Unusual Commissions: The Runnymede Lodges

Jane Brown

A handsome piece of smith’s work has arrived at the top of our village, Elton has the Fairhaven Trophy as Cambridgeshire’s Village of the Year: it sports the 3rd Lord Fairhaven of Anglesey Abbey’s shield with two red bars and a red saltire, and I realised where else I seen this shield in the landscape, at Runnymede. Sir Edwin Lutyens’s memorial lodges at the Magna Carta ‘freedom’ meadow by the Thames are coming up for their eightieth birthday: they were designed for Cara, Lady Fairhaven, to mark her family’s gift of Runnymede to the nation, but they are part of a small gem of a landscape scheme by Sir Edwin that must rank as one of his most seen but least understood commissions.

The wherewithal came from Cara Fairhaven’s American fortune. Her father, Henry Huttleston Rogers grew up in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, and by dint of hard work and inventing a gizmo for separating naphtha from crude, he rose to the top of Rockefeller’s Standard Oil: in the 1893 Wall Street crash he rescued Mark Twain’s publishing company out of love for Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, and perhaps The Prince and the Pauper gave him the taste for English medieval romance? Rogers died in 1909, and Cara and her husband, Urban Hanlon Broughton, who had worked for her father, came to live at Englefield Green, on the edge of Windsor Great Park. Their philanthropic public spiritedness culminated in the purchased of Runnymede meadow, but as Urban Broughton died early in 1929, it was given to the nation ‘in perpetual memory’ of him.

Lutyens’s scheme for which the drawing survives, includes the Egham roundabout (yes, he designed a traffic roundabout!) with the road sweeping over his Bell-Weir Bridge (now carrying the M25), and the A308 curving through Runnymede, marked by the entrance kiosks, with the lodges at the far, Old Windsor, end. The kiosks of red brick and Portland stone, have their pedigree in his best garden buildings; the lodges, reminiscent of Marsh Court’s lodges, are white, with elegant double-height sash windows and huge roofs. North Lodge entrance has the Fairhaven arms; it now houses the National Trust estate office and has good surviving interiors. South Lodge has a tea room and art gallery, (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/runnymede/eating-and-shopping/).

Cara Fairhaven moved to Anglesey Abbey, where her elder son, Huttleston, 1st Lord Fairhaven, made the majestic garden (now NT).

Henry Broughton, 2nd Lord Fairhaven, left his superb collection of botanical paintings and drawings to the Fitzwilliam Museum, and his Fairhaven Garden Trust water garden, a magical place, at South Walsham in Norfolk, is open all year around.

With the Magna Carta Memorial and the adjacent ‘acre of English ground’ that is President Kennedy’s Memorial, the landscape designed by Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, the meadow of freedom becomes a symbol of the Special Relationship: the Fairhaven motto is – like William Morris’ Si je puis, If I can, which I suppose is the Old World phlegmatism for President Obama’s Yes we can!

Jane Brown

My thanks to Nigel Boden, NT Head Warden, Runnymede, Ankerwyke & Finchampstead Ridges.