The Command House, right at the water’s edge and nestled below the tower of St Mary’s Church high on the hill behind, commands long distance views across the River Medway on the approach from Rochester to Chatham. Following a half a million pounds restoration by Stonegate Group, the largest pub company in the UK, it has flung open its eight raised panel triglyph frieze and modillion corniced fluted Doric pilastered door to customers. A bar and restaurant fill the piano nobile and spill out onto the garden stretching across to the river.
Built in the opening decades of the 18th century as The Ordnance Storekeeper’s House for Chatham Gun Wharf and later used as officers’ housing, The Command House is a fine example of the Queen Anne style. The symmetrical river facing façade is a parapeted two storeys over raised basement in height and five bays with single bay flanking lower wings in length. The red brick elevations have stone dressings.
But it is the side elevation overlooking the carpark which has the most interesting feature. An open lunette. It is set in the colossal chimneystack rising over the valley between the double piles of the roof. Sir John Vanbrugh was master of the lunette, void and chimneystack. He brings his sense of drama to all three in Kings Weston House, Bristol. The architect of The Command House is not recorded but clearly had a strong command of the classical architectural language.
This is a photographic record of French Lebanese architect Annabel Karim Kassar’s installation recreating part of the façade of the late 19th century Bayt K House, a traditional Ottoman era building in the historic quarter of Gemmayzeh, Beirut. While undergoing restoration in 2020 by her architectural practice AKK, Bayt K was damaged by the Beirut Port explosion. Sarkis Khoury, Director General of Antiquities in Lebanon’s Ministry of Culture, confirmed that at least 8,000 historic buildings were damaged in the explosion including Bayt K House and the Palais Sursock. The latter, also dating from the 19th century, is located in Achrafieh and is one of the country’s grandest residences. Disrupted but undeterred, the architect has worked with Beiruti craftspeople using traditional Lebanese materials both to restore Bayt K and to recreate the house’s triple arched façade and entrance divan as a showpiece.
Nathalie Chahine and Fadlallah Dagher explain in their 2021 publication Houses of Beirut 1860 to 1925, “A very typical element of the houses, as in houses of Bilad al-Sham more generally, was the lwan or liwan. This is a room opening onto the courtyard through a wide arch.” Annabel states, “I believe the human-centred approach to designing interior spaces found in traditional cultures still has much to teach the modern world.” Her designs combine a modernist vocabulary with the language of traditional Arab, Berber and Ottoman culture and craftmanship.
If a building is mentioned by the two scholars Nikolaus Pevsner and John Summerson, it’s worth visiting! “Eltham is very much a domestic house, not a grand palace, built in the clean air away from the plague and fire of the city,” he explains. “In the 1960s the cupola was removed – there may have been a rooftop terrace originally. In 1663 there were five dormers on each roof plane which can be seen in early drawings and as evidenced in the timberwork of the roof. These have been since reduced to two on each elevation. The formal gardens with fruit trees and the tapestries in the Great Chamber have all gone.”
Grinling Gibbons joined Hugh May’s team: his offset Great Stair is fully preserved. “In 1893 Eltham Lodge became a golf club,” finishes John. “But the ethos of a house in the country has been retained. May’s mantra was ‘Let one room be turned to perfection and the rest to convenience!’” The King’s Bedchamber and East India Library on the first floor overlook the entrance. The architect went for broke at Eltham Lodge with suites of rooms turned to perfection.
James Gibbs is a member of that exclusive club of architects whose surnames have become adjectives. Gibbsian, Corbusian, Miesian, Palladian. O’Connellian will come. The South London guide continues, “The enviable clubhouse of the golf course is the house by James Gibbs built in 1726 for the Duke of Argyll and Greenwich (the grandson of the Duchess of Lauderdale of Ham House). Nine bays, brick and stone dressings. Basement, main and upper storey. Slender segment-headed windows with aprons. Brick quoins, parapet. The main accent on the garden as well as the entrance side a giant portico of Corinthian columns with frieze and raised balustrade, projecting only slightly in front of the façade, so that the space behind the columns is actually a loggia. On the entrance side the effect has been spoiled by a tall extension forward of the portico. On the garden side a splendid open stair towards the entrance, starting in two flights parallel with the façade and then joining up into one. The plan is typically Palladian. The centre is a cube room which runs through from front to back portico. The other rooms open out from it, and on the upper floor have to be reached from the small staircase. The cube room is luxuriously decorated: giant coupled pilasters, coved ceiling, marble fireplace, doorways with very finely designed heads and pediment – Gibbs at his most baroque.”
