Lodged in style – from box to complex – the evolution of a Seend Lodge

on Tuesday, 04 May 2021. Posted in Architecture, Wiltshire Places

In his book on Wiltshire Gate Lodges James Holden states that:
‘The obvious purpose was to provide accommodation for the people protecting the entrances to estates, but they had a second role also. From the 18th century on, the grand houses of the gentry were often built out of sight in secluded locations. The passer-by could not see and admire the big house; only the lodge was visible. So the lodge stood in for the house, its appearance designed to make a statement about the wealth and good taste of the owner’.

Seend, near Devizes is a village of two halves. As you drive through the one long main street the north side of the road is lined by pretty cottages and respectable, solid Georgian houses. The opposite side is a different matter – a series of high brick walls mainly obscures the view south. However, behind these walls are a series of large and palatial mansions taking advantage of the spectacular views across Bulkington, Poulshot, Bratton, Edington and other villages right to the foot of the Salisbury Plain.

These are the houses of wealthy clothiers such as Thomas Bruges, the owner of Seend Green House in 1798, who built himself another mansion soon after 1805, now known as Seend House (you need to keep track of the several similarly-named houses here!). Although much of the construction material came from the just-demolished Seend Row House, there was nothing second-hand about the rather lovely classical, ashlar-faced Seend House with its pedimented centre bay and paired-column portico when it was finished, complete with twin Tuscan Lodge-houses at each end of the looped drive joining to the High Street. The growth of vegetation fronting the road means that the house is not visible. The only indications of the hidden architectural jewel are the themed lodges with their porticoed stone fronts in emulation of the house they served.

A single storey gatehouse with cornice and parapet with a portico, and stone pedimented gateposts; a car just turned into the open gate.

Originally, the lodges were very similar austere, single-storey classical cubes with perhaps only one room doubling-up as accommodation for staff. The great majority of gate-lodges were built in the second half of the 19th century, making the east Lodge at Church Lane Corner one of the 17% that make up the surviving later 18th century and Regency gate lodges generally in Wiltshire. These earlier lodges were usually built as classically-inspired ‘boxes’ until the mid-19th century.

Though superficially grand, they usually had minimal comforts inside besides a fireplace. A whole ornamental mini-village of thatched picturesque cottages was built in this way at Blaise Hamlet, Henbury, near Bristol. They were designed by John Nash in 1796 for John Scandrett Harford, a banker and philanthropist, as a retirement village for his employees set around a ‘village green’ with its ‘village pump’. The deep, overhanging eaves held up on their attractive rustic posts hide rather poky rooms, giving meaning to the term ‘style over substance’. At all times the wishes of the proprietor, even though he be a kindly Quaker, were of paramount importance over the comfort of staff, who were probably only too glad to be given a home when they could no longer work.

By the time of the 1851 census the suggestion indicated that one of the Seend lodges was occupied by the gardener Aaron Marsh and his wife. How they can have lived in one room is scarcely credible to our modern minds, especially if they had a family to raise. By 1886 the lodge had the luxury of a wash- and fuel-house, enjoyed by the groom Frederick Tanner who was there in 1881, and by 1900 it had doubled in size to two rooms shortly followed by another room, all still single-storey. This was fortunate for the new gardener living there, Albert Payne, and his growing family.

Most surviving lodges have now been sold off from the main house and extended to offer up-to-date accommodation. This was the fate of the east lodge at Church corner, finally becoming a proper family home in the 1970s with its final two-storey extension peering over the wall into Church Lane.

Dorothy Treasurer, Principal Buildings Historian
Wiltshire Buildings Record

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