History of the house
Like a pretty doll's house, Gunby Hall looks like a town house in the style of Christopher Wren, unexpectedly stranded in the middle of the Lincolnshire countryside.
The main part of the house was finished in 1700 for Sir William Massingberd, second Baronet, on the site of a small manor house that had once belonged to a family called Gunby.
People lived at Bratoft and Gunby long before the Massingberds arrived: deserted medieval villages are found in the archaeology of both Gunby and Bratoft parks. Recent archaeological investigation suggests that an early Iron Age site, which is thought to have been of some significance due to its scale and to the large amount of burnt deposits found, sits under the gardens of Gunby Hall and extends out into the Glebe Field to the east.The remains of the medieval village of Gunby (or 'Gunnebi') can be seen in the bumpy contours of the park around St Peter's Church.
Before they moved into Gunby Hall, the Massingberds lived at the medieval moated manor of nearby Bratoft. They acquired the Gunby Estate in the early seventeenth century. Their new house was of red brick, some brought from Holland in 1699 and the rest probably dug from the brickfield that is now the ice house pond in the grounds.
The original house is seven by four bays and three full storeys in height, plus a basement and a panelled parapet. The red brick is adorned with stone dressings in the form of broad string courses and moulded window surrounds; the effect is very formal. The only ornament on the outside is the front entrance, consisting of a doorway with an elaborately scrolled pediment around a cartouche of arms and a keystone with the date in Roman numerals: 1700.
A watercolour of 1810 shows the front with two low walls, each containing a doorway. These walls were removed later in the nineteenth century, though one of the arched doorways is still there today.
The two-storey, five-bay extension to the side of the building was added in the late nineteenth century. Three bays in 1873 and another two in 1898.
The extension is remarkably sympathetic for that period, carefully maintaining the William and Mary character of the house. However the windows on the front are in fact plate glass (with mock glazing bars added later), while on the side of the house the late-Victorians could not resist a touch of Ruskin in the style of the windows.
The handsome range of coach houses in the stableyard was built in 1735 by William Meux-Massingberd (grandson of the builder of the house), probably at the same time as he installed the large Venetian stair window on the south front.
Enjoy Gunby today by exploring three floors of the house full of interesting collection items that once belonged to the Massingberd family.