Northumberland Hall Margate Kent + Lavender’s Blue

Our Testimony

Beach Lantern Northumberland Hall Margate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Opened in 1904, Northumberland Hall continues the gospel tradition into the 21st century. The Lord’s Day meetings keep going as does the Thursday evening Address. The gable fronted Edwardian brick and plaster façade remains true to the town and street and faith and scripture. Sometimes seeing is more than believing. Marilynne Robinson in The Death of Adam beseeches, “By the standards of my generation, all of my life I have gone to church with a kind of perseverance as I do to this day. Once recently I found myself travelling all night to be home in time for church, and it occurred to me to consider in what spirit or out of need I would need to do such a thing. My tradition does not encourage the idea that God would find any merit in it. I go to church for my own gratification, which is intense, although it had never occurred to me before to describe it to myself.” And that is the story of our Calvinist salvation, a longing fulfilled, a desire satisfied, a promise met, not a dramatic Damascene revelation but rather a gradual and rather beautiful opening and awakening of truths. Amen.

Cross Northumberland Hall Margate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Zion Place Northumberland Hall Margate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Zion Place Margate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Northumberland Hall Margate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Gable Northumberland Hall Margate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Scriptures Northumberland Hall Margate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Posted in Architecture | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mary Martin London + The Return Collection + Foreign + Commonwealth Office London

Power

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” croons Lisa-Marie Presley. You ain’t. And you won’t. Not yet. For Mary Martin London is busy sewing up a storm for her forthcoming fashion feat: The Return Collection. This comes hot and heavy on the haute heels of her last extravaganza Blood Sweat and Tears. This time it really is all about power dressing. And the corridors of power are about to be torn up by the thrust and throttle no room for boondoggle of a Mary Martin London show. “If our myths and truths are only another exotic blossoming, the free play of possibility,” writes Marilynne Robinson in The Death of Adam, “then they are fully as real and as worthy of respect as anything else.”

Rooftop The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Show. Not merely catwalk, for Mary will as ever be mixing decks in between directing the lighting, sound, photography, choreography, and always, laughter. There is really only one space that can hold its own for her solo show. Enter Durbar Court. “I like that the heads of the East India Company leaders will be looking down on my catwalk!” Mary howls laughing. “History and all that!” The Court was first used in 1867 for a reception of the Sultan of Turkey. King Edward VII threw his Coronation party here in 1902. Ms Robinson again, “At best, our understanding of any historical moment is significantly wrong, and this should come as no surprise, since we have little grasp of any present moment.” More recently, President Trump gave a speech here; Victoria Beckham showed last summer; Vivienne Westwood before that; but this is a first: a black female designer holding court in Durbar Court.

Downing Street Sign The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Staircase The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Statue The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Muses' Stair The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Empress Eugenie Muses' Stair The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Durbar Court The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Durbar Court Roof The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Durbar Court Arcades The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Columns The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chandelier Durbar Court The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is accessed off King Charles Street. It backs onto Downing Street. Numbers 10 and 11 can be glimpsed through muslin drapes. Architect George Gilbert Scott and the India Office’s surveyor Matthew Digby Wyatt were the dream design team. Completed in 1875, really it’s a cluster of buildings: the Foreign Office, India Office, Colonial and Home Offices. George Gilbert Scott supplied the august neoclassical cloak of architecture enveloping the inner sanctum of Matthew Digby Wyatt’s grand interior which reaches a climax in Durbar Court, a marvel in Greek, Sicilian and Belgian marble. Three storeys of columns and piers supporting arches rise to the glazed roof. The ground floor Doric and first floor Ionic columns are red Peterhead granite; the top floor Corinthian columns, grey Aberdeen granite. It’s the atrium of atria, arcades in Arcadia.

Frieze The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

There’s so much art and sculpture and history layered with meaning and misapprehension in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. En processional route to Durbar Court is the Muses’ Stair. An octagonal glass lantern lighting the Portland stone staircase is decorated by Canephorae, Roman goddesses of plenty, floating over cherubs representing Roman virtues. Portraits of Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie hang between red Devonshire marble and grey Derbyshire marble Corinthian columns.

2012 Olympic Torch The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“Dare to be you!” Reverend Andy Rider preached in his last sermon as Rector of Christ Church Spitalfields. Over 100 years ago Lady Sybil Grant wrote in her self hagiography, “Provided that we are a star we should not trouble about the relative importance of our position in the heavens.” Fastforward a century or so and Mary is confident of her place in the firmament. And daring to be Mary Martin London. The creation of Eve. “We should be thankful that our cinematographic life in London still affords the quality of mystery and unexpectedness,” proclaimed Lady Sybil. Big statement.

Mary Martin London The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Big statement architecture requires big statement fashion. Another interjection from Marilynne Robinson, “It all comes down to the mystery of the relationship between the mind and the cosmos.” First there was The Black Dress: “I see through a dark cloud of black mist.” Then The Red Dress: “The tainted bride is no longer a virgin.” Next came The White Dress: “I dream of memories when I was a Queen.” There’s only one dress left. The Rainbow Dress: “It’s finally coming – the biggest and the best! The Rainbow Dress will open The Return Collection!” the fashion artist declares. “A world champion ballerina will combine Tai quan dao and African dance on the catwalk. I’m bringing it in a bit different! People haven’t been out so I’m going to give them an amazing show. The Return to Africa. I’m out of the box!” Out of the box and into the Court. “Just A Dream” mourns Lisa-Marie Presley. Not for Mary Martin London. She is all about turning dreams into fantasies into realities into myths and truths. An uncommon wealth of talent.

