Chilham Castle for Sale

A Jacobean house with medieval origins

Every now and then, a period house stops us in our tracks. Chilham Castle in Kent is one such house.

The 17th Century Jacobean house as it stands today actually hides a much deeper history.  The original building was constructed in 709 by the King of Kent.  The house’s links to medieval England can still be seen by way of a keep which still exists today.

It was lived in by various noblemen and families until it was bought by King Henry VIII in 1539.  Shortly afterwards Henry VIII allowed Sir Thomas Cheney to buy it from him.  While undocumented, this was possibly to return a long lost favour owed to Cheney after he allowed King Henry to court Anne Boleyn at his house on the Isle of Sheppey ten years previously.

chilham castle on a clear blue day
Chilham Castle for Sale through Knight Frank

Improvements by Capability Brown

The house as it stands now is mainly the result of work undertaken by Thomas Heron, a lawyer who undertook a significant renovation of Chilham Castle in the late 1700s.  This included bringing Capability Brown on board to landscape the gardens and improve the park.  Heron paid a modest £412 and 10 shillings for the work (over £500,000 in today’s money).  Brown did not create a new landscape for this sum, but instead made several small improvements which collectively made a big difference to the building’s setting.

chilham castle with keep
The castle’s Medieval Keep can be seen on the left .

A rare opportunity

Fast forward to today, and the house has been in the hands of the Wheeler family since 2002.  They have restored much of the building’s heritage, putting it back on its feet ready for the next owner to leave their mark.

Further details on the sale of Chilham Castle can be seen on the Knight Frank website.

 


As ever, do call us if you’d like to discuss a joinery design project further on +44 (0)1934 745270.  For more information on the range of project management services we offer, from design, installation and finish, please click here.

 

 

 

Shapwick Manor in Somerset For Sale

Shapwick Manor in Somerset for Sale

Shapwick Manor for sale in Somerset could only be described as a bit of a project, but for those with big ambitions and even bigger pockets, it’s a rare opportunity to secure one of Somerset’s most beautiful country houses.

Shapwick Manor House in Somerset

 

Shapwick Manor Brief History

In more recent years (since 1984), the medieval building had been used as a private school specialising in the education of children with dyslexia and was much admired across the UK for it’s great work in this field.

Shapwick Manor originally belonged to the Abbey at Glastonbury until the monasteries were dismantled by Henry VIII and it was passed onto Thomas Walton and then te Rolle Familly, with the Manor as it is recognised today being built in 1475.

Shapwick Manor is located in Shapwick, a secluded and pretty village sited in the Polden Hills near Glasonbury and would be a good bet for anyone seeking to extract themselves from London to find a country seat and not join the nearby Bruton media circus.

What’s for Sale

For the current asking price of £6,500,000 (January 2021) a buyer will get alot of property.  The large Grade II* listed Shapwick manor house, stables, a small farm, Greystones (an old boarding house) and many others such as the Sixth Form Bock below which has enormous potential for a creative buyer.

Shapwick House sale offers buildings like this school house

 

Naturally there is work to be done; the main Shapwick Manor house will need reconfiguring to take it back to a residential house after being used as a school for so many years.  Despite its Grade II* listed status however, much of the building’s interior architectural detail has been eroded and lost over time, but it could become a magnificent 12,000 square ft statement house for the village if undertaken sensitively.

Shapwick Manor in Somerset for Sale through Strutt and Parker. Sales particulars from Strutt and Parker are here

 


As ever, do call us if you’d like to discuss a joinery design project further on +44 (0)1934 745270.  For more information on the range of project management services we offer, from design, installation and finish, please click here.

English Country House Names Explained

English country houses come in all shapes and sizes, and many have evolved over centuries, transforming from one form to another as time passes by.  Some started from humble beginnings, while others were grand from the off.

In this article we’re going to explore the suffix of the country house and whether they can give us a clue to a building’s past.  Grange, Hall, Park, Villa, Manor, Grove and House are all such examples.  But what do they mean?

