Loved back to life
Country Life UK|January 12, 2022
Fulbeck House, Lincolnshire The home of Claire Van Cleave. This little-known house of about 1700 has been the subject of tactful restoration for a period of more than 20 years. Jeremy Musson looks at its fascinating history
Jeremy Musson

THE vicissitudes of the agricultural and political economy in Lincolnshire during the 20th century meant that it suffered the greatest number of losses of country houses anywhere in Britain. To encounter a well-restored and well-loved building such as Fulbeck House, therefore, a fine example of a compact residence built for a prosperous owner in about 1700, on the edge of Fulbeck village, is particularly uplifting and edifying. This is limestone country and the more substantial stone houses of this period often seem closely related, as if common products of a strong local building tradition. The more ambitious also appear to be aware of the great 1680s aristocratic seat of nearby Belton House and its 10-bay east façade, in particular.

Such is the case with the entrance front of Fulbeck House, which is constructed in coursed, locally quarried limestone with ashlar quoins (Fig 1). It stands two storeys high and possesses a hipped roof—now slate, but originally stone tile—inset with a pair of pedimented dormer windows. There is a deep eaves course on this front only and the architectural detailing is crisply carved; the tall windows with lugged architraves, a deep string course dividing the elevation and the central front door with an unusual segmental pediment ornamented with exaggerated modillions of an oddly Baroque character. To the south side of the door, two ground-floor windows retain early-18th-century (perhaps original) thick-profiled sash windows with smaller panes, 12 over 12, whereas the others are later-18th-century six over six and, to the north, later 19th century, with two panes only.

Fulbeck House had grown over the centuries, but the composed dignity of this front has clearly never lost its appeal. As a result, it has preserved its role throughout as the show front of the building. It has also determined the stylistic character of the most important additions to the house in the 1850s or 1860s, when an additional reception room and bedroom were added to the north. Other minor alterations are less self-conscious; there is an 18th-century extension of 2½ storeys to the south and some further modest practical additions of about 1900 to the west, in brick.

Part of the appeal of Fulbeck House lies in the simplicity of its original square layout around a well-worn, stone-flagged hall, now a sitting room, between two smaller rooms, one forming the handsome dining room and the other a former parlour. A staircase hall also opens off one side of the room (Fig 5). The staircase, with its paired turned balusters and stout moulded handrail, rises to a landing and returns to the main landing; the principal bedrooms face east over the entrance.

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