Prop­erty Market

How a lit­tle-known early ex­am­ple of the ar­chi­tect’s work was brought to life

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

Penny Churchill looks in­side the sale of a lost Lu­tyens

To­day sees the launch onto the market—at a guide price of £18.5 mil­lion, through Sav­ills Coun­try depart­ment (020–7409 8881) and Sur­rey­based Grant­ley Group (01483 407620) —of the ex­tra­or­di­nary Chinthurst Hill, near Won­ersh in the Sur­rey Hills aonb, which stands in soli­tary splen­dour on a glo­ri­ous hill­side site, with breath­tak­ing, 360˚ views across Sur­rey and Sus­sex to Chanc­ton­bury Ring on the South downs and Shore­ham-by­sea on the West Sus­sex coast.

de­signed by Sir Ed­win Lu­tyens and built in 1893–95 with gar­dens laid out by Gertrude Jekyll, Chinthurst Hill was not only the young ar­chi­tect’s first ma­jor com­mis­sion, but the first in a se­ries of fa­mous col­lab­o­ra­tions with his long-term friend, men­tor and pa­tron. How­ever, the house is lit­tle known and sel­dom men­tioned, largely due to its puz­zling omis­sion from the edi­to­rial pages of Coun­try Life, which oth­er­wise cham­pi­oned Lu­tyens’s cause through­out his long ca­reer. The omis­sion was even­tu­ally rec­ti­fied by the pub­li­ca­tion of two schol­arly ar­ti­cles in the mag­a­zine (March 18 and 25, 2015) by the ar­chi­tec­tural his­to­rian Gavin Stamp.

The orig­i­nal 69-acre site, billed as prob­a­bly ‘the finest in the South of Eng­land’, came on the market in 1884, and was bought for £5,100 from the 5th Lord Grant­ley by Emilia Mar­garet (Mag­gie) Guthrie, the 26-year-old daugh­ter of Elli­nor Guthrie of Up­per House, in nearby Sham­ley Green. Nine years later, in 1893, she com­mis­sioned the 24-year-old Lu­tyens, whom she knew through Jekyll, to build her hill­side house, ap­par­ently with lit­tle or ‘no eye to bud­get’.

de­scribed by Gavin Stamp as ‘a dra­matic com­po­si­tion that bril­liantly ex­ploits the mag­nif­i­cent slop­ing site… a com­po­si­tion of gabled masses and tall bays, with a care­ful bal­ance of up­rights and hor­i­zon­tals, and with the un­bro­ken planes of roof and wall typ­i­cal of the ar­chi­tect’, Chinthurst Hill ‘dis­plays all of Lu­tyens’s mastery of three-di­men­sional form’. Built of Bar­gate stone quar­ried from the hill­side, the finest crafts­man­ship then avail­able is ev­i­dent in the Great Hall, with its spec­tac­u­lar trac­ery win­dows, oak-pan­elled ceil­ing, sculpted stone cor­bels and Bath-stone fire­place.

The house was re­cessed into the steep hill­side, with large win­dows on the side, and the en­trance on the north side lead­ing into the Great Hall, the heart of the house. The floors were

of oak, with gen­tle treads lead­ing up the main oak stair­way and the mas­sive beams and ogee braces found in sev­eral rooms were al­most cer­tainly in­spired by the oak barns of the area. With their del­i­cate blue-and-white flo­ral ce­ramic tiles from floor to ceil­ing, the tiled kitchen and larder must have been an in­fin­itely more at­trac­tive place to work in than dull brown­tiled tra­di­tional kitchens.

The house was ap­proached by a long gen­tle drive, but there were no grand pil­lars at the en­trance, as nei­ther Jekyll nor Lu­tyens ap­proved of dis­trac­tions from the main build­ing, which boasted six liv­ing rooms, eight prin­ci­pal bed­rooms, sta­bling and staff quar­ters. Chinthurst was con­ceived to look time­less and have a peace that Jekyll called ‘some­thing of the con­vent’. Too much, per­haps, for Guthrie and her hus­band, Ninian El­liott, whom she mar­ried in 1896: a year later, the cou­ple de­camped to Scot­land to live at a fam­ily prop­erty they had un­ex­pect­edly in­her­ited on the Isle of Mull.

