Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sezincote, Part II

The Saloon at Sezincote.
Photo from private collection.
This post of The Devoted Classicist is a continuation of the previous about the exotic Moghul inspired Cotswolds house, Sezincote.  An earlier house was extensively rebuilt over a period of years starting about 1805 by architect Samuel Pepys Cockerell for his brother Charles Cockerell.  Both had worked for the East India Company and S.P. Cockerell had used Anglo-Indian motifs at nearby Daylesford.  Such drastic changes would not be allowed to a  historic house today, so it is particularly interesting to study the extent of the commitment to a residential architectural expression in terms of both artistic and social expression.

The entrance (east) front of Sezincote.
Published in Country Life magazine, 2002.
Image via Country Life Library.
Although Thomas Daniell and John Martin were also commissioned to produce drawings that would be used in the construction of Sezincote, S.P. Cockerell, and later his son, Charles Robert Cockerell were the lead architects.  Much of Sir Charles Cockerell's fortune was spent on the house and surrounding estate.  After Sir Charles' death in 1837, the house passed to his son Sir Charles Rushout Rushout [sic], 2nd Baronet Cockerell, of Sezincot [sic], Gloucestershire.  After Rushout's death in 1879, it was put up for auction in 1880 but not sold until 1884 when it was purchased by James Dugdale.  It remained in the Dugdale family until sold in 1944 (or some sources say 1946) to Sir Cyril and Lady Kleinwort.

The Basement (ground floor) Plan of Sezincote
  drawn by S.P. Cockerell, 1811.
Image via RIBA.
Some refer to it as a small large house and others as a large small house.  Although the exterior of the house was known from exhibitions and publications such as J.P. Neale's 1823 BEAUTIES OF ENGLAND, the interior was not particularly unusual and Sezincote was not part of the tours of grand country houses such as Blenheim and Chatsworth.  The interior was essentially neoclassical, a Late Georgian/Early Regency house, so the Kleinworts were not obligated to decorate it in the Indian style.  John Fowler of Colefax & Fowler may have been regarded as in his peak at this time when he was brought to Sezincote in the mid-1950s, redecorating most of the principal rooms over a period of the next few years.

The Entrance Hall at Sezincote.
Photo from JOHN FOWLER
by Martin Wood.
The Entrance Hall was decorated by Fowler to be simple but cheerful with yellow dragged glaze walls and yellow corduroy curtains.  Although elegant, there is a comfortable, inviting quality that many find so difficult to achieve.  With the relatively low ceiling height of the Basement/Ground Floor, there are no ceiling lights here, but lamps made from antique Chinese tea canisters are placed on fluted plinths at the pilasters.  The painting of Sezincote over the sideboard is one of the seven paintings commissioned by Sir Charles from Thomas Daniell; the Kleinworts were able to trace the subsequent history of the paintings and buy back six of them.
A detail of the baseboard in the Entrance
Hall of Sezincote.
Photo from JOHN FOWLER
The baseboards (or skirting boards as they say in England) were marbleized with the help of Jean Hornak according to Martin Wood in his book JOHN FOWLER, PRINCE OF DECORATORS.  The detail above shows how the visual weight is given by the marbling and how the humble fabric of the curtains is given style with the addition of a decorative tape.
The Drawing Room of Sezincote.
Photo from private collection.
The Drawing Room created by John Fowler for the Kleinworts also shows a realistic scheme to accomplish modern living in a stately home.  In this 1960s view, comfortable upholstered furniture is complimented by simple curtains, a large Oriental rug, some pictures and books.
The current Dining Room at Sezincote.
Photo from COLEFAX & FOWLER,
Judging from the ceiling height, the Kleinworts found it easier to use a room on the ground floor as their Dining Room.  In 1982, George Oakes, who had been trained by John Fowler to become one of the best decorative painters of the day, painted murals on the walls of capriccios, architectural fantasies inspired by the work of Thomas Daniell. 

Details of the George Oakes murals
in the Dining Room at Sezincote.
Photo from COLEFAX & FOWLER,
The Dining Room's chimney breast is painted with trompe l'oeil elements of Indian architecture.  The dado is painted to simulate marble.

