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Blundeston House, Suffolk: (executed) house for Nathaniel Rix, 1785-1786 (9)

Signed and dated

  • 1785
    Main Year


The design for Blundeston House has a cross-shaped plan over a sub-basement housing the laundry, kitchen and cellars. The centre containing the stair is, with the east and west projections, three storeys high while the north and south projections (double-height eating room and kitchen with nursery over it) are two storeys high. The house is very plain with a slate roof with steeply projecting eaves on timber brackets.

Nathaniel Rix's obituary in the Gentleman's Magazine, (volume 90, part 2) shows that he died on 28 September 1820 in his 70th year at Chiselden Grange, Essex having moved from Blundeston some while before in order to acquire a larger farm with greater scope for improvement. That Blundeston was built for a practical and successful farmer who was also a 'liberal dissenter' probably explains the straightforward qualities of the design which combines a practical plan that, for instance, did away with a secondary servant's stair, with simple massing and refined interior details.

Plate 38 of Soane's Plans, elevations and sections of buildings erected in the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk ..., 1788 (1789), has the ground floor plan and entrance elevation for what Soane calls 'Oulton near Lowestoft'. In fact the house is in the village of Blundeston. The published plate corresponds well with drawing 1 though it has, for example, niches in the drawing room that do not appear on the drawing. The published description states that the 'house is built with brick; the outside walls are roughcasted'.

When Dorothy Stroud saw the house in the 1954, it was 'almost unchanged' and the brick walls were whitewashed. Ptolomey Dean visited it after it had been 'horribly restored in the late 1980s': the walls sand-blasted, flush plastic windows put in, the internal doors and stair balustrade removed and a new terrace added. 'Only the cellar is unspoiled'. The stables, kitchen offices and (a crinkle-crankle) garden wall survive.

There are entries under Nathaniel Rix in Soane's 'Accompt book 1781', p.96, that begin on 19 June 1785 'A jo.[urney] examined situation', another visit followed on 24 June with some calculations of cost amounting to £1058 including a 'Cacatijo' at £23. On 5 August Soane 'Estimated the design', entries for 26 July 1785, 18 February 1786 and 9 August 1786 are to to do with sending working drawings. Soane's 'Ledger A'. p.70 has an entry for Nathaniel Rix that summarises Soane's fee and expenses. He charged 5% of the total cost of building = £52.18.0 on £1058 + expenses at £3.3.0 per journey x 6 for Soane and £2.2.0 x 1 for Soane's 'clerk' + a journey made 30 January 1790 by a 'Clerk to measure / sundry Works & making out / the same & Expenses [at] £7.7.0'. A total of fees and expenses of £81.5.0. which was received in full on 15 December 1792. It is interesting that Soane worked without interim payment from 19 June 1786 until after January 1790 and then waited until December 1792 to be paid. It is remarkable (and unlikely) that Soane's initial rough estimate of building costs came to the same sum of £1058 on which he charged his fee. There must inevitably have been extras. And indeed a summary of accounts dated May 1793 ('Bill book 1793, pp 1-12) shows further charges that was for work on the 'Stables, Garden Wall & Kitchen offices' as well as the plastering of the drawing and dining rooms. The 'Abstract of Bills' totalled £1003:2:8 and was 'Sent to Mr Rix per post June 6th 1793'.
Literature D.Stroud, Sir John Soane, architect, 2nd edition, 1996, pp.132-3, 245; P.Dean, Sir John Soane and the country estate, 1999, p.176

Jill Lever, November 2009



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Contents of Blundeston House, Suffolk: (executed) house for Nathaniel Rix, 1785-1786 (9)