Lutyens on the Market

Autumn 2008

With the credit crunch affecting the market for all types of property, it is not surprising that the demand for Lutyens houses has faltered. That is why one of Sir Edwin’s finest houses, the Grade I listed Marshcourt at Stockbridge, Hampshire, which came onto the market in March 2007 for sale at £13 million, remains unsold, even though its price has now been reduced to £10 million by the London and Winchester offices of Knight Frank.

Herbert “Johnnie” Johnson, described by Christopher Hussey as an “adventurer, stockjobber and sportsman,” commissioned Lutyens in 1901 to build an E-shaped tenbedroom house on high land overlooking the Test Valley, where client and architect regularly made time to fish for trout during the three years of construction. The house was built of clunch (the local chalk), flint and red brick, with panelled interiors of oak and walnut veneer, and ornamental plasterwork ceilings. Originally the estate ran to more than 1,200 acres, but there are now only 47 acres of Grade II* listed formal gardens and grounds designed by Lutyens and planted by Gertrude Jekyll.

Johnson was born in South Africa in 1856 and married in 1912, but when his wife died in 1921 he commissioned Lutyens to design her gravestone in Stockbridge cemetery. Five years later, at the age of 70, he commissioned Lutyens to add an enormous ballroom large enough for the annual ball of the Hursley Hunt, of which he was Master. He lost much of his fortune after the Wall Street crash in 1929, and died 20 years later at the age of 93.

Moving from one unsold Lutyens property to another – but this time, the most unusual and also the cheapest Lutyens listed structure in England – informal tenders over £10,000 were invited by local agents Ward & Chowen for The Pimple on Whitchurch Down, Dartmoor, near Tavistock. This Grade II triangular stone building with its conical roof of Delabole slate was commissioned in 1914 by the Duke of Bedford as the entrance to a small but now-disused covered reservoir, which served the duke’s estate houses in Tavistock and also a ten-bedroom Lutyens house in Down Road, called Littlecourt, designed for a Major Gallie in 1910 and sold by his widow, Mrs Ethel Gallie, in 1925. After a fire in 1935, the upper floors
were demolished.

Don’t expect to be able to buy a Lutyens house today for less than £1 million. A Grade II listed two-bedroom cottage near Tilford, Surrey, which was once the lodge to Crooksbury House, is for sale at £495,000 through Farnham agents Andrew Lodge. It has a garden of about 1.5 acres, with a greenhouse, garden sheds and a detached garage. Designed in 1890 as part of Arthur “Chippy” Chapman’s Crooksbury House estate, this was Lutyens’s first important commission, having abandoned his architectural studies at what is now the Royal College of Art after only two years to set up in practice on his own at the age of 19. It was a result of reading an article on Crooksbury in Country Life that Herbert Johnson decided to
commission Lutyens to design Marshcourt.

A four-bedroom cottage in the hamlet of Rolvenden Layne, near Ashford, Kent, is for sale at £499,000 through the Tenterden office of Humberts. One of six Grade II listed bungalows designed by Lutyens in 1909-12 as part of the Grade II* Maytham House estate, this has a double garage and about one-third of an acre of garden, but paddocks extending to about one acre may also be available by separate negotiation.

Michael Hanson