Forest of Galtres Society

A Golden Day in the Sun

May 20, 2008

The day in May 2008 was bright and sunny. We set off to visit a building constructed about 1290. That makes you think. How long ago exactly is 1290? Who, then, had the money and skill to erect a three storey tall building capable of lasting more than seven hundred years?

Forest of Galtres Society started its summer visits with a visit to Foulbridge Farm last Thursday. Foulbridge Farm is beside the River Derwent, not too far from Scarborough. Your correspondent was late (sorry) blame the traffic in Pickering, but the welcome was as warm as the beautiful sun-blessed day we had picked.

The farm consists of mainly stone built buildings, but nothing prepares you for the internal structure of the farmhouse. Inside we filed. What a huge surprise. A tall hall with oak posts, curved roof beams and braces. Some of those posts have carved decoration at the springing point of the arches. Dendrochronology carried out by the University of Nottingham revealed that the oak trees from which the posts are made were felled in the summer of 1288.

Mrs Nutt led us through the fascinating history of this remarkable building. The Knights Templars were a military religious order founded in the twelfth century to support the crusades. The Order was granted the manor of Foulbridge in 1176. This was an important crossing of the River Derwent on the road from York to Whitby. The Templar establishment at Foulbridge, known as a preceptory or commandery, was one of the larger houses and the grand hall reflects its importance. By the early fourteenth century the Templars had been suppressed and their properties transferred to the Knights Hospitallers. In 1540 the Knights Hospitallers were dissolved by Henry VIII and Foulbridge was taken over by the Crown.

Foulbridge was transferred to the Archbishop of York and leased to a succession of families. As early as 1615, Foulbridge was described as ‘a faire antient building, a commandery of the Templars…’. At some date the hall of the Templars was divided horizontally, and by the early 1700s the house was occupied as two separate parts and the land was also divided. In the nineteenth century the Church Commissioners sold off the estate. In 1976, following a succession of owners, the Nutt family finally came into ownership of both parts of the farm and the house. By then the grand hall had vanished from sight, though some indications of it could still be seen in the roof. This encouraged Mrs Nutt to begin to investigate. By selectively chipping away some of the plaster, she began to reveal parts of the timber structure. The architect John Miller was commissioned to prepare a report, following which the building was listed Grade II*.

In 1984 restoration work began. The inserted floors and ceilings were removed, the windows put back in the south and west walls, the galleries restored and the Tudor chimneypiece reinstated. The floor of the hall has been paved in stone at a level to match that in the attached Georgian farmhouse. We all marvelled that such an impressive building had survived to be appreciated in the twenty first century. We also appreciated the diligent work by Mr and Mrs Nutt that has enabled this to happen. Lunch called, so off to the Coachman Inn at Snainton and a convivial repast of delicious food.

Our next destination was a completely different type of idyll created in the early eighteenth century. Ebberston Hall is a delight to the eye, and we were warmly welcomed by Mrs de Wend Fenton. Situated at the south-facing entrance to an ascending valley vanishing into Kirk Dale and the moors to the north, it has an ideal setting.

This Palladian hall in miniature was designed by the architect Colen Campbell and built in 1718 by William Thompson, MP for Scarborough, and Warden of the Mint. The principal living floor, the piano nobile, is approached by an impressive swept flight of steps leading to a magnificent doorcase decorated with columns carrying blocks of icicle decoration. The rooms follow the rules of proportion for Palladian buildings, and the magnificent cornices in each of the rooms are comparable to those in the best Yorkshire houses of similar date. At the back of the Hall a Doric loggia looks north across a garden that hints at its former glory. There are pools on three levels and cascades fed by springs that issue from the sides of the valley. It is reputed that the water garden was designed by Stephen Switzer and Charles Bridgeman.

Those members intrepid enough to walk up the valley were rewarded by the sight of a collection of magnificent Wellingtonias on each side of the valley, an indication of the former grandeur of the garden. Tea and home called; we had thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It was a Golden Day to see these two delightful but utterly different places, and the sun shone on us throughout.

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