The Gor­geous Ge­or­gians

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

As we an­nounce the win­ners of the Ge­or­gian Group Awards, Eleanor Doughty ex­plores the last­ing al­lure of this pe­riod ar­chi­tec­ture

The ap­peal of Ge­or­gian ar­chi­tec­ture is en­dur­ing. From grand coun­try piles with per­fectly pro­por­tioned rooms to tem­ples im­i­tat­ing the style of An­cient Rome, the depth and breadth of the pe­riod we call “Ge­or­gian” – 1714-1830 – is for­ever throw­ing up new chal­lenges.

The na­tion’s great at­tach­ment to Ge­or­gian ar­chi­tec­ture comes from the sense of his­tory it im­bues, says Crispin Hol­borow, head of coun­try at Sav­ills. “One of the at­trac­tions is that it pro­vides this won­der­ful jump in time. Other ages don’t have the link to the clas­si­cal build­ings, which means that it be­comes some­thing more than a love of a style of ar­chi­tec­ture. There’s a feel­ing that we’re part of a jour­ney that started in an­cient Rome. That is quite evoca­tive.”

Of course, this comes with a price tag: data from Sav­ills shows a 20 per cent pre­mium on Ge­or­gian prop­er­ties in Lon­don on a pound per sq ft ba­sis.

This year, the win­ners of the Ge­or­gian Group’s pres­ti­gious awards, which were an­nounced on Thurs­day at the Royal In­sti­tute of Bri­tish Ar­chi­tects (RIBA) and are spon­sored by Sav­ills, of­fer a real spread of ar­chi­tec­tural mer­its. With seven awards in to­tal, the judges had more to as­sess than sim­ply the clas­sic Ge­or­gian houses that might spring to mind when one imag­ines the 18th cen­tury.

Crichel House, which was deemed to have the best restora­tion of a Ge­or­gian in­te­rior, ticks all the boxes. It is a Grade I listed Clas­si­cal re­vival house in Dorset, with an en­trance by coun­try house ar­chi­tect Thomas Hopper and in­te­ri­ors by neo­clas­si­cal ar­chi­tect James Wy­att. Crichel was bought by Amer­i­can busi­ness­man Richard L Chilton in 2013. Chilton and his wife had spent 10 years look­ing for just the right English coun­try house, and fell in love with Crichel at once. Now, af­ter a five-month project, Chilton’s restora­tion of Wy­att’s suite of State Rooms is com­plete. “It’s an in­cred­i­ble house with a rich his­tory, and I’m proud that we were able to re­store it,” he says. Work­ing with ar­chi­tect Pere­grine Bryant and mas­ter paint his­to­rian Pa­trick Baty, Chilton, us­ing pho­to­graphs taken for Coun­try Life in 1925, was able to ac­cu­rately re­place

‘An owner has to be ready to live in the house the way it was’

ceil­ing mould­ings and cor­nice friezes, in­stall new scagli­ola col­umns and re­hang silk wall panels. “Every house goes through life cy­cles and it­er­a­tions, and we were able to put back Wy­att’s orig­i­nal scheme,” Chilton ex­plains.

The “stu­pen­dous” house is a wor­thy win­ner, says John Goodall, Coun­try

Life’s ar­chi­tec­tural ed­i­tor and one of the judges. “They’ve recre­ated Wy­att’s rooms with no holds barred.”

Chilton takes an en­light­ened view of his coun­try house. “I’m a big be­liever that when you take on and live in a house like this, the owner shouldn’t im­pose their will. They have to be ready to live in the house the way it was.” Although he lives in New York, where his wife Mau­reen is the chair­man of the board of the New York Botan­i­cal Gar­den, he feels pas­sion­ately about Crichel. “Crichel is our home,” he says. “We’re four years into a seven- or eight-year restora­tion project. We in­tend to spend more time there and live in it.”

While Chilton’s project may be just the right house for a home, some of the other Ge­or­gian Group’s win­ners this year serve other pur­poses.

