Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Eyford Park, England's Favorite House

The entrance to Eyford Park, Gloucestershire,
designed by Guy Dawber and built 1911 to 1912.
Photographed by Paul Barker, published 2004.
Country Life Picture Library.
Concluding - at least for now - the series of a dozen consecutive posts with a connection to the quintessential English country house Daylesford (starting with Pat "Bubbles" Rothermere here from April, 2014), Devoted Readers are asked to consider the house known as Eyford Park.  Country Life magazine named the private residence "England's Favorite House" in a 2011 contest of over more than 150 properties judged by Emma Bridgewater, Annabel Astor, Charlie Brooks and "Downton Abbey" creator Julian Fellowes.

Eyford Park, the entrance (north) front,
photographed by Paul Barker, published 2004.
Country Life Picture Library.
Although not the grandest or even the most architecturally significant, Eyford Park has "that elusive quality, a homely [editor's note:  yes, this is correctly used; see comments] warmth that simply makes you want to live there.  This is a testament to the skills of the family that has owned it for three generations," the Country Life committee said in a press release.  Sir Cyril Kleinwort with Lady Kleinwort bought the estate in December, 1972, with their giving up nearby Sezincote to one of their daughters.  Later, Eyford Park was bequeathed to their daughter Charlotte Herber-Percy who lived in the main house until about 2010 when she passed it on to her daughter Serena Prest.  Mrs. Heber-Percy then moved to the converted stable block.

Eyford Park, aerial view from the south.
English Heritage, View Finder.
Local legend has it that John Milton began writing Paradise Lost in the first house on the property, built as a retreat in the 1640s.  A second house was built, this time in the location as the present house, as an Italianate mansion in the 1870s by the Cheetham family.  Although the lodge still remains, that house was demolished by John Cheetham to build the current house, commissioned in 1911 from architect Guy Dawber.

A portrait of the architect Sir Guy Dawber
by William Orpen, 1930, from the RIBA collection
via BBC Public Catalog Foundation.
Guy Dawber became a great admirer of the vernacular architecture of the Cotswolds early in his career, working as clerk of the works during the construction of Batsford Park (later inherited by the father of the famous Mitford sisters) near Moreton-in-Marsh after an apprenticeship in Dublin.  Dawber started his independent practice in 1890 in London, soon becoming well known for middle-sized stone country houses, often in the revival Tudor or Late Stuart styles.  In 1925, Dawber founded the Council for the Preservation of Rural England after writing extensively on the vernacular buildings of the Cotswolds, Kent, and Sussex.

The west end of Eyford Park.
Country Life Picture Library.
While it can be tricky to apply a label of architectural style on every house, The Devoted Classicist would called this an Arts & Crafts house of the later period where classicism become more into play than the more medieval aspects that were hallmarks of the early days of the movement.  Some would call it (English) Queen Anne (which is different from the earlier period of that name in the U.S.) and some would call it Edwardian.  In any case, there is no question that it is anything less than a spectacularly handsome house.  It is Grade II listed.

An oblique view of the south (garden) front
of Eyford Park.
Country Life Picture Library.
Although there are some quirky features that resulted from an apparent pre-construction revision to make the house slightly smaller, compromises are not immediately evident on the entrance (north) front or the garden (south) front.  Inside, some of the uses of the rooms have changed to suit the needs of the current owners and some spaces have changed with opening of walls and rearranging partitions.

The north garden at Eyford Park
in a 2008 photo by Paul Barker.
Country Life Picture Library.
"What I've been trying to do is to modernize it and make it more child friendly," Mrs. Prest told Country Life.  "I hope we've hit the right note, with baths that work (they never really did in my grandmother's time) and yet none of that modern, hotel-like feel of interior design.  Eyford is not a Chatsworth or a Blenheim - it only has six bedrooms - but it's really alive.  Each day, I pinch myself at how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful, peaceful, yet practical house."

A detail of the site plan of Eyford Park.
The area in pink indicates a proposal for an indoor
swimmng pool in a portion of the converted stable block.
Drawing via public documents.
Guy Dawber laid out the gardens in the 1920s, but the Kleinworts brought in Graham Stuart Thomas in 1976 to improve the landscaping, as he had done at Sezincote; he returned again during the ownership of Mrs. Heber-Percy.  And John Fowler of Colefax & Fowler was consulted on the decoration, as also he had done at Sezincote.

The proposed floor plan for Eyford Park.
(Not as built)
"Recent Designs in Domestic Architecture"
The Billiard Room and the Housekeeper's Room were deleted, along with the Kitchen wing.  The Drawing Room was made longer, but the fireplace was left off-center.  Later, a flat roof garage was added on the east end; it now has a rooftop conservatory.  The Hall was later made into the Dining Room and the Business Room was later made into the Breakfast Room.  Presumably, the original Dining Room is now a Family Room.

