The Pocklington Brothers and their Buildings

Joseph Pocklington's many building enterprises around Derwentwater have always excited the comments of travellers and the famous, including Wordsworth and Coleridge and so have some fame, even notoriety, of their own. (Country Life, 3rd Sept. l985) His equal­ly extensive works at home in the flat meadows beside the Nott­inghamshire Trent have almost escaped notice. Only the ubiquit­ous Torrington in 1792 sourly accuses him of having "shewn more vile and about his place...than can be well imagined." Joseph's elder brother, Roger(1734-1810) was also a builder on his estate at Winthorpe, just across the broad Trent from those of Joseph at Carlton and Muskham and both began in the same year, 1762, the year after both benefited from considerable legacies in the will of their uncle Joseph. The Pocklingtons were pros­perous and long established in and around Newark where the con­tributions of the eighteenth century to its urban architecture provide a setting of the greatest distinction for its great medieval church and castle, but there is no indication that previous generations were "possessed of the spirit of building."

Winthorpe Hall. Engraving by Bartholomew Howett - 1804.Joseph's earliest buildings were minor improvements at their home at the Bar in Newark. Roger however began by acquiring the carcase of Winthorpe Hall, all two miles north of Newark and comp­leting it for his family. This house, the finest single building of the brothers, was left unfinished at the death of its instig­ator in 1762, and it is to him and his unknown architect that most of the credit must go. The son of the landlord of the Turk's Head in Newark, after Cambridge Dr. Robert Taylor returned home to practice medicine. His fortune changed dramatically when he was called to Belvoir Castle where Lord Burlington, on his way from York to London had been taken seriously ill. In time the malady yielded to the skill and unremitting attention of the medical man; his lordship was restored to health, and Dr. Taylor returned to Newark loaded with praises and with gratitude. This was probably in the late 1740's and Taylor was taken up by the Burlington's and persuaded to move to London where through their in­fluence he was appointed Physician to the King. Becoming "giddy with the applause and the honours which were showered upon him, he became extravagant and haughty; he wasted his substance and alienated his friends...illness succeeded upon adversity, and he died in 1762 without a penny to leave behind." No doubt Winthorpe Hall was one of the extravagances to support his haughteur.

It is an ashlar Palladian villa of five bays over a rusticated basement containing the offices. It was given a Mansard roof in 1886 with a small wing added probably by S. G. Parry who rebuilt the church in that year. The Venetian entrance in the broad and slightly projecting pedimented centre bay is approached by a double flight of stone stairs. The window over the door was originally of the Diocletian pattern. There are canted bays on the north and west fronts which have arched windows. The large vases of the cornice are no longer in place. Inside, the square hall has an Ionic screen and the main rooms have rococo plasterwork still contained in geometric compartments. One room has profile medallions and the Pocklington leopard elsewhere shows that at least Roger fit some of the interior up after 1762. After a period of neglect the house has recently been restored and the roof ret­urned to its original form. It is a distinguished design and just as he chose Roubiliac to carve the fine monument with its profile medallion in Newark church to his first wife in 1757 so he would look to an established London architect design his country house at roughly the same time. His Burling­ton connections must have guided his choice but there is no documentary evidence and the design does not conclusively fit any of the likely second-generation Burlington's. Different aspects of the house are reminiscent of different hands. The compact plan and the bays suggest the villas of Sir Robert Taylor or James Paine and the latter worked much in the area and seems to have been a source for Joseph's style. How­ever Paine was almost certainly in Italy in the crucial years 1755 and 1756 and the interior shapes display none of the cunning inter­locking forms one would expect from either. In its disposition the north front is very like the east front of John Carr's Con­stable Burton of a few years later, but Carr did not favour rus­ticated basements.

It may be noted that when Carr built the New Town Hall at Newark in 1773, Roger Pocklington was one of the three gentlemen on the building committee. Architects who, like Paine, worked nearby must also be considered. Kelham Hall, "a staring, ill-sashed long window'd thing." Torringtonagain was built by John Sanderson one of whose designs for Copped Kail, Essex is quite close to Winthorpe. The facade and even the internal decoration compare with Isaac Ware's Clifton Hill House, Bristol of 1746-50 and the third edition of his Complete Bodywas in Roger's library. Stephen Wright, a protégé of the Duke of Newcastle rebuilt nearby Clumber and later the bridge at Newark for the same patron, but there is nothing to connect him with Winthorpe and the question of Dr. Taylor's architect remains open, as must that of the craftsman who completed the house for Roger Pocklington.

The Blacksmith Shop at Carlton-on-Trent - 1766.Joseph on the other hand kept detailed lists of his building enterprises starting with a coach house at The Bar in 1762. Three years later he embarked on Carlton Manor House six miles north of Newark. Attached two-storey, three-bay wings extend this brick, three storeys, and five-bay house with its three-bay pediment. These have one-bay pediments within three-bay ones, a feature possibly deriving from the work of Paine. On the entrance front the door is set between full-height, close-set canted bays, a motif he would later use on two of his Cumbrian houses, suggesting that here already, with whatever assistance, he was his own architect. The planning is amateurishly awkward, the only communication the narrow hall from front to rear. The finest room with elaborate plasterwork, again with the leopard crest, on walls and ceilings and a white marble caryatid fireplace fills the south wing. The tentative attribution to Carr is unconvincing.

