An introduction to the Wymering Manor House
Wymering Manor House is one of the oldest houses in Portsmouth and the oldest in Old Wymering Conservation Area.
The house is a Grade II* listed historic building. However, it has not been repaired since the widthlapse of the north-east corner of the building which occurred about 2004.
The house was built soon after 1581 with timber framing, much of which survives under the brick and stucco exterior we see today. It originally had a wing on both the north and south sides projecting towards the east and joined by a central hall range on the western side, making it U shaped. There were two principal floors. There were also extensive attics and a cellar below the south wing.
The house was built with a large fireplace to heat the main hall and there was also a fireplace in the chamber above so this was also heated. The Hall, the north wing and the rooms above them were almost certainly the main living areas for the family. The south wing was probably for storage and used by the servants carrying out household duties like cooking and cleaning though there may have been a separate kitchen that was demolished at some time in the past.
The two projecting wings created a courtyard on the side facing Wymering Lane. The room called the Panelled room has a window which once looked out onto the courtyard. The window is hidden behind later panelling that must have been put up when the courtyard was built over and became the entrance hall to the house. At first the entrance hall was only single storey but early in the twentieth century it was extended to the full height of the first floor.
The two Jacobean staircases must have been fitted at the same time as they would not have been needed before. Stairs on both sides of the fireplace in the Hall gave access to the upper floors before this time. These changes, during the time when Thomas Knowlys Parr lived there, transformed the house into a country house furnished with many family portraits and antique furniture. We have images of the rooms at this time taken by Russell and Sons of Southsea, which show how magnificent it 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.
A detailed examination of part of the north wing showed the house had been built with close studded timber on at least two floors and probably up to the attics as well, meaning it had been built to impress because so many timber beams were on show. There were also signs of a large timber window frame with holes to carry bars to which the glazing would have been secured. The examination also suggested that bricks had been used to fill the gaps between the upright timbers and then reused when changes were made to this wing.
It was probably in the early nineteenth century that changes were made to the house, perhaps to make it more fashionable. A semi circular bay was added in the north wing, facing west, with shutters. The alterations removed some of the timber framing and did not provide the stability the frame needed. This, and the rotting of timbers caused by the build up of the land outside, has resulted in the decay and widthlapse that occurred in 2005.
In the middle of the nineteenth century, probably during the time the Reverend Nugee lived there, a large chapel (now called the Music Room) was built at the rear of the house on the south side and also what is believed to be a refectory. This became the kitchen when Thomas Knowlys Parr lived there and there was also a service wing with a butler's pantry and lamp room, demolished after WWII to make room for the garage.
Mr Knowlys Parr died in 1938 but the house was not sold until 1946. It was bought by a local builder, Mr Day, who retained 4 acres of the garden (to build houses) then sold it 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. They financed the sale by selling a further 2 acres of the garden for housing then leasing the Manor to the Youth Hostels Association.
The YHA vacated the building when the structural collapse took place and the campaign to secure the future of the Manor began again and Friends of Old Wymering was formed.