Ince Blundell Hall is a former country house near the village of Ince Blundell, in the Metropolitan Borough of Sefton, Merseyside, England. It was built between 1720 and 1750 for Robert Blundell, the lord of the manor, and was designed by Henry Sephton, a local mason-architect. Robert's son, Henry, was a collector of paintings and antiquities, and he built impressive structures in the grounds of the hall in which to house them. In the 19th century the estate passed to the Weld family. Thomas Weld Blundell modernised and expanded the house, and built an adjoining chapel. In the 1960s the house and estate were sold again, and have since been run as a nursing home by the Canonesses of St. Augustine of the Mercy of Jesus.
The hall is Georgian in style, and consists of a main block with a service block linked at a right-angle to its rear. The hall is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II* listed building. Some of the buildings associated with the hall are also designated at this grade; these are the Pantheon and the Garden Temple, both of which were built by Henry Blundell for his collection of statues, the chapel, and a building known as the Old Hall. In the garden and grounds of the hall are nine structures listed at Grade II; these include the stables, a monument, a sundial, gateways and a lodge, and the base of a medieval wayside cross.
The manor of Ince Blundell was held by the Blundell family from the 12th century. The first documentation of the name of Blundell at the site is that of Richard Blundell in 1212. Following the Reformation the Blundells retained their Catholic faith and suffered from the consequent disadvantages and dangers. Nevertheless, by legal transactions and advantageous marriages the Blundell family acquired more possessions; by the end of the 18th century they held 15 manors together with other property, some of it as far away as Liverpool and Preston.
The present house was built by Robert Blundell (1700–73) who inherited the estate in 1711. Building began in about 1720, and it was finished by 1750. The house was designed by Henry Sephton, who was the "leading mason-architect in the area" at that time. In 1761 Robert Blundell moved from the house to Liverpool, and the estate passed to his eldest son, Henry (1724–1810). Henry then started to extend the house by adding what he described as "a large body of offices" at right-angles to the main block, and he did this "without the help of a Wyat (sic) or any architect". In the grounds he designed and built a stable block and greenhouses, created a kitchen garden, and landscaped the park, which included a lake and a ha-ha. He built a wall around the perimeter of the estate, and designed one, and possibly two, of the gateways.
Henry Blundell was a collector, first of paintings and later of statues and antiquities, the collection amounting to over 500 items. In order to house them at Ince Blundell, he constructed a series of buildings in the grounds of the hall. Initially he kept his collection in a series of greenhouses, but in about 1790–92 he built the Garden Temple, a building in Classical style. This was followed in about 1802–05 by a more impressive building, the Pantheon, its design based on the Pantheon in Rome. When Henry died in 1810, the hall passed to his son, Charles. He died childless in 1837, and the estate passed to Thomas Weld, a cousin. He took the name of Thomas Weld Blundell, and restored, refurnished and redecorated the hall.
In the mid-19th century a large bay window was added to the west side of the Drawing Room, and a new Dining Room was built at the east end. Ceilings were raised, and interior decoration was carried out by the firm of Crace. Weld Blundell added a new vestibule to connect the Gallery, the Dining Room, and the Pantheon. The portico of the Pantheon became the new main entrance to the hall, and the Pantheon itself the reception hall. What had been the original chapel became the organ loft of a new large two-storey chapel designed by J. J. Scoles.
During the Second World War the hall, its buildings and park were used by the War Office and the Admiralty, and additional buildings were erected. Five parachute bombs fell near the hall, one of them blowing out all the windows in the garden front. By 1960 the estate was "seriously dilapidated", and it was decided to sell the hall and the surrounding land. The farms went to the sitting tenants, and the chapel, which had been used as a parish church since 1947, was given to the Archdiocese of Liverpool.