Mary Martin London Men's Jacket © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Posted in Architects, Architecture, Art, Design, Fashion, Luxury, People | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Bentley + Lavender’s Blue

The Cannonball Run

Bentley © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Handily placed between Sexy Fish (the restaurant) and Annabel’s (the club), Jack Barclay on Berkeley Square, Mayfair, is the world’s oldest and largest Bentley dealership. For more than a century, it has been keeping the one percent on wheels. When you’re in full throttle sports gear (our tyres and our attire) breezing along the coast, escaping the heat of the city, who cares that your automobile is averaging 19 litres per 100 kilometres (15 miles to the gallon)? Everywhere looks better from behind the wheel of a hand built Bentley Continental GT Convertible. And that includes the English Riviera when the mercury’s rising.

Bentley Convertible © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Bentley English Riviera © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Stuart Blakley © Andreas Y @ Lavender's Blue

Bentley Interior © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Posted in Design, Luxury, People | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building + Le Gothique Wandsworth London

Mad For It

Wandsworth Common Pond © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Sunday afternoon cricket on Wandsworth Common makes for a bucolic tableau. It’s like a Lowry painting negative: starched white figures against a deep green, the working class city swapped for middle class suburbia. Or perhaps a Surrey village scene. Two centuries ago it would’ve been a Surrey village scene. Wandsworth only became a London Borough in more recent times. In the midst of the Common is a building locals refer to as “Dracula’s Castle” with good reason – its history is as dark as its slate roof.

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Windmill Lawn © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Treaty of Paris of 1856 brought the Crimean War formally to an end. The Royal Commission of the Patriotic Fund was established to collect and distribute money donated by the public for the widows and orphans of men killed in the Crimean War. The Fund’s Executive and Finance Committee decided to build an orphanage on the then edge of London for 300 daughters of soldiers, sailors and marines killed in the recent conflict. A well timed letter from Frederick, 4th Earl Spencer and great great grandfather of Diana, Princess of Wales, solved the site issue:

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Windmill © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“My Dear Sir, If the Patriotic Fund Commission should select my ground to found their Institution on Wandsworth Common I should be willing, in consideration of the national object, to take on half the price Mr Lee has fixed on the value viz: £50 an acre… I do not wish to encounter any difficulty with the Copyholders, and the Commissioners, if they entertain any position of land, must take all risks of those difficulties. Yours faithfully, Spencer.” The Committee accepted the Earl’s offer and bought 65 acres (26 hectares) for £3,700. Nearby Spencer Park, where Chef Gordon Ramsay has his London pad, is a reminder of the Northamptonshire aristocratic connection.

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London 1918 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The building may also look like a Victorian madhouse but that’s about the only use it hasn’t been even though it was originally called the Asylum. Now for a countdown through the decades: 1858 orphanage; 1914 hospital; 1919 orphanage once more; 1939 reception centre; 1946 training college; 1952 school; 1970 vacant; and of late, 27 apartments, 20 studios, 15 workshops, two offices, a drama school and Le Gothique bar and restaurant. Tom Bailey from the Thompson Twins lives in one of the apartments. Past residents have included Duran Duran guitarist Andy Taylor and Charlotte Jane Bennett. The latter was an unfortunate schoolgirl who burned to death in 1901 on an upper floor – her ghost is said to prowl the interior as night falls.

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London 1914 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

What on earth is a ‘reception centre’ or to use its full name the London Reception Centre? It is a somewhat euphemistic term for a refugee detention headquarters. Following the collapse of France and the Low Countries in 1940 in World War II, a flood of refugees entered Britain. Those from Germany and the Axis countries were usually interned while non enemy aliens were interviewed by immigration. MI5 decided to create a reception centre and where better than the highly adaptable Royal Patriotic School as it was known in its latest guise. Refugees from Occupied Europe had to pass through the reception centre – a sheep from the goats process. An average of 700 refugees were processed each month. Several spies were unmasked and hanged at Wandsworth Prison across the Common. It is rumoured that the Nazi Rudolf Hess was interrogated in the reception centre.

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Plants © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Major Rohde Hawkins was the original architect; Giles Quarme, the restoration architect. The 17th century George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh designed by William Wallace was the inspiration for the design. Major Hawkins sought to omit some of the ornamental details “to carry out which it was found would absorb too large an amount of the surplus at the disposal of the Commissioners”. Opening the orphanage, Queen Victoria declared it to be “beautiful, roomy and airy”. Recounting the day’s events in her diary that night, Her Majesty ended the entry with an entreaty: “May this good work, which is to bear my name, prosper!”