Some minor works had preceded Carlton and more, including the Blacksmith's shop (1766), "'Two mud cottages for the poor" (1767), an "ornamental stable" (1769), Brick Kiln Castle (1770), Killers South Castle (1771) and many more went up in the next ten years, all carefully costed. With one exception these cannot now be identified, but the names are suggestive of useful follies. The survivor is the blacksmith's shop with its arched entrance of raised bricks in the form of a giant horseshoe complete with nail holes. Buildings like these were no doubt the basis for Torrington's remarks.

In 1774, Joseph Pocklington was High Sheriff of Nottingham and for the first time in twelve years he initiated no new buildings. From the next year dates the first known drawing for a Nottinghamshire building. This, signed by Pocklington, is a plan for alterations to what is now the Old Rectory at Cromwell, north of Carlton, for his uncle Dr. Rastall. The inscription shows a "Back Front" was once attached. A new canted bay and a west wing are shown added to the house of about 1700 and these still exist. The setting is a garden contrived from a series of compass curves so that a pond achieves an oculus form. A surviving path suggests that something like this was carried out, but there is no trace of the sizeable garden building, which faced the new bay.

Joseph's elevation, also of 1775, of  "'North Muskham House, late B. Cooke's Esc." may be a record of the house he bought that year and on which he spent £398.9.6d in 1776 when it became Muskham Grange. The illustration of the garden front in Throsby's 1790 edition of Thoroton's Nottinghamshire shows the house as altered with reorganized fenestration, two slim tower-like feat­ures and low wings. William Dickinson who bought the house in 1789 claimed these latter. Dickinson the author of histories of Southwell (l801) and Newark (l8l6) was a cousin of the Pocklingtons and may have sought Joseph's advice. He was also responsible for the layout of the gardens, which contained a grotto. A third storey was later added to the house but photo­graphs taken before its destruction in 1963 show the entrance front had close-set bows not Joseph's usual canted bays, with exceedingly tall pyramid roofs. One of these is shown on the half plan attached to the 1775 elevation. Only the crinkle-crankle garden wall survives.

It was in 1776 that Joseph began his exploration of Cumbria, which led to the building of the island house in Derwentwater. From now on his life was to be divided between summers in the Lakes and winters in Nottinghamshire. For the next fifteen years the Derwentwater buildings absorbed most of his energies and there is only minor building by the Trent. As with earlier small projects the names on the list are intriguing. Could "Kitchells I. P. house" at Cromwell have incorporated his giant initials like the gates in Cumberland? "Robinson's cottage chapel" (1782) at Carlton may be one of several cottages with pointed windows in the village street. The obelisk rose at Muskham in 1781 perhaps celebrated his elevation to the magistracy in that year.

By contrast the later 1780's were years of renewed building activity at Winthorpe. "The seat of Roger Pocklington Esc. is the variety of objects that surround it...the plantations are laid out with a degree of taste...and seem fostered by a chaste hand," wrote Throsby. The estate buildings have gone but the "picturesque and well-built village" is almost complete although now congested by suburban development. We know what it was like in 1809 from a series of engravings by Bartholomew Howlett.

All Saints' Church. Engraving by Bartholomew Howlett - 1804.The church, unfortunately replaced in 1686, was rebuilt, or more probably remodeled, in 1768. Howlett shows a tower with quoins and Gibbs rustication of arched door and window. The upper stage has Gothic windows with tracery but is crowned by a balustrade with corner urns. The nave has arched windows, the chancel Gothic.

At the hall was an octagonal temple of which there is no record and a five-bay greenhouse with a three-bay projecting portico. Both were in existence by 1790: wings with pyramid roofs were added to the greenhouse before 1809. Local histories refer to a table in the temple made from the "wrecks of the Spanish vessels destroyed before Gibraltar," that is when Spain joined in the American War of Independence for her own ends in 1779-1762. The British commander was Sir George Augustus Elliot and national interest in the battle was reawakened in 1785 by Drinkwater's Siege of Gibraltarwith its views, maps and plans. The same events inspired the most interesting of the lost estate buildings, Port Elliot, where Roger comes closest to his brother's military follies in Cumberland - Joseph renamed Friars Cragg Suropa Point from the same enthusiasm. But Fort Elliot was a folly with an architectural quality never attempted by Joseph. Three octagonal castellated turrets, the middle one higher and more substantial than the flanking ones were linked by castellated walling; there were variously shaped openings and arrow slits and before it four cannons were paraded. Howlett's view makes it clear that the building was a flat screen although the larger central turret contrives to give a feeling of recession from that point. The design and its repertoire of details prompt comparison with Carr's castellated gates and entrances such as that of 1773 at Redbourne over the Lincolnshire border. It has completely disappeared.