The Stair Hall at Sezincote.
Photo from JOHN FOWLER

The Stair Hall is a windowless interior space with light coming from upper fanlights and an architectural lantern/cupola above.  Fowler had trouble with the wall color, Martin Wood wrote, and it had to be painted twice, at Lady Keinwort's expense, to achieve the pink that would age to the desired dusty hue.  Large tapestries are framed to appear as enormous paintings, an idea repeated from Cholmondeley ("CHUM-lee) Castle.  (Thanks again to Curt DiCamillo's Pronunciation Guide). 
The Upper Hall as it appeared in a 1931
photo from the archives of RIBA.
The main rooms for entertaining were originally on the story above the ground level, the Principal Floor, and there was a Chamber (bedroom) Floor above that.  The 1811 plans show the largest room on the Principal Floor being the "Eating Room," evidence of the elaborate entertaining by Sir Cockerell.  The room adjacent with the curved bay is labeled "Drawing Room" but other sources refer to it as the ballroom.  Beyond that is a large room designated as the "Breakfast Room."
The Principal Floor Plan and the Chamber Floor Plan
as drawn by S.P. Cockerell, 1811.
Image from RIBA.
Although, as it was noted in the previous post, Sir Cockerell used the north pavilion as his bedroom, the room above the entrance hall is labeled as the "Principal Bed Chamber."  Additionally, there are 3 more bedrooms and three dressing rooms in the main block, plus a wing extending to the west with Lady Cockerell's bedroom and dressing room along with what appears to be her maid's room.  Also, in that wing is another bedroom with en suite dressing room, a Nursery, a nursery bedroom, a Cook's Bedroom and another maid's room.  On the Chamber Floor, there are nine bedrooms and an assortment of dressing rooms and servants' rooms.
The current Master Bedroom at Sezincote.
Photo from JOHN FOWLER
The original Dining Room on the Principal Floor became Lady Kleinwort's bedroom.  The corona of the bed features an eagle holding the elaborate bed hanging in its beak.  The William Morris carpet of Arts & Crafts design was added after John Fowler's time.
Details of the upper wall and ceiling
of the current Master Bedroom at Sezincote.
Photo from JOHN FOWLER
John Fowler painted the walls and ceiling of Lady Kleinwort's bedroom in three shades of blue.  The detail above shows Fowler's masterful use of paint with color used to give visual depth and interest to the architectural elements.

A drawing of John Fowler's design for
curtains in Lady Kleinwort's Bedroom.
Image from JOHN FOWLER
The watercolor sketch shows Fowler's design for the curtains at the big arched window in Lady Kleinwort's Bedroom.  Made of shantung silk (often used in bridal gowns) by John Mason (the curtain-maker who had worked with Fowler to create the hangings for the famous William Kent bed at Houghton Hall) the curtains of the room help soften the grand space.  In the photo of the room, note the contrasting color in the lining of the jabots/tails.
A reflective view of the Saloon at Sezincote in a 1931 photo
showing a pair of mirrors flanking the entrance..
Image from RIBA.
The Saloon, having a sprung floor to lend credence to its former use as a ballroom, is the best known space in the house.  Fowler is thought to have been the influence behind some changes to simplify the walls and give even more focus to the curved window wall.  The pair of mirrors flanking the entrance were removed, along with the overdoor pediments to the adjoining room, and the doors to the adjoining room were brought forward.  The picture hanging rail, probably a late nineteenth-century addition, was also removed.

The Saloon at Sezincote as it was published
in a 1939 issue of Country Life magazine.
Image from Country Life Library.
The walls of the Saloon were framed with batten strips, covered with burlap, lining (probably flannel or felt; it was not specified in the research fouind), and yellow silk moire.  The "fish-eye" view of the last image of the room probably gives the most accurate rendition of color for both the walls and the curtains.
The Saloon at Sezincote
as decorated by John Fowler.
Photo from JOHN FOWLER,
Two panels of mirror fills the gap between the three pairs of French doors to the balcony, with the curtain treatment being continuous.  The elaborate treatment was meticulously recreated by Fowler with his curtain-makers, Chamberlain and Mason.  Using an illustration from Ackerman's Repository, a monthly magazine published between 1809 and 1829, as their guide, the swags required expert planning to get the desired effect.
Detail of the Saloon curtains by
John Fowler at Sezincote.
Photo from JOHN FOWLER,
The Saloon curtains' trimming of bullion fringe and bobble tassels was designed by Fowler and custom made by Clarke's, according to author Martin Wood.
The Saloon at Sezincote.
Image from private collection.
Fowler's customary 'dash of French' was given by a Louis XV bureau plat topped by a pair of candelabras fitted as table lamps with simple white card shades to give the desired pools of light.  John Fowler also decorated the Kleinwort's London house on Cheyne Walk, Chelsea.

