A short history
Wymering manor as a landed estate was already in existence before the Norman Conquest in 1066 and is generally accepted as having been a royal estate based on the description of it in the Domesday Book of 1086. 1 This didn't mean the King lived on the estate, though the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that King Ethelred (the Unready) 'lay sick at Cosham' after pursuing Cnut along the south coast in 1015. 2 A royal manor provided food, an income and men to defend Portchester Castle from attack by the Vikings (the Danes) when the walls were a refuge for local people in such times. The Castle was a Saxon burh according to the document called the Burghal Hideage. 3
After the Norman Conquest the estate became the property of William the Conqueror who gave it to various knights in return for their service. 4 This was important while the King was also Duke of Normandy and had other lands in France to govern. Portchester was their port of departure as they travelled back and forth to govern or wage war in France. 5 In 1281 the Wymering estate was given to the Botiller (or Butler) family and from them it descended to the Wayte family in 1390. 6
Turning to the manor house itself, so far there has been no trace of any buildings earlier than the current one however there has been at least one earlier house either on this site or close by. We know that William and Anne Wayte lived in Wymering in the middle of the sixteenth century as Honor Wayte refers to having been born in Wymering when endowing the almshouses in Cosham in 1604. 7 Leonard Wayte is described as 'of Wymeringe' in his will of 1533 and Anne Wayte's will of 1570 refers to her house at Wymering. 8 and 38
The present house was built in the 1580s as the timbers that were dateable were felled around 1581 and would have been used soon after while they were easier to shape.
The dendrochronology report
also suggests the house consisted of two wings (north and south) connected by a cross range and had three floors (ground floor, first floor and attics) forming a U-shape.
The Wymering Manor / Dendro dating topic gives fuller details.
The appearance of the outside of the house when newly built would have been completely different from today. It would have been shaped like a U with an open courtyard where the entrance hall is now. There may have been a stair tower at one side giving access to the first floor for the family as the important and private living spaces were upstairs. The house was timber framed with the timbers showing on the outside. They were closely spaced (close studded) demonstrating a house of status and, though timber framed, the layout reflected the style prevalent in Elizabethan times rather than the medieval house. The closest parallel in appearance in Hampshire to Wymering is Sevington Manor near Winchester, which was built around 1600. This also shows the style of windows - much wider than deep. At Wymering the window in the north wall on the ground floor had ogee moulding to take metal frames containing glass panes.
The use of many of the rooms has changed over the years.
The names used in this topic are the ones shown on the attached plans.
The entrance hall would once have been part of the courtyard with, as suggested before, a stair tower on the north side. The opening to the first floor on the north side is much higher and wider than that on the south side, where the timber frame has been cut through to allow access. The ground floor was enclosed, first at ground floor level then later extended to full height either late in the nineteenth century or early twentieth century, as revealed in photographs and maps. 10 We do not know when or by whom the Jacobean staircases were inserted but they did not come from Bold Hall which was classical in style and where all the staircases were straight not curved, as can be seen in the plan of the Hall. 11 Also, by the time Bold Hall was built 'barley twist' balusters were well out of fashion.
The south wing of the house would originally have been for storing food and drink (a pantry and a buttery) as in medieval houses. 12 There would have been simple ladder stairs to the first and second floors for the servants to use. The attics would probably have been storage for grain, apples etc, the produce from the farming estate, to protect it from theft. The kitchen could have been in a building a little separated from the house as protection from fire but connected to the pantry and buttery in the south wing. On nineteenth century maps there is a wing running south from the end of the dining room which may be part of the kitchen complex. Originally there may also have been a bake house for bread and a brew house for beer. The kitchen wing would also have given internal access to the cellars that run the whole length of the south wing.
