Between 1837 and 2018, Bishopscourt has gone through a number of substantial changes and re-designs.
Conservation Report 1992
Bishopscourt was originally a two storey Georgian house built in the late 1830s by Thomas Horne. In 1876, it was sold the property to the Trustees of the Church of England.
Architect Henry Hunter made an extensive addition to the western end of the building in 1877 plans of which are still extant and in 1889 the successor to his practice Englishman George Fagg MSA was engaged to design an extension to the eastern end of the Georgian house. Fagg designed a compendious addition in a high Victorian style containing a large drawing room with a high ceiling and a large bay window which captured the magnificent view of the River Derwent, the Bishop's study with large bedrooms above which he skillfully integrated with the severity of the Georgian building by erecting an imposing verandah seen from the garden along the eastern and southern elevations.
It seems reasonably clear from the written evidence that Thomas Horne constructed the first residence on this site in 1837/38. However, the extent of the building is uncertain.
The planning arrangement of two conjoined rectangular buildings abutting and with their major axes at right angles could indicate that the house was built in two stages with the kitchen block being constructed first. This argument can perhaps be supported by the historical note that the building was constructed "...with a view to carrying it two storeys higher". Thus the first building may have comprised a two storey building being a basement with ground floor, kitchen and bedrooms over.
This would lead to the proposition that the front section of the house plus the rear bedrooms (over the kitchen) were built between 1838 and 1877.
However, there are three arguments against this possibility - in this intervening period there have not been discovered any historical references to this work being undertaken, there is a basement/cellar constructed under the front section of the house which appears to be contemporary with the basement under the kitchen, and Horne suffered financial problems after building his house which may indicate that he constructed a larger building than he could afford.
Notwithstanding the above, there is no doubt that the area surrounding the existing dining room is the oldest part of the house and likely to be part of the house built by Thomas Horne in 1837/38.
THE MERCURY, TUESDAY 17 DECEMBER 1889
Almost every session of Synod for years past the question of providing a suitable residence for the Bishop of the Diocese has been discussed, but it was not until after the departure of Bishop Sandford that anything was decided upon. It was then that Mr. George Fagg, M.S.A., was instructed to prepare plans and specifications for additions and alterations to the old house, and when this was done tenders were called for and a contract entered into with Mr. D. Williams, jun, for work to cost £ 1500.
Since the contract was completed, as per plan, the contractor who, it must be said, has carried out the whole of his undertakings in tho best possible manner, was entrusted with many "extras" and in doing these he has earned the good opinion, not only of the architect and trustees, but of Bishop Montgomery himself. The Bishop, we behove, was himself much pleased with the residence, and whilst there cannot be any wonder at this, in so far as the new portion is concerned, he must have made up his mind to be pleased with the old part in any case, inasmuch as it resembles nothing so much as a rabbit warren.
The old house must have been designed for Aztecs, as the doors to the various rooms are not much over 5ft. in height. However, there is nothing to complain about upon this head in the new portion, as the openings are about 7ft. clear, and as His Lordship is a rather tall man he will perhaps find it advisable not to visit the old buildings.
Domestic Gothic is the style of architecture adopted for the additions, but it is not very pleasing in effect, and there will not be much regret if it is not followed in connection with other buildings in the city. A porch composed of wood upon a stone base with tiled pavement leads to the front door, a handsome piece of work with raised panelling, rich moulding and chamfers. A fan light and side lights of stained glass make the large hall look on bright and cheerful and off to the right of the hall is the drawing-room, a commodious and handsome apartmcnt 25ft. long, 18ft. wide, and 13ft 6m. high. The room has two bays, one square and the other semi-circular. The windows in the latter can be thrown up into the wall overhead, thus permitting egress to the broad verandah and terrace lawn. A handsome coruloe runs round the room, hut it lacks the finish that a centrepiece would give to it. The fireplace has a chaste tiled hearth and back, and a dog grate is provided for fires.
The dining room is a large one, 30 x 18, and 13ft. 6in. high. A neat cornice and frieze is on the upper part of the walls, and dado space at the foot. There is only one fireplace in this large room and that is situated at one end of it. A second door to the room leads into the hall, where it forms a side of a square, and from it there is a narrow passage to the kitchen, pantries, etc., and in another direction tho hall provides access to the verandah and lawn. The staircase is in two flights, and the balustrading is of elegantly carved and turned blackwood.
The upper landing is spacious, and indeed it seems a pity that so much space should be thrown away. Three bedrooms, a bathroom, and lavatory are situated in the new building, and open off this landing, the best room of the lot being over the drawing-room, and having a balcony over the top of the bay window alluded to in connection with that room. From this balcony there is a most charming extensive view, and it can be easily taken advantage of. A passage leading off this landing serves for all the rooms in the old building. Altogether there are 18 rooms in the house, besides two or three bathrooms, a similar number of lavatories, and linen presses, pantries, etc., are plentiful and conveniently situated. The whole of the old building has been renovated; some of the doors stopped up, and slight alterations made. The roof over the drawing-room and best bedroom is carried up in the form of a tower, and surmounted by an iron cresting. Two of the gables are half-timbered, with a cove underneath to bring them out, and the large boards are very ornamental. A herring-bone band runs around the new building, and relieves the character of the brick work very materially. The grounds have been nicely laid out by a well-known gardener named Pearson, and apart from the objections to the old place the residence should be very comfortable and homelike.