The present building at High Close is a rather rambling structure built around a small central courtyard, and contains four main building phases. The earliest part appears originally to have comprised a seventeenth century, three-bay, twostorey farmhouse largely typical for the Lake District. This was extended to the north-west by the addition of a rear wing of two storeys, in the seventeenth or eighteenth century, and to the south-west by additional rooms on two floors, probably in the early nineteenth century. This created an L-shaped arrangement which by the mid nineteenth century was still in use principally as a farmhouse, but also contained some higher quality accommodation for middle class visitors. Around 1860 a small self-contained cottage (now known as the Pink Cottage) was added at the north-west end and in 1866 the house was more than doubled in size by its new owner Edward Balme Wheatley-Balme, by the architects Cory & Ferguson of Carlisle, to designs which survive and give a good picture of the development of the building at this time.
The seventeenth century farmhouse
The earliest part of the building is a three-cell linear house of two storeys, forming part of the present east wing. Later accretions have been built to the south and north and against its west elevation. The east side forms the front (although there is a possibility that this is a reversal of the original layout), which is of random slate rubble construction, typical for the district, with a rough-cast coating on which an orange-pink wash can be seen, below the present whitewash. The southern extent of this early house is evident as a very poorly defined joint to the left of the change in roof line, and the northern is marked by the arched entrance to a passage, the bay to the north having been added in the 1860s. The roof has local slate covering with a tile ridge and has been raised and altered, although the eastern eaves are at the original level. It is not clear if the three ground floor openings are original: the combined door and window at the entrance is unlikely to be, and the tall proportions of the two windows to the north suggest they have been altered if not inserted, although the three first floor windows, with slate sills, have a more convincing seventeenth century form. The latter windows have chamfered timber mullions, with one or more iron casements with latchbuckle catches and quadrant stays, which may pre-date the 1860s alterations.
The interior of this three-cell house retains some aspects of its original plan. The firehouse at the south end has a deep fireplace with large stone chimney, albeit altered, to either side of which are doorways in the former gable. The heated parlour, now subdivided, forms the north part of the house, and has walk-in windows with late eighteenth or nineteenth century panelling. The position of the original stairs is not known: they may have been housed in a rear projection (perhaps that shown on the map of circa 1859), or within the body of the house.
On the first floor the essential arrangement has been altered slightly although there appears originally to have been a passage along the west side and two heated bedrooms of unequal size. Fixtures and fittings here appear to be entirely of the 1860s.
The roof structure of this early house survives in part within the second floor or attic level, which was added over the top of part of it in the 1860s: a partly redundant heavy oak truss with raking struts remains within the attic, the ridge now forming a side purlin within the new higher level roof.
Addition of the north wing
The north wing appears to have been added to the linear house at a relatively early date, and Sutton suggests that it was extant by 1663 (in comments added to Brooks 1998), although the grounds for this are not made clear. Although its essential outline (as shown on the first edition OS map) appears not to have changed in the 1860s campaign, Cory & Ferguson’s plans show that it was heightened at this time. The lower openings in its north elevation have all been altered to match the style of other 1860s windows, in the use of cement reveals, low segmental arches and sashes, and a detailed drawing by the architects shows the proposed structure of the second floor casements. On the south side, which now faces onto the courtyard, the wing has a rough-cast and limewashed coating, with long, shallow windows which suggest an early date, although the presence of lead flashing above their lintels indicates they were altered in the 1860s, as this is a technique used throughout the later parts of the house.
The ground floor of the north wing now comprises a passage along the south side, a stair-hall at the east side, a large heated room (recently subdivided), and what is now a service entrance lobby at the west. Evidence for this being an early addition is found in the presence of two oak beams carrying the first floor, the larger one heavy and chamfered, and the relatively low ceiling heights, but otherwise fixtures and fittings appear to date from the 1860s, when this wing was described as the “servants’ hall”. Although more spartan than the main accommodation in the 1860s house, the servants’ rooms in the north wing have walk-in windows with panelled shutters and moulded architraves, shown on one of Cory & Ferguson’s drawings.
The staircase in the north wing is also of 1860s date and is of timber, with plain stop-chamfered newel posts and square balusters. It continues to the second floor level, which contains two rooms, neither now heated but perhaps originally with fireplaces, as suggested by the architects’ drawing. This attic floor extends over the seventeenth century house and the Pink Cottage.
Extension of the east wing
By circa 1859 the house at High Close had been extended further, by the addition of three bays to the south end of the seventeenth century house. This extension included a basement level and two storeys above, and is of early nineteenth century character, although it was altered along with the rest of the building in the 1860s. The east elevation has the same rough-cast finish as the earlier farmhouse, with the same orange-pink render below the present whitewash, thus setting it clearly apart from the mostly un-rendered 1860s work, and suggesting a date of before circa 1840, when such colour-washes fell out of fashion (pers comm, Adam Menuge).
