The Gatehouse, Oxbrugh Hall
Engraving: from 'Architectural Antiquities of Great Britain', John Britton (1835)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library
Oxbrugh’s best known feature is its gatehouse (c.1480). Constructed out of deep russet brick, then highly fashionable and expensive, it is a celebration of this material’s playful qualities.
The seven storied turrets have lace-like patterning, known as cusping, at every stage. Small, clover-like windows, quatrefoils, randomly perforate their walls, questioning the design’s symmetry. In between, the great chambers’ mullioned windows are recessed back under a large arch. High above, battlements delightfully project up and down, their sharp mouldings no longer practical, merely used to declare the wealth and ambition of the family.
Not surprisingly, many centuries later, the engraver John Britton concentrated on this gatehouse. The twin turrets dominate the composition. Sharply lit, the deep shadows reveal the design’s depth and plasticity, and its daring nature. Far below, the mix of pedestrians makes the height of the gatehouse even more dramatic. In so doing, Britton suggests that Oxbrugh is far grander than it actually is. The lower domestic ranges, either side of the gatehouse, are conveniently out of the frame, so too the small courtyard beyond. Like the Medieval owners and builders of Oxbrugh, Britton was captivated by first impressions.