Lutyens: Dream Houses
Roderick Gradidge


Roderick Gradidge &, Below, Sir Edwin Lutyens

©Monica Pidgeon

Edwin Lutyens was the last great architect of the Arts and Crafts movement which took place in England between about 1850 and finished in 1914 on the outbreak of the Great War 1914-18. He was born on the 29th March 1869 in London, but he soon moved with his family to a small village outside Godalming in Surrey, just to the south of London. In those days, Surrey was still a country area and had not been suburbanised as it now is. As it happens, he was a sickly boy and therefore was not allowed to go to a school in the way that most boys of that time would have been sent to a boarding school. Instead, he wandered round the villages of Surrey, looking at the buildings, learning about building from building yards of local builders, and used to be so excited by the shapes of buildings that he invented a system all of his own to record them. He took a piece of glass in his hand and a piece of soap, and used to draw round the outlines of the buildings with the soap, so as to get the shape of the building. Its interesting that he looked at the shapes of buildings before he did drawings of them. Before he even knew how to draw a plan, as most architects learn, - first how to draw a plan and then how to look at buildings - he was the other way round, he looked at buildings first. At the age of 16, he was sent up to the Royal College of Art in London to learn to be an architect. He wasn't long at the RCA and he was then sent to the office (as in those days most architects were; there were not schools of architecture in those days as we know them today; architects learned in offices)._ he went to the office of a great Victorian architect, Ernest George. Ernest George designed large country houses for the gentry; and in his office there were a number of other young men who became leading architects in the period just before and just after the Great War. However in 1889, When he was just 20, he met his first client, Arthur Chapman, through his family. And he was commissioned at that very young age, to build his first house, a house called Crooksbury outside Farnham. This was a house very much in the style and manner of Ernest George. Over the years, Lutyens was to alter it again and again, so that now its hardly worth having a picture of it.


Tilford Institute, Tilford, Surrey, 1893

©Anthony Ballantyne

However, we are now seeing a slide of Tilford Institute, a very similar building to Crooksbury. As you see this is a black and white half-timbered building with nothing to suggest that its the work of an architect who will in many ways revolutionise the Romantic tradition of English architecture. This could well be a building by any architect of that period. The timbering though is honest and truthful, it isn't fake. This is rather important because many architects of this period were willing - including the great Norman Shaw — to put false half-timbering on buildings. Lutyens never had false half-timbering.

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