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Facade © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Building News praised the new orphanage as being “bold, picturesque and effective”. Later royal visitors would include King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, Princess Victoria, and Queen Amelia of Belgium. Country Life contributor Dr Roderick O’Donnell recognises the influence of municipal Flemish works in the architecture. “This is a secular gothic rather than ecclesiastical gothic influenced by buildings such as town halls in Florence and Bruges. There are also tones of Scottish baronial. The rhythm of a central tower with balancing towers either end of the façade was very popular during this period.” A corresponding orphanage (now Emanuel School) designed by Henry Saxon Snell was built for boys slightly to the north of the Royal Victoria Patriotic Asylum.

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Chapel © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Chapel Cross © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Tower © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Balcony © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Bow © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Dormers © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Pinnacle © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Great Hall Pinnacle © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Dormer © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Roof © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Roof Lantern © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Turret © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Statue © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Stonework © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Rear Courtyard © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London North Courtyard © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London North Courtyard Le Gothique © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Window © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Great Hall South Courtyard © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Great Hall © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Courtyard Pond © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Urn © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Chamfered Tower © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley67

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Le Gothique © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Corridor © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Survey of London Volume 49 Battersea (2013) edited by Andrew Saint records, “The lifespan of the Royal Commission of the Patriotic Fund Boys’ School (its official name) was brief. The Fund had been created in a surge of sympathy for the dead of the Crimean War, with the aim of maintaining their orphaned children. It was resolved to create a school and asylum for 300 girls, and another for 100 boys. The girls came first. With the money amply donated, the Commissioners bought the Clapham Junction site. This land’s southern portion was farmed, while at its centre arose the Royal Victoria Patriotic Asylum, conceived as a ‘national monument’ and built in 1858 to 1859 to ebullient gothic designs by Major Rohde Hawkins, architect to the Committee of Council on Education.”

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Entrance Hall © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“Built as a school for orphaned daughters of servicemen, 1857 to 1859, by Rhode [sic] Hawkins,” summarise Nikolaus Pevsner and Bridget Cherry in The Buildings of England London 2: South (1983). “A typically pompous Victorian symmetrical composition of yellow brick, with coarsely robust gothic detail. Three storeys with entrance below a central tower; lower towers at the ends, corbelled out turrets and bow windows. Statue of St George and the Dragon in a central niche. Separate chapel. Low concrete additions of the 1960s to the north.”

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Corbel © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Amongst the flourish of turrets, spikes and spires is a crocketed pinnacle with what appear to be mad cows nosediving off it. “It is strange that the gargoyles are in the form of hounds or lambs in lead!” observes heritage architect John O’Connell. “The Major designed this architectural element in timber and lead when it should all be in stone.” The orphanage Commissioners noted in their 1869 report that “from the size of the building and its peculiar construction and arrangements, it is a most expensive one to manage and keep in repair”. So much for Major Rohde Hawkins’ value engineering efforts! That’s no surprise. It is a complex complex with the main block built around a north courtyard and a south courtyard separated by a dining hall which is now used by the drama school. Both courtyards are surrounded on three sides by ground floor cloister type corridors. A rear courtyard cloistered on one side extends to the east and to the northeast is a standalone chapel.

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Staircase © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Master of the Gothic Revival architect Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin’s preferred builder George Myers constructed the orphanage. His tender of £31,337 also happened to be the lowest. “George Myers had an enormous works along the South Bank in Lambeth,” explains Dr O’Donnell. “Middlesex County Pauper Lunatic Asylum in Colney Hatch, Barnet, was his largest project.” The contractor made one change to Major Hawkins’ design, replacing a clock with a statue of St George and the Dragon – which as a skilled stonemason he may have carved himself – on the top floor of the entrance tower. Innovative construction methods included off site prefabrication of iron window frames, decorative leadwork and stone dressings. This allowed construction to be completed in under two years. Mark Justin, founder of Le Gothique relates, “This was the first building in the UK to have pre stressed concrete and mesh floors.” The restoration of the Royal Victoria Patriotic Building would take three times as long.

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth London Tracery © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“This building has a colourful history!” says Mark with more than a hint of understatement. He manages the bar and restaurant with his son Andrew. “Le Gothique is masculine not feminine because it’s named after the era not the building. I’ve been here for 35 years – I’m the longest serving landlord of a venue in London. Jean-Marie Martin was our French Head Chef for the first 25 years. Our Head Chef is now Italian Bruno Barbosa. If I’m asked for a description of our food I’d say ‘modern European’.”

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth Le Gothique Gnocchi © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Mark confirms the Rudolf Hess story is more than a rumour. “He came here in 1945. Why did he come to the UK though? On a whim he crash landed in the Duke of Hamilton’s estate in Scotland. He seemingly thought he could arrange peace talks with the Duke who was involved with the British Government’s war policy but he misunderstood pacifism here. Churchill went ballistic and he was arrested. But why did he come? He was invited by the Royals, specifically King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. Hess spent three days in the reception centre. The Government papers were due to be released but have been classified again until 2035. It’s all to do with Rudolf Hess and the potential downfall of the monarchy.”