The village buildings are picturesque both individually and especially as a group as Howlett's general view the Schoolhouse, the Almshouses, the stepped cross and the arched well seen amongst trees round a green through which a stream crossed by a bridge and a footbridge runs shows. A portrait of Nelson on a tall pole out side the inn balances a maypole in front of the schoolhouse. The pedimented Academy is just off the picture but the church stands apart beyond the hall. Further out still is The Grove, which may be slightly later and where Roger's son, another Roger was living in 1602. This three-bay, three-storey house with wings is entered by means of a double flight of stairs. The house has lost its pretty oriels at first floor level and the balustrade platform on the roof shown by Howlett. Lastly comes Low Wood, similar to the Academy but now without its ped­iment. An inscription records that "the first stone of this house was laid by Roger Pocklington, jnr. and his sister Elisa­beth, June 25th 1767, aged 11 years, aged 10 years."

Work at Winthorpe went on into the last decade of the century, for Throsby, writing in about 1790 mentions not only "the im­provements which have taken place" but "those about to be made ...a considerable portion of land I could perceive was preparing for field delights."

In 1787 Joseph started the third and last of his Derwentwater houses. The next year he made a dated plan and elevation for "The New Dining Room at the Inn" at Carlton, then busy with coach trade. This with its Venetian windows can still be recognized. He sold Carlton Manor House in 1792 and in July 1793, he laid the foundation stone of the new house - his most ambitious - he had planned at Muskham. Of three storeys and three bays with its two-storey wings and service courts beyond it extends to 270 feet. A pediment singles out the centre bay and the entrance is reached by a double flight of stairs. All openings are Venetian those in the basement with square lights like those at Barrow House on Derwentwater. As usual the manuscript plan and elevation are by Joseph Pocklington, his own Surveyor and the elevation has penciled " intended-.additions" in 1804 but although carefully costed perhaps not carried out. Across the top is written "This house was pulled down by me in the years 1833 & 1834 & 1835 & 1836 R. Pocklington," that is Joseph's great-nephew and heir. Even the lodges have now been demolished. The house is best seen in Walker's engraving after Pocklington's drawing, published in 1803, which also shows an obelisk, perhaps that of 1781.

In 1792 Joseph built "Muskham Ornamental Hovel" for £300, a large sum; what could it have been? A schoolhouse and Town Hall at Muskham of 1798 and 1803 respectively almost bring Joseph's building career in Nottinghamshire to a close. Could the latter, also known as the Club House be the brick house with Gothic windows like those of the Barrow hermitage, at the south end of the village?

Joseph Pocklington'sarchitectural sources remain something of a mystery although Paine seems to hover over some designs and PI. 37 of Ware's Complete Body may be the basis of the MuskhamHouse design. That he was his own architect is borne out by his awkward planning and clumsy proportions, sure signsof the ama­teur, as much as by his signed designs. Moreover certain design features - the straight-headed Venetian windows already noticed, close-set paired canted bays and identical plasterwork decor­ation for example link Cumberland and Nottinghamshire, and reveal the same personality at work. He may have had professional arch­itectural help as well as expert craftsmen in Nottinghamshire as it now seems he had in the Lakes. Almost nothing is known of Roger's practice. Was he too an amateur? Did Joseph have any part in the Winthorpe designs or could there have been some sort of partnership? Although both essayed military follies the char­acter of these and their other buildings is distinct. Joseph had a library as his engraved bookplate of 1776 and his copy of Throsby / Thoroton, with extra plates of his properties bound in, establish. One would have hoped to find him a subscriber to James Paine's volumes but here he disappoints. We know the contents of Roger's library, which took nine days to disperse in 1809 from the printed catalogue. As well as volumes by Horace-Walpole and Gilpin the strictly architectural section has Ware's and Campbell's Palladio, Leoni's Alberti and works by Chambers, Halfpenny, the Langleys, Garrett and even Thomas Bright as well as French treatises. Oddly enough with the possible exception of Ware, none seems to have made a direct contribution to the brother's buildings.

The Pocklington's bank was in financial trouble by 1808 and failed in l809 owing £50,000: Roger "would not stir out of the house for fear of arrest." Everything was sold in the next two years and other partners suffered too but Joseph evidently was unaffected. Several family portraits and a group by Wright of Derby done in the painter's early surgeries in Newark, as well as Roger's wife by " Mrs. Kaufman" and a full-length of himself by Walker went. Lord Byron came over from Newstead and paid 45gns.for three statues from the hall at Winthorpe.

Roger died in 1810 and Joseph at Muskham House seven years later. Between 1762 and 1804 there were no more than two or three years when building was not going on somewhere on the estates of the brothers Pocklington.



Further readings can be found in  

        Roger Pocklington in Volume 4.

        Sketch by Joseph Pocklington in Volume 4.