The plan of Manor Lodge is an unusual one. It is shaped like a cross, with a short but wide cross-bar and a long and rather thin wings to either side. The wings contain five storeys of fairly low rooms, and attics in the gables. The cross-bar was once largely filled with two enormous rooms, running right across the house, the lower corresponding to the first and second floors in the wings, the upper to the third and fourth. Half of the lower room has been partitioned off; the upper room is still undivided, but has lost nearly all its original decoration. The enormous windows that lit either end of these rooms can be clearly seen from the outside, although many of the lights have been blocked. There can be little doubt that the lower room was the hall, and the room above the great chamber; and that the main entrance originally led by way of a flight of steps into the hall on the first floor, the ground floor containing the kitchen, cellar and offices. But in the eighteenth century the main entrance was transferred to ground level, and the old hall door replaced by a round-headed eighteenth-century window. The original position of the hall is a remarkable and unusual one, and undeniably reminiscent of, though slightly different from, that of the halls at Old and New Hardwick.
There is a main staircase in the west wing, and a subsidiary staircase in the east wing; the latter is a later replacement, but the main staircase is the original one, with flights of wooden steps rising round a rectangular central newel of beautifully dressed ashlar. This newel has been broken off at the top, and the existing gabled roof has every appearance of being later than the main structure. According to J. Holland's History of Worksop (1826) the lodge was 'said to be curtailed of two stories of its original elevation'. This may be an exaggeration, but the evidence suggests that the lodge had at any rate one extra storey, perhaps containing a gallery: it is very possible that it originally ended in a balustrade and chimney-stacks on the rear elevation: these are corbelled out at first-floor level and in fact contain a series of small closets, each lit by a single-light window: the flues run up the walls to either side and only come into the stacks at the fourth floor. The detail of windows, doors and fireplaces throughout is nearly all of the plainest, with simple unmoulded chamfers: but the house is admirably built. Its plan, though unusual, is a logical one, a simple and straightforward way of combining two very large and a number of smaller rooms beneath one roof. Its analogies with Worksop Manor and other Smythson buildings, and the fact that it was built by the Shrewsbury family, suggest that Robert Smythson provided the plans, though it is admittedly unlike his documented works in its complete absence of both towers and bay windows.
The first certain mention of it that has come to light is in the survey of Worksop made by John Harrison in 1636. After describing the Manor he continues; 'about halfe a mile from the said Mansion house is another house fairly built of stone and well contrived called the new Lodge, besides the old Lodge wherin the Keeper dwelleth'.
It can probably be identified with 'Mr Portingtons new lodge in Worsopp' which Richard Torre described as nearing completion in August 1595. This was clearly a substantial building, since thirty tons of plaster and half a ton of iron 'for wyndoe barrs' was needed to complete it. It was almost certainly the same as an unlocated 'lodge' where Richard Mason, apparently a stone-mason, was in charge and asking the Earl for money in March of the same year. Mr Portington must have been Roger Portington, of Barnby-on-the-Don, near Doncaster, who makes occasional appearances in Talbot and related papers of the time. What exactly his role was at this Lodge remains obscure, as it was clearly being built on the land and at the expense of the Gilbert Talbot, seventh Earl of Shrewsbury It is possible that Robert Smythson's old associate, the mason John Hills, was connected with its early stages, for he died at Worksop in October 1592, leaving Robert Smythson as his executor.
In its original state, with an extra storey or two storeys, it must have been an impressive building; it is high enough, and impressive enough, today: the plain detailing and rows of little windows give it a not unattractive gauntness, curiously prognostic of the multi-storey mills that were to be built in the same area in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Typologically it is an interesting and typical example of the lodge. In its relationship to the nearby big house it should be compared to Wothorpe Lodge, which Lord Exeter built a mile or so away from Burleigh to go to 'when his house at Burleigh was sweeping', to the two lodges in the park of Lord Salisbury's great house at Hatfield; and to the lodge at Handsworth which Lord Shrewsbury himself built (probably in 1577) on the edge of the park of Sheffield Manor, and to which he ultimately retired to die. A literary equivalent is provided by the Arcadia. In this one finds King Basilius building himself a star-shaped lodge as a retreat from the cares of government; and at the end of a vista was the smaller lodge where his daughter lived 'so that the Lodge seemeth not unlike a fair Comete whose taile stretcheth itselfe to a starre if kesse greatnes'. Both these houses, big and small, were called lodges. In a sense the big house at Worksop was also a lodge, even if an immensely inflated one; it was built around an older hunting-lodge, and its particular value, in the great conglomeration of Shrewsbury houses, was its position on the edge of Sherwood Forest. These considerations may have weighed in the choice of a compact non-courtyard plan, in spite of the grandeur of its scale.