The Ivy forms the principal section of a glorious Grade I-listed manor house in Chippenham, built in 1728 for the lawyer and local MP John Norris. It is a seldom-seen example of the high English baroque, set in four acres of gardens designed by award-winning garden designers Julian and Isabel Bannerman. Set in the Chippenham Conservation Area in Wiltshire, it is easily accessible from London and is a short distance from Bath. Despite being located in the heart of a market town, the grounds of the house are a haven, creating a rural atmosphere and tremendous privacy. The house has undergone an extensive and highly sensitive programme of restoration works in recent years and is now exceptionally well presented. Internal accommodation extends to over 5,500 sq ft with five bedrooms and a series of beautifully designed living spaces. Additionally, it has an outdoor heated swimming pool.
Setting the Scene
From Bath Road, imposing wooden gates shield the house from view. These open to reveal mature planting, which frames the breathtaking façade. A series of ‘outdoor rooms’ enclosed by topiary and plantings of laurel and spruce, along with mature horse chestnut trees, create a sense of drama on approach. A driveway sweeps to the left, hidden from view. The exquisite gardens surround the house, with box topiary and other formal elements, relieved by naturalistic planting, a lake and areas of woodland.
The house’s current form was built in 1728 as part of a heavy remodelling and extension of an earlier 17th-century building. The architect is unknown, however, the house has been attributed to either John Strahan, William Halfpenny, William Killigrew or Thomas Greenway.
Built in Bath Stone, the house is laid out in an H-shaped plan and extends across three storeys with excellent symmetry and balance. Seven bays across, it has a central three-bay range. From here, wings protrude on either side and have roman arched gables with fine dentil details. Rusticated quoins frame the corners of the wings and are topped with Campania-shaped urn finials. This home forms the northern range of the greater house.
As is characteristic of the baroque style, classical architectural language is utilised in abundance to create highly decorative, finely detailed façades and interiors. The central doorway is framed by a quartet of ionic, half-round pilasters and topped with a triangular pedimented architrave. This is echoed above by a less heavily rusticated broken pediment framing, a Romanesque arch with a mask keystone and floral and swag details set into the tympanum. Lead rainwater heads and downpipes with a raised ivy leaf are dated 1728. For more information, please see the History section.
The Grand Tour
The Ivy’s central, primary entrance opens into the hall, where large diagonally-paved tiles run underfoot. Fine panelling lines the walls with intricate foliated mouldings; a modillion cornice runs above. Two elaborate stone chimneypieces are topped with pediments and further foliated decoration. An open-string staircase with turned balusters ascends to the first floor.
The drawing room and morning room are on the left of the hall, which are interconnected to create a single expansive space. These rooms have full-height bolection-moulded panels. The larger room has pairs of fluted Corinthian pilasters flanking a circular panel over an elaborate fireplace with Corinthian columns and a mask centrepiece. The décor of the house is truly exquisite, with contemporary pieces contrasting against the details of the baroque fabric.
To the rear of the plan is the kitchen, which is voluminous and has a racing green Aga as a focal point. Bespoke cabinetry has been seamlessly incorporated and veined Rojo Bilbao Marble worksurfaces add texture and depth.
Bedrooms are set on the first and second floors, and all are arranged on a thoughtful and spacious plan; these are accompanied by three bathrooms. The first floor houses the principal bedrooms and bathrooms. The bedrooms have marble chimneypieces, and the bathrooms are panelled and have traditional brassware and roll-top baths; all rooms have stunning views of the surrounding gardens. A bedroom on this floor is currently set out as a drawing room, accompanied by an adjacent second kitchen, creating a self-contained apartment.
The two bedrooms at the apex of the house are in the eaves and have large dormer windows. There is a large playroom/ study accompanying the bedrooms here.
The Great Outdoors
The gardens around the house have been brilliantly designed to create a series of serene spaces. A man-made berm with dense tree planting envelops the grounds and ensures the house is brilliantly private. Mature wisteria, jasmine and climb the house. Raised beds with planted with tulips, alliums, a variety of roses and extensive, manicured topiary, coupled with elements of naturalistic planting lead to hidden alfresco dining terraces. An orchard is concealed by box hedging and leads to a heated pool. Large, level sections of lawn provide the ideal space for croquet.
Out and About
The Ivy is perfectly positioned for easy access to the surrounding Wiltshire and Somerset countryside. Dyrham Park is nearby, and The Peto Gardens at Iford Manor, The Tithe Barn and the Saxon Church at Bradford-on-Avon are also easily reached. Highly regarded local restaurants and pubs include: Sign of the Angel in Laccock, The Brasserie at Lucknam Park hotel and spa, and The Methuen Arms in Corsham.
River walks are easily accessed, along with a complex of footpaths across open countryside beginning at the bottom of the garden, leading to the National Trust hamlet of Lacock. The picturesque village of Castle Comb is five miles away.
Bath is a 20-minute journey by car, and the popular Cotswold towns and villages of Tetbury and Malmesbury are less than a 30-minute drive away. A Waitrose is a three minute walk from the house, there is also an excellent greengrocer within a five minutes walk. There is a good selection of supermarkets, farm shops, cafés and restaurants, all within a 20-minute drive.
Chippenham train station is a five-minute walk. From here, the train to London Paddington takes 70 minutes on the fast and direct mainline, calling at only three other stations. The M4 is accessed in seven-minutes.
Council Tax Band: G
A house on the site of The Ivy is mentioned in a document to King Richard in 1190 and the estate was granted by King Henry III to Lady Agnes, the widow of Sir Godfrey St. Maur in 1250. When Godfrey had to abscond in 1274 on a charge of felony and rebellion, The Ivy house was forfeited, but it was afterwards restored to her son. This Nicholas St. Maur sold it to Nicholas Husee sometime around 1247 and his descendants held it for 142 years until 1392.
In 1392, the Husees sold The Ivy and its estate to Sir John Erleigh of Beckington in Somerset. His only daughter, Margaret, married Sir Walter Sands, and in the year 1434, they sold the estate to Walter Lord Hungerford.
In January 1469, Sir Thomas Hungerford, the great-grandson of the above Walter, was beheaded at Salisbury for an attempt to restore King Henry VI.
During the Civil War, the estate belonged to Sir Edward Hungerford, a parliamentary officer, who used this house as a garrison. It was immediately surrounded by the Royalist troops, who eventually dismantled the house.
In the years that followed, this battered house was again restored to some of its former glory, and when Sir Edward died in 1648, it passed to a relative some years later. The new owner of the same name was more commonly known as The Spendthrift, a name he was given for his ability to squander away many manors in succession.
The story goes that Hungerford lost this estate by gambling it. Whether this story is true or not, The Ivy was mortgaged for £3,000 at around that time to Sir Richard Kent, an MP for Chippenham.
In about 1730, the house was sold to John Norris who owned and remodelled it. Norris had purchased the home from John Scott, the heir to his father’s estate. He had many connections with Bath and arranged for the golden Bath Stone to be brought by barge down the Avon to renovate the house. He resided here until he died in 1756, and his wife continued to live there until she died in 1758.
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