Context 164 - May 2020

42 C O N T E X T 1 6 4 : M A Y 2 0 2 0 The Manor House, Bracondale: a labour of love We moved into the Manor House, Bracondale in Norwich in September 2015 and scaffolding went up two weeks later. It is a small Jacobean house of red brick with eight curved gables and with an interior retaining much of the original detail, but alterations and restorations by successive owners had resulted in a fragile quality which we needed to enhance and retain. The challenge has been to do this within our budget, and to make it watertight and comfortable. The house was and is thrilling, but its condition when we bought it was daunting and must have put off many potential buyers. I had visited it three times before we moved in. On my initial visit I was clear that the house needed extensive work which we could not manage or afford. But after being persuaded to return by my family, I drew up a list of essential work with estimates of costs, which showed that we might be able to afford the repairs, so made an offer which was accepted. During my third visit I went around the house with the three best builders I knew in Norfolk and with a slightly more detailed schedule. The lowest price was fromWS Lusher & Son (no longer trading) the contractor we appointed. The house, listed Grade II*, stands just outside the city walls. An excellent documentary history was compiled in the 1980s by Geoffrey Kelly, but the architectural history is slight. The house was built before 1632 by Anne Kempe, the widow of a Norwich merchant. It adjoined the tithe barn of the parish church in the village of Lakenham and the site was referred to as the Rectory Estate: it was never technically a manor house. The land itself belonged to the Dean and Chapter of Norwich. Anne Kempe’s house was probably a rectangular building with two ‘Dutch’ gables. Kempe died in 1650 and two years later the land was leased to Augustine Reve. The Reves were a significant Norfolk family, Augustine having inherited money from his brother, who had been a justice of the Common Pleas. He and his wife Elizabeth probably extended the upper floor, added a porch and most of the curved gables and pediments. Their initials and the date of 1656 are on two lead hopper heads on the porch. The Reves held the house until the death of Elizabeth in 1700. Two other families held the lease in succession. Generally, the owners did not live here, and the house was let to a series of occupiers, including Hannah Hancock, granddaughter of local architect Thomas Ivory. At some point, perhaps in the 18th century, the house was ‘Georgianised’: windows were blocked, pediments and quoins were shaved off and the exterior was rendered or limewashed. Later, in the 19th century, a ‘restoration’ of the original features, including putting back mullion and transom windows, was undertaken, perhaps to smarten up the house for letting when neighbouring ‘Regency’ terraces were constructed. During the second world war the house was requisitioned and used as the headquarters of an ATS unit commanded by Miss Wood, daughter of Sir Henry. No doubt it emerged a little battered, but worse was to come. After the war the house and its outbuildings were converted into five flats. A concrete stair was constructed across the rear elevation and the building went into decline. It was rescued in the 1980s by Peter Macqueen, a TV cameraman, and his partner, Paul Jeffries, a glass painter from the studio of G King & Son. They bought the three The front of the house after repair works My house