Nethergate House

Clare, Suffolk


A substantial early-16th century building of national historic significance but also a wonderful family home. Beautifully presented with a lovely garden that leads down to the river.

Lindsay’s Foreword

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Architectural gem

Nethergate House is a substantial early-16th century building of national historic significance but no less importantly it is also a wonderful family home. Awarded a Grade I listing in 1961, today Nethergate House is one of Clare’s most distinguished architectural gems.

This seven bedroom house with over 5000 sq.ft. of accommodation features a beautiful garden that leads down to the River Stour.

England has many fine houses but being designated Listed Grade I gives added cachet and leaves no doubt that this is one of the finest houses in the country. In Suffolk there are only 400 such buildings, of which a good number are public buildings including many churches and as such this makes Nethergate House all the more unique.

Arguably Clare’s most famous resident was Lady Elizabeth de Clare, granddaughter of King Edward I. In 1336 she was granted a licence to establish a “collegium” to which she gave a most generous endowment. Three years later it became known as Clare Hall and is the second oldest Cambridge college, now known as Clare College.

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Nethergate House has its own striking Cambridge connection in a former owner, C P Snow. Charles Percy Snow was a best selling and prolific author most recognised for his series of novels known collectively as Strangers and Brothers. In 1930, at the age of 25, he became a Fellow of Christ's College until his death in 1980. After working in molecular physics at Cambridge for around 20 years, he became a university administrator, but with the outbreak of World War II, he became a scientific adviser to the British government.

With his wife Pamela Hansford Johnson (another published author) he lived at Nethergate House between 1952 and 1957 and in the sitting room are their respective carved initials in one of the supporting wall beams!

In the Middle Ages Clare was a prosperous town with much of its wealth coming from the wool trade, particularly clothmaking. Local dyers, spinners and weavers produced fine broad woollen cloth that was sent down to the Port of London and exported to Europe, particularly Spain. With such prosperity came the building of fine dwellings and one of the earliest such buildings still standing is Nethergate House.

The house is believed to date from the early 16th century and having a timber frame construction with wattle and daub infilling and plastered elevations. The fine cut and moulded chimney stacks are particularly decorative and ornate though in fact date from the Edwardian, inspired no doubt to take account of a by-law of 1614 which demanded that chimneys had to be built in brick and be four and a half feet proud of the roof to reduce the risk of fire; failure to comply would have resulted in a fine of £5, a significant sum at the time.

The house retains a finely carved early-17th century staircase in a rear turret that now adjoins a second staircase added when the hall was raised in height towards the end of the same century. The house operated as a school in the 19th century, with 22 boarders recorded on the 1841 census, and was restored under the auspices of the architect Munro Cautley in 1906. It was an hotel throughout the 1970’s and 80’s.

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