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Four Ashes Hall Cold Bath House Enville Staffordshire

Gill, Jonathan Four Ashes Hall Cold Bath House Enville Staffordshire. [Client Report] (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Four Ashes Hall is a country house in Enville, near Stourbridge which is believed to have been constructed in the second half of the 17th century and which has undergone a number of phases of expansion or alteration since then. Within the grounds to the west of the house is a distinct linear area of woodland, surrounded by open fields, and within this, immediately adjacent to a pond, are the remains of a ruined building which would have formed a cold bath house. The wooded area was planted in the later 18th century and it has a system of ponds feeding each other together with a simple circular path which extends around the edge of the woodland. Historical maps label this as the 'Bath Walk' and clearly it was intended as a part of the pleasure gardens of Four Ashes Hall where one could take a relaxing walk within the woods together with a bracing, therapeutic cold bath. The bath house building is a single storied structure and although only half of it remains standing it would have had a simple rectangular plan with two rooms. The larger room to the south has now been almost entirely lost and little survives above ground but excavation works have been undertaken in the current project to reveal the main cold bath itself which located was in this area. The cold bath was a substantial brick-lined pool (2.6 m x 1. 3 m by 2 m deep), and adjacent to it was a raised platform where one would presumably have got changed together with a fireplace where the bather could have warmed themselves after leaving the water. The smaller room has two much smaller pools, connected to each other and to the adjacent pond. Evidence identified in the current work suggests that the southern half of the building has undergone significant alteration and both the current cold bath and fireplace are almost certainly secondary additions. Indeed it may be that the entire southern half was a secondary addition and that the northern half was originally a free-standing, square-plan building. If this is the case it may be that the northern half was not originally a cold bath house and had another function, possibly as a simple changing room for bathers to swim in the adjacent pond. It has previously been reported that the building was constructed in c.1790 and the nature of the surviving structure would support this belief. The southern half with the cold bath itself would probably have been a relatively early addition, probably constructed in the first quarter of the 19th century. Cold baths and detached cold bath houses were constructed in significant numbers at country houses, particularly in the 18th century and principally for reasons of maintaining good health. Immersing oneself in cold water was believed to be effective in strengthening the constitution or combating ailments and it followed similar contemporary health trends for coastal bathing or taking spa waters. The cold bath house at Four Ashes Hall has been recorded in the current work and relates to an ongoing project to restore the adjacent system of ponds. This project is largely funded by Natural England through a Higher Level Stewardship Agreement and it is anticipated that this will include either consolidation or restoration works to the bath house. The recording was partly commissioned due to the possibility of the structure being de-stabilised by the nearby dredging works but also so that understanding of the nature of building could be enhanced and that this could help inform the preparation of proposals for the building.

Item Type:Client Report
Subjects:Primary Archives
Geographical Areas > English Counties > Staffordshire
Period > UK Periods > Post Medieval 1540 - 1901 AD
ID Code:1152
Deposited By: Scott
Deposited On:14 Jun 2013 11:42
Last Modified:21 Aug 2013 10:05

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