Built to mark Bri­tain’s In­dian tri­umphs in the Napoleonic Wars, this cel­e­brated house is more than a fan­ci­ful creation. ex­plains how it strives to recre­ate ac­cu­rately the ar­chi­tec­ture of In­dia

Max Bryant

Country Life Every Week - - My Week - Pho­to­graphs by Paul High­nam

Sez­in­cote, Glouces­ter­shire The home of Ed­ward and Camilla Peake

he River even­lode rises in a val­ley that ir­rupts through the north­ern Cotswolds. From the west­erly hills on an un­cer­tain day, the view is miles wide, a trav­el­ling panorama of rain, cloud and sun­shine. Fur­ther down the slope hides a house the pe­cu­liar­ity of which has been lit­tle un­der­stood, re­joic­ing in an ar­chi­tec­tural style en­tirely of its own.

Sez­in­cote con­sists of a main house with a ra­di­at­ing con­ser­va­tory, orig­i­nally de­scribed as ‘harlequinade’, ter­mi­nat­ing in an oc­tag­o­nal pav­il­ion (Fig 6). The build­ings of the whole es­tate, in­clud­ing the sta­bles, farm and gar­den struc­tures, were de­signed in var­i­ous con­fig­u­ra­tions of styles na­tive to the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent, with only the in­te­rior of the main house fol­low­ing a con­ven­tional euro­pean neo-clas­si­cal id­iom (Fig 4).

The adap­ta­tion of In­dian forms is with­out prece­dent in its depth and de­tail. It even fea­tures a gar­den tem­ple to Surya, the hindu sun god (made of Coade stone), pre­sid­ing over a pool with a foun­tain, prob­a­bly in­tended as a lingam (Fig 3). The de­pic­tion of Surya con­flates dif­fer­ent tra­di­tions in its iconog­ra­phy, de­rived from cult prac­tices in late18th-cen­tury Ben­gal. The water runs from

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