Price was right as house launched ar­chi­tect’s ca­reer

Thorp Arch Hall is thought to be the first house cre­ated by great Bri­tish ar­chi­tect John Carr. Sharon Dale re­ports on its de­sign and restora­tion.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

WIL­LIAM Gos­sip ex­hib­ited a stereo­typ­i­cal York­shire trait when cre­at­ing his coun­try home, but he had no idea that his par­si­mo­nious ap­proach would launch the ca­reer of one of Bri­tain’s great­est ar­chi­tects.

Alarmed at the bill for the pre­lim­i­nary de­sign of Thorp Arch Hall, near Wetherby, Mr Gos­sip sacked his first ar­chi­tect and hired one who was three times cheaper.

It proved to be a wise choice and some­thing of a bar­gain, as a young John Carr rel­ished what is said to be his first com­mis­sion and re­vealed tal­ents that would take him to the top of his pro­fes­sion.

Af­ter de­sign­ing the Pal­la­di­anstyle manor house for Mr Gos­sip, he went on to work on a host of coun­try houses for the no­bil­ity and gen­try, in­clud­ing Hare­wood House.

Born in Wake­field, Carr worked with his fa­ther, a mas­ter ma­son, be­fore fly­ing solo on Thorp Arch Hall, which was fin­ished in 1749 and boasts many of his trade­marks in­clud­ing solid con­struc­tion, per­fect sym­me­try, light-filled rooms and beau­ti­ful ar­chi­tec­tural de­tail­ing in­clud­ing or­nate cor­nic­ing and fab­u­lous fire­places.

In­cred­i­bly, Carr’s orig­i­nal build­ing and in­te­rior de­tail­ing were al­most en­tirely in­tact when An­drew Kaberry viewed the house 31 years ago.

He was one of 200 would-be buy­ers who saw the prop­erty, though only two peo­ple put in a bid, such was the scale of the restora­tion project on of­fer.

Part of the Hat­field Es­tate, the house had been owned by the same fam­ily since it was built. It was ten­anted since the 1940s and had also been used as a school for the vil­lage.

“The house had been empty for four years and you could see day­light through the west wing roof. Every­thing needed do­ing from the wiring to the plumb­ing and heat­ing but I could see it was a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity. The house was vir­tu­ally un­touched,” says Mr Kaberry, a fi­nance di­rec­tor who per­suaded his wife, Cyn­thia, that buy­ing it was a good idea.

“Cyn­thia wasn’t con­vinced at first and when I took my fa­ther to see it he thought I was mad.”

To fund the restora­tion of the main hall, he split off the East and West wings, which were sta­bles and ser­vants quar­ters. He sold the two prop­er­ties and their pre­vi­ous home in Shad­well, Leeds, and he, Cyn­thia and their two young sons set­tled in two rooms of the main house while work con­tin­ued around them.

It took just seven months to make the place hab­it­able and the work was project man­aged by builder Paul Dean from Leeds. The im­por­tant fin­ish­ing touches have been added over the past 30 years.

The dé­cor is a com­bi­na­tion of Farrow and Ball paints, Zof­fany wall­pa­per and pe­riod-style drapes while chan­de­liers hang from the ceil­ings. The or­nate cor­nic­ing and dec­o­ra­tive da­dos have all been re­stored and regilded. “You couldn’t see much of the or­nate de­tail in the din­ing room as it was cov­ered in Du­lux, which ac­tu­ally helped pre­serve it,” says An­drew.

The room that suf­fered most over the cen­turies was the sit­ting room, where pan­elling had been sold off and the fire­place re­moved.

The Kaber­rys re­in­stated every­thing in­clud­ing a false door that mir­rors the work­ing ver­sion – it is one of three “doors go­ing nowhere” in the prop­erty.

They were com­mon­place in the Ge­or­gian era when ar­chi­tects like Carr were ob­sessed with sym­me­try.

Cyn­thia and An­drew’s pri­or­ity in 1981 was cre­at­ing a com­fort­able fam­ily home for their boys, who, ac­cord­ing to Cyn­thia, used to sledge down the two beau­ti­ful stair­cases and race their toy cars in the hall.

“It was a won­der­ful place for the boys and we’ve had so much fun here over the years with lots of par­ties,” says Cyn­thia, an an­i­mal lover, who made space out­side for her me­nagerie of pets.

The boys are now men and have grown up and moved away, which left the cou­ple able to fill their pe­riod home with more trea­sures and some pre­cious, break­able pieces.

These in­clude An­drew’s col­lec­tion of clocks, some in­ter­est­ing an­tique fur­ni­ture and a dis­play of blue and white plates. The first plate was found in the gap be­tween the wall and floor­boards of the at­tic rooms.

“It was cracked and was the only thing we found in the whole ren­o­va­tion It must’ve been bro­ken by a ser­vant who hid it so she wouldn’t get into trou­ble,” says Cyn­thia.

Their buys have given the hall its quin­tes­sen­tial coun­try house style with more than a nod to its Ge­or­gian ori­gins.

An­drew’s pre­ci­sion and at­ten­tion to de­tail in­volved an 18 month hunt for the right fire­place for the sit­ting room. He also spent a small for­tune on rais­ing the height of ground floor win­dows, which had been dropped be­low the orig­i­nal sill in the 1920s.

Bring­ing the win­dows back was both for aes­thetic and prac­ti­cal pur­poses. They look right now but also al­low more space for fur­ni­ture and ra­di­a­tors.

This kind of per­fec­tion­ism would’ve pleased John Carr, whose notebook on the build ap­peared at auc­tion in the 1998. The Kaber­rys helped buy it for the West York­shire Ar­chive Ser­vice.

“It’s an in­ter­est­ing book that was passed be­tween Carr and Gos­sip when they were plan­ning the house,” says An­drew, whose work has helped el­e­vate what was a grade two listed build­ing to grade two star sta­tus.

An­drew’s last ma­jor project was to cre­ate an Ital­ianate gar­den with fish pool and a Pal­la­di­anstyle pav­il­ion with fea­tures that mimic those in the main house.

It’s an idyl­lic, shel­tered spot and some­thing the Kaber­rys will miss when they leave.

The cou­ple are sell­ing to down­size and to spend more time at their home in Ma­jorca.

“We will be sad to leave and the chil­dren are even more up­set than us but it’s time to go,” says Cyn­thia, who has over­seen the ren­o­va­tion of their Span­ish finca. “In an ideal world we’d find a smaller ver­sion of this house.”

PAL­LA­DIAN: Thorp Arch Hall is thought to be John Carr’s first com­mis­sion. It has been re­turned to its orig­i­nal grandeur by An­drew and Cyn­thia Kaberry, who bought it 31 years ago as a daunt­ing restora­tion project.

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