The verandah running along the east elevation is thought to be contemporary with the extension, and would have formed a covered walkway from the drive approaching the house from the east, to the house entrance, probably in the west side of the wing, given that the present eastern doorway was created through a former window opening in the 1970s, and one of Cory & Ferguson’s plans shows an entrance and flight of dog-leg stairs on the west side within what they term the “old house”. At that date it contained a drawing room on the ground floor, a function which this part of the wing continued to have after the 1860s alterations, during which most of the west side of this extension was built against.
Openings in the east elevation include the present doorway and two other walk-in windows serving the drawing room (one a corner window), which have large horned sashes with horizontal glazing bars, distinct from those in the garden front known to have been fitted in the 1860s in that the glazing bars are thicker; they may therefore have been replaced. (Cory & Ferguson’s elevation shows them to have had 12-pane sashes.) The first floor has three windows of similar proportions to those of the seventeenth century farmhouse, with the same timber mullions and wrought iron casements and the roof of this extension is covered with stone slate and tile ridge, altered in the 1860s, but with shallow eaves and gable verges, setting it apart from the 1860s work. The style of this part of the house is restrained with most features in common with the vernacular house, but with some ornamentation tending towards the classical, in the sash windows and verandah.
The interior of this extension appears to have been built to provide limited accommodation but superior to that available in the earlier part of the east wing, in the form of a large drawing room on the ground floor, a generous stair hall, and two heated bedrooms, one with adjoining closet or dressing room. There is also a basement containing two barrel-vaulted storage rooms and a passage, with the flight of stone stairs at the north end indicating the original staircase arrangement between ground and first floor, which has been altered. The present single flight of stairs on the ground floor, with heavy oak balustrade, dates from the 1860s but was repositioned in the 1970s; it was originally of dogleg form, which allowed a separate passage linking firehouse and drawing room, lit by a window in the position of the present entrance in the east elevation.
As with most of the house, the drawing room appears to have been refurbished during the 1860s, and is a well-lit room with prospects to the garden and towards the south-east. It is less richly decorated than the other day-rooms, but contains a moulded cornice, wall cupboard and square-cut marble fireplace, of a style which recurs throughout the building, including in the first floor bedrooms, albeit in a smaller version. The two bedrooms over the drawing room have ceilings extending into the roof, and walk-in windows with remnants of panelling and architraves.
The Pink Cottage
The north-west corner of High Close comprises this small self-contained cottage of two storeys, which can be dated to between circa 1859 and 1866, by its absence from the OS map and appearance on Cory & Ferguson’s plans. There is no means of access between the main house and the cottage (although a cupboard on the east side of the ground floor may be a blocked doorway), but an attic within the cottage roof is reached from the main house, indicating that the two have been part of the same property for some time.
The cottage faces west onto the road and appears to be of slate rubble, now covered in rough-cast, with a local slate roof which is hipped so as to link with that of the north wing. One difference the cottage bears in relation to the rest of the house is the use of rectangular chimney stacks, which contrast with the cylindrical stacks elsewhere. The windows in the front elevation also stand out as they are sixteen pane sashes, which have an earlier character than the 1860s windows, despite their being less than a decade older. At the north gable a stone-built lean-to adjoins on the ground floor, which may be secondary. This end of the building shows a clear straight joint indicating that the north wing is earlier than the cottage, but also that the later roof, built onto the north wing
when it was heightened in the 1860s, overlies the earlier cottage roof.
The cottage has two principal rooms on the ground floor, with a partition creating an entrance lobby with access to the stairs; both rooms are heated, the north one being the living room, the south the parlour. The former is plain in character and although most of the doors are original, the fireplace is modern. The parlour has an unusual arrangement in that its fireplace is in the long wall, between the windows, the gable being occupied by a central blocked window, further evidence that the cottage pre-dates the 1860s additions, but also suggesting that it was designed to allow views to the south, and that it was therefore intended for occupation by those with an appreciation of the landscape, rather than simply as a farmhouse, despite its otherwise humble character. This is also the case on the first floor, where there is a blocked walk-in window in the same position.
The 1866 additions
The enlargement of the house which began in 1866 created the present courtyard plan and radically changed the existing L-shaped farmhouse and the adjoining Pink Cottage, and those elements seem largely to have been relegated to accommodation for servants and tenants. The area of the building was increased some three-fold and involved the incorporation of an earlier barn, so presumably was accompanied by the construction of the new outbuildings to the north of the road, which have not been inspected as part of this survey.
The main focus of the new house and its most eye-catching aspect today is the canted south-east garden front formed by a series of rooms, which on the ground floor look out from under the verandah, built over a passage giving partly concealed access to the basement service rooms. The verandah is a continuation of the earlier one which was extant around the south and east sides of the east wing by circa 1859, and the two parts of it are clearly of different construction, as well as having different paved surfaces (while the earlier part covers a slate path the later part, the design for which survives, is tiled). The covered access around the south end of the building was essential as the front doorway, situated at the south end of the new west wing, was some distance from the drive.