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth Le Gothique Pear Tart © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“The restoration and conversion were featured in a 24 page spread in Architects’ Journal. Architect Eva Jiricna did the apartment interiors. She replaced the wooden beams with high tension steel wire and added glass staircases to mezzanine bedrooms.” Mark finishes, “Businessman Paul Tutton bought the 3,700 square metre derelict listed building from the Greater London Corporation for a pound. It was pigeon central! He restored and converted the building incrementally. Geoff Adams bought flat number one in 1985 for £24,000. Geoff died last year.” Gnocchi with butternut squash velouté followed by tart aux poires with vanilla ice cream, modern and European and delicious, are served alfresco in the north courtyard. Upstairs, a figure darts across one of the windows. Could it be Charlotte Jane?

Royal Victoria Patriotic Building Wandsworth Le Gothique Tarte Poire © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Posted in Architects, Architecture, Developers, Luxury, People, Restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chilston Park Hotel + Lenham Kent

Palace in Wonderland

Lenham Village Kent © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The black and white half timbering of the medieval house jettying over the graveyard is matched by the monochromatic wooden porch gable attached to the Early and Very Early English St Mary’s Church. Coordinating domestic and ecclesiastical architecture separated by the dead. Lenham Village betwixt Ashford and Maidstone in a stretch of Kent that never feels entirely rural lives up to its Medieval Village brown sign. A discreet distance away on the far side of the M20 lies Chilston Park Hotel, full of the living and the alive.

St Mary's Church Lenham © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Alice in Wonderland scale chess board and pieces on the lawn are enough to make Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson burst into song. And the weather would force Belinda Carlisle to belt out her hit Summer Rain. Safely and elegantly ensconced in the great indoors, what’s not to love though? Lunch in The Marble Lounge is a sheer delight. Presumably named after its gargantuan pedimented fire surround, a piece of architecture in its own right, the entrance hall as it really is could also be called The Flagstone Hall or The Hall of Mirrors.

Chilston Park Hotel Kent Topiary © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chilston Park Hotel Kent Chessboard © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chilston Park Hotel Kent Seats © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chilston Park Hotel Kent © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chilston Park Hotel Kent Entrance © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chilston Park Hotel Kent Facade © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chilston Park Hotel Kent Mews © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chilston Park Hotel Kent Marble Hall © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chilston Park Hotel Kent Oriential Case © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chilston Park Hotel Kent Bust © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chilston Park Hotel Kent Portrait © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chilston Park Hotel Kent Staircase Hall © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chilston Park Hotel Kent Staircase © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

It’s like lunching in a National Trust property. So it comes as no surprise to learn that Chilston Park was converted into a hotel by Martin and Judith Miller, authors of Miller’s Antiques. Judith is also a presenter on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow. “I just feel a connection with historical buildings,” she shares. “My interest in antiques comes from discovering them through the pursuit of history.” Almost four decades later, and despite changing hands several times, a current inventory of the furnishings and art in the rooms would read like a supplement to Miller’s Antiques. The last private owner was the extravagantly monikered Aretas Akers-Douglas, 1st Baron Douglas of Baads and Viscount Chilston of Boughton Malherbe. The peer was a Conservative Home Secretary. It is currently owned by Hand Picked Hotels whose portfolio includes historic properties across Great Britain and the Channel Islands.

Chilston Park Hotel Kent Landing © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The architectural history of the house is almost as complicated as the Really Early English St Mary’s Church Lenham. The first building was a turn of the 16th century courtyard house. In the opening decades of the 18th century, an earlier central tower was replaced with a three bay pedimented projection and the house was generally revamped. The resultant balanced elevations – two storey red brick sash windowed hipped roof – present a convincingly coherent Georgian pile. Subtle asymmetries and eccentric quirks of the floor plan reveal otherwise. A neo Jacobean staircase hall, ancillary stairs and corridors all lit by roof lanterns gobble up the courtyard. There are 53 bedrooms in total spaced across the main house, mews houses and converted stables. On the first floor of the main house, the northeast facing Queen Anne Room, Hogarth Room, Guilt Room and Oriental Room overlook the lake. The east and southwest facing Regency, Victoria, Byron and Evelyn Rooms have views of nine hectares of parkland. Tulip and Rowlandson Rooms overlook the mews houses to the west. As Lewis Carroll wrote, “There were doors all round the hall.”

Chilston Park Hotel Kent Corridor © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Posted in Architecture, Art, Country Houses, Hotels, Luxury, People | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Kibou Japanese Hot Kitchen + Ramen + Sushi Bar Battersea London

Signore and Madama Butterfly

Kibou Japanese Restaurant Northcote Road London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The bustling Northcote Road just got a whole lot more bustling with summertime weekend pedestrianisation. Hurrah! So we’ve really got no excuse to not sashimi over to the newly opened Kibou opposite The Bolingbroke gastropub and Uncommon deli. It’s a Japanese hot kitchen, ramen and sushi bar inspired by Tokyo’s canteen style drinking dens. This is their second branch: Kibou launched in 2013 in Cheltenham, home of fine breeds (and that’s just the Ladies’ College).

