The Vyne House Investigation

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It is stated in the National Trust Book of Great Houses written by Nigel Nicolson that the Vyne house “is a composition of the 16th, 17th and 18th centauries of which each has contributed something of startling novelty for it’s time”. Nigel Nicolson was born in 1917 and was educated in Eton and Balliol College, Oxford. He served in the Second World War in Africa and Italy. He entered publishing in 1947. Her has written several books on politic, architecture and social history.

He was a experienced author and academic which suggests he knew what he was talking about when he made the statement that I will be studying.

Throughout this essay I will be exploring the truth in this statement by looking into the architecture at the Vyne and seeing how it relates to the dates in which it was built in and when it was typical. I will be using books, photos, drawings, quotes and paintings to as much about the architectural features at the Vyne as possible.

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I will be visiting the house myself to see the architecture close up and to see what it looks like from all angles. I will be studying the typical architecture for each centaury starting with the 16th centaury.

The Vyne House as it is today is very different to how it was when the Sandy’s originally built it in the 16th centaury. It was much larger and without the features added in later period’s when fashions changed. The Tudor period has many features typical to it time including mullioned windows which were set in stone or iron frames which were fashionable from approximately 1550.

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The Vyne has mullioned windows on the South and North front. I have included a photo taken at The Vyne, which shows some of the mullioned windows.

The windows are surrounded by diaper work which is also typical to Tudor times so we can assume because they are both together they are original. The fact that the windows are surrounded by typically Tudor walls means they were not before there time and therefore were nothing of startling novelty for its time when regarding uniqueness or originality. Diaper work was first used in late medieval and was very popular in Tudor times and it is abundant on walls at the Vyne. Diaper work is decorative geometric patterns of different coloured brick in a diamond pattern.

Diaper work became popular at this time because of advances in technology and mass-produced bricks which were early much more expensive. The diaper patterns were typical for a Tudor mansion, so like the mullion windows are they really of startling novelty if the were the norm for large houses of this time? I don’t think so. In the 16th centaury chimneys were a status symbol the more chimneys you had the wealthier you appeared to those that passed you house. Often there were more chimneys than fireplaces. Tudor chimneys were very decorative and there are examples of Tudor chimneys at the Vyne.

The skills needed to build these chimneys were common and there were many styles including spiralled, ribbed and kneeled flutes, as well as many other designs. The 16th centaury was known as the age of the chimney because of this. Chimneys were often the major features of large country houses. In the late Tudor period doors became more of the main feature. Other than chimneys, another popular feature on a Tudor house is battlements. It is because large country mansions were relatively new in this period compared to castles some of the popular features from castles were also popular on large houses.

Battlements are an example of this and they can be seen at the Vyne. Once again I find myself asking is something really of startling novelty if it was typical for its time. Surely something before its time that set the trend for the other houses has more startling novelty in its time. Sash windows found in a Tudor wall (eg. A wall with diaper patterns) would be atypical of the 16th centaury because they were not introduced to the Vyne until they were popular in the 17th centaury after being introduced from Holland when people went on Grand tours of Europe.

Sash windows would have replaced the original Tudor windows when the fashions changed in the 17th centaury. Sash windows are more convenient than Tudor casement windows. The sash windows are not before there time they were merely replacements to the casement windows. This does however agree with Nicolson’s statement about the Vyne being a composition of the 16th and 17th centuries. There is a quote written by John Leyland (See source one at back of essay) in approximately 1542 that gives his opinion on the Vyne. For a start we don’t actually know who Leyland is and there is no evidence to prove to us that he knew what he was talking about.

Leyland doesn’t mention that the house is of startling novelty or anything of the sort and you would think that if it house really was of startling novelty he would have mentioned it. He does however say that the house is “one of the principle house in all of Hamptionshire”. Leyland says that the house before it was made larger by Lord Sannes was “no very great or sumptuous manor place”. This shows that he thought there was nothing special about the house. Overall the source disagrees with the statement because it doesn’t say anything about how unusual it is for its time.

There is a portrait of Henry Sandy’s in which the background is of the East front of the Vyne house. See source two at back of essay. There is no artist given and it is only the east of the house so there are limitations to this picture. The building in the picture is quite old fashioned and there has been nothing done to it for around 100 years. The picture shows the chapel with its Renaissance glass. The picture was done before the modernisation of the Vyne. The picture goes against Nicolson’s quote because there is no evidence of the house being a composition of any 17th or 18th centaury architecture.

All the things in the picture are typical of Tudor times, for example the Tudor windows, battlements and chimneys. This again goes against his quote that the Vyne is of startling novelty. Sash widows were extremely popular in the 17th century but they were not yet used in English houses. They were popular in Holland where they were invented but they would not be used in the Vyne until the 18th centaury. By the 1670’s only the lower section of the window as counter weighted to slide up and down but later both the top and bottom moved. Mullioned windows were squared off and made narrower in the 17th centaury.

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The Vyne House Investigation. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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