In 1897, Chinthurst Hill was bought by the 1st (and only) Lord Ren­del, who lived at Hatch­lands in Clan­don and pur­chased the house as a home for his widowed daugh­ter, Rose Good­hart, and her young son Harry. The boy im­me­di­ately fell in love with ‘this mag­i­cal dwelling of stone and oak’ and was hor­ri­fied when his mother and grand­fa­ther set out to change the house to ac­com­mo­date their mainly 18th-cen­tury fur­ni­ture. In­spired by Lu­tyens, al­though he never met him, Good­hart-ren­del (he added the Ren­del in 1902 at the re­quest of his grand­fa­ther) went on to be­come an ar­chi­tect and, later, pres­i­dent of the RIBA.

Rose stayed at Chinthurst un­til af­ter the First World War. In 1919, the house, with 180 acres of land di­vided into var­i­ous lots, came back on the market and was sold to S. R. Roger­son, an in­sur­ance bro­ker, who lived there with his fam­ily un­til 1926, when it was again put up for sale, but with fewer acres. The new owner was H. B. An­der­son, a re­tired tea-planter, who lived there un­til 1935, when it was bought by the Earl and Count­ess of Inch­cape.

Lord Inch­cape car­ried out a num­ber of al­ter­ations to the prop­erty (some sym­pa­thetic, oth­ers less so), build­ing an air-raid shel­ter be­neath the hill, in­stalling a strik­ing green Art Deco bath­room tiled in hand-blown glass and en­larg­ing the ter­races. Sadly, he died sud­denly in June 1939, al­though Lady Inch­cape con­tin­ued to live at Chinthurst Hill un­til af­ter the Se­cond World War, when she mar­ried an of­fi­cer in the Amer­i­can Air Force and went to live in the USA.

By 1954, Chinthurst Hill had been sold to a de­vel­oper and di­vided ver­ti­cally into three sep­a­rate prop­er­ties, each with about 10 acres of land. There­after, it faded into ob­scu­rity un­til, in May 1999, Anna Hunter (now Mrs Gra­ham Bon­ham-carter)—the founder/owner of May­fair’s in­no­va­tive Bel­gravia Gallery, which show­cases an eclec­tic mix of work by artists as di­verse as Nel­son Man­dela, The Prince of Wales, Andy Warhol and Peter Blake—saw an ad­ver­tise­ment for the main house in ‘At the time, I was look­ing for a large de­tached pri­vate house with no noise and, al­though I had al­ways been aware of Lu­tyens’s work, I was amazed to find that a Lu­tyens house I had never heard of should be for sale.

‘I im­me­di­ately jumped in the car and, within 20 min­utes or so, I was there. I knew Chinthurst was per­fect when I drove up the long drive­way sur­rounded by a hill­side of spring flow­ers and caught my first glimpse of the tow­er­ing chim­neys,’ she re­calls.

‘Al­though Chinthurst Hill and its grounds had been di­vided for many years and its fab­ric had been ne­glected, its ap­pear­ance hadn’t been al­tered and, by Au­gust 2013, I finally man­aged to re­unite all three houses un­der one own­er­ship for the first time in 60 years. I shall be re­ally sad to leave, but I know that, hav­ing en­joyed 18 years here, we are leav­ing it in a good state, with lovely re­stored Gertrude Jekyll gar­dens and an es­tab­lished small vine­yard.’

Dur­ing her ten­ure, Mrs Bon­ham­carter has done much to undo, or at least mit­i­gate, some of the changes wrought by Lords Ren­del, Inch­cape and oth­ers. The in­te­rior of the house has been care­fully re­stored and ap­pro­pri­ately dec­o­rated, but with a lightness of touch that re­stores the el­e­ment of magic that so cap­ti­vated the young Good­hart-ren­del.

Of­fered for sale with some 18 acres of for­mal and in­for­mal gar­dens and grounds, Chinthurst Hill com­prises the nine-bed­room main house, the three-bed­room Gate House (with plan­ning con­sent to ex­tend), the brick-built main garage with plan­ning con­sent to con­vert to a twobed­room house, a Lu­tyens sum­mer house and a pavil­ion over­look­ing the pool and tennis court.

Chinthurst Hill, at Won­ersh in the Sur­rey Hills AONB, re­stored to sin­gle own­er­ship for the first time in 60 years. £18.5m

Left: The tim­bered Great Hall, the heart of the house. Be­low: A sculp­ture on one of Jekyll’s gar­den ter­races

The own­ers have care­fully ren­o­vated and dec­o­rated the in­te­ri­ors, such as the draw­ing room

The three-bed­room Gate House comes with plan­ning con­sent to ex­tend

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