The story of an English Country House Interior – Arley Hall

Like the architect of grand buildings such as Arley Hall in Cheshire, at Artichoke our purpose is  to produce rooms of heritage quality.  It is our mission to ensure every room we design and make will form a long term part of our clients’ houses for generations.

There have always been designers and makers with the same mission as ours, and their interiors are still looking as breathtaking today as they were when first installed, all those years ago. Their legacy creates an emotional and aesthetic connection to Britain’s cultural identity.  It is our inspiration.

In this new series, we will tell the story of English country house interiors that we admire.  Our special thanks go to Christopher John Photography for allowing us to use his photography from Arley Hall, the subject of our first brief biography of a building.

Arley hall english country house
Arley Hall in Cheshire, England


Arley Hall was built by the Warburton family in the mid 1400s.  Originally it was  a U shaped timber framed structure surrounded by a moat.  The three story building you can see in the photo above was added in 1570 and was left largely unaltered, falling into disrepair until the late 18th century, when the house was encased in redbrick and neo-classical stone facades.  It was at this time that Arley Hall’s housekeeper was Elizabeth Raffald, who went onto become the writer of one of Britain’s most successful cook book at the time, ‘The Experienced English Housekeeper.’

Entrance hall English country house
Entrance porch Arley Hall


These late 18th century architectural interventions turned our to be unwise and unsympathetic, and the house continued its decline until 1813 when it was inherited by the then 8 year old Rowland Egerton Warburton.  At the age of 21, charged by a decent inheritance, Rowland decided to completely rebuild Arley Hall using modern building methods, but in the Jacobean style as a nod to his ancestral past and the source of his wealth.

The Grand Hall

English country house inspiration
The grand hall with Adam style ceiling
English country house bespoke joinery
The staircase at Arley hall was considered a triumph
English country house oak staircase
The grand staircase is considered George Latham’s masterpiece at Arley Hall. The fine oak staircase and doorways with the elaborate strapwork and panelled plasterwork are a spectacular copy of the grandest Elizabethan staircases.


Rowland chose George Latham, a local architect, to design the house.  Latham had trouble achieving planning permission.  His first neo-Jacobean submissions were dismissed. Finally, his Elizabethan concepts were approved, but on the proviso that every feature in the house had an exact original Elizabethan replica elsewhere.  With this large task at hand, both Egerton-Warberton and Latham embarked on a lengthy study trip to investigate Elizabethan detail before starting the first phase of the work in 1932.

The Library at Arley Hall

Panelled library inspiration for Artichoke
The oak library
bespoke library details
The library bookcases and carved chimney piece was made by H Wood & Company of Covent Garden at a cost of £520 in 1832.


The Dining Room

Panelled room inspiration English country house
Panelled room leading into the dining room
English country house inspiration
Panelling with ornate fireplace
Panelled room in English country house
A stunning panelled wall
English country house panelled room inspiration
Drawing room with panelled walls and decorative moulded ceiling

Latham designed the dining room doorways and panelling as well as the neo Elizabethan ceilings which were installed in 1842 by J Hughes of Manchester.  The dining room table (unseen) was made for the original dining hall which was demolished in 1968. It sat 24 people.


The Drawing Room

English country house inspiration
Drawing room with Elizabethan plasterwork ceiling

English country house inspiration

English country house inspiration
Dramatic fireplace and extravagant detail on the door

The beautiful drawing room at Arley Hall was is devoted to the memory of Rowland Egerton Warburton, whose portrait hangs over the fireplace.


As these beautiful images show, Arley Hall is a classic example of a money-no-object approach to building design and interior architecture.  Rowland Egerton-Warburton was young when he inherited the family money, and he was clearly passionate about recognising his family legacy by way of a grand architectural statement.  Of all the periods to choose to replicate, Elizabethan architecture and interior design is the most involved and consequently the most expensive to reproduce, requiring the finest plasterers, carvers, brickmakers and joiners to deliver.  It would have been a very costly undertaking but Rowland had the vision necessary for such an undertaking and he has certainly left an impressive legacy.

Without great patrons, there would be no great architecture” said Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Arley Hall is the proof.




If you’d like to discuss our approach to design and discover first hand our passion for brilliantly designed joinery and how it can improve your experience of living in a period house and form part of your home for generations, please email or call +44 (0)1934 745270.

Designing into the Elizabethan Country House

Many Artichoke projects tend to focus on Georgian and Victorian period country houses, with the occasional sojourn to the later Edwardian or to earlier Jacobean and Elizabethan periods. It is fascinating to see how styles of architecture and interior detailing evolve through the English country house. The entire post Norman history is deeply illustrated through architecture.

One architectural style we find particularly enchanting is the Elizabethan country house.  Our first major country house project, over 20 years ago, was Parnham House in Dorset, one of Britain’s finest examples of Elizabethan architecture.  We were commissioned by the owners to design various rooms including both kitchens, a private dressing room and a minstrell’s gallery, all made in our workshops in Somerset.  With great sadness, the house was extensively damaged by fire in 2018 and it is now on the market.

Country house with gravel driveway
Parnham House, built during the reign of Elizabeth I and reconfigured by John Nash in the 19th century.


Elizabethan Country House Architecture

The Elizabethan period (1560-1600) was a period of design transition in architecture.  England’s understanding of the Italian Renaissance was just coming to the forefront, spurned on by Henry VIII’s numerous contacts with Italy before breaking with Rome.  When Elizabeth took up her reign, the country’s economy started to improve following years of recklessness from Henry.  A focus back into farming created more money for wider groups of people across England, and a domestic building boom began.  Many smaller houses were built and many larger manors were created, often through remodelling of earlier Tudor or Medieval homes.

An early introduction to Italian Renaissance architecture was fused with England’s already well established Gothic architecture, alongside a little Dutch influence. This opulent mixture was brilliantly interpreted by English craftsmen who elevated this new hybrid style to stunning levels of romantic architectural detailing.

breamore house
Breamore House in Hampshire


Houses were typically symmetrical with long galleries and formal gardens, often laid out in an ‘E’ pattern. The medieval hall was replaced in importance by the long gallery which became the focus for family life alongside other living areas off the gallery.  Key decorative characteristics included large mullioned windows with square heads and ornamental strap work (both internal and external), a detail originating in Italy via Islamic ornament.  Extensive use of rectangular timber oak panelling was also prevalent, often made even richer with the use of carved strap work ornament. Combined with ornate plaster work ceilings and carved overmantels, the affect was striking and powerful.

Creating a Design Backstory

This kaleidoscope of detail presents a challenge to joinery designers like Artichoke. It is difficult to compete with it. In the Elizabethan era, domesticity as we know it today, simply didn’t exist.

For Parnham House we created a strategy, giving the furniture we designed the backstory of an Edwardian interior facelift.  The kitchen design took on detail from the medieval and Tudor periods, albeit with a Edwardian twist.  This approach was heavily influenced by Edwin Lutyens who took a similar approach with many of his buildings which are often Edwardian takes of medieval architecture.

The backstory is a great way to contextualise and harmonise design in an imposing period building, particularly pre Georgian designs, where domestic rooms didn’t exist.  A backstory gives design a single direction, ensuring the end result is sympathetic, elegant and above all for an Elizabethan house, deferent.


To discuss your project with Artichoke, email us at


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