The Oriental Bedroom at Sezincote.
Photo by Ming Tang-Evans,
Tent poles from Charles Cockerell's original bedroom in the north pavilion were used to create a new bed from the ornamental spears.  Decorator Stanley Peters furnished this room in a style in keeping with the public rooms of the house.  (The pavilion bedroom, not pictured, has been redecorated to reflect the original décor in Sir Charles' day, as a tent room with a canopy of stars printed on the underside and the walls draped in a printed cotton specially commissioned in India).

A mural in the Oriental Bedroom
of Sezincote by Geoffrey Ghin.
via Bridgeman Images
A corner of the Oriental Bedroom features a mural by Geoffrey Ghin to represent an interpretive view of the house from an imaginary folly. 

An ivory veneer chair, circa 1770,
 now at Sezincote.
Photo by Diane James via
Lady Kleinwort was able to add to the Asian collections in the house with purchases of her own.  A set of six sandalwood chairs with cane seats, veneered with ivory and detailed with black lacquer and gilt were bought at auction in the 1940s.  Believed to have been made in Vizagapatam, in the Madras district of India, around 1770, the chairs are said to have been a gift to Queen Charlotte from Warren Hastings of Daylesford.
Design for a dairy for Sezincote in the form
of a chapel by William and Thomas Daniell, 1807.
Image via RIBA.
As mentioned in the previous post on Sezincote, garden designer Humphry Repton was also a collaborator on the development of the estate.  Repton no doubt had input in the layout of features such as the carriage drive and ha-ha, but probably not the out-buildings.  A friend of Thomas Daniell, Repton had been first contacted in 1805 and invited to submit designs, but he was not experienced in the exotic styles other than the Chinese influence of the late eighteenth-century.

Floor plan and interior elevations for a dairy for Sezincote
in the Moorish style by S.P. Cockerell, 1808.
Image via RIBA.
Perhaps Repton's greatest contribution to the advancement of exotic style lies in the idea that it was the landscape architect (born 1752, died 1818) who was instrumental in getting George, the Prince of Wales, to visit Sezincote in 1807.  The commission to transform the Royal Pavilion at Brighton ultimately fell to architect John Nash, however.
A view of the south garden at Sezincote.
Photo by Beata Moore via Light Encounters.
In 1961, a tennis pavilion was added in the style of the historic architecture.  In 1965, Lady Kleinwort brought in Graham Stuart Thomas, a partner in Sunningdale Nurseries and an advisor to the National Trust, for guidance on creating gardens sympathetic to the house.

The Tennis Pavilion at Sezincote
added in 1961.
Photo by Kendra Wilson via Gardenista blog.
Today, Sezincote remains a private home, occupied by the Klienwort's grandson Edward Peake and his wife Camilla, but it can be visited.  The garden is open afternoons January to November on Thursdays, Fridays and Bank Holidays Mondays and the house is open on the same afternoons May to September inclusive. Tea and cake are served in the Orangery when the house is open for tours. Six times a year, the house and garden are available for rental for a special event such as a wedding.  For more information, visit the house's official website www.sezincote.co.uk.

Sezincote at cherry blossom time.
Photo via Petersham Properties
For all the posts in the series related to Daylesford, just clink on the name in the right-hard margin of the regular web version of The Devoted Classicist under the heading of LABELS.  Up next:  Sir Cyril Kleinwort's subsequent residence, also decorated by John Fowler.


  1. John the details are just incredible. The Oriental Bedroom is the one I claim. The passementerie and baseboard details, all of it; can you imagine the cost of duplicating even a portion of Daylesford today.

    The Arts by Karena
    Interview with Raji

  2. K.A., it is all amazing, isn't it. It would be hard for me to choose, but certainly the George Oakes murals make the new dining room a special place worthy in such a remarkable house. Thank you for commenting.

  3. SP Cockerell's drawing for the "Basement Storey" at Sezincote would seem to suggest that Ground Floor and Basement are interchangeable terms in European houses, though surely they are distinctly different
    floor levels in most cases? It's a matter of terminology of course, but I cannot imagine the Kleinworts fancied dining in a Basement as we know it here in the States!

    1. T.W., the house is set into the side of a hill and I am guessing that there was some excavation to create a level ground floor. So the Kitchen and the rooms at the back of the ground floor are located below grade, presumably being the reasoning behind calling this the Basement Storey.

      In Manhattan, the ground floor level of a townhouse is the Basement if below sidewalk level, even if the walk-out to the garden is level with the ground. The floor below that would be the Cellar, originally for the furnace, storage and other utility uses (although additional excavation in recent times converts these to finished spaces).

      Thank you for commenting.


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