Christmas Lunch at Grosvenor House

Saturday 27th November 2010

Lutyens has Christmas lunch with Baker Shock Horror Probe!!

There was a pleasant surprise in store for the fifty or so members who made their way to the Trust’s annual Christmas Lunch on Saturday 27th November organised by Paul Waite with his usual aplomb. If the surroundings of Lut’s Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane were familiar, then two of our guests were not. In making his welcoming introduction our Chairman, Martin Lutyens, introduced us to Michael Baker and Luli Harvey, the grandchildren of Lutyens’ erstwhile collaborator, Sir Herbert Baker. It is unfortunate that the dispute about the gradient of the Rajpath in New Delhi has a tendency to polarise views to the extent that, if one likes Lutyens’ work, then one must automatically dislike Baker’s. One could almost hear momentary intake of breath as Martin revealed Michael Baker’s and Luli Harvey’s names. But this is nonsense, of course. Both men were fine architects in their own right and had their own strengths and weaknesses. Certainly when one looks at the Western Front, where they were both operating to the same brief for the same client, then there is very little to separate their work.

Michael Baker spoke eloquently in response to Martin’s introduction, quoting some rather wry comments from a letter from Sir Herbert to his family, which nevertheless showed how his grandfather had always appreciated the inherent quality of Lutyens’ work.

With stomachs duly fed Paul Waite ran through a summary of the year’s activities by the Trust, accompanied by photos from our archives. The ever popular property visits were covered, but Paul also explained about the other activities we undertake, such as Mervyn Miller’s important casework commenting upon planning applications and the work of the Photographic and Archive Group. In the summer of 2010 Andrew Barnett and Anthony Capo Bianco took advantage of the unique opportunity to spend three days photographing Heathcote before it is sold into private ownership.

The quiz, in which each table had to identify parts of Lutyens buildings, provoked much discussion and amusement, if not a considerable amount of head scratching, and sorted out the real Lutyens experts from the also-rans. Mind you, quite how we were expected to recognise that most familiar of places, the under croft of a roundabout in New Delhi, is somewhat beyond me!

Matters concluded with the customary raffle. We left to make our way along Park Lane and reflect that people called Baker do not necessarily have horns on their heads and sport the Devil’s tail. Congratulations to Martin for his initiative and many thanks to Paul Waite for yet another splendid Christmas lunch.

Tim Skelton