Langton Hall, North Yorkshire
Roofs are the vulnerable point of many country houses and the perimeter valley gutter at Langton Hall on the banks of the River Swale in Yorkshire is no exception. Leaks have plagued the Fife family since they moved into the house in 1996 and re-roofing can no longer be avoided. Grant aid from the Historic Houses Foundation has been the catalyst for the project.
From Georgian to Gothic and back
Langton Hall is an elegant house with bay windows and curving loggias connecting the two wings of the house. Built in 1770 for Leonard Smelt, a successful Georgian military engineer who distinguished himself in Marlborough’s wars and in the expanding Empire. The building of the house coincided with his introduction to the King and shows his confidence in his social position. Smelt became a friend to George III and Queen Charlotte (who appointed him Deputy Governor to their children) and to many of the leading literary figures of the day, particularly the novelist Fanny Burney. He spent much of his life in London only spending his final years, after the death of his wife, at Langton Hall. In the 1860s, the house was home to the conservative politician Charles, Lord Teignmouth, whose father had been Governor-General of Bengal. He rebuilt it in gothic revival style, making it unfeasibly large.
The Langton Estate was bought by the Fife family in 1891. With the assistance of Sir Martyn Beckett RIBA in 1960, the present owner’s father undertook an imaginative restoration, reducing the Victorian extensions and enhancing the original Georgian symmetry. Re-roofing the Westmorland slate roof and renewing the aging lead work has waited until now.
Lurking in the Valleys
The roof is a susceptible area in any large country house. The scale of roof repairs often mean that the job is put off from one generation to another, waiting for the energy and resources of a new generation. At Langton Hall, when the current owner took over in 1996, there were many urgent repair and restoration jobs to be done. The roof of the East Wing was renewed in 1999, the loggias in 2014 and the West Wing in 2016. In the main house the rainwater drains via 8 outlets from the perimeter valley, into a lead lined tank before dispersing via downpipes, creating challenging conditions for repair and maintenance.
Going for the Long Term
The repair of the roof at Langton Hall is not for the faint hearted nor is it a short-term fix. The funding provided by the Historic Houses Foundation will provide the Fife family with the impetus needed to tackle this major job and will protect this house from the rain for at least the next 150 years.
Langton Hall hosts a series of public events throughout the year and is available to visit by booking through Invitation to View.