Kibou Japanese Restaurant Entrance Northcote Road London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Kibou Japanese Restaurant Sign Northcote Road London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Kibou Japanese Restaurant Facade Northcote Road London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Kibou Japanese Restaurant Flowers Northcote Road London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Kibou Japanese Restaurant Canopy Northcote Road London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Kibou Japanese Restaurant Artwork Northcote Road London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Kibou Japanese Restaurant Chairs Northcote Road London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Kibou Japanese Restaurant Art Northcote Road London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Kibou Japanese Restaurant Doll Northcote Road London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Kibou Japanese Restaurant Flower Northcote Road London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

It’s a gastronomic education for sure getting to know our hosomaki (thin sushi) from our futomaki (fat sushi), our tataki (seared fish) from our temaki (cone shaped roll) not to mention donburi (rice bowl). And we’re stretching our vocabulary, adding korokke which means croquette, ebi for prawn and hamachi for yellowtail. It feels like half the Battersea postcode is jammed in here tonight. We’re not complaining. Course after course arrives, each plate resembling an arrangement of origami sculptures. ­­The nigiri is young and we are kibou (Japanese for filled with hope) in Kibou.

Kibou Japanese Restaurant Prawns Northcote Road London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Posted in Art, Restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pelham Crescent + Wellington Square Hastings East Sussex

Le Confinement Est Fini

Walkway Pelham Crescent Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Joseph Kay (1775 to 1847) may not be an educated household name these days, but he hung out with some better known architects. He was a pupil of Samuel Pepys Cockerell (1753 to 1827), travelled the Continent with architect Robert Smirke (1780 to 1867) and married Sarah Henrietta, daughter of architect William Porden (1755 to 1822). His pièce de résistance is undoubtedly one of the architectural highlights of East Sussex.

St Mary in the Castle Church Pelham Crescent Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Terrace Bay Pelham Crescent Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Bow Pelham Crescent Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Bay Pelham Crescent Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Area Pelham Crescent Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Wellington SquareHastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Terraces Wellington Square Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Wellington Square Hastings © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Pelham Crescent is extraordinary in lots of ways, from its setting (carved out of a cliff) to its complexity (it includes a rabbit warren of cellars and areas as well as a lower street level shopping arcade) to its arrangement (St Mary in the Castle Church is plonked in the middle of the arc of townhouses). Joseph Kay owned one of the townhouses as well as a villa in the Belmont area of Hastings. An architect’s salary of £150 a year clearly stretched far in those days. A blue plaque on one of the townhouses records ‘George Devey (1820 to 1886) Architect and Pioneer of the Arts + Crafts Movement lived in this house 1870 to 1886’. He clearly didn’t practice what he preached for Pelham Crescent is as far removed as is possible from Arts + Crafts. High above Pelham Crescent are the remains of the Norman Hastings Castle just to add further drama to the setting. Heritage architect John O’Connell calls the castle “The Ostia Antica of the South Coast”.

Regency Terrace Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The terrace and church were completed in the 1820s for landowner Thomas Pelham 1st Earl of Chichester (1728 to 1805). Each of the stuccoed houses is only one bay wide – but what a bay! The ground floor boasts a tripartite Wyatt window; the first floor, a balconied and hooded bow window; the second floor, a balconied and hooded French door; and the top floor brags a half moon Diocletian window. It’s as if Mr Pelham swallowed the architectural dictionary or at least the fenestration chapter. The four end houses have charming scrolled pediments topped by acroteria. Inland to the northwest of Hastings Castle is Wellington Square, started just before and finished just after Pelham Crescent. Developed by speculative bankers, it is less coherent yet of a similar ilk to Joseph Kay’s work with at least as many idiosyncratic details. “The Nash Class of ‘99” says John O’Connell. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Regency Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Posted in Architects, Architecture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Hastings East Sussex + Foyle’s War

Nodal Point Class A

View Foyle's Country Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“Welcome to Foyle’s Country!” declare the friendly locals. Their locale is Hastings’ answer to Bristol’s Clifton or Dublin’s Killiney. It’s a ravishingly unrepentant patchwork quilt of cottages and gardens and love knitted across the lower – and occasionally upper – gradients of the hills that bow down to England’s southeast coast. Interspersed with some rather grand Nash-sur-Mer terraces. “You have to photograph St Just!” they cry. “That’s Detective Chief Inspector Foyle’s house although the interiors were filmed elsewhere.” A ­­faded sign on the flank wall next to the rather smart three storey plus multi bowed Regency St Just (who knew an interwar policeman’s salary was so generous?) reads: ‘T Noalles. Plumber, Painter and Glazier. Writing, Graining and Gilding. Estimates Given.’ Mr Foyle’s accent is certainly more plummy than plumber.

