Le Bois des Moutiers at Varengeville-sur-Mer

Lutyens on the Market

Autumn 2010

The reawakening of the property market since the general election in May has brought a small crop of Lutyens properties onto the market, including two of the finest houses anyone could wish to buy. Top of the list has to be Plumpton Place, the Grade II* manor house near Lewes, East Sussex, whose origins go back to a timber-framed house that was built in 1568, altered and extended in the 17th century, and then reduced to the status of cottages in the 18th and 19th centuries, before being restored and enlarged in 1928 by Lutyens for Edward Hudson, the proprietor of Country Life.

Hudson was living at that time in an earlier Lutyens house, The Deanery at Sonning, Berkshire, built for him in 1899 (and also at Lindisfarne Castle in Northumberland, which Lutyens had restored and converted for him in 1903), but he died before he could move into Plumpton, though he supervised the building work and the making of the gardens by Gertrude Jekyll from the three-bedroom Grade II listed mill house that stands at the top end of a chain of three interlinking lakes. Entered across a wooden bridge, the five-bedroom moated house has been
restored and tastefully modernised by its present American owner, Tom Perkins, who bought it in 1983 and also installed a working waterwheel in the white weatherboarded mill. Plumpton Place is now for sale at £8 million through joint agents Knight Frank and Savills, together with 62 acres of gardens and grounds, a magnificent Grade II listed Elizabethan barn, stabling for 19 horses and a tennis

An article elsewhere in this Newsletter describes the epic five-day trip to Ilkley, West Yorkshire by members of the Lutyens Trust Photographic and Archive Committee, which resulted in around 3,000 photographs being taken of Heathcote, the building that locals call “the grandest house in Ilkley.” Built in 1906 for a Bradford wool merchant, John Thomas Hemingway (1857-1926), the son of a tailor, who in 1883 married Emma Jane Hanson and had one son, Harry. This five-bedroom house of 12,000 sq ft has fewer than three acres of gardens, imaginatively landscaped by Gertrude Jekyll. Since 1958, the property has been occupied as offices by N G Bailey Ltd, a firm of electrical and mechanical engineers, who have now put the property on the market for sale at £2.95 million through the Harrogate and London offices of Savills, acting jointly with local Ilkley agents Dacre, Son & Hartley.

In 1898, Lutyens was commissioned by Guillaume Mallet, a Protestant banker, to build Le Bois des Moutiers at Varengeville-sur-Mer, near Dieppe, Upper Normandy. This is a ten-bedroom house, plus a gardener’s cottage, outbuildings with an apartment above. The Mallets were Theosophists, and it was Guillaume’s wife who persuaded Lady Emily Lutyens to join the Theosophical Society in 1910. The Mallets both died in 1945, but their son Robert and his wife devoted their energies to restoring the house and estate after it suffered damage and neglect
during the war. The property is now being sold by Guillaume’s grandson Antoine, who is seeking 10 million Euros (about £8.6 million) for the property through Knight Frank’s offices in London and Paris.

Nashdom, one of the great country houses of Edwardian England, which stands in 17 acres of gardens and grounds at Burnham, near Cliveden, Buckinghamshire, was designed by Lutyens and built in 1906-09. Although it had 10 principal and 14 secondary bedrooms, it was designed for a society hostess, Princess Alexis Dolgorouki, purely for her lavish weekend parties, rivalling those of the Astors at nearby Cliveden, Born Frances Wilson, but known to her family as Fanny, this enterprising daughter of shipping tycoon Fleetwood Wilson revelled in being married to her Russian prince. He died in 1915 and she died four years later in 1919. Their house, Nashdom (Russian for “our home”), then stood empty until 1929, when it was acquired by as growing community of Anglican Benedictine monks who moved there from a smaller abbey at Pershore, Worcestershire.

In 1987, Nashdom Abbey, by then a Grade II* listed building, was vacated by the monks. It then stood empty for ten years, during which it suffered storm damage, vandalism and theft of one of its chimneypieces and an unusual windvane map. In 1997, it was acquired by a developer, who demolished an inappropriate 1960s extension, built a new extension more in keeping with the original, and converted both buildings into 29 apartments for sale. One of these, a three-bedroom apartment now called The Loggia, is for sale through Knight Frank for £795,000. It incorporates the original billiard room, which became the chapel when the monks owned it.

Fishers Hill, a Grade II listed building in Hook Heath, Woking, Surrey, was designed by Lutyens in 1900 for Gerald Balfour, MP, Chief Secretary for Ireland, and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Balfour, who was Lutyens’s sister-in-law. The house was divided into four properties in 1947, one of which is a two-bedroom house that is currently for sale for £475,000 through Lynch & Company of Woking. The major portion of another Surrey house, Rake Manor at Milford, which failed to sell for £3 million last year, was re-launched in May this year by Savills at £2.85 million and sold quickly. It has six bedrooms, four reception rooms and a cottage, and stands in more than 12 acres of gardens and grounds. The house was built in 1602, restored by Ralph Nevill in the 1880s, and added to on three occasions between 1882 and 1925 by Baillie Scott, and once by Lutyens in 1897, who not only added a new kitchen wing but sensibly refrained from altering any of Baillie Scott’s work.

Framfield Place, an 18th century house in Framfield, East Sussex, was altered externally in the 1830s and remodelled by Norman Shaw in 1892, but not before the young Ned Lutyens, who was still only 21, was commissioned by Francis Hugh Baxendale to redecorate the dining room. He literally made his mark by creating what Nikolaus Pevsner described as a “remarkable ceiling of beams set in chequerboard fashion.” Lutyens painted the panelled walls and the beamed ceiling, and designed an open marble fireplace with an impressive carved
overmantel. The principal portion of the Grade II* house, now called Lutyens House, has six bedrooms, three reception rooms, an indoor swimming pool and more than two acres of gardens. Placed on the market in the spring by Savills at £1,475,000 it is now under offer as this Newsletter goes to press.

Finally, farm buildings designed by Lutyens as part of the Grade II listed Ladygrove stud farm at Preston, near Hitchin, Hertfordshire, commissioned by H G Fenwick in 1913, have been converted by Court Homes into a three-bedroom single storey house that is now for sale for £449,950 through Norgans of Hitchin. Last and least is the two-bedroom lodge that once was part of the Grade II listed Red House at Effingham, Surrey, designed in 1890, and now for sale at £289,950 by the Weybridge office of Jackson-Stops & Staff and Patrick Gardner & Co. of Bookham.

Michael Hanson