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Byram Hall, Ferrybridge, West Yorkshire: designs for the interior of the house for Sir John Ramsden, 4th Baronet, c.1780 (17)

1780
Now demolished, Byram Hall in Ferrybridge, near Wakefield, was a sixteenth-century house, which was amended in the seventeenth century. Its disparate styles were subsequently tied together by an austere classical dress provided by John Carr of York (1723-1807), who can be firmly placed there in 1762. Carr also built Byram’s surviving stables. Byram Hall had a three-storey entrance front with paired windows and two-storey projecting wings, with the fifteen-bay west wing having a pair of central canted bays. Robert Adam was summoned to make internal alterations around 1780.

Byram was the oldest seat of the Ramsden family, who were large-scale landowners in South Yorkshire, particularly in the township of Huddersfield, whose development they vigorously promoted, commissioning, in Adam’s lifetime, the Huddersfield Cloth Hall (1766) and the Sir John Ramsden Canal (1780). As the Ramsdens practically owned Huddersfield, the fortunes of patron and city were conjoined. The burgeoning wool textile industry, which drove Huddersfield’s boom in the second half of the eighteenth century, and the simultaneous rise in the Ramsden rental, enabled Sir John Ramsden, 4th Baronet (1755-1839), to turn his mind and means towards the remodelling of Byram Hall and the services of Robert Adam.

Although never a politician of significance, Sir John Ramsden had a parliamentary career as a Rockingham Whig, benefitting from a familial connection with the Prime Minister. He served as a member of the House of Commons for Grampound in Cornwall (1780-1784) during the second brief term of Lord Rockingham (1730-1782).

Sir John Ramsden engaged Adam for interior work alone in about 1780. Graphic evidence within the Adam drawings collection includes his designs for furniture and interior decoration encompassing the hall, the breakfast room, the dining room, the adjacent passage to the drawing room, the drawing room and the library, to which he made his most extensive alterations. It is likely that the modish Etruscan style he devised for the drawing room influenced a suite of furniture for the dining room of the 4th Baronet’s sister, Mrs. Weddell, at Newby Hall. The Byram designs were carried out and a number of the executed projects are recorded in a series of Country Life photographs (Bolton, 1922, Volume II, pp. 306-7).

The estate was systematically sold off in the 1920s, with over 2,600 acres of Byram Hall estate going under the hammer on 4-5 July 1922. At this time the house was also dismantled. The date generally accepted for the complete demolition of the main house is 1947, thereby erasing Adam’s contribution to Byram Hall (although an extant lodge has also been linked with Adam).

Literature:
A. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, p. 306, 307, Index pp. 5, 85; E. Harris, The furniture of Robert Adam, 1963, p. 22, 48, 72; D. Stillman, The decorative work of Robert Adam, 1966, pp. 18, 52, 77, 79; G. Beard, The work of Robert Adam, 1978, p. 235; W. Spiers, Catalogue of the drawings and designs of Robert and James Adam in Sir John Soane’s Museum, 1979, Index pp. 5, 85; J. M. Robinson, Georgian model farms, 1983, p. 120; D. Pickersgill, A history of Byram Hall and its park, 1996; E. Waterson, and P. Meadows, Lost houses of the West Riding, 1998, p. 22; B. Wragg, (ed. G. Worsley), The life and works of John Carr of York, 2000, p.122; E. Harris, The genius of Robert Adam: his interiors, 2001, p. 9, 11, 221, 360; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam. and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, p. 24, 27, 225, 252, 260; J. Wilton-Ely, “’Amazing and ingenious fancies’ Piranesi and the Adam brothers”, Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome. Supplementary Volumes, Volume 4, The Serpent and the Stylus: Essays on G.B. Piranesi, 2006, p. 237; E. Harris, The country houses of Robert Adam, 2007, p.111; C. Hartop, The Classical Ideal: English Silver, 1760-1840, 2010, p. 48; ‘Ramsden, Sir John, 4th Bt. (1755-1839), of Byram, Yorks.’, History of Parliament online

Tom True, 2015
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