Clas­si­cal ar­chi­tect Craig Hamil­ton has spent three years build­ing a Ro­man Catholic chapel on the Cul­ham Court es­tate in Hen­ley-on-Thames, the Ox­ford­shire home of Swiss fi­nancier Urs Sch­warzen­bach, which won the best new-build award. Con­structed out of stone both in­side and out, with a crypt as de­tailed as the ground floor, the build­ing is quite ex­tra­or­di­nary. The ex­te­rior com­bines knapped and square flint with Port­land lime­stone, cre­at­ing a grey and white pat­tern; in­side the crypt, this is re­peated us­ing Port­land stone and grey lime­stone from Ballinsa­loe in Ire­land. On the ground-floor in­te­rior, Hamil­ton has cre­ated a struc­tural stone vault, with Port­land and black Kilkenny stone walls.

The project won for its in­cred­i­ble de­tail. Ev­ery­thing down to the can­dles, door han­dles and priestly vest­ments have been made to mea­sure. What is par­tic­u­larly ap­peal­ing, Sav­ills’ Hol­borow says, is that the chapel is open to the pub­lic monthly for wor­ship. “That’s the most spe­cial thing of all – it’s a build­ing that peo­ple can come and use.”

Not all chapels of Ge­or­gian in­spi­ra­tion are made equal. At Comp­ton Ver­ney, the es­tate in War­wick­shire that is home to the art gallery of the same name, di­rec­tor Prof Steven Parissien has been hard at work restor­ing an­other chapel. This one – a plain, 17th-cen­tury Church of Eng­land low church – was built by Ca­pa­bil­ity Brown, and has fit­tingly won the Ge­or­gian Group’s Brown Ter­cente­nary Award. It is one of only a hand­ful that can be at­trib­uted to Brown’s hand, but suf­fered dis­use af­ter the Ver­ney fam­ily sold the es­tate in 1921. In 2012, af­ter some se­ri­ous restora­tion work in­volv­ing the safe­guard­ing of the win­dows and re­pairs to the roof, ceil­ing and bell tower, the chapel was re­opened to the pub­lic and is now used as an events space.

Brown also had in­flu­ence on the Gothic Tower on the Wimpole es­tate in Cam­bridgeshire, now run by the Na­tional Trust – the win­ner of this year’s award for the restora­tion of a struc­ture in the land­scape. Un­like Crichel House, a solid Ge­or­gian prop­erty with four pil­lars across its front, the tower was built to re­sem­ble a pic­turesque me­dieval ruin. But there are ru­ins, and then there are ru­ins, as Wendy Monkhouse, the Na­tional Trust cu­ra­tor for the east of Eng­land, puts it. She re­mem­bers her first visit. “It was cov­ered in barbed wire with keep-out no­tices, and blocks of ma­sonry were fall­ing off.” Thanks to an in­jec­tion of £750,000 from Nat­u­ral Eng­land, Monkhouse and her team have been able to put this cu­ri­ous build­ing back to­gether. It was de­signed by the Gothic re­vival ar­chi­tect San­der­son Miller in 1749, but built later, hav­ing been amended un­der Brown’s su­per­vi­sion. In the early 19th cen­tury, it was con­verted into a game­keeper’s lodge, hous­ing a fam­ily of six.

Monkhouse’s chal­lenges were largely to patch up the stonework, some of which was de­lam­i­nat­ing, and she de­scribes the fin­ished job as “an hon­est re­pair – if you get up close you can see what’s new and what’s old”. Now the tower is fin­ished, it stands tri­umphantly on its hillock. “The most re­ward­ing thing has been see­ing peo­ple walk­ing up there with their dogs at the week­end,” Monkhouse says. “Peo­ple have sud­denly got some­where to go on the es­tate.”

‘It was cov­ered in barbed wire with keep-out no­tices’


Amen to that: Prof Steven Parissien, be­low, is the di­rec­tor of Comp­ton Ver­ney house, cover, where he has over­seen the restora­tion of the chapel COMBERMERE ABBEY RE­STORED COUN­TRY HOUSE


COMP­TON VER­NEY CHAPEL THE BROWN TER­CENTE­NARY AWARD Hon­est job: Wimpole Gothic Tower, main im­age, was amended un­der su­per­vi­sion by Ca­pa­bil­ity Brown



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