 

Grange

A Grange is usually a large farmhouse with farm buildings and grain stores attached.  It is likely that the term Grange originally stemmed from a time when England’s land was divided up as part of the monastic system, with monastic granges being outlying landholdings owned by monastaries and Cisterian monks.  So essentially, a Grange was an agricultural outpost, and where there was a Grange there was often a much larger ‘mothership’ house, often an Abbey or Priory, nearby. The theme of being a ‘religious outpost’ stuck up to the Victorian period when a vicar or landowner would often live in the Grange.  As land was sold off over time by Abbey’s and the church, Grange’s became independent houses.

Victorian Grange
This Victorian grange was built in late 1800s, possibly for a high ranking member of the local church community as the church expanded its reach.

 

Hall

The origin of the Hall house is a fascinating and ancient one stemming from Anglo Saxon times.  The original hall buildings were meeting places and they usually comprised of four walls, a roof and a fire around which to gather.  Because of the fire they usually had very tall ceilings which were often later filled in with floors which were added to as the hall’s original use as a public meeting space diminished.  The retro-fitting of additional floors, with rooms and extensions, allowed users private spaces and meeting rooms, and as a consequence the layout of a Hall can often be complex as they were usually developed in a piecemeal ad hoc fashion.

a medieval hall house
The house and part of the garden at Rufford Old Hall, Lancashire. The Great Hall to the right was built in the sixteenth century, and the brick wing to the right in the seventeenth century.

 

Manor

Unike the Hall which often started from relatively humble beginnings as a meeting place, the Manor was none-such place and was orginally the main house of the lord of the manor with the house forming the administrative centre of a manor in the feudal landlord system.  Somewhat confusingly, a manor might have originally sarted as a hall, promoting itself to a manor to rid itself of it’s humple past.  A manor was usually the centrepiece of that area’s adminstartive heart.  The older manor houses often have a geat hall where meals with tenants or great banquets were held.

Great Durnford Manor, in which Artichoke designed and made several rooms, was purpose built as a manor in the mid 1700s.

 

Park

The origin of the Park was often the park itself, usually an exceptional plot of land which suited the addition of what was usually a home of magnificent or stately size.  Often the original Park was owned by royalty or a feudal landlord, and it would have been where they went to hunt deer to feed his household.  Park houses often still retain a stock of deer as a nod to the past, with many herds believed to be made up from from the original lineage.

Williamstrip Park
Willianstrip Park in which Artichoke made the kitchen.

Villa

It’s not surprising to learn that the Villa suffix stems from Europe and the Roman occupation of England, and it principally means large luxurious house with land.  These days it’s not commonly used as a suffix to a house name, but more often used as a way of describing a neo Italianate classical house, of which there are many in towns like Cheltenham and Bristol (below).  They often had palatial proportions, arched windows and sometimes towers with gently sloping roofs.

Italianate style villa house
An Italianate villa in Clifton, Bristol

 

Dower House

Granted, this is not a suffix, but we think it warrants a place in our list.

A Dower House was one which was almost always built for a widow, usually on the estate of the man to whom she was once married.  The name is linked to the term ‘Dowager’, which was the name given to a widow who had a title or owned property.  Dower Houses were usually quite large.

Dower House
This Dower House started off smaller and has had several additions since.

Curious? It’s our mission to create rooms in building like these which will become a long term part of their architectural futures.  If you have a Grange, a Manor, a Park, Hall or Dower House, we’d love to hear about it.

Email newprojects@artichoke.co.uk with any questions or call us on 01934 745270.

Moving a Kitchen in a Listed Building

Moving a kitchen in a listed building is a common requirement among many new country and listed house owners, and it’s becoming increasingly popular as family lifestyles continue to become less formal.

The first question we ask is ‘What’s wrong with the kitchen where it is?’ (although we can almost always predict the answer).  In the larger country house it was typical for kitchens to be located by the original architect as far away from the family quarters as possible, thus eliminating noise, cooking smells and reducing risk of a fires (most likely to start in the kitchen), spreading to the family part of the house.

In addition to locating the kitchen as far away as possible, it was also often placed on the north side of the house, principally to stop direct sunlight spoiling food in the pantry and also to take advantage of the prevailing south westerly winds which would push chimney smoke caused by the kitchen fires away from the main house and gardens.

So, pre 1900, country house kitchens were sited at the extremities of a building on its north side, while today we want our kitchens at the centre of our homes, usually facing south.

 

When to Seek Advice?