In the north wing were the private rooms of the family on the ground and first floors. The northwest room (where the corner beam collapsed) has beams with chamfers and decorative ends showing it was an important room when first built. It has undergone many changes in the course of its history, as successive owners tried to keep up with the changing fashions. There appear to have been two phases of building brick walls on the north side. It was probably in the eighteenth century however when large elements of the timber framing on the north side were removed and the wall was rebuilt incorporating some reused bricks. This was a period when brick was ousting timber framing for building. Wymering vicarage was built at this time, conspicuous in its brickwork, as was the front part of Jubilee House, then part of Wymering Farm. In contrast at the manor the walls were crudely replaced in brick, with many of the bricks being reused. They cannot have been meant to be seen, neither inside nor outside as the work is so crude. Internally they would have been hidden behind panelling in the Georgian style. The bow window probably dates to around 1810 as it was a popular feature of the times and is also seen at houses of this period in East Cosham. Unfortunately the changes that were made weakened the structure and contributed to later decay. The room probably has always had a fireplace as the stack is solid chalk clunch allowing another fireplace in the room above. When the house was built the rich were expecting a greater degree of privacy (and comfort) than had been the case in earlier centuries. In medieval times servants ate and slept in the same rooms as their masters but this was changing when this house was built. The family required more and different rooms for eating, sleeping and entertaining. The existing fireplace however is much later - after World War 2 - replacing another which was removed when J.A.Day bought the manor in 1946.
The hall was the main entertaining and eating place for the family and servants when originally built. The fireplace was for heating the hall (cooking would have taken place in the kitchen). To the south would have been a screen creating a passageway behind, that separated the hall from the service wing. It has been suggested that the front door of the house was also at the courtyard (west) end of the passage. 13 The family would have dined at the north end of the hall and the rest at the other end. The beams of the ceiling have chamfers so were meant to be seen, as too were those in the north room (where the collapse took place). With changing fashions and a desire for more privacy the hall became a less important room.
Looking closely at the panelling on the north and south walls of the hall you can see they are not the same. On the south side is high quality, with fluted and shaped pilasters but was clearly not made for the room. The panelling on the north side is more utilitarian. The doors are from different periods and the doorframe leading to the north room (with 6 panelled door) does not fit well into the panelling, suggesting some adjustment. There is a tradition that a previous owner, George Peel of Wymering Farm, removed some panelling from Wymering Manor to his farmhouse, now Jubilee House. 14 Unfortunately no trace of it remains there and it is not clear from which rooms the panelling was taken. The house has suffered neglect and needed renovation over at least the last 250 years. The Hall is a clear demonstration of this.
The (current) dining room would originally have formed part of the service rooms. This is supported by the evidence of the window showing it originally had plain square bars and no glazing, unlike the windows in the north wing. The door currently in place in the south wall is old and may have been the original front door of the house reused and relocated. It has a double skin of timber making it very strong. The ironwork was handmade, almost certainly locally and the patterns suggest it dates to around the 1650s. The lion is a later decorative addition. The chimney too may be a later addition and the fireplace is the one put in by the Metcalfe family when they bought Wymering Manor in 1947. 15 The previous one may have been one of those brought from Bold Hall in Lancashire when it was demolished in 1899. This was fitting because Thomas Knowlys Parr and his aunt Mrs Nightingale, the new owners, were related to the Bold family who had built Bold Hall in the early eighteenth century. There is another fireplace that looks just the same in the Lodge on Medina Road. When Thomas Knowlys Parr lived here the dining room was initially the library. Some scraps of bright blue line decoration have been found beside the door and chimney breast but their date is not known. (It would be costly to have the paint layers analysed in order to determine their date.)
Ascending the stairs on the south side of the hall (the narrow stairs - note that a beam has been cut through to make the stairway on the east side) and turning left into the panelled room. This was Thomas Knowlys Parr's bedroom for some years. 16 It was also the room in which Lady Hesketh-Fleetwood died in 1900. She was Spanish and the second wife of Sir Peter Hesketh-Fleetwood, the founder of Fleetwood in Lancashire. Sir Peter was ruined by his venture and died in 1866, leaving Lady Fleetwood to live in increasing poverty until Thomas Knowlys Parr found her and she came to live at Wymering. 17
The door is possibly made from panelling as it is too thin for a real door. The panelling on three walls dates to the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century but we do not know if it has always been here or was brought here from elsewhere, as the panelling on the north wall is different and earlier in style. Window(s) in north wall may be evidence of allowing for a gallery across front of hall range. The fire surround is also eighteenth century but the inside is Victorian or later. If we are correct in thinking the chimney stack in the south wing was put in after the house was built it may be that the room was decorated with the panelling at the same time. As the centre beam is plain, suggesting it was not a prestige room when the house was built, it indicates a change in the use of the room. Leading out of the room is a lobby with a window that has a shutter that lifts up. Under the floor boards there is a small boarded area but this is not a priest hole. The 1913 visit by the Hampshire Field Club mentions that narrow stairs were found going up beside the fireplaces in both sides of the house and this is probably the evidence for this. 18.
