Large house with lawn to the front
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Front elevation of Nostell Priory

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Nostell Priory is a Palladian-style country house built near the site of a 12th-century Augustinian priory between Foulby and Wragby, four miles (6 km) from Wakefield on the Doncaster Road. Built for Sir Rowland Winn between 1736 and 1750, its construction was supervised by James Paine, probably from designs by Colonel James Moyser based on Palladio’s Villa Mocenigo. The house was completed by Robert Adam from 1765 to 1776, and the north wing was added in 1779–1780 for Winn’s son. The house and its contents were given to the National Trust in 1953 by the trustees of the estate and Rowland Winn, 3rd Baron St Oswald.

Religious history

A hermitage dedicated to St James was founded between Foulby and Wragby in the 9th century. Its transition into a priory is complicated. It was visited by Henry I’s chaplain in 1120. Robert de Lacy of Pontefract in whose fee Nostell was situated, granted to the Priory Church of St Oswald of Nostell, half a carucate of land where the church was situated and income from churches at Warmfield, Huddersfield, Batley and Rothwell to the priory. Other benefactors granted churches in Yorkshire and beyond including Bamburgh in Northumberland and Bramham. The first prior was Athelwold and the last was Robert Ferrer who surrendered the priory on 20 November 1540.[1]

Ruins of the medieval priory were visible in 1765, but only the Monks’ Refectory, which was incorporated into the home farm, survives.[2]


Multi-storeyed house with grass to the front
Nostell Priory from Francis Orpen Morris’s The County Seats Of The Noblemen And Gentlemen Of Great Britain And Ireland (1880)
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After the Dissolution of the Monasteries the lands of the priory were sold and eventually passed to Sir Thomas Gargrave, a High Sheriff of Yorkshire, Speaker of the House of Commons and President of the Council of the North who bought the property for £3,560 in 1567. The estate of 300 acres (121 ha) was bought by Sir Rowland Winn in 1654.[3] The first house on the estate, Nostall Hall, was adapted from the monastic buildings. In 1729, after returning from the Grand Tour, Rowland Winn decided to build a new house.[2][4]

Built in the Palladian style between 1736 and 1750, James Paine, who was just 19 rears old when work started, supervised the house’s construction, probably from designs by Colonel James Moyser[a]who was also involved in the design of nearby Bretton HallCountry house on the north slope of the valley of the River Dearne in West Bretton near Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England. based on Palladio’s Villa Mocenigo. The house was completed by Robert Adam from 1765 to 1776, and the north wing was built in 1779-1780 for Winn’s son.[4][5] The 3rd Baron St Oswald conveyed the house to the National Trust in lieu of tax in 1954.[6]


See caption
Adam staircase at Nostell
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The house is built of sandstone ashlar under a stone slate hipped roof. The stone was quarried locally at Brackenhill.[4] The symmetrical east front has 13 bays of two storeys above a raised rustic basement. The central five bays are separated by attached Ionic columns,under a plain entablature and dentilled pediment containing the Winn family coat of arms. At piano nobileMain floor of a Palladian or Georgian building. level is the central doorway with architrave and pediment, and twelve 12-pane sashed windows. Above them at first floor level are square nine-pane windows with architraves, and a 12-pane window above the door.[5]

Originally planned to be a rectangular central block with a linked square pavilion at each corner, only two pavilions were built and only the kitchen pavilion survives.[5]

The five-bay raised terrace flanked by curving flights of steps was created in 1771 by Robert Adam as a grand entrance.[4] It has a balustraded parapet that continues down the steps on either side. It has a central pedimented doorway and four square 12-pane windows.[5] Adam also proposed the north wing which is linked by a three-bay range.[7] Its five-bay block has a portico with Ionic pillars above the projected rustic basement, a blind oeil-de-boeuf in the pediment and Ionic corner pilastersDecorative architectural element used to give the appearance of a supporting column, to articulate an extent of wall..[5]

Kitchen pavilion

The two-storey kitchen pavilion is square in plan with a basement and attic under its pyramid roof. Each facade is symmetrical with three bays except for the east side which is attached to the passage joining it to the house. The roof has central dormers in each side and a large square chimney in the apex. The ground floor windows are 15-pane sashes and 9-pane sashes above.[5]