“The garden front portico is in antis and so shallow it doesn’t rob the Cube Room of light and prospect,” explains John. As for the 10 metre Cube Room: “Everything is resolved. It’s a robust ensemble. James Gibbs’ workshops would have pulled all of this together and produced presentation drawings for the client. The stucco work is so emphatic. The subtle beading of the coupled Corinthian pilasters is very Mies van der Rohe in its attention to detailing!” Sudbrook Park has been the very grand clubhouse of Richmond Golf Club since the end of the 19th century.
When the Eurostar used to stop at Calais it made breakfast in France much more straightforward. So the next best thing is lunch in Dover. Like its French counterpart, the English port’s charm is not always apparent to the unseeing. But the Kentish rumour mill grinding on overtime has it that Dover is the next southeast town to be discovered. So we’re here, if not ahead of the curve certainty at its tip, making a splash, ready to dive in, explore and lots more besides.
Dover’s coastal position and proximity to France made it a natural first point of settlement for Huguenot refugees. Some stayed; others moved on to Canterbury and Spitalfields in London. An early 17th century census of foreign residents in Dover recorded 78 Huguenot residents: one gardener; one shepherd’s wife; two advocates; two esquires; two maidens; two preachers of God’s Word; two schoolmasters; three merchants; three physicians and surgeons; eight weavers and wool combers; 12 mariners; 13 drapers; 25 widows and makers of bone; and a handful of other tradespeople.
Typical of Huguenot destinations, the Dover textile industry increased in prominence. Dover and Sandwich became particularly well known for wool combing, the process of arranging fibres so that they are parallel ready for spinning. A French church was already established in Dover by the arrival of a Flemish population in the 1640s. The Huguenot population of Dover was large enough towards the end of the 17th century to receive monies from the Civil List of William and Mary.
Dover is still a welcoming place to foreigners. The Town Council’s 2015 Statement of Welcome for Refugees declares: “People in Dover are compassionate and caring. Almost everyone has experience either firsthand or through families and friends of the challenges of living in a border town. Many who work in Dover have responsibility at the sharp end for the protection and freedom of citizens against those who wish harm to our national community but also for upholding British values of community and compassion to those in need.”
The Statement adds, “The names on Dover’s war memorial and the graves of the War Dead in Dover’s cemeteries testify to the determination of our community to protect our national freedoms and way of life even at terrible personal cost. Dover is a front line community with a proud history of welcoming those seeking safety when in fear of their lives. In 1685 French Huguenot refugees landed at Dover fleeing persecution for their religious beliefs.”
And finally, “Dover was the first town to welcome Jewish children saved from Germany before the Holocaust of the Second World War. A child coming to Dover remembers, ‘When I saw the famous cliffs of Dover, I got terribly excited. Inside me I had a feeling that a new era was about to start. I made up my mind there and then to start afresh.’ We understand that threats to our freedoms and values can be physical and support our Border Force in their duties. Dover people fought and died in the past to make sure that our community was a safe and caring and compassionate place to live and flourish. Dover people today are committed to working to make sure we remain a safe and caring and compassionate community where a warm welcome is given to refugees and all are able to live full and happy lives.”
Banker Michael Ramus used to work in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral London. “Its architecture inspired me to drive around and visit every cathedral in England!” he relates. Michael is of Huguenot descent. “Back in the days when there was a telephone directory there were only six Ramus families listed. Huguenots, especially in the south of France, were often successful lawyers and textile merchants.” He is the patron of several artists and fashion designers. There’s clearly an affinity with France. “I feel totally at home in France whether in the south of France, Paris or Granville in Normandy.” I spend so many holidays there but even when I’m yachting in the Caribbean I can spot the Parisian yachts!” Michael is carrying a cutting from the Encyclopaedia Britannica of his ancestor:
“Ramus, Petrus, or Pierre de la Ramée (1515 to 1572), French humanist, was born at the village of Cuth in Picardy in 1515, a member of a noble but impoverished family; his father was a charcoal burner. Having gained admission, in a menial capacity, to the college of Navarre, he worked with his hands by day and carried on his studies by night. The reaction against scholasticism was still in full tide, and Ramus outdid his predecessors in the impetuosity of his revolt. On the occasion of taking his degree (1536) he actually took as his thesis ‘Everything that Aristotle taught is false’. This tour de force was followed up by the publication in 1543 of Aristotelicae Animadversiones and Dialecticae Partitiones, the former a criticism on the old logic and the latter a new textbook of the science.”
