Lutyens on the Market

Spring 2010

The market for Lutyens properties has been quiet for the past two years, but now it is starting to come to life again. Last November, the Grade I listed former headquarters of the Midland Bank at 27-35 Poultry, EC2, opposite the Bank of England, was finally sold for around £40 million to a private client of Gresham Down Capital Partners, for whom Knight Frank acted as agents.

The bank was designed in 1924 by Lutyens (working with commercial architects Gotch & Saunders) and extended along Princes Street, in 1935-37. It had been bought in May 2006 for £40 million by HBOS and Tottenham Hotspur director Paul Kemsley. Four months later, in September 2006, they sold it for £72 million to Vladimir Chernukhin, former deputy finance minister of Russia.

He obtained planning permission in November 2008 to convert its 201,573 sq ft of floor space into a luxury hotel with 181 bedrooms, bars, restaurants, health club, private members’ club and a roof garden. Unfortunately, he defaulted on a loan payment in January 2009 and Grant Thornton were appointed as administrators. If a buyer is found and the proposed development goes ahead, the Portland stone façade will be protected, together with the interior features, including Lutyens’s magnificent banking hall with its Corinthian marble columns, and three basement floors of bank vaults, which were used as Fort Knox in the 1964 film ‘Goldfinger’.

Knight Frank are also the agents appointed to sell Le Bois des Moutiers, the Arts & Crafts house at Varengeville-sur-Mer, near Dieppe in Normandy, designed in 1898 by Lutyens, with planting plans by Gertrude Jekyll carried out by Guillaume Mallet, who died in 1964. The 12-bedroom house, which stands in 20 acres (8 hectares) of formal gardens, is for sale for 10.5 million Euros (almost £9.5 million) including certain items of furniture.

The Chelmsford office of Savills is seeking £3.75 million for Warley Lea, a sixbedroom 17th century house remodelled by Lutyens in 1894 for Miss Ellen Willmott, Lutyens Trust website address: no mean plantswoman herself, who employed 85 gardeners at Warley Place, Willmott’s earlier house that was demolished in 1939, after which the gardens became derelict. Warley Lea has about nine acres of gardens and a cottage. The sales brochure is notable for including copies of three of Lutyens’s original sketches for the house.

A two-bedroom cottage at Effingham, Surrey, which was originally the lodge to the neighbouring Red House, a Grade II listed house designed by Lutyens in 1891, is for sale through the Weybridge office of Jackson-Stops & Staff. Oddly, instead of calling it The Lodge, it is now called Lutyens Close, which is misleading.

One of the four lodges in the grounds of Middleton Park, near Bicester, Oxfordshire, is for sale through the Banbury office of Fisher German for £650,000. Designed for the Earl of Jersey by Edwin Lutyens working jointly with his son Robert, it was his last major house. Having five bedrooms, two reception rooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen, it has its own enclosed garden and enjoys the use of a communal swimming pool and a tennis court.

Finally, a 1930s house at Rake, near Liss, West Sussex is worthy of mention, although it was not designed by Lutyens but by Cyril Arthur Farey, a perspective artist of several works by Lutyens, such as the Midland Bank. He designed a sixbedroom house in more than 11 acres of gardens and parkland, which is for sale at £2.35 million through the Guildford office of Knight Frank. Seeing a collection of his drawings at an exhibition, Lutyens once remarked: “Ah, the Farey glen!”

Michael Hanson