Lutyens on the Market

Spring 2007

Let me start with the recent sale of a small Lutyens house: one that a well-known firm of estate agents said was an “ideal family home… built by the renowned architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.” Well, that makes a change from all the houses described by estate agents as being by the “well-known Sir Edward Lutyens.” In this case, however, the house was actually designed by Robert Lutyens, who was in awe of the man whose “almost complete lack of theory (as distinct from system), and congenital disinclination to expound, are among the surest indications of his real capacity,” as he wrote in his biography of his father.

The house in question was North Lodge at Englefield Green, near Egham (and Runnymede Meadows), Surrey. This is one of no fewer than three lodges (North, East and West) and a gardener’s cottage that were built to serve the Grade II listed Ridgemead, a 39-bedroom house of 24,500 sq ft that originally stood in almost 24 acres and was built in 1938 for Woolf Barnato, the legendary racing driver (three times winner of the Le Mans 24-hour race in 1928-30) and owner of Bentley Motors from 1926 until he sold the company to Rolls-Royce in 1931.

Christopher Hussey described Ridgemead in a two-part article in 1940 as being designed in the Spanish Mission style, and quoted from a letter he had received from Pilot Officer Robert Lutyens saying: “Ridgemead may very likely be my springsong and swan-song combined,” but after the war he worked in partnership with Harold Greenwood until 1972, in which year both of them died.

Barnato (who was an officer in the Royal Field Artillery in World War I and a wing commander in the RAF in World War II) died in 1948 and Ridgemead was sold at auction the following year. Later, shorn of most of its land and all its lodges, the house became a nursing home, but in 1999 it was sold with 7.9 acres for around £2 million. In August 2001, listed building consent was given for the house to be converted back to a single dwelling. Last November, North Lodge, a four-bedroom house with a garage and garden, was placed on the market for £900,000 and was quickly sold.

For almost as much – £850,000 – one of the Grade II listed converted farm buildings that formerly belonged to Cross Farm at Shackleford, Surrey, is currently for sale through the Guildford office of Knight Frank. Designed by Sir Edwin in 1911 for Sir Edgar Horne when the farm was part of his Hall Place estate, the former dairy building is now a four-bedroom house with a double garage and a cottage garden. Cross Farm itself, on the other side of the Street, is still owned by the Stovold family, who were tenant farmers of Sir Edgar’s until they were able to buy the freehold in 1942 after his death.

Of the 54 listed houses that Lutyens designed in 1910-12 in Hampstead Garden Suburb, NW11, those in North Square are the most elegant. All 12 are deservedly listed as Grade II* but the finest of them is the five-bay No 11, a double-fronted house set back from the rest of the terrace and having three tall dormers in its attic storey on the second floor. This six-bedroom house has two studies, as befits the professional husband and wife who are now selling it after almost 21 years. It is on the market for sale through the Hampstead office of Savills for £1.85 million, but the agents do themselves and their clients no favours by describing it on their website as a flat, when it is a three-storey house of more than 3,000 sq ft with three reception rooms, front and rear gardens and even a separate garage, which is a luxury in the Suburb these days.

The Beaconsfield office of Savills are selling a three-bedroom apartment in Nashdom, the much larger Grade II* listed house at Burnham, Buckinghamshire, which was built as a weekend retreat for Princess Alexis Dolgorouki, who wanted to be near the Astors at Cliveden just up the road. Built in 1905-09 at a cost of £15,000 (after she had told Ned her budget was £6,000) and called Nashdom, which is Russian for “our house,” it became a Benedictine monastery in 1926 and remained as Nashdom Abbey for more than 60 years, until the last nine monks and their abbot moved out on 11 July 1987 – St Benedict’s Day. It then stood empty, decaying and vandalised, until it was eventually converted into luxury apartments in 1998, whose residents share 17 acres of communal gardens and grounds (included in which is a small burial ground, to which the monks still have access). The three-bedroom apartment now on the market is priced at £550,000.

Finally, the architecturally interesting and historically important Dutch House at South Holmwood, near Dorking, has at last been sold. Members of the Trust know that this seven-bedroom Grade II listed butterfly-plan house has been the subject of considerable research by myself and Margaret Richardson, much of which has been discussed in previous issues of the Newsletter, but certain salient facts are still unresolved. If and when we complete our research, the results will be made known here – and perhaps elsewhere in print.

Michael Hanson