The south room has chamfered beams, showing its status as a room for the family rather than servants or storage. The movement in the house has sprung the cross beams from the centre beam. Note also the centre beam runs down the room whereas the centre beam runs across the room in the room just visited. The window is Victorian but retains the shape of the earlier window. The insertion of the lobby outside has undermined the integrity of the beams in this room. They have been bound with iron at some stage to strengthen them. The lobby reflects the need for a circulation space to allow private rooms on this floor and the curved wall of the south room shows the area removed by this innovation. The fire surround probably dates to the end of the eighteenth century, around the time of Nelson, as it includes Egyptian motifs of opposing sphinxes and fluted columns at the sides though the detail is hard to see as it is obscured by later paint layers.
A corridor gives access to the yellow room (Principal chamber) which runs across the back of the house, directly above the Hall. The fireplace is typical of the 18th century but has been altered over time. The elegant panelling around the room and the early Georgian window suggest this room retained its elevated status and was updated over time. When originally built this room may have been the family dining and reception room. The small closet beside the chimney was probably a garderobe or toilet as these were often next to chimneys, presumably to reduce smells. The tiny windows have small panes of glass, typical of Elizabethan work, also pointing to the high status of the room but it is not clear if they were originally here and rebuilt in situ when the chimney top was rebuilt or brought from elsewhere. A panelled frame obscured the room's presence but does not imply it was a secret place. We don't know what took place in the room but we can suggest there would have been entertainment and perhaps even dancing. When the house was used as a Youth Hostel two doors were inserted on the east wall, giving onto the gallery. The timber framework is still visible in the jowled post at the south end. More is hidden behind the cornice and dividing screen.
A hidden door in the screen divides the yellow room from the blue room, also called the Queen's room as traditionally Queen Emma of the Sandwich Islands is credited with sleeping in this room when she stayed one night in September 1865 as guest of Rev. George Nugee. 20 This room is affected by the collapse of the beam in the downstairs room. The panelling in this room is from the same period as that next door, roughly 18th century. The cornice too is of that date suggesting that the ceiling was raised at the same time. At one time the ceiling may have had plaster decoration, like the vicarage next door, making it an elegant room in the Georgian style. The finishing touch was the addition of the bay window in around 1810. This addition weakened the structure as important beams were cut or removed and the new work was not tied in securely, which has contributed to the damage over the years. The bay window has split shutters allowing increased light but retaining privacy. The shutters also retain their locking mechanism. Bay windows gave a view of the grounds and gardens, which were becoming much more important at this time for display and for walking. The gardens extended for several acres, though not all would have been ornamental planting.
The corridor on the north side has a stained glass window similar to the kitchen downstairs so was probably put in at the same time. It has led some to call it Rev Nugee's oratory but there is no proof of this. It was used as a 'prie-dieu' or praying place by Miss Nightingale, who was a devout Roman Catholic, until her death in 1917. 21 It may originally have been a corridor giving access to the room across the landing (now a toilet) before landings were introduced.
There is a tradition too that there was once a north wing that was demolished and the materials used to make a nearby farmhouse. So far no evidence has been found of this either in maps or in the structure of the house. In early photos there is a conservatory on this side.
Exiting this room, across the landing the room that is now a toilet was also part of the family's private chambers from the beginning though all trace of its structure and decoration are hidden or destroyed. This was the room occupied by Cecil Butt, a relation of Thomas Knowlys Parr, on his visits to the Manor between 1905 and 1935. He wrote the articles that appeared in the News in 1960 which drew attention to the treasures the house had once contained. 23
The staircase gives access to the gallery across the hall and stairs to the attics. The attics appear to have been floored from the beginning and would have been used for storage and, later, also as servants' quarters. Dormer windows were inserted behind the brick parapet to give increased light.
