The Fanciful Chimney

September 30, 2019

Rising exuberantly above the roofline towards the sky, Agecroft Hall’s fanciful red brick chimneys are a striking contrast to its black timbers and white exterior and, also, a fine example of Tudor-era architectural magnificence. Many modern visitors do not give much thought to fireplaces and chimneys, but in the centuries before central heating, fireplaces were central to the comfort of a home, and the decorative attention given to hearths and chimneys attests to their functional importance.

 

The earliest iterations of domestic chimneys were seemingly crude erections made of unfired clay. Necessitated by the ever present danger of house fires during the 16th and 17th centuries, chimney builders turned to a safer and more heat-resistant material: brick. With its effectiveness in safely venting fireplace smoke, a surge of brick chimney building ensued.

 

A prominent feature on any house, single-shaft chimneys soon began to appear grouped in pairs, fours, sixes, eight and tens. These multi-shaft chimneys allowed for Tudor-era brick makers and chimney-builders to fully demonstrate their talents. Single-shaft chimneys were built on smaller houses and multi-shaft chimneys were built on larger houses, such as Agecroft Hall in Lancashire County.

 

Rising from well-molded bases, Tudor-era chimney surfaces were enriched with a variety of raised designs and the brick chimney shafts appear in many forms from octagonal to square, fluted to spiral – a treatment that called for skilled chimney builders. Depicted in the images below are the twentieth-century examples of chimneys found on Agecroft Hall today.

 

 

                                                                     Central interior chimney shafts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    Terracotta chimney pots make charming additions to already picturesque chimney shaft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                              South facing chimney.

 

 

Reconstructed using Virginia brick, Richmond’s Agecroft Hall has several splendid, multi-stacked chimneys, like the one pictured below, an exact copy of the original chimney that once punctuated the roofline of Agecroft Hall in Lancashire.

 

                                              Agecroft Hall’s present north elevation chimney stack

 

 

                     Lancashire’s Agecroft Hall before demolition showing several multi-stacked chimneys.

 

 

So on your next visit to Agecroft Hall, take some time to admire the craftsmanship of the remarkable chimneys and the many fireplaces they serve within. While they may no longer be an active part of the

house’s heating system, they are still an important part of the house’s architectural design and a testament to daily life in a manor house centuries ago.

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