Dream home for a Ge­or­gian Hob­bit

The Oldie - - OVERLOOKED BRITAIN - lucinda lambton

‘Fan­tas­tic, mar­vel­lous…’ cries Nigel Spurr, sup­plier of air­port equip­ment. He’s cheer­ing his un­doubt­edly sen­sa­tional house at Ea­gle, Lin­colnshire. It’s some­what strangely called The Jun­gle, which is, in fact, spot on, thanks to the ram­pag­ing nature of its façade.

Frames of gnarled oak creep around the nu­mer­ous Gothic, stained-glass win­dows, while its wooden door­case has been tor­tured into Gaudi-like forms. These de­lights – and there are many of them – are pierced into a snarling frontage of scrunched-up pur­ple and black­ened, over­burnt bricks. What greater sur­prise to come upon in an English field?

It was built about 1820 by the suit­ably named Thomas Lovely for Sa­muel Rus­sell Col­lett and, over the years, has been trans­formed with var­i­ous and ex­tra­or­di­nary dec­o­ra­tive schemes. Orig­i­nally de­signed as a plain, red­brick farm­house, it was given its grotesquely pic­turesque façade as an ex­otic back­ground to a menagerie of crea­tures that roamed free on its lawns.

Af­ter years of sub­se­quent ne­glect, in the early 1980s, the farm­house was de­mol­ished, while pre­serv­ing its fancy front. For a spell this was left, only three feet deep, stand­ing tee­ter­ingly alone in the Lin­colnshire land­scape. Then it was swiftly given the alarm­ing ad­di­tion of a mod­ern man­sion, built by potato mogul Den­nis Houl­ston.

A Ma­jor-gen­eral Loft had come here in 1826 and left (HUR­RAY for him so do­ing) an eye­wit­ness ac­count of this ar­chi­tec­tural cu­rios­ity: ‘In Swinethorpe, [Sa­muel] Rus­sell Smol­lett Esq has erected a very sin­gu­lar but tasty and hand­some Res­i­dence. It is com­posed of over­burnt Bricks un­til they run to­gether in large masses, these are built up in that

rough State form­ing a cen­tre and two cir­cu­lar Cor­ners in the man­ner of a Cas­tle, and has a grotesque but not in­el­e­gant Ap­pear­ance. It stands on the Edge but within an in­clo­sure of about 7 A[cres] in which are a great num­ber of Trees of dif­fer­ent Kinds of Tim­ber, Thorns; sev­eral Deer of dif­fer­ent Kinds are kept here, the Amer­i­can Axis, which has pro­duced a Breed from the Does; there are also sev­eral very fine Kan­ga­roos, a Male & a Fe­male Buf­falo (I think) and their young calf, all run­ning loose to­gether… There are sev­eral for­eign cows... In the house are many good apart­ments.’

To­day, the house has elec­tri­fy­ingly ‘good apart­ments’ with a 60ft-by-40ft draw­ing room in ‘old rose and char­treuse green’ with a pink-mar­ble and punched­green-leather bar, sur­rounded by gilded fur­ni­ture, in­set with cir­cu­lar, enamel plaques. One bed­room is hung with padded ‘peach vel­vet’. Another is fur­nished with the Chi­nese Col­lec­tion from nearby Ne­wark – whereby you can or­der suites of fur­ni­ture made and painted in Hong Kong.

One bath­room is lined with pan­els of pink, cream and sil­ver foil. Another sports red- and black-striped walls with fire­work-like ex­plo­sions of cream dots.

It is the swim­ming pool, though, that is a force to be reck­oned with. A mo­saic of the house dec­o­rates its full width, lit by red, blue, pink and yel­low lights. A spa bath, sauna and so­lar­ium have now gone. The spa bath was lined in beige, cream and sil­ver hon­ey­comb foil; the so­lar­ium with turquoise and sil­ver mar­b­lised foil.

A pink, car­peted snooker room with a glass wall acts as a grand­stand for the bathers in the pool. Lit from on high by the stars of the galaxy – mul­ti­coloured to boot – flash­ing forth from a coved, mar­b­lised Formica ceil­ing, this is proof, if proof were needed, that the Jun­gle has al­ways zinged with the spirit of dec­o­ra­tive ad­ven­ture. Gothic treehouse: the il­lu­mi­nated pool and (op­po­site page) the façade

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