If you want to move a kitchen in a listed building you’re going to have to seek Listed Building Consent from your local planners, sometimes with the involvement of Historic England (it used to be English Heritage and we explore the difference between the two organisations in this earlier article.)   This exercise will need an architect or heritage architect familiar with your local planners.  However, it is well worth seeking advice from a specialist bespoke kitchen designer in parallel with these conversations to ensure the space being allocated by the architect is optimal, appropriate and will meet you and your family’s needs.  Ideally this should happen well before the planning application is submitted.  Not doing so could mean the proposed architecture limits how the kitchen is laid out, with subsequent planning applications needed for changes to improve the space.

What are the Issues of Moving a Kitchen in a Listed Building?

There are four key issues to be aware of.

Firstly, in a big family house, the original kitchen is likely to have been supported by a series of ancillary rooms, such as a scullery, larder or butler’s pantry.  The issue many clients face when moving a kitchen from its original location, say to a living room or dining room, is there will usually need to be provision within the new location for these supporting functions.  We will often achieve this by breaking the new space up using joinery or architecture, but this can often be challenging in a room such as dining room which often have very high ceilings and can be festooned with elaborate fibrous plaster mouldings.

The second issue to consider is lack of useable wall space.  In a back of house kitchen, the original architect will often have designed the windows above head height as per the image above, providing ample wall space against which to place ovens and dressers.  In a dining room or living room there are often impressive windows, French doors or grand fireplaces, limiting the available wall space against which kitchen furniture can be placed.  Bear this in mind when considering which room to move your kitchen in to.

The third issue is focussed on aesthetics.  Kitchen furniture moved into a dining room or living room without a sensitive design approach can often look incongruous.  To overcome this we will often develop a fictitious story which illustrates how the space was evolved.  This will help tie a design brief together.  For example, we were recently asked to design a kitchen into one of the principle living spaces in a Chateau in Burgundy, France.  Rather than just take the room we were given to design a kitchen into it, we developed the following narrative with the client.

Before being a kitchen, the room was used by the previous owner as a collector’s library in which she stored curiosities from her travels around the world.  

Creating such a narrative will provide focus to Artichoke’s creative team, so instead of a designing a kitchen plonked into what was an old Salon, the room becomes a grand albeit slightly eccentric library repurposed as a kitchen, which is a much more exciting and beguiling option!

To successfully move this kitchen into what was once a reception room required clever manipulation of interior archiecture by the Artichoke team.

 

Finally it is worth considering your access into the kitchen from your daily entry point into the house (usually nearest the car) and whether moving the kitchen to the new space will make this access more cumbersome.  Dragging the family shopping through the centre of the house is as fun as it sounds!

Next Steps

Each house is different, so there are many other factors that can sometimes raise their heads. If you are considering moving a kitchen in a listed building we’d be happy to talk through the options with you.
Email newprojects@artichoke.co.uk with any questions or call is on 01934 745270.

 

The Country House Revived?

Not so long ago we were sent a wonderful piece of country house research undertaken by the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates at Manynooth University.

The study explores the survival and revival of the country house and historic houses in Ireland and the UK over the past 50 years, and it looks into some of the houses that have survived and prospered under their owners for future generations to enjoy.

It is so important that these portals into our past are cared for and put on the pedestal they deserve.  While the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, it is the parts that must be revered.  The skills on display in these buildings by the artisan plasterers, joiners, gilders and stone masons are just wonderful, and we are so privileged as a company to be given the opportunity to display our craftsmanship alongside theirs for future generations to enjoy.

Extraordinary plasterwork restored by master plasterer Kevin Holbrook and Quinlan Francis Terry.

 

As ever, the best craftsmanship doesn’t come cheap, but its good value is unsurpassed.  Every great country house built in the 18th and 19th century was done so by someone who had accrued enough wealth to invest in the best possible quality joiners, carvers, stone masons, plasterers and architects.  They didn’t invest in buildings that would last just their own lives; they invested in buildings that would last centuries and it is our duty to look after them for the next generations to enjoy.

To do so, and to keep on creating heritage for our future generations requires dedication and a vision.  Our vision at Artichoke is that in 100 years, English design and craftsmanship continues to flourish, and we are doing several things to try and achieve it.  While it is a great delight to see so many country houses brought back from the brink, it will only be possible if we keep the craftsmanship skills needed thriving.  We explore in another piece some of the crafts education available in this field.

