House’s time­less style sur­vives a cen­tury of chang­ing fash­ions

This Arts and Crafts house in Har­ro­gate has sur­vived for over a cen­tury with al­most all its fea­tures in­tact. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

IT doesn’t take a trained eye to ap­pre­ci­ate that The Hermitage is an ar­chi­tec­tural gem.

The beau­ti­fully-crafted wood­work, leaded win­dows, eight panel doors, fire­places and the cop­per light switches are all part of a mag­nif­i­cent in­te­rior that de­fines the Arts and Crafts pe­riod.

Ar­chi­tects and en­thu­si­asts who have seen it swoon at this mu­nif­i­cence and at the rar­ity of a home that has man­aged to sur­vive over a cen­tury with al­most all its orig­i­nal fea­tures un­touched, even though there is no list­ing to pro­tect them.

It could be that, like present own­ers Philip and Sheila Rob­son, its in­hab­i­tants were cap­ti­vated by the crafts­man­ship and couldn’t bear to spoil it, or per­haps they just didn’t care too much about chang­ing home fash­ions.

“There were some sev­en­ties ad­di­tions like Ar­tex, and a cou­ple of the doors have been painted but other than that it’s al­most as it was when it was built,” says Philip.

He and She­lia, who have four chil­dren, bought the house six years ago af­ter a long search for a large prop­erty on two lev­els with­out lots of stairs.

“We knew it was spe­cial as soon as we saw it and I had an idea it was Arts and Crafts,” says Sheila.

The house was built in 1904 for gas en­gi­neer Ge­orge Smith Sayner by renowned Arts and Crafts ar­chi­tects Barry Parker and Ray­mond Un­win and it is one of the most im­por­tant and un­spoiled ex­am­ples of their work.

They were renowned town plan­ners, cre­at­ing New Ear­swick vil­lage in York for the Rown­tree fam­ily, Letch­worth in Hert­ford­shire and Hamp­stead Gar­den Sub­urb in Lon­don.

“We be­came fas­ci­nated with the his­tory of the house so much so that we vis­ited the Parker and Un­win Mu­seum in Letch­worth and dis­cov­ered that our house was repli­cated al­most ex­actly in Stafford­shire. It is iden­ti­cal to this one in ev­ery way,” says Sheila, a cus­tomer ser­vices man­ager.

The Hermitage ad­heres to all the Arts and Crafts prin­ci­ples. It is well-built with 14in thick brick and ren­dered walls and lots of leaded win­dows to bring in nat­u­ral light, The front of the prop­erty sits close to the road, while the rear over­looks a large gar­den.

“The Arts and Crafts ar­chi­tects re­garded the con­ven­tional back of the house as the front and the idea was to make the house and gar­den meet,” says Philip.

In­side, there is a cen­tral hall with its own fire­place and an atrium that was de­signed to “bring bright­ness and cheer­i­ness and airi­ness right into the midst of the house”. Ra­di­at­ing off this are the ground floor rooms, which have low ceil­ings and beams. Up­stairs there are five bed­rooms, a fam­ily bath­room and a re­cently added en-suite.

“The lay­out works re­ally well for a modern fam­ily and it has a very con­vivial at­mos­phere. The house is also very light. The mas­ter bed­room alone has six win­dows,” says Philip, a busi­ness man­ager.

The in­te­rior has a me­dieval look with lots of oak pan­elling, fire­places with set­tles. There are pan­elled doors still sport­ing their orig­i­nal han­dles and cup­boards fit­ted with beau­ti­ful cop­per hinges .

The study has a clev­erly de­signed fire­place with built-in dis­play cabi­net over the man­tel.

Ev­ery de­tail has been clev­erly thought out in­clud­ing stor­age space. There are cup­boards in the wall, un­der the stairs and even the set­tles have built-in stor­age un­der­neath.

“The set­tles are a Parker and Un­win trade­mark,” says Philip.

“They de­signed every­thing in the house in­clud­ing all the in­te­ri­ors fit­tings down to the han­dles on the win­dows and doors. The qual­ity of crafts­man­ship is also re­mark­able.”

Five sets of own­ers have done lit­tle to change the house, though a con­ser­va­tory was erected a few years af­ter it was built and an Art Nou­veau bath­room in­stalled.

The Rob­sons have spent their money up­dat­ing the prop­erty. They have in­su­lated it, re­moved Ar­tex ap­plied in the 1970s, in­stalled a new boiler, ra­di­a­tors and electrics to­gether with in­set spot light­ing to sup­port the orig­i­nal coach lights.

“We did our best to pre­serve the fea­tures although re­tain­ing the orig­i­nal light switches was time con­sum­ing and costly as was get­ting the elec­tri­cian to put new sock­ets and sen­sor light­ing in dis­creet places so they wouldn’t spoil the look of the house,” says Sheila.

“I think it’s luck that the right peo­ple have lived here. They ap­pre­ci­ated it.

“The lady who owned it be­fore us did an aw­ful lot to the gar­den, which is now full of beau­ti­ful shrubs and flow­ers. We’ve done our bit but there is still po­ten­tial. There are fan­tas­tic oak floors un­der the car­pets that could be ex­posed and there’s a huge loft space that could be con­verted.”

She and Philip are sell­ing to re­lo­cate closer to work and hope the new own­ers will re­spect their home’s ar­chi­tec­tural im­por­tance and keep up the spirit of guardian­ship.

“The house has a dis­tinct style and you ei­ther like it or you don’t. One friend thinks it looks like a pub from the out­side and oth­ers think it is like a cas­tle,” says Sheila.

“We love it. The Arts and Crafts style is un­usual and unique.”

BUILT TO LAST: The Hermitage in Har­ro­gate is a su­perb ex­am­ple of Arts and Crafts ar­chi­tec­ture as prac­tised by Barry Parker and Ray­mond Un­win, who also de­signed New Ear­swick vil­lage in York.

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