English Stately Homes and Castles - East Midlands

Ellys Manor House, Lincolnshire

Some of the best preserved medieval domestic wall paintings in Britain

This is an undiscovered gem just off the A1 in Great Ponton, south of Grantham. The present house was built by the Ellys family at the end of C15th/beginning of the C16th on an older building. The Ellys were wealthy wool merchants trading with Flanders and had many powerful connections and links with other important families. The house displays the wealth of the family and included the latest continental styles like the stepped gables.

It is an attractive stone building with a red tiled roof near the church and surrounded by tall trees and neatly mown lawns.  The house has little changed over the centuries and has lovely mullioned Tudor windows. Inside it has huge oak beam ceilings and massive stone fireplaces. It is now an attractive and much loved home, furnished to complement its history.

The main reason to visit the house is for the superb C16th wall paintings in the upper rooms, reached by a lovely wooden staircase. Pevsner described these as “most complete, extensive and important domestic decoration of this date in the country”

They had been covered by a lime wash and were discovered by chance. I had always associated wall paintings with churches, but apparently they were an alternative room decoration to tapestries. These are not religious paintings but designed to look like a view with gardens.

There is a bottom border and a top frieze. The wall was divided by pillars to resemble vistas with trees, flowers and animals. The green of the trees has been lost and now looks a muddy grey colour but the red splodges of fruit can still be seen. The reds and ochres are still bright. One room has two walls with paintings exposed and there are smaller areas of paintings elsewhere. When money is available there are plans to remove more of the lime wash to reveal more of the paintings.

We were shown round by the owner who bought the house 30 years ago and is gradually restoring it back to its original state. In the 1940s, the house was the rectory and in very poor condition. When it rained, water ran down the walls leaving puddles on the floor. When the rector complained about this to his superiors, their answer was to mop the puddles up with a cloth.

The owner  has spent a long time unravelling the history of the house and the Ellys family and his enthusiasm shines through as he guides people round.  This is a fascinating visit. Visitors are advised to ring before visiting as the house can be shut at short notice for filming. The post code is NG33 5DP and the grid reference is SK 925304.


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