The hall was bought by the Canonesses of St. Augustine of the Mercy of Jesus, who adapted it for use as a nursing home. It was officially opened as such on 27 May 1961 by the Rt Revd John Heenan, who was at that time the Archbishop of Liverpool. Much work had to be done to make the building fit for its new purpose, including making it weather-proof, installing central heating, a lift, and a washbasin in each bedroom. A new entrance was created at the back of the hall, with access for wheelchairs. The former Gallery was converted into a chapel for the use of staff and residents. Henry Blundell's wing is used partly to provide services for the hall, and partly by the sisters as a convent. The sisters and staff of the hall continue to provide nursing and other care for the elderly.
* Architecture. *
There are more pilasters at the ends of the building, and in the central three bays of the attic. All the pilasters and columns are Corinthian in style. The windows are sashes and are surrounded by architraves. The ground floor windows in the central bays have segmental heads with keystones, and those in the outer bays have friezes and pediments carried on consoles. Below the upper floor windows are panelled aprons and consoles. The central doorway has a segmental head and a keystone carved with the Blundell arms. At the corners of the front are quoins.
To the right of the main block is a 19th-century single-storey wing with five bays, the central three of which are canted. Behind is a single-storey block, linking the main block to the service block, which is at right angles to the rear. The service block is Henry Blundell's "offices", and is in Palladian style. It faces southwest, is in two storeys, and has a seven-bay front, plus a three-storey three-bay pavilion to the right. The central three bays of the service block project forward under a pediment. Above the central porch is a Diocletian window. There is a clock in the gable, and over the pediment is a cupola carried on Tuscan columns. The windows are sashes with wedge lintels. The central bay of the pavilion is round-headed and recessed, and its windows are a mixture of Diocletian, tripartite, and oculi.
The interior of the house has retained much of the decoration carried out by Crace. The ceiling contains Rococo plasterwork dating from about 1750 depicting symbols relating to music and hunting, together with representations of learning and cultivation. On the walls are paintings by Crace. Pollard and Pevsner refer to these as being "delicately pretty Raphaelesque decoration". The former Entrance Hall is "small, simple and sober", and the Staircase Hall behind it is "not a grand space at all". The Dining Room, also decorated by Crace, contains oak panelling on the walls, and painted panels in the ceiling. The oak fireplace replaces the original marble fireplace that was removed when the Weld Blundell family left the house. There is also a scheme of Crace decoration in the former Gallery.
* Associated structures. *
* Gates and lodge. *
The pedestrian entrances have rusticated surrounds. Above one is a statue of a lion, and above the other is a lioness. The entrances contain cast iron gates. The East Gate dates from the 1770s, and was probably also designed by Henry Blundell. It has a round-headed central entrance and flat-headed pedestrian entrances, and is simpler than the Lion Gate. The central entrance is flanked by Ionic pilasters, there is a fluted frieze with a decorated central panel, and a pediment. Above the pedestrian entrances are tented caps decorated with festoons and rosettes.
** Visiting **
As Augustinian Sisters they strive to live the charism of our Order, which is “hospitality in all its forms.” At Ince Blundell Hall there is a sincere hospitality and welcoming for all, but as the house is specifically for the aged, the ill and infirm they will naturally have first claim on their hospitality. Over the years they have managed to continue a warm hospitality towards those for whom they care in a particular way, whilst extending it to many individuals and groups of people both far and near whose lives touch theirs.
Breakfast is served in your room other meals are taken in the elegant dining room overlooking the parkland.
From time to time The Sisters are requested to allow various groups of disabled people and their carers to share Ince Blundell Hall and surroundings for the day. These activities are allowed with the permission of the residents who often find the event adds interest to their day.
Location : Ince Blundell Hall Nursing Home, Ince Blundell, Liverpool, Merseyside L38 6JL
Transport: Hightown (MerseyRail) then taxi OR Formby (National Rail) then bus. Bus routes 47 and X2 stop outside (8 minute walk).
Opening Times: By Arrangement
Tickets : Free
Tel: 0151 929 2596