Presentations on both pieces of research are below:

Irish Country Houses

 

 

 

UK Country Houses

25 Royal Crescent Bath for Sale

As rows of terraced houses go, The Royal Crescent in Bath sits at the pinnacle.  Sited as one of Britain’s greatest ever examples of Georgian architecture, it was designed by John Wood the younger and took seven years to build, starting in 1764.  Now one of its houses is for sale.

 

To purchase one of the 30 available houses, the original buyers were each asked to buy a length of the facade.  They then had to employ their own architect to build the house behind, so what can appear to be ordered uniformity and symmetry at the front is actually a bit of a mess behind (or ‘business at the front: party at the back’ as it was once described to me by one of the owners).  This avant-garde approach to architecture occurs repeatedly across Bath.

During the 1900s many of the houses which had once been the residences of single families with maids and other staff were divided into offices and flats.  Of the 30 original houses only 10 remain as single dwellings, so when one comes on the market it is a rare occurrence.  Number 25 The Royal Crescent is now for sale through Savills with a guide price of £6.5 million.

The Grade I listed architecture of the facade of The Royal Cresent has 114 Ionic columns which rest on a rusticated ground floor.  It was the first crescent of houses to be built in the UK and with views over parkland was also a fine example of ‘rus in urbe’ architecture, meaning ‘the country in the city’.

However, with all formality comes the desire for rebellion.  In 1971, the resident of No 22 The Royal Crescent, Miss Amabel Wellesley-Colley, took it upon herself to paint the front door of her house canary yellow (the others are all white).  In her defence, she said she was upholding tradition because canary yellow was her great grandfather, The Duke of Wellington’s favourite colour.  As you can imagine, there was uproar, and the chattering classes of Bath went apoplectic with confected outrage.  Other owners of houses on The Royal Crescent fell back on a 1968 law for listed buildings which stated that property owners could not alter the appearance of the Royal Crescent without permission.  However, they underestimated Miss Amabel, who after spending thousands of pounds and battling it out in a 6 hour long public enquiry was found in favour by the Department for the Environment.

The door remains yellow to this day.

yellow door the royal cresent bath
A very English act of architectural rebellion.

 

25 The Royal Crescent Bath is for Sale through Savills.

 


As ever, do call us if you’d like to discuss a joinery design project further on +44 (0)1934 745270.  For more information on the range of project management services we offer, from design, installation and finish, please click here.

 

Little Thakeham for Sale

Little Thakeham, the house which Edwin Lutyens described as the ‘best of the bunch’ is for sale through Knight Frank, with a guide price of £5.5 million.

A large edwardian house in Sussex
Little Thakeham for Sale, West Sussex

 

It is no secret that at Artichoke we’re a big fan of Lutyens.  We have been fortunate to have been asked to work on several of his houses including Folly Farm.  As a designer and maker of architectural joinery, to be asked to add additional layers to his original works is one of the very greatest of privileges.   A previous blog post on the architectural joinery of Lutyens can be found here.

One of the great joys of Little Thakeham is in how Lutyens combined the Tudor style with Grand Edwardian Arts and Crafts country manor style.  We call it contemporary medieval, and it’s a very hard trick to pull off.  Lutyens managed to pull it off several times in fact (he was showing off) with Castle Drogo and Lindisfarne Castle being notable examples.

drawing room with large oriel window
The Drawing Room at Little Thakeham

 

The architectural design journey of Little Thakeham is not without controversy.  The client, Tom Blackburn, had made his fortune in America importing drink.  Returning with his fortune (and no doubt some drink), he commissioned the architect J Hatchard Smith to design a house which he then fell out of love with halfway through the build.  Sir Edwin Lutyens was called in for his opinion (which he gave with gusto) suggesting the half built house was pulled down and replaced with one built from local Pulborough stone.  Hatchard Smith was laid off (and paid off) and Lutyens got the job.

Quite brilliantly, Lutyens managed to sketch the entire house’s layout onto two sheets of paper on the train journey home following his first client meeting with Tom Blackburn.  He handed them to his architectural technician on his return who then drew them up.