Townhouses Foyle's Country Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Cottage Foyle's Country Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Croft Road Foyle's Country Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Cottages Foyle's Country Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Roofline Foyle's Country Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Regency Terrace Foyle's Country Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

IMG_7430

Regency Townhouses Foyle's Country Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Terrace Foyle's Country Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Just House Foyle's Country Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Just Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Clement's Church Foyle's Country Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Dormer Foyle' Country Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Bay Window Foyle's Country Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Bay Foyle's Country Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

In Umbra Ecclesiae Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The very sunny very atmospheric very colourful (check out the half red squirrel peeping out of a stone basket) very real set of Foyle’s War was a training ground for thespian soldiers with Edward Fox, James McAvoy, Tobias Menzies, Rosamond Pike, and, eh, Danny Dyer, working the trenches. With more country houses than a Burke’s Guide, lemon curd sandwiches by the dozen, ladies wearing lavender water, and as many twists and turns as Murder on the Venice Simplon-Orient Express, no wonder Foyle’s War was an instant television success. It’s all terribly tickety boo. A celebration of flotsam and jetsam narratives floating across topsy turvy townscapes and higgledy piggledy farmyards. Foyle’s War features some memorable wartime sayings too such as, “Up with the lark; to bed with the Wren.” Cue Chris de Burgh’s ‘Borderline’ playing…

Red Squirrel Foyle's Country Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Posted in Architecture, People | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Holy Trinity Hastings Church East Sussex + Samuel Sanders Teulon

Alpha and Omega

Parapet Tracery Holy Trinity Church Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Visitors are given the friendliest of welcomes. “We’re brothers! Do you know St Peter’s Church Brighton? It is an HTB plant. We’re a church plant of St Peter’s. We’re a plant of a plant! We have a congregation of about 200 people.” HTB is of course Holy Trinity Brompton, the Anglican church in Kensington where the Alpha Course began in 1977. Alpha, a series of interactive sessions exploring the basics of the Christian faith, soon exploded into the worldwide phenomenon it is now.

Quoins Holy Trinity Church Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Hood Tracery Holy Trinity Church Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Tracery Holy Trinity Church Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Close to Hastings Railway Station, the Grade II Holy Trinity on Robertson Street is not as old as it looks. Presumably the architect Samuel Sanders Teulon, as a practitioner of the Early English style, would have taken that as a compliment. The building was completed over eight years starting in 1851. It is constructed of coursed rubble with dressed stone details such as the tracery, quoins and trefoil pierced parapet. HTH, or Holy Trinity Hastings Church, is a forceful and accomplished piece of polygonal ecclesiastical architecture from its semi octagonal apse to its hexagonal vestry.

Fountain Holy Trinity Church Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Posted in Architects, Architecture | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hastings East Sussex + Lady Sybil Grant

Samphire Word Salad

Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Her Ladyship again. As ever, she shares her pearls of wisdom in the 1912 literary curio Samphire. “For we say in the Cinque Ports, ‘I am going to Clapham,’ just as you might announce that you are going to Paris. Also Clapham, being a junction, serves to cloak our ultimate destination from the curiosity of our fellow townsmen.” The Cinque Ports, sometimes referred to as the “Cradle of the Royal Navy”, were a medieval confederation of English Channel ports formed to furnish ships and sailors for the King’s service. The original five included Dover, Hythe, New Romney, Sandwich and Hastings. Lady Sybil Grant demands, “Of course you know the Cinque Ports by now? In any case it is not for want of telling over and over again, in good sound style properly punctuated, and in an English above reproach. However, I am never tired of talking about them.”

Hastings Castle East Sussex View © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

West Hill Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Priory Road Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Hastings Castle East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Hastings Castle © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Hastings Castle Hill East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Posted in Architecture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hastings East Sussex + Esplanade

Feeling Peachy

Beach Esplanade Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“You write like an angel,” architect and bon viveur Fergus Flynn-Rogers once remarked during a long forgotten country house lunch party in County Wicklow. Sometimes we photograph like an angel too. And with that, Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem Agnus Dei plays.

Pier Frame Esplanade Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Beach Huts Pier Esplanade Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Pier Esplanade Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Undercroft Esplanade Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Townhouses Esplanade Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Townhouse Esplanade Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Terrace Esplanade Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Terrace Frame Esplanade Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Beach Huts Esplanade Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Regency Terrace Esplanade Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Medallion Esplanade Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Cornice Esplanade Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Posted in Architecture, Town Houses | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Hastings East Sussex + Lavender’s Blue

Nothing Erases This Feeling

Old Town Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

We had to escape the city was sticky and cruel. Sometimes, life is best not being an actual riot. And so we battled our way to Hastings. It must be the most underrated understated overshadowed overlooked resort abutting the English Channel. The town – this is getting serious – really doesn’t live down to its rep. That said, it’s not chichi. It’s not bohemian. It’s not trendy. Rather, Hastings feels real from the fisherman working the pebbly beach to the friendly locals keen to share titbits “numbering of houses is all over the place here”. It’s as historic as you would expect for a conquered town forever linked to one of the most famous dates on record. Colourful eclectic architecture lightens the winding streets (literally on Winding Street) and brightens the climbing hills. We drove all night to get to you (probably on Tackleway). It is all right.

Pelican Diner Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Cliff Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Cross Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Beach Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Blue House Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Boat Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Dog Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Fishermen's Huts Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Fishermen's Beach Huts Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Fisherman's Hut Hastings East Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Posted in Architects, Architecture, Town Houses | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chelsea Physic Garden London + Sir Hans Sloane

Sloane Range

Hospital Road Chelsea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

It’s the alternative Chelsea Flower Show. The permanent one on the banks (or at least literally used to be before the Embankment got in the way) of the Thames. A little bit of Kew gone upstream. Somewhere to learn the difference between dicotyledon and monocotyledon order beds. Permanent is the word. London’s oldest botanic garden was established by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries seven years after the Great Fire of London.

