Gender, patronage and architecture in the nineteenth-century country house: a study of Lamport Hall, Northamptonshire

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: History of Art and Film


The application is for a studentship to research architectural commissions, specifically focussed on nineteenth-century additions and modifications to existing country houses. The scholarly literature on the country house in the nineteenth century is relatively slight by comparison with that on the eighteenth century. Scholarship on the nineteenth-century built environment has instead focussed on themes such as the building of new churches and the restoration and refurnishing of medieval ones, manufacturing and commercial buildings, the development of urban architecture, or the new villas of the nouveaux riches. Nonetheless, as Girouard long ago pointed out, the country house as a building type witnessed major evolutionary changes in the nineteenth century, with much more complex interior arrangements and sprawling service wings reflecting changed social mores (separation of the sexes and hierarchical segregation of servants), changing patterns of sociability (billiard rooms, gun rooms), and the impact of new technologies (heating systems, oil lamps, range cookers). Relatively little attention has been paid to the gentry house in the period, and even less to the modification of earlier houses.
A study of Lamport Hall in Northamptonshire will be employed as a springboard to examine the broader issue of changes to existing country houses in the nineteenth century. Most importantly, this project will also examine the impact of female patronage in the period. Attention will first be focussed on the nineteenth-century additions and alterations made at Lamport Hall during the baronetcies of Sir Justinian Isham (eighth baronet, 1818-45), Sir Justinian Vere Isham (ninth baronet, 1845) and Sir Charles Isham (tenth baronet, 1845-1903). These extensive works transformed the northwest and garden (south) frontages of the house, sweeping away the Elizabethan mansion, and also reorientated the whole house away from the seventeenth- (Webb) and eighteenth-century (Smiths) frontage, previously the show entrance to the Hall. In addition, they decisively reshaped all the major service areas. There is a mass of documentary and architectural evidence (including plans and elevations of several abortive schemes) for the architectural and artistic patronage of Mary (nee Close) Isham (d. 1878), the wife of the eighth baronet, and of her daughter-in-law Emily (nee Vaughan) (d. 1898), the wife of Sir Charles through which these changes can be studied. Two architects of regional importance and one of national significance - Henry Hakewill (1771-1830), Henry Goddard (1792-1868) and William Burn (1789-1870) made major additions to Lamport Hall, but those of Hakewill on the north side were almost completely effaced by Burn's (still-existing) work. This project will therefore bring to light the disregarded history of female patronage at Lamport Hall and the contribution of the Isham family women to the nineteenth-century house as well as analysing the complex evolution of the house's architecture.

Planned Impact

The academic outputs of this research will be of direct benefit to the academic community, particularly architectural historians and social and cultural historians of the nineteenth century. The country house of the nineteenth century has been much neglected in comparison with its eighteenth-century predecessor and overshadowed by institutional architecture, the development of the urban environment or ecclesiastical architecture, and since the publication of Girouard's seminal study of 1971 there has been relatively little attention devoted to the country house in the nineteenth century, either as a phenomenom or individual studies. The award-holder will be expected to disseminate his or her findings to the academic community through the conventional channels of articles in peer review journals (at least one before the end of the award period), through presentations at academic conferences, and eventually through the publication of the thesis as a monograph.

The findings of this project are also of interest to a much broader range of users. The country house is a subject that is perenially fascinating to the wider public, as evidenced by membership of organisations such as the National Trust and, on a smaller scale, the success of the MA programme and the study days organised by the Centre for the Study of the Country House. This project seeks to investigate not only the architectural history of the building, but also the social and familial webs of patronage behind these houses, and the contribution of women who inhabited through their architectural patronage and their input to design and decoration.

The partnership with Lamport Hall Preservation Trust represents a unique opportunity for the student to disseminate the findings of his/her research to a broader public audience. Lamport Hall attracts well over 2000 visitors a year to the house and gardens and to the educational events it hosts; an even larger number attend fairs, shows and corporate events. The student will have the opportunity to develop an exhibition on Mary and Emily Isham and their patronage at Lamport Hall (using plans and elevations, correspondence from the collections, paintings and photographs supported by the award holder's text) for visitors to view and will be expected to contribute reports on the project and its progress for the Lamport Hall website ( Information about the project will also be included in the Lamport Hall guides and publicity brochures, In the final year of the project the student will be given the opportunity to present their findings at one of the study days organised by the Centre for the Study of the Country House in collaboration with Lamport Hall. Numbers are at these events are constrained by the space available at Lamport, but they attract well over 50 at a time (including visitors from Japan and the USA) and are advertised widely through the region and through the CSCH mailing list. The award-holder will also be encouraged to give papers at local historical societies such as the Northamptonshire Family History Society and to contribute to the newsletter of the Northamptonshire Record Office.


10 25 50