Tour of Houses in Norfolk

16-17th November 2002

The work by Sir Edwin that we saw was all very early work dating from the first years of both his practice and his marriage. His great knowledge of Surrey architecture and the facility with which he handled the forms that he had grown up with – brick, bargate stone and peg tile – did not always reveal itself in the very different materials of Norfolk – flint, pantile and timber framing. He also drew upon forms and motifs which are sometimes derivative of other leading architects of the time but it is to his credit that rather than reproduce his Surrey style, he decided to reinterpret the East Anglian tradition.

Houses by Detmar Blow, Edward Prior, and Edward Maufe were also included in this tour because they likewise demonstrated the very different ways that architects re-expressed East Anglian materials, particularly flintwork. The comparison was the more telling because in several cases the architects used a variant of the “sun-trap” or “butterfly” plan, a form which Sir Edwin used only three times – at Papillon Hall, Leicestershire of 1903, at a small house near Darking and at Les Communes at Varengeville of 1909, although he had much admired “the mastery” of Norman Shaw’s 1889 “X” plan for Chesters in Northumberland. There was also the fascinating Arts and Crafts integration of the structure of the garden almost into the house itself, something that Sir Edwin expressed at The Pleasaunce. As it was November we were racing against the light and the weather, but apart from foggy mornings and rain at the very last house at 7 pm on Sunday evening, we did manage to beat both of them fitting in eleven house visits in two days. ‘