The extract also confirms, “Henry II made him Professor of Philosophy and Rhetoric at the Collège de France. But in 1561 he embraced Protestantism, and was compelled to flee from Paris, and in 1568 from France. But he returned before the Massacre of St Bartholomew (1572) in which he was one of the victims… The logic of Ramus enjoyed a great celebrity for a time, and there existed a school of Ramists boasting numerous adherents in France, Germany and Holland.”
Dover is awash with Georgian architecture. It’s Bath-on-Sea, Clifton-de-Mer, Canning-over-Dour. In 2014, Castle Hill House was elevated from Grade II to II* by the Secretary of State. The actress Julia Stavrietsky owns the Listed Building. She stated the Government’s letter described the building as “the grandest 18th century house in Dover”. And, “The upgrade is a reflection of it being of more than special architectural interest for its quality of composition, detailing, distinctive plan form and outstanding interior decorative features, its degree of survival, its rarity of type in Dover and its historical associations with prominent local and national figures.”
Cambridge Terrace is one of many impressive residential blocks close to the beach. Jeff Howe and Paul Wells write about it in their 2012 publication Dover Then and Now. “The buildings are Grade II Listed, being mid 19th century constructions; they are stuccoed (plastered) to the front and ends, with bare back to the rear.” A vintage photograph in the book shows Cambridge Terrace in its original unpainted state: the architecture looks so much better, less two dimensional, the patina of the material adding a warm to its appearance.
Dover is proud of its heritage as demonstrated by the number of information signs on buildings. One on hoarding outside an impressive public building reads: “The Grade I Listed Maison Dieu (or Dover Town Hall) is undergoing a £9.1m restoration project over the next few years thanks to a £4.27m grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. The project will see the restoration of internationally significant decorative schemes by the renowned Victorian neo Gothic architect William Burges (1827 to 1881), a new street level visitor entrance to the Connaught Hall, along with improved access throughout the building. The project creates a sustainable future for the Maison Dieu by bringing redundant spaces back into commercial use, including restoring the Mayor’s Parlour as a holiday let in conjunction with The Landmark Trust, and a unique new café in the Victorian gaol cells. Once complete in 2024 the Maison Dieu will be permanently open to the public for the first time in its 800 year history and contributing to the creation of a heritage quarter in Dover town centre.”
A sign in English and French explains the history of a petite building next door to Maison Dieu: “St Edmund’s Chapel, built in 1253, originally belonged to the Maison Dieu, which ministered to pilgrims, and was under the control of a Master appointed by St Martin’s Priory, then the most important institution in medieval Dover after the castle. A ‘Cemetery of the Poor’ had been established outside the priory and the town walls and the chape you see today was built in its grounds, probably as a Chapel of Rest. It was consecrated in 1253 by Richard, Bishop of Chichester, in the name of Edmund, a former Archbishop of Canterbury under whom Richard had first studied and who was canonised in 1246. Richard fell ill and died in the Maison Dieu only four days later. Before his body was returned to Chichester Cathedral for burial, his internal organs were removed and buried in a cist, or pit, under the chapel altar. When Richard was canonised in 1262, St Edmund’s Chapel became a place of pilgrimage in its own right. It is still the only church in existence that was dedicated to one English saint by another.”
It continues, “After the Reformation in 1534, the priory, the Maison Dieu and St Edmund’s were forced to close. The chapel was surrendered to the King in 1544. Over the years, new buildings concealed the old chapel and its sacred status was forgotten. It had many uses including, in late Victorian times, as a blacksmith’s forge. In 1943 German artillery shells demolished two nearby shops revealing the chapel building for the first time in 400 years. 1n 1965 Father Tanner, Dover’s Roman Catholic Parish Priest, arranged for both the private purchase of the chapel and its restoration, using only genuine medieval materials – at least 75 percent of the building is still original. The chapel was reconsecrated in 1968 and is now owned by a charitable trust who maintain it solely from gifts placed in the wall boxes.”
