Lutyens Properties on the Market

Summer 2002

Since my last property market report in the Newsletter, the 1,893-acre Berrydown Court estate near Overton, Hampshire, has been sold in its entirety to a local landowner for around .£ 10 million. The buyer put the Grade I listed Lutyens house back on the market with its entrance lodge and 25.7 acres last September, but that was not the time to be selling large country houses. This strange three-storey Voysey-style house built in 1897-98, which now has seven principal bedrooms, five bathrooms and eight attic rooms, was therefore re-launched in May through FPD Savills and Lane Fox for £2.5 million, since when it has attracted more interest.

Last summer, before the housing market went flat, the 847-acre Mells Park estate in Somerset, was placed on the market for sale at more than 8.5 million. The main house is a remarkably restrained classical mansion designed by Lutyens in 1924 for Reginald McKenna, chairman of the Midland Bank. He and his wife Pamela, younger daughter of Sir Herbert Jekyll, one of Gertrude’s four brothers, were loyal patrons of Lutyens. The 14-bedroom house is listed Grade II* and its gardens and parkland are Grade II. Having been used for the last 24 years as a corporate conference centre, Mells Park has been sold to a buyer who is converting it back to a private house.

Tyringham Hall, the Grade I listed mansion at Stoke Goldington, Buckinghamshire, designed in 1793-97 by Sir John Soane, has been sold with 28 acres and eight estate cottages for around £3 million to a young property developer, Anton Bilton (grandson of the late Percy Bilton), for his own
occupation. In 1924, Lutyens remodelled the gardens on an heroic scale for the banker Frederick Konig He built an enormous swimming pool, 200ft long and 60ft wide, designed as a formal canal with a circular pool at the far end, into which warm water poured from the open mouths of lead leopards on top of a pair of stone Doric columns. On either side of the pool Lutyens designed a classical pavilion (one for changing, the other for music), topped by New Delhi-type domes that echo the dome on the main house (added for Konig in 1909, not by Lutyens but by G F Rees). Beyond the circular pool there used to be another identical long pool, but this was later filled in. From 1967 to 2000, Tyringham Hall was run as a naturopathic clinic by a foundation chaired by Sir Maurice Laing.

Halnaker Park, high on the South Downs on the edge of the Goodwood estate near Chichester, West Sussex, was the last country house designed by Lutyens. His client was once again Reggie McKenna (for whom he had also designed a London house at 36 Smith Square in 1911, 13 years before Mells Park). Like Mells, it is a restrained design. The first plans drawn up by Lutyens are dated November 1935, but the heavily revised plans dated August 1938 were signed by Lutyens and Laurence Gotch, nephew of Alfred Gotch, another former RIBA president who had worked with Lutyens on the design of the Midland Bank’s headquarters in Poultry.

When McKenna built Halnaker Park, he held it on a 76-year lease from the Goodwood Estate at a peppercorn rent. When the present owner, property developer Peter Kirch, bought the property in 1989, the lease had only 48 years left to run, and the estate told him it would not renew it. However, offers in the region of £6 million are now being sought for the freehold by Jackson-Stops & Staff. Kirch has made extensive repairs, improvements and alterations to the house and its 12 acres of gardens. Not for him a spartan unheated outdoor swimming pool like Tyringham’s. He has converted the galleried music room into an indoor pool, which offends the purists, but it has been done extremely well.

Jackson-Stops & Staff are also agents for a little-known Lutyens property, The Island at Walton on the Hill, Surrey, for which they are seeking offers of £1.5 million. This five-bedroom house, originally called Frog Island, was built in 1908 for Stanley Monier-Williams, one of the founder members of Walton Heath Golf Club. He sold it in 1912 to the 2nd Earl Londesborough, who wanted it for his mother, the dowager Countess of Londesborough, daughter of the 7th Duke of Beaufort and widow of the 1st Earl who had died in 1900. In 1913, she commissioned Lutyens to design an orangery and a sunken rose garden, but she did not enjoy them for long, for she died in 1915.

The orangery is the best part of the house. Though only a single-storey building, its tall hipped roof makes it almost as high as the main house. Mr & Mrs. George Korab Brzozowski, who have lived in The Island since 1974, use it as a summer sitting room, with double doors opening onto the sunken rose garden, and a dining room at the far end. The orangery is Grade II listed, as is the rose garden. The whole site only extends to just over one-third of an acre. The Island is close to the Dormy House of Walton Heath Golf Club, a 16-bedroom house that Lutyens designed in 1906, which was converted into flats called Walton Heath House in 1971.

A buyer has been found for Felbridge Copse, on the London Road south of East Grinstead, about which Kate Chattaway wrote entertainingly in the Spring Newsletter. Offers over £750,000 were being invited for this Grade II listed five bedroom single-storey house (one would never call it a bungalow) which stands in 2.25 acres of gardens and grounds. It is one of a pair designed by Lutyens in 1916 as collonaded entrance lodges to Felbridge Place, which was to be a country house as grand as Gledstone Hall, but it was never built.

When it comes to little-known Lutyens houses, few know The Coppers, a terrace of three cottages tucked away at the end of a lane on the edge of the Pasture Wood estate at Holmbury St. Mary, near Dorking. The Coppers was originally a ten-bedroom house, one of several buildings on the estate designed in 1906 by Lutyens when he was commissioned by Frederick Mirrielees to extend the main Victorian house designed for him in 1893 by William Flockhart. Mirrielees, of course, had been Lutyens’s client for Goddards at Abinger Common, built in 1898-1900 as a home “for ladies of small means” and enlarged in 1910 for his son, Donald Mirrielees, when the rest home was transferred to a barn at Pasture Wood that Lutyens also converted.

After the Fabian Society bought Pasture Wood in 1947, to use the main house as a conference centre, they began selling off surplus properties on the estate, including The Coppers, which was then converted into three houses. The middle one, a three-bedroom cottage with two-thirds of an acre of garden, is now on the market for sale through Browns of Cranleigh for £395,000. It is listed Grade II by English Heritage, whose listing notice incorrectly spells the client’s name as “Merrilees”. Close to The Coppers is a derelict barn, possibly designed by Lutyens, which has been bought by property developer Richard Eshelby of Latchmere Properties for conversion into a house for sale. More about this next time.

[It is now thought that The Coppers was not designed by Lutyens. – 2016]

Michael Hanson