It’s an anonymous sounding name for such an appealing enclave. The exposed stucco of the triumphal arch entrance and a few of the houses are especially aesthetically pleasing. As the sun sets, the woodland of Amelia Park in front of Park Crescent casts sharp shadows across the Regency style architecture. This Grade II* Listed terrace is as interesting for its intact details – garlanded friezes and Corinthian capitals with honeysuckle leaves – as its adjustments like the filigreed cast iron balconies and a first floor stained glass conservatory.
The façade is forcefully modulated by a robust pattern of setbacks and projections topped by a varying roofline. Pediments rise between stretches of parapet broken by window gaps. Park Crescent was designed by architect-builder Amon Henry Wilds (1784 to 1857). He and his father Amon Wilds teamed up for a few years to form a sort of early Taylor Wimpey. Together they were responsible for almost 4,000 houses as well as public buildings mostly in Brighton. That explains why the 1830 Park Crescent looks like it has been dropped from inner city Brighton into suburban Worthing.
James Henry and Colin Walton write in Secret Worthing (2016): “Park Crescent, at the junction of Richmond Road and Clifton Road, is blessed with a triumphal arch, a splendid monumental entranceway to the crescent itself. The main central arch is designed for horse drawn carriages and the smaller ones flanking for pedestrians. Each arch has four heads, making 16 in total. Notably, those at the main arch are all larger bearded males while the others are smaller and female.”
A successful entrepreneur, Wilds Junior didn’t have an entirely unblemished record. His St Mary the Virgin Church in Brighton, despite coming in well over budget, was so badly constructed it eventually became structurally unsafe and had to be rebuilt. This design was based on the ominously sounding Temple of Nemesis. Park Crescent has fared rather better. The townhouses – especially the full six bedroom six level properties – are much sought after.
Everything about Chatsworth, one of England’s most famous grand houses, is on an industrial scale. Roundly: 14,000 hectares; 62 farms; three villages; 130 rooms; 17 staircases; 1,250 works of art; 12,000 books in the Library and Ante Library; and 700 staff. And one very large farmshop (think King’s Road Partridges takes flight to the Peak District). Little wonder the current Duke and Duchess, well past retirement age, have decided to step back from overseeing the whole venture. Like his mother the late Debo (the last of the legendary Mitford sisters), Peregrine “Stoker” Cavendish along with his wife Amanda are moving from The Very Big House to The Old Vicarage in one of the estate villages, the picturesque Edensor. Debo lived in one half of the subdivided dwelling. Inskip Gee Architects are reuniting the two parts of The Old Vicarage. “It is a house with service buildings that survives from the old town and predates the alteration of Edensor by the 6th Duke and Paxton,” the architects explain. “The transformation of the house as an Italianate villa in 1838 is representative of the recasting of Edensor in various picturesque styles as a model village within Chatsworth Park, carried out in 1837 to 1840.”
The 12th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire haven’t been averse to some dramatic interventions during their tenure. In 2010 they held a three day ‘Attic Sale’ of 1,422 lots including 34 belonging to Debo. For example, Lot 223: “A gilt-bronze mounted Meissen porcelain timepiece Louis XVI, provenance Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire (acquired in the 1960s), estimate £4,000 to £6,000.” There aren’t any actual attics at Chatsworth (it is flat and low mono-pitch roofed) but there are plenty of far flung wings and outbuildings which stored surplus trinkets and larger items. In fact enough architectural salvage to fit out the interior of a decent sized country house. “There simply wasn’t enough room,” the Duke notes. “We were never going to be moving to a bigger house!” More random was Lot 1412: “Six magnums of 1982 Dom Pérignon, estimate £1,250 to £1,800.” Lots 1419 to 1422 were vintage vehicles and parts.
He continues, “These houses have all been centres of the family’s activities as builders and collectors over nearly 500 years, but at Chatsworth we now see its fullest flowering, incorporating elements of all these other family collections. Replacing Hardwick in the late 17th century, Chatsworth has been the principal family seat for the last 300 years and in the last 100 has been the repository of works of art emanating from their other houses. This has meant that over the years every nook and cranny of this ‘Palace of the Peaks’ has been filled.”
And finishes, “The past year has been spent carefully sifting through these items, retaining some of those objects which illuminate family history and selecting what has become the content of this sale. In assessing the objects, comparing them to similar items remaining in the collection, and through reference to the large number of inventories that have been kept on the various properties, it has been possible at times to identify who commissioned them and for which of the family houses, as well as finding out when they moved to Chatsworth.”
The £65 million proceeds of the sale funded cleaning the stone walls to reveal their original warm buff and regilding the glazing bars of the windows on the two principal floors of the south front (architect William Talman) and west front (architect probably Thomas Archer aided by the 1st Duke) in 25 carat gold leaf. “The house was built to show off,” affirms the Duke. The glass panes are bevelled and the internal windowsills are made of marble. There is one single pane window on the east front contrasting with the multipaned sash windows everywhere else. About one third of the house is open to the public. The private rooms are on the south and west fronts. The gardens closest to these rooms are closed to the public. This has the dual benefit of providing privacy for the Cavendish family and keeping the elevations clutter free of tourists.
One of the highlights of the tour is the Chapel. “This space is practically unchanged since the 1st Duke in 1700,” states Stoker. Except for one addition. St Bartholomew Exquisite Pain, 2008, is a life size sculpture cast in gold plated silver in an edition of three by Damien Hirst. The artist says, “I like the confusion you get between science and religion… that’s where belief lies and art as well.” St Bartholomew was one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus and was meant to have been flayed alive and martyred. In this sculpture he stands shinily resplendent, holding his detached skin draped over his right arm and blades as a symbol of his sainthood in his left hand. Historical depictions of St Bartholomew showed anatomical detail combining art and science and this artwork remains true to that tradition. It is the standout piece in the current display of contemporary art at Chatsworth and is aptly placed.
