Historic Houses Handbook

2018-03-14-0001The Historic Houses Association has been rebranded as Historic Houses. Our Historic Houses Handbook arrived this week in its new format, perhaps reminiscent in style of the handbook for Historic Scotland.

The handbook is arranged around regions: London and the South East; South West and Channel Islands; East, West Midlands; East Midlands; Yorkshire; North West; North East; Wales; Scotland; Northern Ireland. Entries are in numerical order and provide postcode (useful for the SatNav, though there is a mention of ‘good-old-fashioned map reading’ in the section on ‘Using this book’), location and opening information. There is a subtle colour theme for each section but perhaps a footer or header would help with the navigation.

There is a marked improvement in the guide and I look forward to using it to explore ‘new’ properties during the coming year.

Portchester Castle: guidebooks


Portchester Castle © David Gill

Portchester Castle consists of a Late Roman Saxon Shore fort, with a Medieval castle and church placed within its walls. It was placed in Statue Guardianship in 1926 and Sir Charles Peers wrote the first official guidebook in 1933.


1965 (3rd impress. with amendments, 1969)

Stuart E. Rigold revised Peers’ text in a 3rd edition of the text (1965). This was divided into two main parts: a history and a description. The description included sections on the Roman fortress, the medieval castle, and the church (for an Augustinian priory). There are two fold-out plans inside the back cover: the Roman fort, and a plan of the medieval castle.


1990 (2000)

The new English Heritage guide was prepared by Julian T. Munby (who had excavated on the site with Barry Cunliffe). This contains two tours: The Medieval Castle, and the Outer Bailey and Roman Fort. These are followed by a history of the castle including the Roman fort and the Saxon settlement. The guide has numerous reconstruction drawings and photographs. The centre pages provide an overview of the whole castle.


2003 (2nd ed. 2008, rev. reprint 2011)

The current English Heritage guidebook is by John Goodall. It contains a tour followed by a history, with special sections on ‘Building the Roman Fort’ and ‘Prisoners of War’. There are plans of the fort and the different levels of the castle on a foldout plan inside the back cover.

Reculver: guidebooks


Reculver © David Gill

The Saxon Shore fort of Reculver in Kent is in the care of English Heritage. Parts of the Roman fort has been eroded into the sea. In the 7th century the fort became the site for the foundation of an Anglo-Saxon minster. The site was placed in Site Guardianship in 1950.


Stuart E. Rigold wrote a short guide to the site in 1971. This followed the format of the DOE concertina card guides (see also Hardknott Roman fort; Hetty Pegler’s Tump). There are 6 columns of text (the fort, the minster) on one side (with a small plan of the fort and church), a series of images including a plan of the 7th-15th century ecclesiastical structures.



The present English Heritage guide by Tony Wilmott covers the two Saxon Shore forts in Kent, Reculver and Richborough.

Appuldurcombe House: guidebooks


1986 (2nd ed.; repr. 2001)

Appuldurcombe is a major house on the Isle of Wight. The fragile structure was placed in State Guardianship in 1952. It had last been occupied in 1909.



The Ministry guidebook was prepared by L.O.J. Boynton (1967). This takes a different format to other ‘blue’ guides. It starts with an introduction, and then presents a short essay on the Worsleys of Appuldurcombe. This is followed by a long section on the building of Appuldurcombe, with sections on Sir Robert Worsley (1701–13), Sir Richard Worsley (1773–82) and the Yarborough period (1805–55) and after. Finally there is a description of the house and grounds. The text is supported iwth a block of 32 endnotes.  There are 9 black and white plates, and a table showing the 18th century cost of the house. Inside the back cover are plans of the park and of the house itself.


1967 (3rd impress. 1971)

The DOE guide (1971) is essentially the same as the earlier MPBW one except that it had integrated images. The English Heritage Guide (1986), that continues in print (most recently in 2009), is a revised and expanded version of Boynton’s 1967 text. It now starts with a tour and description, broken down into elements of the structure. This is followed by a history of Appuldurcombe starting in the Anglo-Saxon period. The final section is the building history. There are now 37 supporting endnotes.

This is one of several Ministry guides that continue to have a life under English Heritage.

Thetford: guidebooks


1956 (repr. 1970)

The Cluniac priory at Thetford was placed in State Guardianship in 1932. F.J.E. Raby prepared the first official guide in 1935. This was expanded by P.K. Baillie Reynolds (1956). The pair also prepared the guidebooks for Castle Acre Priory and Framlingham Castle.

The Thetford guide consists of three pages of History, followed by six pages of description. A plan of the priory was placed in the middle pages.


1984 (repr. 1989; orig. 1979)

In 1979 the DOE guidebook was expanded to include a section on the Warren Lodge outside Thetford. S.E. Rigold prepared the new section on the lodge. In 1984 this booklet evolved into the English Heritage guide with black and white photographs and plans. David Sherlock had a section on the Church of the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre (with plan), and Rigold on the lodge.


Thetford Warren Lodge © David Gill

Yarmouth Castle: guidebooks


2003 [1978]

Yarmouth Castle on the Isle of Wight was one of a series of defences for the Solent. It was constructed after a  French raid of 1545 during the reign of Henry VIII, and was nearly complete by the autumn of 1547. The castle continued to be used for coastal defence until 1885. The castle was placed in the care of the Office of Works in 1913.


1958 (repr. 1962)

S.E. Rigold wrote the first paper guide for the castle in 1958. It consisted of a detailed history (nearly five and a half pages) followed by a description. The centre page consists of a site plan along with plans of the ground, first and second floors. The price (in 1962) was 4d.


1985 (repr. 1987, 1990)

Rigold’s guide was reprinted in 1978, and formed the basis of the English Heritage ‘white’ guidebook (1985). This started wit ha description followed by the history.  It is illustrated with black and white photographs, and the centre pages use the 1958 plans though with updated typography. The text is also identical to the 1958 guide with the addition, ‘Since 1984 Yarmouth Castle has been in the care of English Heritage’.

The back cover of this guide bears the Gateway marketing.


1985 (repr. 1987, 1990)

The present English Heritage guidebook is essentially the same as the 1985 publication except with a colour cover (most recently reprinted in 2012).

Titchfield Abbey: guidebook


1954 (repr. 1962)

The Premonstratensian abbey at Titchfield was founded from the foundation at Halesowen in Worcestershire after 1214. It was dissolved in 1537 and Thomas Wriothesley had the buildings adapted into a residence.

The ruins were acquired by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries c. 1914–18, and their responsibility fell to the H.M. Office of Works in 1923. The site is now in the care of English Heritage.

The guidebook was written by Rose Graham (History) and S.E. Rigold (description). It consists of 12 pages, and the centre pages include a plan of the abbey.  The original price was 4 d. (1962).