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Gunthorpe Hall, Norfolk: designs for a new house for the Revd Charles Collyer, 1789-1790 (13)

1789
Charles Collyer (1755-1830), second son of Daniell Collyer, merchant, of London and Wroxham, Norfolk, travelled in Italy between 1779 and 1780. Soane's sketchbooks/notebooks (see Sketchbooks catalogue: volumes 80 and 162) show that, for example, Collyer met Soane in Rome and went with him to Mantua on 8 May 1780. Collyer was ordained in 1796 and became rector of the parish of Gunthorpe with Bale, Norfolk, 1798-1830. When eventually Collyer was in need of an architect it was to Soane that he turned. Soane's initial design was for alterations and additions to the existing house; nothing is known of this earlier house which seems to have largely consisted of two thick-walled, parallel ranges, seven bays long (drawing 2). There soon followed designs for a three-bay, two-storey house with three reception rooms and three or four bedrooms. One range was to be partly demolished and the other re-modelled for offices but with 'all the Chambers and Attics' retained in their 'present state'.

Soane's office Ledger B (preceded by entries in 'Journal No 1') shows that the house cost £3,000 to build; savings were made by re-using old materials (SM L/B/10). There is an individual ledger inscribed (spine) 'Mr / Collyer / weekly / Acct / 1789 /1790 / 1791' that details (in several hands) the labour costs week by week of the individual workmen commencing on 27 July 1789 and ending September 1791. The wages were nine or ten shillings a week for six and often seven days work. This very close accounting of labour costs was done on site by the clerk of works and such ledgers were rarely kept as part of the Soane office archive.

In about 1880 William Butterfield (1814-1900) was called in and, among else, Soane's four-column Doric portico was replaced by a brick portico and two bay windows were added to the front. Of Soane's work, the east front survives and some of the interior elements though not the staircase.

Literature. D. Stroud, Sir John Soane, architect, 2nd ed., 1984, p.140 (with pre-1880 photograph); N.Pevsner and B.Wilson, Norfolk 1: Norwich and north-east, 1997, p.533; J. Ingamells, Dictionary of British and Irish travellers in Italy 1701-1800, 1997; P. Dean, Sir John Soane and the country estate, 1999, p.181

JIll Lever
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