There are a few subtractions to the Chapel. The 19th century furniture and fittings went in the Attic Sale. Lot 920: “The Victorian furniture for the Chapel at Chatsworth circa 1870. Comprising an oak altar rail in three sections in the form of a three bar gate with uprights surmounted by trefoil motifs, together with a larger pair of pine Prie Dieu, a further smaller confirming pair of Prie Dieu, an oak rail and an ok and upholstered kneeling stool.” Lot 921: “A Victorian patinated bronze surmount in the form of a processional cross. Late 19th century. £300 to £500.”
The Duke and Duchess are avid art collectors, favouring 21st century pieces. Amanda explains, “We recently collaborated with Michael Craig-Martin on a new dinner service. We love music, and Michael was also inspired by the violin door in the State Music Room. The dinner service was made together with Royal Crown Derby. Around the table are chairs made by Joseph Walsh. He makes furniture full of curves – they are sculptures as well as seats.”
“The Duke and I commissioned Joseph Walsh to also make the Enignum Bed in 2014,” continues the Duchess. “It is usually in one of our guest bedrooms, but we have moved the bed into the Sabine Room so that everyone can see it. The bed is made of thin layers of ash wood, which are twisted into shape using steam. The spiralling forms are six metres tall and soar upwards in this space that was painted by James Thornhill in 1701.” There are also rather a lot of artworks in the interiors by Edward de Waal.
Mark Girouard included Chatsworth in his 1979 book Historic Houses of Britain. Like all his published work, it is beautifully written combining art, architectural, political and social history with insightful anecdotes. On Chatsworth, “By the time of the 1st Duke, the towers and huge windows that his ancestress Bess had built at Hardwick had gone completely out of fashion. Pediments, pillars and rich carving derived from the palaces of Italy and France had replaced them as the sign of greatness. Symmetry was still the rule of the day and had been carried to its furthest limits. It was now expected that inside a great house all the doors would be aligned, and outside the grandeur of the house itself was extended by avenues and sheets of water stretching into the far distance.”
It’s where all the big city hitters are heading for in the heatwave. Heady days. Hot nights. Although determined not to let the slang for bathroom put us off (in the same way we’re sure Grimsby has its charms), we’re bringing the London glamour with us just in case Bognor Regis lives down to its name. We’re not up for making a sequel to Steptoe and Son holidaying on the south coast. We have no concerns. This place oozes it from Hotham Park with its late 18th century stuccoed mansion backing onto a lake in the east of the town to the early 19th century Royal Norfolk Hotel and The Steyne with its bowed terraces overlooking an anticipatory strip of lawn in the west. Next to The Steyne and a smooth pebble’s throw from the Victorian esplanade is The Dolphin Café where the crème of Bognorian society breakfast. Falling outside the usual brackets of English seaside architecture are White Tower and Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church.
Built in 1898, White Tower was designed by John Cyril Hawes as a seaside family retreat. The architect and his two brothers each had their own floor above ground level. He explained, “Instead of a long spread out cottage I would stand it up on end – as a tower.” A vertical terrace capturing sea views. Its casement windows of leaded lights are typically Arts and Crafts. Our Lady of Sorrows dates from the previous decade. Designed by Joseph Stanislaus Hansom in an Early English idiom cloaked in yellowy brick, 1950s additions by Wilfrid Clarence Mangan bring a light modern air to the interior. Bognor Regis is officially Britain’s sunniest town. That’s one reputation it lives up to today.
On the fuchsia pink dragon wallpaper in the bathroom hangs a framed 1692 prayer found in Old St Paul’s Church, Baltimore. Centuries later, it still resonates. Here are the highlights: “Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember, what peace there may be in silence… Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans… Be yourself… Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself… You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.”
A sign outside the cathedral explains, “This street was first recorded as London Street in 1811, most likely celebrating the role of the London Companies in building the Plantation City. The red brick building to the left of the cathedral gates is the former Cathedral Primary School of 1893 which was designed by John Guy Ferguson in a Flemish Gothic style with a corner circular stair tower. Opposite it on London Street is the Church of Ireland Diocese Office, built in 1838 as a Presbyterian Meeting House. The terrace of 19th century houses behind you is also notable.” Bishop Street Within leads down the hill to The Diamond, continuing as Shipquay Street which terminates at the Foyle Embankment. Halfway down Shipquay Street is the Craft Village, a cute 1990s insert development of neo Georgian shops and cafés below townhouses in the air. Like all Irish villages, it has at least one thatched cottage; this one contains a coffee shop and art gallery. London Street and its environs live up to the catchphrase ‘LegenDerry’.
It’s as if The Argory and Ardress House (County Armagh’s finest) were blended and transplanted in rural County Londonderry. Cumber House has the seven bay with breakfront containing a tripartite window over a fanlighted entrance door of The Argory and the white painted rendered walls of Ardress House. The house is Grade A Listed, the equivalent of Grade I in Great Britain. Alistair Rowan writes in The Buildings of Ireland: North West Ulster (1979), a seminal work sponsored by Lord Dunleath’s Charitable Trust, “A seven bay two storey house with tripartite centre door. It looks about 1820, though the lower floor was built earlier by William Ross, who lost his money in the American War of Independence and sold the house in 1785.”