys had to be replaced; the fifth chimney seemed to have been plundered from the East Banqueting House some time in the past, to serve the inserted fireplace on the terrace floor. Land drains were again laid along the east wall to help with the dampness that pervades the vaulted ground floor chamber. The use of limewash inside will also help with this, although it will be some time before the building dries out and regular redecoration is needed. The west wall had moved away from rotted rafter feet by some 15cm so new metal ties were put in and a concrete tie beam cast. The lathe and plaster of the barrel ceiling was so decayed it had to be renewed. In the kitchen, the floor was recorded, lifted and as many slabs as possible relaid.
More of its Jacobean interior survived in the West Banqueting House, including sections of the original plaster frieze showing a winged lion with a man’s head. Where possible, these have been carefully conserved and pieced back together. Large sections of Jacobean wainscotting also survive at the head of the stair turret. This tower was added soon after the building’s original construction, at first to hold a garderobe (or lavatory). Soon after, perhaps when the banqueting house was converted to domestic accommodation after the fire in 1645, a staircase was inserted instead. These stairs did not survive although the marks of the treads and risers are clearly visible in the walls. We inserted a carefully designed replacement. The East has three storeys, the lower two suites of rooms; the West just two storeys, and a single large chamber on the ground floor. Both were originally open loggias. The intervening centuries have treated them differently, something reflected in Landmark’s approach to their restoration.
We have kept the rough studwork partition which divides the first floor chamber and, to ensure privacy both for the Court House and for visitors to the East Banqueting House, the loggia and some of the windows remain blocked, although others in the kitchen and north and west walls have been unblocked to provide more light. Both external doors are originals; that leading onto the terrace may have been salvaged from the main house. The West Banqueting House has thus deliberately been left much as it came to us, so that it reveals its later history as a domestic dwelling. William Harrison, a key player in the mysterious events known as The Campden Wonder, may well have lived here in the mid-17th century and been responsible for the adaptation.
The Almonry also dates from the early 17th century and is an altogether simpler building than the banqueting houses, following the more traditional pattern of Cotswold architecture seen also in the former stables (now the Court House) and the contemporary Almshouses across the road. It is small in scale and restrained in detail, three storeys with but a single chamber on each floor linked by a stone spiral staircase. Its original function has been the subject of much debate: it may have been the office of a household official although the carefully framed views from its first floor windows suggest it could have been intended as a garden pavilion. Equally, blocked arches in its basement wall and proximity to the ‘bleaching garden’ in early views have led to speculation that it could even have been a laundry. Later references suggest use as a hen roost or dovecote. The only certainty is that it was not built as an almonry, a whimsical name acquired in the 1930s, no doubt due to its proximity to the almshouses, and which has stuck.
In 1930, the Almonry was repaired by F L Griggs, renowned engraver and campaigner for Chipping Campden. The large fireplace on the ground floor is a later insertion but that on the first floor and the balustrade at the top of the stairs are original. Like the West Banqueting House, it has been re-roofed and the stonework repointed.
Court Barn, the surviving fragment of Campden House and Juliana’s Gateway at the bottom of Sir Baptist’s garden are also in the care of the Landmark Trust. Court Barn is leased to the Guild of Handicraft Trust.