Our new lantern skylight

7th September, 2017
by Julian | 3 Min Read
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Sharpham House has got a brand new ‘hat’ – helping to further conserve the Grade 1-listed Palladian mansion for future generations.

This summer the lantern skylight was replaced, helping to protect the House’s famed elliptical dome from the elements.

Here's the video:

Specialist roofers and a huge crane ‘took the lid off’ the House in August, replacing a leaking Victorian skylight with a temporary plastic roof.

A new lantern skylight was built off-site, then carefully transported to Sharpham, where the crane placed the glass and metal structure back on Sharpham House.

“It’s a relief to have ticked that job off the list,” said Sharpham Trust Director Julian Carnell. “And the new skylight lets in more light to the House, really brightening the stairwell.”

“It’s really pleasing to know that the dome and stairwell is better protected now.”

The project was made possible through a grant of £15,000 from The Pilgrim Trust – a charity which aims to “preserve and promote Britain’s historical and intellectual assets”. The rest of the £30,000 cost was covered by The Sharpham Trust.

The lantern skylight

Sharpham House has an architecturally important feature at its heart: an elliptical, cantilevered staircase beneath a dome.

The lantern skylight sits at the top of the dome, allowing light into the centre of the Palladian villa. Until last month, the skylight was leaky and rattley in windy weather. It was thought to have been a metal and patterned glass Victorian replacement for the original Georgian wooden skylight.

A scissor-lift crane was brought into to the stairwell area, enabling workers to scale the 3 storeys to reach the lantern.

As workers removed the patterned skylight, they found that it had been held on by only four hooks!

Sharpham House and its stairwell

Sharpham House is a majestic 18th Palladian villa overlooking the River Dart. But it wasn't always so.

The house has been expanded and redeveloped throughout the centuries during which it has had a number of colourful owners. One, Captain Philemon Pownoll, a high seas adventurer, made his name in 1762 by capturing a Spanish treasure galleon.

With the wealth he accrued from securing this treasure, Captain Pownoll, a captain in the Royal Navy, engaged the architect, Sir Robert Taylor, to incorporate Sharpham's existing Tudor mansion into a new villa.

 It was Sir Robert's love of mathematics and geometry that helped him create this outstanding example of English Palladian architecture – including the optically floating, elliptical cantilevered staircase at the centre of the House - one of only three such staircases in England.

Help us with the cost of the skylight

We had to contribute thousands to the replacement of the lantern skylight, and if you'd like to help us with the cost of the maintenance, we'd very much appreciate it.

You can donate securely and quickly online here. Many thanks.

See below for pictures, supplied by Sharpham Archive volunteer Clive and by Richard and Glenn from the repair company.