And the Little Thakeham for sale today is the very same one sketched out on his train journey home.

 


As ever, do call us if you’d like to discuss a joinery design project further on +44 (0)1934 745270. For more information on the range of project management services we offer, from design, installation and finish, please click here.

 

 

 

 

Resurgence of the Cook’s Table

The cook’s table was a classic element of a Victorian Kitchen and in recent years we have seen a revival of its popularity in the modern home.

One characteristic of country house style is simple but solid furniture – stand alone pieces that are incorporated for storage and display or food preparation.

Traditionally, country house kitchens were furnished by local craftsmen who designed and made purposeful pieces of furniture which were handed down from generation to generation. As a result, it is common to find a mix of period styles among the furniture of a country kitchen.  Similar in their practicality and durability, but with subtle variations according to the period and the budget, such pieces complement each other well.

In the ‘back of house’ of grand country houses, the cook’s table was a central piece of the working kitchen. It was used for food preparation but also sometimes as a dining table for the servants.

 

view of the Victorian Kitchen, showing cooks table and stove
The beautiful Victorian kitchen at Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton

 

Historically, the cook’s table was made out of pine, oak, elm and a variety of fruit woods, oiled or polished to bring out the natural graining and features of the wood. Others were colour washed, or painted using primitive paints made from locally available materials such as buttermilk and eggs mixed with earth coloured pigments. Interestingly, in the Victorian era, a number of deaths occurred as the result of a popular shade of green paint and wallpaper. Scheele’s Green, which was made using copper arsenite, fatally poisoned a number of people until the connection was later realised. Nowadays, this green pigment is produced without dangerous toxicity.

 

A kitchen and cook’s table, designed and made by Artichoke. Read more about the inspiration behind this design here.

 

With sustainability in mind, at Artichoke we always focus on the practicality and purpose of design. It is true that while the island has become a popular feature of  contemporary kitchen design, it can be obtrusive and can dominate a space.  A cook’s table offers an elegant and less obtrusive alternative – just as practical but bringing a romantic aesthetic with its history and rusticity. It’s a testament to the beauty of simplicity, affording elegance alongside functionally.

Artichoke cook's table painted red

 

Artichoke’s wealth of experience and knowledge of period architectural detail and cabinet making affords us the specialist skills to deliberately design and make a variety of styles in a single suite of domestic rooms to give the impression that the rooms have evolved through various owners over time.  Such specific requirements are a perfect demonstration of the truly bespoke nature of our work.

Designing into the Elizabethan Country House

Many Artichoke projects tend to focus on Georgian and Victorian period country houses, with the occasional sojourn to the later Edwardian or to earlier Jacobean and Elizabethan periods. It is fascinating to see how styles of architecture and interior detailing evolve through the English country house. The entire post Norman history is deeply illustrated through architecture.

One architectural style we find particularly enchanting is the Elizabethan country house.  Our first major country house project, over 20 years ago, was Parnham House in Dorset, one of Britain’s finest examples of Elizabethan architecture.  We were commissioned by the owners to design various rooms including both kitchens, a private dressing room and a minstrell’s gallery, all made in our workshops in Somerset.  With great sadness, the house was extensively damaged by fire in 2018 and it is now on the market.

Country house with gravel driveway
Parnham House, built during the reign of Elizabeth I and reconfigured by John Nash in the 19th century.

 

Elizabethan Country House Architecture

The Elizabethan period (1560-1600) was a period of design transition in architecture.  England’s understanding of the Italian Renaissance was just coming to the forefront, spurned on by Henry VIII’s numerous contacts with Italy before breaking with Rome.  When Elizabeth took up her reign, the country’s economy started to improve following years of recklessness from Henry.  A focus back into farming created more money for wider groups of people across England, and a domestic building boom began.  Many smaller houses were built and many larger manors were created, often through remodelling of earlier Tudor or Medieval homes.