Descending the staircase to the Entrance Hall and leaving the hall by the west door you enter a newer part of the house. The house has undergone many changes through its 400 years of history. In the nineteenth century major additions were made to the house. The Music Room was added. It is not clear if the Refectory (shown on the plan as 'Kitchen' - for youth hostellers) was added at this time or if an existing kitchen building was adapted. The extension of the house is generally attributed to the Reverend George Nugee, who was vicar of Wymering and rector of Widley from 1860-1872. George Nugee created controversy in the parish with his High Church practices but he also restored the parish church entirely at his own cost. Rev. Nugee was living at the manor and the Sisters of Charity were at the Vicarage in 1861. His widowed sister Amelia joined him in Wymering, becoming the Mother Superior. 24 and 39 They ran an orphanage and school and also provided nursing sisters to the hospital for soldiers' wives and children in Portsmouth and later also at Aldershot. 25 Although it is not clear what the additions to the manor were for they may have been intended for his short-lived scheme for a grammar school (note the bell on the south elevation) and later to accommodate a congregation of laymen (not monks), based on the Augustinian model, as Southwick priory had once been. 26 He did set up such a Priory in London after leaving Wymering in 1872. 27
The kitchen seems fitted with stained glass windows in the gothic style that may have been intended as a refectory for the men. There was once a gallery across the southern end. The room was the kitchen of the house in Mr Knowlys Parr's time and the tall and wide arched fireplace still exists at the north end. The ledge above the fireplace can be seen jutting out of the wall in the entrance hall. Above the fireplace is a plaque with an exhortation to thrift and the Parr family motto 'Amour aveque Loiaulte'. The heraldic arms and motto of the Parr family are the same as that of Queen Katherine Parr, last wife of Henry VIII, supporting the idea that there was a family connection between Thomas Knowlys Parr's paternal ancestors and the queen's family. 28 Next to the kitchen the other service areas of servants' hall, boot and lamp rooms reflected a way of life that had already declined elsewhere after WWI as fewer domestic staff were employed. 29 During the time the Metcalfe family owned Wymering Manor from 1947 to 1960 the Refectory was converted into a garage, the gallery was taken down and the adjacent rooms demolished. The windows along the east side are post 1960.
The Music room, although it faces west, may have been intended as a chapel as it has links to the layout of a Roman basilica with its rectangular shape and apsidal end, though there is no record of it ever having been consecrated as a chapel. When first built it had clerestory windows in the tops of the walls and there was no ceiling - the room was the full height to the roof. The French windows were changes made by Thomas Knowlys Parr and his aunt. A very large and grand marble fireplace was erected in the south wall. The fireplace almost certainly came from Bold Hall and it is shown in several pictures of the room from the nineteen thirties when the room was hung with family portraits and pictures and filled with furniture for gracious living. It was the Drawing Room during the Parr years and it was here that Queen Mary, wife of George V, was entertained on her brief visit in 1929. 30 Candlesticks and oil lamps are conspicuous in the photos as Wymering Manor did not get electricity until after 1945, even though cables looped across the grounds after the electricity station was built in 1929. During WW2 the room was used by some detachments of the army or Home Guard and graffiti was found that dated to their time there.
Mr Metcalfe senior used the Music room as a workshop. 31 He was a retired engineer who had come from Warwickshire. 32 When he moved to Portsmouth he did not work for Airspeed or de Havilland but interested himself in producing medical equipment. 33 The tradition that Amy Johnson visited him at Wymering are false as she had died in 1941, before he arrived at the manor. 34 Neville Shute too had left Airspeed in 1938 and emigrated to Australia in 1950 so although it is possible it is not probable that he visited the Metcalfes at Wymering. 35 Mr Metcalfe was an inventor however and created a small car, one of which survived into the 1960s. After Mr Metcalfe senior's death in 1958 Mrs Metcalfe and her son, also Leonard, sold the house to Ralph Bailey, who planned to demolish it to build more houses. 36 After a public outcry it was bought by Portsmouth City Council and leased to the Youth Hostels Association in whose hands it remained until 2005, when structural failure led to them terminating the Lease. 37
The research for the above topic was carried out by Janet Hird. It is subject to copyright and should not be copied or transmitted in whole or part without her acknowledgement. We ask you to respect her copyright.