We’ve swapped the harbourside delight of Le Channel restaurant in Calais for the hillside wonder of The White Horse pub in Dover for school day lunch. A plaque beside the bar reads, “The history of The White Horse, St James Street, Dover: Said to be erected in the reign of Edward III, in 1365, the premises was occupied by the verger of St James’ Church which stood next door. With the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 the ‘house’ was no longer connected with the church. In 1574 it became home to a string of ‘Ale tasters of Dover’ residents. The White Horse had been known as ‘The City of Edinburgh’ from 1635, its name and sign having been taken from a wrecked American freighter. It became the meeting place for actors and players from the Dover Theatre in the 18th century.”
It also states, “The name changed in around 1818 when the house was frequently used for inquests, often relating to recovered bodies from the sea. These are said to have been stored in what is now part of our dining area to the rear of the property. In 1865 a Mr John Friend sold the house, along with ‘The Five Ales’. Satchell was the owner in 1881 when the property was sold again to the Kingsford Brothers for the princely sum of £870; it was described as a ‘freehold property in the Hamlet of Uphill’. Later its ownership went to George Beer who began opening at 5am in 1890 and later merged with Fremlins Brewery. Alterations to The White Horse in 1952 uncovered a programme for Dover Theatre, dated 1809, advertising Harlequin and Mother Goose. This is still displayed in the pub today.”
Dover Then and Now includes a vintage photograph of Old St James’s Church and explains, “It is thought to be one of Dover’s oldest churches and stands next door to what is probably Dover’s oldest pub, The White Horse. Almost certainly referred to in the Domesday Book, the church was of Saxon origin, although the present ruin dates from the 1100s. As well as a congregational meeting place, the church was also used by the courts of the Barons of the Cinque Ports. The Victorians decided that St James’s was too small, and New St James’s Church was built in 1860 in Maison Dieu Road.” Like a large number of buildings in the town, Old St James’s Church was mostly destroyed by World War II German bombing.
Marianne Faithfull covered Dolly Parton’s song Down from Dover in 1970. Crooning in her unmistakeable husky upper class English voice, Marianne makes it all her own. It’s as if the feckless character in the lyrics (who gets a young woman pregnant out of wedlock and deserts her) is due a visit to the southeast coast of England. Not so, Dolly wrote it about Dover, Tennessee, which when it comes to rhyming usefully has – move over Kent – fields of clover. So little time, so many photographs to be taken! The Park Inn glass house extension, Hubert Passage, St Radigund’s Road, Victoria Park, Marine Parade also known as East Cliff…
It was the poster boy of the 1970s, gracing the covers of various publications. Half a century later, a new generation of aesthetes is falling in love with the romantically named and romantically styled and romantically positioned Killymoon Castle. Richard Oram and Peter Rankin included a sketch of the south elevation on the cover of their Ulster Architectural Heritage Society Listings for Cookstown and Dungannon. “The Nash block is of ashlar, a strong roll moulding surrounding it at basement level. Behind, the earlier back-quarters are of rubble, castellated, buttresses added and certain windows enlarged by Nash, the roofs of graduated slates… Behind the house, a stable and farmyard, including a substantial two storey block with Gibbsian door surrounds.”
In another Ulster Architectural Heritage Society publication from last century, An Introduction to Ulster Architecture, Hugh Dixon, wrote, “Interest in the picturesque resulted in the Gothick castle style becoming a fashionable alternative to the neoclassical for country houses. Pioneered by Richard Payne Knight at Downton Castle, Herefordshire, the asymmetrical castle was made popular by the Prince Regent’s architect, John Nash, whose large practice extended to Ulster on several occasions. Killymoon Castle is clearly a sham unlike Gosford Castle (by Thomas Hopper, circa 1820) at Markethill, County Armagh, where really thick walls and correct medieval windows show a new more serious approach. Generally more popular in Ulster was the symmetrical castle, a type developed by Robert Adam in Scotland. Adam, indeed, remodelled Castle Upton in County Antrim (1788) in this style, although it has had later alterations. Among the best local designs are Necarne, Irvinestown, County Fermanagh (circa 1825) and the delightfully simple Dungiven Castle, County Derry (1839).”
