The skittles alley at Goddards

Goddards drawn by Elgan Jones

Goddards drawn by Charlie Wellingham

Sketching and Skills

An article by Dearbhail Keating, originally published on The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings’s blog

This blog post was intended for SPAB readers and includes information about Goddards which many Trust members will already know. What members may not know is that, each June, as part of its programme to encourage young specialists to appreciate Lutyens’s work, the Trust invites three SPAB scholars to stay at Goddards. This enables them to study the house in depth and participate in the Trust’s annual study day, which includes lectures and visits to other Lutyens houses in the area. It is nice to see how much the scholars appreciate this opportunity.

Each year the Lutyens Trust spends a week at the wonderful Goddards in Surrey. In June this year, we were very fortunate to be invited to spend three days with the Trust there. Built by Edwin Lutyens between 1898 and 1900, Goddards is considered by many to be one of his finest works. Arriving at Goddards on a beautiful summer’s evening was very special; the famous Lutyens chimneys peeping over the hedges made for a spectacular welcome. After three months on the road, the prospect of being in one place for three nights was bliss (something I think any SPAB scholar will relate to)!

First stop after a tour around the house was the skittles alley. Goddards was originally built as a holiday retreat for ladies of small means and this was funded by Frederick Mirrielees, Lutyens’s client, who set up a charity in his own name to support the building. As British summers are not always kind, areas for inside entertainment were incorporated into the design. A games gallery (which has subsequently been converted into bedrooms and bathrooms) and skittles alley were the amusements of choice. It took a good few games before any of us managed a strike but this gave us plenty of time to appreciate the meticulous attention to detail throughout the house, from latches to the doorbell to the skittles themselves — everything is a fine example of talented craftspeople and a credit to Lutyens who made time to consider every detail.

Goddards is now run by the Landmark Trust on a long lease from the Lutyens Trust and is available to rent as a holiday let. The skittles alley is still periodically open to the local community as it was in the past. Throughout the stay there was a real feeling of the building being alive with activity and people, which is so refreshing when in so many buildings nowadays (and some understandably so) you are forced to ‘walk between the red ropes’.

Lutyens collaborated with Gertrude Jekyll on the landscape design at Goddards and the time we spent sitting among the flowers sketching in the summer sun was quite lovely!

During our stay we spent time at Chinthurst Hill, another of Lutyens’s designs where again he collaborated with Jekyll. The house is much larger than Goddards and designed to quite a different brief. Standing in front of it and being told Lutyens designed it in his mid-20s certainly made the whole spectacle even more impressive. Chinthurst was split into three houses over its history and only recently the current owner has returned it to a single dwelling and is currently carrying out a lot of work to the gardens, replanting them to Jekyll’s original design. The long walk is an example of where this has been very successful.

Before making tracks, we scoured the outbuildings to find the croquet set to ensure we had the full ‘Goddards experience’ — after a few games and me consistently losing we decided a league table would be established and the overall victor awarded at the end of the scholarship! A very enjoyable few days, a very relaxing few days and a very inspiring few days. Huge thanks to the Lutyens Trust for its kind hospitality.