The garden side of Eyford Park as originally
proposed in a circa 1910 rendering.
"Recent Designs in Domestic Architecture"
"About 60% of the carpets and curtains and 90% of the furniture are my grandmother's," Mrs. Prest told Country Life.  It is not difficult to see the influence of John Fowler in the Drawing Room, for example.

The Drawing Rom of Eyford Park
as photographed by Paul Higham,
and published in 2011.
Country Life Picture Library.
In 2004, Penelope Reeve was brought in to paint murals on the walls of the space that became the Dining Room.

The Dining Room, originally the Garden Hall.
Country Life Picture Library.
A series of scenes inspired by the canals of Venice cover the walls and incorporate the members of the family, including the housekeeper.

A detail of the current Dining Room
in Eyford Park.
Country Life Picture Library.
The Breakfast Room was apparently intended as a home office for the original owner, a diplomat often in foreign service, explaining its relatively formal proportions and detailing.

The current Breakfast Room of Eyford Park.
Country Life Picture Library.
An archway was added to connect the Kitchen and Breakfast Room as a concession to modern living.

A view from the Kitchen to the Breakfast Room
in a photo by Paul Higham published in 2011.
Country Life Picture Library.
More evidence of Penelope Reeve's murals line the passage outside the Dining Room at the staircase.

A detail of the staircase at Eyford Park
in a photo by Paul Higham, published 2011.
Country Life Picture Library.
The paneling of the staircase is painted in three glazed straw tones as one comes to expect from a Colefax & Fowler scheme to highlight the architectural detailing.

The staircase at Eyford Park
in a photo by Paul Higham, published 2011.
Country Life Picture Library.
The attic (not shown) was converted to additional family use, giving "rooms where a million dogs or children can mill around."

The upstairs landing at Eyford Park.
(Photo by Paul Higham not used)
Country Life Picture Library.
Despite the accolades, Eyford Park is not particularly well-known.  The house is not open to the public but charity-related events have sometimes been held on the grounds.  Eyford Park appears on the dust jacket of Clive Aslet's book THE EDWARDIAN COUNTRY HOUSE, A SOCIAL AND ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY and the same image along with another appears inside, but other than captions, there is no accompanying text.  It is an excellent book, however, and highly recommended for those interested in the country houses built in Britain between 1890 and 1939.  Note must be made that it is a rewrite of sorts, or a new, expanded edition of Clive Aslet's 1982 book THE LAST COUNTRY HOUSES.  These titles as well as others by Clive Aslet are available for order at a discount from the published price here.

by Clive Aslet, published November, 2012.
If reading this in a format other than the standard on-line version, visit the main blog site to leave a comment, learn more about The Devoted Classicist, search the archives, and read other posts in this series with a connection to Daylesford.  And lastly, a special thanks to Devoted Readers TB and TW who generously contributed advice and images for this post.


  1. In this case, "homely" is used in its proper context. Homely means "like home". In later years, and in American parlance it has come to mean "plain and without interest". Our version of homely is "homey", but it is bastardized English. The correct spelling and usage is "homely".

    1. Thank you, Cynthia, you put it better than I could have. I put the notation in because I was concerned it would be taken as an error. My new standard comment on entering a house will be "Oh, how utterly homely."

    2. Cynthia Lambert is correct about 'homely' vs 'homey'.
      Not that we wish to gang up on you, but I was surprised to see
      '[sic]' following that word.

    3. The Devoted Classicist is not one to let good advice go unappreciated. The intent was to note the correct use of the word, but my note was too vague and, in fact, wrong. As we all know, online mistakes last forever, so I have made a revision to the text. The Subscribe By Mail edition has not yet been published (out of my control), so hopefully that will come out as updated. Many thanks.

  2. Excellent-- and as always, instructive. What a treat to see the William Orpen portrait of Eyford's architect! It somehow made that world, and that period of history, more vivid.

    1. Toby, the image of Guy Dawber at what appears to be an 18th century draftsman table with all this drawings pinned up in the background was an exciting find, especially without a disfiguring watermark. Thank you for commenting.

  3. One of Your Devoted ReadersJuly 27, 2014 at 11:53 PM

    Truly wonderful. Both this house and your whole Daylesford thread! Bravo on your great success with The Devoted Classicist.

    1. One, it was fun to do this thread of consecutive posts. We'll take a break with some different topics, but I look forward to doing it again another time. I am glad you enjoyed this series.

  4. John I am simply so thankful for this post and the entire series. It is good to see a historical home renovated to be family friendly, not too large and grand.

    C. Z. Guest: American Style Icon
    The Arts by Karena

    1. Karena, it is a great house, isn't it? Thank you for commenting.

  5. I lived at Eyford Park as a child with my sister and parents..My mother was head groom for Sir Cyril and Lady Klienwort. .We lived above the fabulous stables near the archway into the square yard..Many happy memories. .

    1. It must have been wonderful to live at such a lovely property.


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