Astoft

 

Chettle House
Chettle, nr Blandford Forum, Dorset

Notes in italics from Dorset by John Newman and Nikolaus Pevsner (2002)
Yale University Press, New Haven and London

Click on photos to enlarge


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The plum among Dorset houses of the early C18, and even nationally outstanding as a specimen of English Baroque. Built for George Chafin, who held the post of Ranger of Cranborne Chase. For his architect he chose - there is no doubt in the matter - Thomas Archer. (There is no clinching external evidence, though what external evidence there is points in his direction. It is on style that the certainty rests). So Chettle is the only domestic building of Archer's maturity to survive unspoilt. Archer bought an estate fifteen-odd miles away, at Hale in Hampshire, in 1715; so in spite of Hutchins's date of 1710 for Chettle, one may prefer a slightly later one.


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The house is built of red brick, like most others of any pretension in north-east Dorset, with dressings of Chilmark stone. It is a seven-bay block plus round-cornered end bays, of two very tall storeys, set on a high, vaulted basement, and rising in the three-bay centre for a further attic storey. Top balustrade on a deep bracketed cornice, the balustrades originally returned to exclude the returned ends. Giant brick pilasters articulate both facades, a cluster of them used to mark the angles. ... Lofty, segment-headed windows, the upper with raised brick aprons. ...   The end bays were heightened in the C19, but there is evidence that they were originally two-storeyed, and had been lowered.
Note: The end facades are at right angles to the main facades despite the illusion of an acute angle in some of the photos (due to a wide-angle lens setting).   


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But in the centre, the facades are sharply contrasted. On the W, where the entrance now is, a big round-headed doorcase, with a cornice above it raised high by consoles; and curved corners to the centre projection. The E (original entrance) front has a slight projection only at the centre, but it is broken up into superimposed arcades, the piers between the windows banded with stone, the arches moulded and given bold keystones. That handling of a centrepiece is a favourite of Archer's and his alone. ... The basement windows re-use C17 stonework, with a step and a hollow chamfer.


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Top balustrade on west, south and east. The giant pilaster have exceedingly odd capitals, grooved and tapering upwards. 


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Looking west

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East side

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Gardens to the east


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The great thrill of the interior is the entrance hall on the E side. Two storeyed, with a staircase in it. The staircase rises in two flights against the l. and r. walls, turns, and joins at a balcony. From here a single flight of only a few steps, and then a second division, to lead through the spine wall of the house and re-emerge as a balcony l. and r. Flat ceiling on groin-vaulting. The central flight ends at a doorway, with a tunnel-vaulted ceiling above. Three turned balusters per tread, and fluted Doric columns as newels; ... 


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The room in the centre of the W front has bowed ends, and huge pilasters carrying Doric entablatures to frame the doorcases, an original feature. Lunettes over the doorways in both rooms by Alfred Stevens, whose father was employed as a decorator when the house was altered c.1846. 


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Passage to the south drawing room

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S drawing room of that time in a typical Louis Seize style, designed by Mr Blake of Wareham (Oswald).


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Vaulted basement


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ST MARY, in the grounds. Perp W tower of flint and stone bands. Nave, chancel, and transeptal chapels 1849-50 by Morris & Henson, with the same bands. 


Map

More information on the house, including opening times
 

 

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