An early introduction to Italian Renaissance architecture was fused with England’s already well established Gothic architecture, alongside a little Dutch influence. This opulent mixture was brilliantly interpreted by English craftsmen who elevated this new hybrid style to stunning levels of romantic architectural detailing.

breamore house
Breamore House in Hampshire

 

Houses were typically symmetrical with long galleries and formal gardens, often laid out in an ‘E’ pattern. The medieval hall was replaced in importance by the long gallery which became the focus for family life alongside other living areas off the gallery.  Key decorative characteristics included large mullioned windows with square heads and ornamental strap work (both internal and external), a detail originating in Italy via Islamic ornament.  Extensive use of rectangular timber oak panelling was also prevalent, often made even richer with the use of carved strap work ornament. Combined with ornate plaster work ceilings and carved overmantels, the affect was striking and powerful.

Creating a Design Backstory

This kaleidoscope of detail presents a challenge to joinery designers like Artichoke. It is difficult to compete with it. In the Elizabethan era, domesticity as we know it today, simply didn’t exist.

For Parnham House we created a strategy, giving the furniture we designed the backstory of an Edwardian interior facelift.  The kitchen design took on detail from the medieval and Tudor periods, albeit with a Edwardian twist.  This approach was heavily influenced by Edwin Lutyens who took a similar approach with many of his buildings which are often Edwardian takes of medieval architecture.

The backstory is a great way to contextualise and harmonise design in an imposing period building, particularly pre Georgian designs, where domestic rooms didn’t exist.  A backstory gives design a single direction, ensuring the end result is sympathetic, elegant and above all for an Elizabethan house, deferent.

 

To discuss your project with Artichoke, email us at newprojects@artichoke.co.uk

How to Design a Boot Room

Artichoke’s design team is fairly obsessed with boot rooms. In fact, the domestic back end of a country house holds a rather geeky fascination for us. While boot rooms (or mud rooms) are hardly glamorous, they do present a variety of interesting design challenges.

The primary function of a boot room is to act as a valve between the outside elements and interior house. It should be a practical, functional room that everyone in the family uses, including the dog! In this blog we will explore some of the main considerations when designing a boot room.

 

boot room furniture with coats
Bespoke boot room, with plenty of storage, designed by Artichoke
Conceptual Design

It all stars with a conceptual design. In order produce the perfect boot room, its important to fully understand the family for whom it is intended. By getting to know our clients personally we are able to consider every aspect of their day to day life. For example, how many children or animals are there? Are shooting, fishing or riding regular family activities? What kind of sports kit needs to be stored? What sort of hats, and how many coats do they own? Do guns need to be stored? If so, what are the security requirements?…The list of requirements can be almost endless!

Early into the design process we produce a watercolour sketch, like the one below. This gives clients a clear picture of initial ideas and intent for the design.

 

Bootroom design by Artichoke

Common design oversights
Mud

How to deal with mud should be thoroughly thought through, especially if the room is likely to have heavy use. A hard-wearing material for the floor is essential. An obvious choice in a country house would be stone or tile (as seen below). Vinyl floor is another cheaper, very practical alternative.

English weather

In many country houses, boot rooms act as the main back entrance to the house. If this is the case it could be wise to consider an additional smaller entrance to act as a second valve to trap the cold and wind as family members or guests, enter and leave the house.

boot room with coats and hats
A painted surface is worth considering as it can be refreshed. You can see more images of this boot room here.
Drainage

Consideration should also be given to drainage. Artichoke designed the boot room below with a drain in the centre of the floor meaning mud and dirt could be swept directly into it. An externally mounted tap may be another key feature to think about. Having this outside allows muddy boots or animals to be cleaned off before they enter the house.

 

Arber Boot room 1317 - View 1
Bespoke Artichoke boot room with central floor drainage.  See completed images of this boot room here.
Function of the sink

If a sink is required we like to make sure its made appropriately for what it will be used for. For example, if it will be used for washing muddy boots or pets it must be large and made of a robust material. Alternatively if its only used for lighter activities such as flower arranging, we must consider the height of the tap to ensure that all tall vases can be filled.

 

stone boot room sink
A solid stone sink in this Artichoke boot room provides a hard wearing and attractive alternative to stainless steel.

 

"Artichoke

 

Obsessing over the small details is vital if one is to create boot rooms that work for each family’s very unique needs. Like much interior design, there are no right or wrong answers, but there is certainly poorly considered design which can be avoided by asking the right questions.

If you have a boot room project you’d like professionally designed, we’d love to discuss it. Email newprojects@artichoke.co.uk or call +44 (0)1934 745270.

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