Chelsea London Townhouse © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Its original purpose was to grow medicinal herbs as a training facility – the river provided handy transport for plants and people. In 1680 an Irish apprentice Hans Sloane (later knighted) began his studies at the Garden. Little did the Apothecaries realise he would become its saviour and set it on the path to 21st century survival. The Irishman would later found the nearby Cadogan Estate, lending his surname to golden real estate such as Sloane Square and Sloane Street. Oh, and there’s even an upper class caricature that borrows his surname: Sloane Ranger.

Cheyne Walk Chelsea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Embankment London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Physic Garden London View © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Branches Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Plants Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Pond Rockery Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Trees Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Urn Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Sir Hans Sloane Statue View Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Sir Hans Sloane Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Sir Hans Sloane Statue Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Glasshouse Lawn Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Glasshouse Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Glasshouse Garden Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Glasshouse Entrance Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Glasshouse Finial Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Glasshouse Roof Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Glasshouse Roof Frame Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Statuary Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Stone Urn Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Red Flower Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Plants Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Plant Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Pink Flowers Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Pink Flower Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Green Plant Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Horticultural historian Sue Minter relates his rise to fame and fortune: “After qualifying in 1687 Hans Sloane travelled to Jamaica to serve as private physician to the 2nd Duke of Albemarle. Two years later, he returned to London armed with a special recipe for milk chocolate and the compound was quinine – a medicine capable of preventing and curing malaria.” He purchased the Manor of Chelsea (which included the Physic Garden) in 1772. As a thank you for his training, he rented the Garden to the Apothecaries in perpetuity for £5 a year. The same rent is still paid to his descendants.

Flowers Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Paths radiate from a centrally placed statue of Sir Hans Sloane. Despite the Garden’s relatively small size – 1.6 hectares – it is a cornucopia of historic delights from the 18th century Pond Rockery, the oldest in Europe, to glasshouses built in 1902 of Burmese teak. One of the glasshouses, The Cool Fernery, rejoices in Pteridomania, or fern madness. The Chelsea Physic Garden is now home to 5,000 different medicinal, herbal, useful and edible plants. On that note, anyone for Piedmontese peppers, aubergine caponata and braised artichoke in the restaurant marquee?

Flower Chelsea Physic Garden London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

 

Posted in Design, Restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Belair House + Park Dulwich London

Season of The Unexpected

Belair House West Dulwich London Lake © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

A little along Gallery Road, opposite Lovers’ Lane, stands a distinguished villa. Belair, whether two words, hyphenated or a portmanteau is a class signifier from Los Angeles to Wicklow to Dulwich. Pure class. Belair House in the picturesque perfect postcard pretty prestigiously pristine village of Dulwich in southeast London was built in 1785. That’s a fact. Or at least it’s the date proudly painted on the pediment over the entrance door. But all is not how it seems. What is rather more certain is the original name of house was College Place and the client, John Willes. A wealthy corn trader from Whitechapel, he first leased 20 hectares known as Home Farm from Dulwich College some 14 years earlier. The house would be renamed Belair by a later owner, solicitor Charles Rankin, in 1829.

Belair House West Dulwich London Ducks © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Local shopkeeper and historian Brian Green records in his 2002 book Dulwich: A History, “Belair is a fine example of an Adam style Georgian house. For many years it had a model farm in its 48 acres of grounds… In the lodge, still standing at the front entrance, lived the under-gardener who was responsible for looking after the grapevine hothouse, the cactus hothouse and three other large greenhouses. The coachman lived next door in the coach house… After the death of Sir Evan Spencer, the last occupant, in 1937, the contents were auctioned and the house fell into some decay. During World War II it was first used by the Royal Army Service Corps as a depot and later by the Free French forces. The grounds were used by the local platoon of the Home Guard for grenade practice.”

Belair House West Dulwich London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Over to Ian McInnes, Chair of the Dulwich Society, “No one knows who the original architect was for Belair. Despite many articles suggesting it was the Adam brothers, there is no information in the Dulwich Estate archives to support that. We have quite detailed background on the owners in the 19th century but nothing on the original architect(s) – what you see today is of course an early 1960s ‘impression’ of what a late 18th century house in a park ought to look like.” So it is “Adam style” as Brian Green points out but probably not Robert, James or William Adam. And what an impression!

Belair House West Dulwich London Front Elevation © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

In 1961, under the ownership of Southwark Council, Belair was radically stripped back to its original form, more or less. A villa reborn. A vision reimagined. A variation on a theme recomposed. Rationalised single storey bow ended wings were added either side. Behind a blind bow window, the north facing wing is actually hollow and conceals a staircase winding up to a first floor terrace which embraces the mother of all views. In the distance, a serpentine lake nestled in the pleasure grounds radiates in the early summer heat, red mace, yellow flag and purple loosestrife erupting in a blaze of colour.

