Cowdray House, Midhust, West Sussex title banner, a history of a magnificent 16th Cent house, destroyed by fire in the late 18th Cent
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Buck Hall pre-fire


The Buck Hall
The hall was one of the noblest rooms in England, built somewhat in the style of the halls at Hampton Court and Christ Church, Oxford. It was 60ft long, 28ft wide and 60ft from the paved marble floor to the apex of the great hammer beam roof.

Along the north, east and west walls ran very high panelled wainscoting of cedar, on which were fine paintings. Above this, on the west side, are three windows with steeply slopping sills and further to the north, the great bay window with its sixty openings, which flanked the dais that ran across the north end of the hall. All the windows in the Buck Hall had stained glass, bearing the coats of arms of the family and royalty. It was richly carved and above was a gallery, probably for musicians, which corresponded with the hall passageway below. Around the walls, above the wainscoting, were large brackets upon which were mounted eleven life size wooden bucks which gave the hall its name. Two bucks were sitting on their haunches in front of the screen holding rods with ornamented vanes bearing the royal arms and those of Lord Montague. Around the neck of one was hung a bow and arrows used by Queen Elizabeth I during her stay at Cowdray in 1591. There were four more bucks along each side of the hall; those on the west lying down, while those on the east were standing. The final buck stood in the centre of the north wall above the dais. The bucks were the work of Sir Anthony Browne (1542-1548) being part of his family crest.

The high-pitched hammer beam oak roof was divided into four bays. The carved brace attached to the wall posts and the braces under the collar beams were filled with cusped and traceried openings. In the southern gable were a group of traceried windows, designed to correspond with the openings in the roof. In the second bay from the north, was the open louver that carried off the smoke from the fire hearth bellow. The six-sided louver, a 'beautiful combination of tracery and pinnacles, 'was two stories high. It had windows in each side and buttresses at its angles. Altogether it must have been the most beautiful feature of Cowdray.

Since the fire, the roof has gone, as has the marble floor, the screens, the wainscoting, the paintings, the bucks, the stained glass and even half the north wall has fallen. The windows survive like giant skeletons and between them, remain the shattered corbels that once supported the roof. Recesses in the walls show were the wainscoting was fixed. Even though the room is a shell, the few remains give the room a hint of its former splendour.

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