Brian de Breffny included Killymoon in his Castles of Ireland and featured it on the dust jacket. “John Nash, the celebrated architect of Regency England, also designed a few buildings in Ireland, including some parish churches and four Gothick castles, two of which are Killymoon and Lough Cutra. Shanbally Castle, County Tipperary, which he built about 1812, was larger than either of these. The fourth castle, Kilwaughter, County Antrim, is a not very successful adaptation of an earlier house, and is now in a state of disrepair… Before he was engaged in radically transforming parts of London by such creations as Regent’s Park, Regent’s Street, Trafalgar Square and Carlton House Terrace, and before his work on Brighton Pavilion. It brought him other Irish commissions through the family connections of James Stewart, Member of Parliament for County Tyrone, the satisfied client… The house at Killymoon built by James Stewart’s father, William Stewart, who also built the nearby town of Cookstown about 1750, was largely destroyed by fire about 1800.”
Each publication has a different take on its castellation: the dressing of the original castle to complement the new building; the light hearted asymmetry; and the heralding of the architect’s popularity for designing castles in Ireland. Killymoon Castle was John Nash’s first – and finest – castle in Ireland. Dorothy Coulter, who lives in the castle with her husband Godfrey, knows its history well. “Killymoon Castle was built in 1671 by James Stewart who had bought the lease five years earlier from Alan Cooke, the founder of Cookstown. The Stewarts had come over from Scotland during the Plantation of Ulster. They set up two castles at that time: Killymoon and Ballymena Castle. Six generations later, the Stewarts left Killymoon in 1852. There are six houses built by the Stewarts still in Cookstown Old Town.”
The original building was mostly destroyed by fire in 1802. Dorothy reckons, “Colonel James Stewart built this castle a year later and it must have been a truly wonderful fairy tale to bring his beautiful wife Lady Molesworth to this romantic spot!” She points to his portrait in the central hall. “He met John Nash on his Grand Tour. James frequently visited London to gamble with the Prince Regent at Carlton House. Apparently he gambled Killymoon Castle one night with Prince Regent and lost it on the turn of the cards. I don’t envy him coming back to his wife after that! Fortunately the Prince Regent told him he could keep his ‘Irish cabin’. The other portrait is of his father William Stewart. He brought James back from the Grand Tour as he wanted him to stand for MP for Tyrone and he stood and he had the seat for 44 years. He was well liked. The estate changed hands several times after the Stewarts until timber merchant Gerald Macura bought it in 1916. He wanted to make railway sleepers from felling the trees.”
The Public Records Office Northern Ireland’s Introduction to Stewart of Killymoon Papers, 2007, sheds some light on Lady Molesworth, “In 1772 Stewart married Elizabeth Molesworth, daughter of the 3rd Viscount Molesworth. She was one of the survivors of a tragic fire in London in 1763, where she was living with her widowed mother. Lady Molesworth senior, two of her daughters and six of the servants were killed. Two other daughters were badly injured when they jumped from upper windows – one had to have her leg cut off after landing on the railings below – and a third was badly burned. Elizabeth Stewart became in 1794 a co-heiress of her late brother, the 4th Viscount Molesworth, and inherited a share of the Molesworth estates in Dublin City, near Swords, County Dublin, and in and around Philipstown, King’s County.”
A castle is not a castle without a ghost. Dorothy relates, “Gerald Macura’s 97 year old daughter came to visit us a couple of years ago. She’d such fond memories of the castle and told me how as a six year old child she used to hear ghostly footsteps going up and down the secondary staircase. She had that story built up in her head all those years. I said to her, ‘But there only is one staircase!’ We went on a tour of the house and upstairs she showed me something. There were so many different layers of paint over the door you could only see the shape of the frame so when we looked into that cupboard there was this other door that opened into a set of stairs that went up to James’s room in the top of the circular tower! He had a whole big bedroom suite that went out onto the balcony. She said it was really just the joy of her life getting back to Killymoon; she died not long afterward.”