Belair House West Dulwich London Facade © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Belair House West Dulwich London Entrance Front © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Belair House West Dulwich London Entrance © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Belair House West Dulwich London Pediment © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Belair House West Dulwich London Date © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Belair House West Dulwich London Park © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Belair House West Dulwich London Staircase Bow © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Belair House West Dulwich London Garden © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Belair House West Dulwich London Garden Front © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Belair House West Dulwich London Parkland © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Belair House West Dulwich London Side View © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Belair House West Dulwich London Bow Front © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Belair House West Dulwich London Ionic Column © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Belair House West Dulwich London Balustrade © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Belair House West Dulwich London Side Elevation © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Belair House West Dulwich London Staircase © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“The architects for this reconstruction,” explains Ian, “were Austin Vernon + Partners, most probably Malcolm Pringle, but the elderly Austin Vernon may have also had a hand in it as he had done quite a bit of good neo Georgian in his career. All of the practice’s records were destroyed in the 1990s.” Returning to the identity of the original architect, Henry Holland is sometimes mentioned. “The Henry Holland connection comes from Thurlow House in West Norwood, also southeast London,” Ian says, “which he did design and was built roughly at the same time. But that’s supposition and there is no proof he was the architect of Belair.”

Belair House West Dulwich London Blind Bow © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The period between 1785 and 1961 saw Belair House swell and deflate like bagpipes. In the 19th century the building was transmogrified under the direction of then owner Charles Hutton, Deputy Lieutenant for London. W­­ings and glasshouses and attics and grandeur were added to accommodate the Huttons and their 11 children and 10 servants. In 1980, the Dulwich Society Journal declared, rightly so, “One has a better idea now of the simple elegance of the original Georgian design than would have been the case a century ago, when it was obscured by Victorian wings and outbuildings.” Belair is now a restaurant and wedding venue. Mark Fairhurst Architects were responsible for sensitively extending and converting the former late 18th century stables building and early 19th century gatelodge into fully residential use.

Belair House West Dulwich London Former Stables © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“The brief,” explains Mark, “was to restore the existing stables building, which had been poorly converted into flats, and create a modern, flexible living space suitable for a young family.” An enticing blend of old and new architecture was the result. “The concept was to create an open, fluid ground floor living area by introducing a linear glass and steel pavilion linking the rooms created within the narrow existing building, and visually linking the accommodation with the surrounding landscape. Random outbuildings were replaced by a new single storey guest wing linked to the listed building via a glazed winter garden in the entrance courtyard.” The gatelodge is used as a studio linked to the house.

Belair House West Dulwich London Gatelodge Sign © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Dulwich Society Journal concludes, “Belair was the first of many imposing mansions to be built in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the only one to have survived in anything like its original form.” Mireille Galinou records in The Dulwich Notebook, “The architectural historian John Harris referred to the ‘exceptional survival of Belair, a house of 1785 in a designed landscape, in his 1990 essay on London’s 18th century gardens.” She continues, “Survival is the right word. Local historian Patrick Darby discovered in the Minutes of the Dulwich Estate’s Governors’ Meetings a ‘serious proposal to demolish Belair, fill in the lake, and cover it with 200 small villas – a proposal only thwarted by the Charity Commissioners!” Further down Gallery Road, as its name would suggest, lies Dulwich Picture Gallery. A fading banner clinging to the railings advertises a British Surrealism exhibition. The gallery is closed due to a pandemic. The name of the exhibition? ‘Season of The Unexpected’. Surreal, indeed.

Belair House West Dulwich London Gatelodge Chimney © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

­­­

Posted in Architects, Architecture, Country Houses, Luxury, People, Restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Hide at Home Restaurant London + Ollie Dabbous

Please Do Eat the Daisies

The Queen's Meadow Piccadilly London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

One of the stalwarts of the London restaurant scene, Le Caprice, has sadly closed. It was the all stars favourite, or at least was for the earlier decades of its 40 year lifespan, hosting late and living legends from Diana Dors to Princess Diana to Diana Ross. A little bit of 20th century glamour vanished with its closure. Even more sadness saying farewell, adieu, goodbye to nearby Indian Accent. There was nowhere better to savour soy keema, quail egg and lime leaf butter pao than in this intimately luxurious luxuriously intimate hideaway. Relative newcomer Hide, a scallop’s throw from Le Caprice, has been steadily growing its presence since opening on Piccadilly in 2018. Hide at Home – the same Michelin starred food delivered to your doorstep – is Chef Ollie Dabbous’ latest innovation. It comes with Hide at Home Culinary Instructions which boil down to “eat and enjoy”. Our Saturday evening meal arrives:

Hide Restaurant Piccadilly London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Hide Restaurant London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Each course is an individual explosion of taste, texture and colour with a common aesthetic theme of Hide’s signature edible flowers. Hide Restaurant has three spaces denoting floor level: Below, Ground and Above, the latter with sweeping views across Piccadilly to Green Park and its latest addition, The Queen’s Meadow. Eating on our terrace, we add a new fourth space: Outside, which has sweeping views across laurel and bay trees to our obelisk topped trellis. Ollie Dabbous’ aim is, “To make food taste as good as it possibly can by respecting the integrity of the ingredient through a style of cooking that is organic but refined.” This rings true, whether enjoying his food in Below, Ground or Above or best of all, Outside.

Hide at Home Restaurant London Pudding © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Posted in Architecture, Luxury, People, Restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment