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The above map of 1905 shows the position of Sparrow's Nest below the cliff of Belleview Park. It also indicates in the eastern section of this map that the old allotments were being developed for housing. This northern phase of Lowestoft's upper/middleclass urban development is more obvious when this map is compared with the one below made nine years earlier.

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Even earlier than the map is the next photograph of properties 173 and 174 as they appeared to the north beyond the undeveloped North Common about 1870. Between 1870 and 1886 the common was developed as a public park, which was opened in May 1874. The ruined flint wall in the foreground is the remains of the 'Town Cross' marked on the 1886 map at the southern entrance to Bellevue Park.


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The Sparrow's Nest appears on the OS map of north Lowestoft in 1886 as Cliff Cottage. It occupies the building footprint of the modern café and naval museum below the eastern cliff boundary of Bellevue Park. Although it has been greatly modified over the years, the remaining southern wall is characterised by pointed-arched windows, which are in the Gothic revival style. In the next photograph, probably taken in the 1920s, the full Gothic character of the original building is revealed.

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Cliff Cottage is one of the first clearly self-conscious imitations of architecture of the Middle Ages, which first appeared in England in the early 18th century. Buildings, labelled ‘Gothic’ were designed for reasons of nostalgia. They were for the most part frivolous and decorative garden ornaments. But, with the rebuilding beginning in 1747 of the country house Strawberry Hill by the English writer Horace Walpole, a new and significant aspect of the revived style was given convincing form. The period which begin in the 1770s and lasted until the 1830s marks a time of informality in English architecture. It became fashionable for the upper classes to enjoy country life due to the improvements in roads which also made a visit to coast easier than it had been, allowing for shorter duration away from the more sophisticated entertainments to be found in the large towns. For the first time travel became something to be enjoyed rather than endured The new fashion extended to architecture and incorporated elements from the growing interest in the picturesque. Designs became more rustic, houses became lower and seemingly smaller, often at the expense of the servants comfort, as the still essential domestic quarters were forced out of sight, often underground or onto a separate wing of their own. It was this separate wing which lead to the break in symmetry so rigorously enforced by the preceding dictats of domestic architecture. A particular informal feature was known as cottage ornée, which be traced to the 'Strawberry Hill Gothic' style made popular by Horace Walpole at his fantasy castle at Strawberry Hill, London in the final quarter of the eighteenth century and further popularised by the writings of James Malton in his 1802 Essay on British Cottage Architecture.

Cottage Ornés were built at the end of the eighteenth century by those who yearned for the simple life as a break from the draughty grandeur of the great house. Although comfortable on the inside, they were designed to give an air of rusticity on the outside. Thatched roofs and tall brick chimneys were typical. At the same time there was a gradual move away from the formal layout and plantings of English parks and gardens to the desire for ‘natural’ landscapes. An increased sensitivity to the world of nature, and the importance of the picturesque and romantic movements led to the development of the Natural Style. Such is likely to have been the origins of Cliff Cottage, below the Middle Battery on the 1886 OS map of North Lowestoft. Local history has it that it belonged to the Sparrow family of Worlingham Hall, about 10 miles inland to the East of Lowestoft, which was the home of Robert Sparrow and his son, also named Robert from the mid-18th century. The Worlingham mansion, situated inland about 10 miles from Lowestoft, is said to have been orignally built by John Felton, a previous owner of the manor (d.1703). This Worlingham house was remodelled c 1800 by Francis Sandys for the second Robert Sparrow. He died in 1822, which suggest that the Cliff Cottage Lowestoft was built as a summer residence as part of the second Robert's improvements to the estate in the second decade of the 19th centuryexternal image c.gif. Ideas for the cottage orne may have come from the plans drawn up for Worlingham by Sir John Soane. They were never executed, but Soane was known for favouring the revival of Gothic architectural motives.

The building of Cliff Cottage was associated with the then novel notion of taking a seaside holiday. Holiday breaks by the sea have only existed since the 18th century, when it was slowly becoming accepted that marine air and sea water are good for health. Until the 1800's, British seaside settlements like Lowestoft, were simply fishing ports and centres of trade. However, in the mid 18th century Doctor Richard Russell began to promote the drinking of sea water as a cure for diseases such as gout and jaundice. The seaside holiday started to become popular in the 18th century when the upper class began to visit coastal health spas and develop second homes by the sea. Thus, began the development of coastal settlements as sites of health and restoration of wellbeing based on sea bathing, which rivalled established health centres such as Bath and Harrogate.

The Sparrows Nest, together with other Sparrow properties, descended from the last Robert Sparrow of Worlingham through the female line to the Earls of Gosford. In the 1840s, as recorded in the Lowestoft Tithe Apportionment, it belonged jointly to the Earl of Gosford and Dawson Turner of Yarmouth.

Lowestoft Apportionment 1842

Rt. Hon. Archibold Earl of Gosford and Dawson Turner
A R P
287 House offices, Pleasure Grounds & Plantation 3. 2. 09
288 Garden 1. 00
289 289 The Lawn 1. 2. 00

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The first bathing machines were introduced from Margate to Lowestoft in 1764 and can be seen in this view of Lowestoft's Low Light of 1784.

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Thus, it can be said that the Sparrow's Cliff Cottage has great historical significance as a landmark in the birth of the British seaside holiday, indicating the first developments of an upper class cultural innovation in the use of travel for the pursuit of leisure.