The south and west ranges of stable block were designed by Robert Adam and completed in 1776, and the north and east ranges that enclosed the courtyard by James Pritchett and Charles Watson of York were completed in 1827. The renovated stable block is open as a visitor centre for house and parkland.[5]


James Paine designed the house’s oldest interiors, including the north and south staircases, the Dining Room, State Bedchamber and State Dressing Room in the RococoExceptionally ornate and dramatic style of architecture, art and decoration. style. Robert Adam’s later work in the Saloon, Tapestry Room and the Library have plaster by Joseph Rose and painting by Antonio Zucchi. Thomas Chippendale was commissioned to produce furnishings and some decoration. [2]

Park and gardens

The estate including farms, woodland and a medieval pond that was owned by the priory was enclosed by Thomas Gargrave in 1604. The gardens of the earlier Nostall Hall were landscaped when the new house was built after 1740.[8]

Rowland Winn[b]4th Baronet commissioned Stephen Switzer to landscape the gardens. He was assisted by Joseph Perfect. The Upper Lake was created in about 1759 and the bridge on Doncaster Road over the Upper and Middle Lakes was built by 1861.[9]

Winn family

The Winn family were wealthy textile merchants in London. The descendants of George Wynne, Draper to Queen Elizabeth I acquired land in Lincolnshire and the former priory estate at Nostell. George Winn was granted a baronetcy in 1660. Rowland Winn, 4th Baronet inherited the estate in 1722. He commissioned the new hall to designs by Colonel James Moyser in the 1730s.[10] He employed James Paine to supervise its construction.

The 5th Baronet, Sir Rowland Winn succeeded to the estates when he was 26. He had married Sabine d’ Hervart, daughter of a Swiss baron, who he met while completing his education in Switzerland.[11] When his father died in 1765 the 5th Baronet turned to Robert Adam who started work on the interior of the house in 1766. Among the craftsmen Adam worked with were, painter Antonio Zucchi, the plasterer Joseph Rose and cabinet maker Thomas Chippendale.[12] His wife inherited her father’s Swiss estates, and some items were brought to Nostell.[13]

After her husband’s death Sabine continued to live at Nostell with her children Esther and Rowland, the 6th Baronet; the estates were administered by a local solicitor until he came of age. A keen fox hunter, he also owned racehorses. He died in 1805. His sister was estranged from the family after she married a baker, John Williamson from Manchester in 1792. Rowland provided for her children after Esther died in 1803 and John Williamson inherited his uncle’s estates, but not his baronetcy, aged 11 in 1805. The Williamson children changed their name to Winn. John Winn died on the Grand Tour while in Rome in 1819 and was succeeded by his brother Charles. Charles Winn married his cousin Priscilla Strickland and they set about redecorating Nostell.[14] They had plans drawn up to complete the building work and demolished the south pavilion. He also bought furniture from Gilling & Co of Lancaster.[15] Charles Winn also repaired and refurbished Wragby Church, which is inside the estate grounds .[16]

Charles Winn’s son Rowland inherited the estate in 1874. Iron ore had been discovered under the Lincolnshire estate and the modern Nostell CollieryFormer colliery on the South Yorkshire Coalfield, about four and a half miles south east of Wakefield, on the Nostell Priory estate. was sunk on estate land. By now the Winns were successful industrialists with an income of more than £11,000. Rowland Winn was the Conservative MP for Lincolnshire in the 1870s and 1880s. He was created Baron St Oswald in 1885.[17]

His son Rowland, the 2nd Baron inherited the estates and title in 1893, he had served in the Coldstream Guards and was elected MP for Pontefract.[17] The third Baron, another Rowland, did not live at Nostell but it was occupied by his family during the shooting and racing seasons. They held large house parties and his son Charles used the east avenue in front of the house as a runway for his private aeroplane. The 4th Baron, Rowland Winn, who was awarded the Military Cross during the Second World War,[18] returned to Nostell, which had been used as a training base for the Royal Artillery, after the war. The 5th Baron opened the house to the public in 1997. Nostell is still the Winn family home.[6]


a who was also involved in the design of nearby Bretton HallCountry house on the north slope of the valley of the River Dearne in West Bretton near Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England.
b 4th Baronet



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