An introduction to Wymering Manor House
The house called Wymering Manor is one of the oldest houses in Portsmouth and the oldest in the Old Wymering Conservation Area.
It is a Grade II* listed historic building but is also on the Heritage At Risk register because of its condition.
The house has undergone changes over the centuries to extend it, to make it more comfortable and even to make it more fashionable. It is hard today to understand what, when and by whom various changes were made, especially as some elements were already old when introduced. Also, fresh discoveries are being made as the house is investigated and renovated. What follows is only a brief and interim survey of the present house and its history based on our knowledge so far.
The timber frame of the house indicates that the house was built soon after 1581 (for fuller details see the dendro dating topic in this section). Some of the timber frame survives under the current brick and stucco exterior.
The upright timber posts were set close together. This naturally required more timber and was more expensive to build. It shows the high status of the house, which was meant to impress those who passed by.
The house was originally built in a U-shape, with a central hall and north and south wings which projected eastwards. The bay windows on both wings were added much later. The staircases were also a later addition. The centre of the U shape (where the Entrance Hall is today), was a courtyard.
There were three floors throughout, comprising two principal floors and attics. There was also a cellar below the south wing. The layout conforms to a common plan for larger houses of the time which also indicates the uses of each part. 1
the Grand Hall the north wing and the rooms above them were the main living areas for the family. The Hall and the chamber above were both heated by fires and probably so were the ground and first floor rooms in the north wing. On the first floor the remains of a window show it had glass window panes and decorative moulding (ogee) on the frame and vertical glazing bars.
The south wing would have been storage areas for food (pantry) and drink (buttery). Evidence suggests the window had no decoration and was unglazed. The original kitchen would have been in a separate area near to the south wing but this no longer exists.
As fashions changed, especially from the eighteenth century onward, the layout was changed. Hallways were introduced on the first floor to give access to each room. This gave the family members greater privacy. Windows were changed and probably enlarged. The principal first floor living areas were given panelling which divides the chamber from the adjacent room.
In the early nineteenth century a full height bay window in brick was added to the western end of the north wing. It has sash windows and divided shutters. This was a fashionable feature of houses of the time but the alteration weakened the timber frame of the Tudor houseand has contributed to its present structural problems.
In the middle of the nineteenth century, a chapel and refectory were added at the rear of the house on the south side during the time the Reverend George Nugee lived there. 2
At first the Entrance Hall was only a single storey but following the purchase of Wymering Manor by Thomas Knowlys Parr and his aunt Mrs Nightingale in 1899 it was extended to the full height of the first floor. 3
It is not known when the two Jacobean staircases were inserted must have been inserted. It is possible that the family had, from the beginning, reached the first floor using stairs (in a stair tower) at the north east end of the Hall. If this is true then the Jacobean stairs could have been added at some time from the late seventeenth century onward. If there was no stair tower in the suggested location, then the Jacobean staircases could not have been added until the early twentieth century, when the Entrance Hall was raised to its current height.
Mr Knowlys Parr and his aunt also made other changes that transformed it into a country house. Marble fireplaces were added in several Ground Floor rooms. It was furnished with many family portraits and antique furniture. Changes were also made to the Victorian extension, reducing the height of the Music room ceiling and windows and adding a marble fireplace. Unfortunately none of the fireplaces in particular remains in place and the pictures and furnishings were removed after World War II.
We have images of some of the rooms taken in the 1930s by Russell and Sons of Southsea, which show how magnificent they must have looked before World War II but the house did not have electricity. If you look carefully at the images you can see the candlesticks and oil lamps.
Attached to the Kitchen Thomas Knowlys Parr's time was a servants' hall, a butler's pantry and a lamp room. 4
These were demolished after WWII so that the kitchen could become Mr Metcalfe's garage but the fireplace and over mantel of the old kitchen still remain. The Music room became Mr Metcalfe's workroom.
Although Mr Knowlys Parr died in 1938, the house was not sold until 1946. It was bought by a local builders, P.J.A. and G.A. Day, who retained several acres of the garden (to build the houses in Greenwood Avenue and along Medina Road) then sold the house and the remaining land to Mr Metcalfe, a company director and inventor.
The house was again sold after Mr Metcalfe's death and threatened with demolition until it was bought by Portsmouth City Council in 1960 following a campaign to save it. They financed the purchase by selling a further 2 acres of the garden for housing (Wymering Manor Close) then leasing the Manor to the YHA.
The YHA vacated the building in 2006 when the timber support at the north east corner of the house collapsed. The campaign to secure the future of the Manor began again and Friends of Old Wymering was formed. Negotiations by Portsmouth City Council to lease the manor were not successful and it did not sell at auction. In 2103 ownership of the house was transferred from Portsmouth City Council to the charity Wymering Manor Trust which is aiming to renovate the building and is committed to making it a valued community asset. Friends of Old Wymering support and help Wymering Manor Trust while remaining a separate organisation, in accordance with its members' wishes.