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.
Dublin may have lost its Burlington Hotel but Worthing still has one. If charm could be boxed up in an early Victorian seaside villa, it would be The Burlington on the seafront of the sprawling West Sussex town of Worthing. Dating from 1865 this three storey with tall attics corner building is stuccoed and Italianate in style. The dining room stretches the full three bay frontage and extends into a glazed projection perfectly capturing sea views. There are 12 bedrooms on the first floor, eight on the second floor and six on the third floor. A two bay lower wing is attached to the landward elevation of the main block. The interior is subtly and elegantly decorated with Lyonel Feininger, Henri Matisse and Joan Miró prints lining the corridor walls.
James Henry and Colin Walton write in Secret Worthing, 2016, “The town is a popular south coast seaside resort, mixing Victorian, Edwardian and Georgian architecture with a dash of Art Deco and a pinch of medieval design… history is everywhere, all you need to do is look that little bit closer.” Worthing is like Brighton’s sleepy sister: laid back, understated and just a little bit louche.
A roar ripples through the crowd. The atmosphere is electric. Here he comes! A lorry carrying barriers turns the corner and comes into view, its driver waving regally. The crowd cheers and laughs. A young unfit looking guy breaks through the barrier and makes a run for it. An even more unfit looking policeman gives chase. The crowd cheers again before the guy is eventually toppled to the ground by five police officers further up The Mall.
The waiting continues. There’s a flurry of activity amongst the many security personnel. They’re all on their mobiles. Then at last the horse led convoy appears. The State Rolls Royce Phantom VI slowly drives past, enough to catch a glimpse of King Charles’ wispy grey hair. Hip hip hooray! And so His Majesty Charles III, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of His other Realms and Territories, King, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, Supreme Head of the Church of England, Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces, starts the first day in his new job, aged 73, meeting Prime Minister Liz Truss and members of her new Cabinet in Buckingham Palace. What a short commute! What’s his job role? To weave a line through the tapestry of time. No pressure, then. Soon, it will be time to dust down the ermine. Where does pomp and pageantry better than Britain?
“Delightful sunshine, with a light mist which promises a fine day.” Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre, 1938“The history of Wickhambreaux and its neighbourhood can be traced back over 1,600 years. Today the attractive valley of the Lesser Stour is made up of a network of small waterways, water meadows and manmade lakes. In Roman times this was a tidal creek, probably navigable as far as Littlebourne,” writes Dick Bolton in his 2005 guide to St Andrew’s Anglican Church. As for the church, “Today the existing building is uniformly of the 14th century, consisting of a square crenellated tower with a ground floor, ringing chamber and belfry. The nave, of three bays, is flanked by north and south aisles which both project westwards to enfold the tower.” It is one of five churches in Kent dedicated to St Andrew. The exterior is a jolly mosaic of black flint, cement render, Kentish rag stone, marine limestone, sandstone, Tudor brick and Victorian sandstone. The nave, chancel wall and ceiling are decorated with striking paintings resembling a starry night.Tucked away in this low lying undulating landscape, Wickhambreaux is sometimes described as the prettiest village in England and it’s not hard to see why. Quite grand, grand and very grand houses – The Old Rectory, Old Willow Farmhouse and Wickhambreaux Court – ripped straight from the pages of Country Life are dotted around the village green. A river runs through it. There’s a converted mill with a giant two storey gable. And the cottagey 800 year old Rose Inn with its cider garden. John Newman records in his classic Pevsner 2013 Guide, “One of the best villages in the country arranged not along a street but loosely round a triangular green.” King Eadred, he who first granted land for the village to be built in the year 948, would be impressed by the legacy.
“I could feel that the success of the enterprise was in my hands; the moment had an obscure significance which had to be trimmed and perfected…” Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre, 1938
The village of Littlebourne lies a few kilometres east of Canterbury in the valley of Little Stour River. It’s Godiva chocolate boxy or at least Charbonnel et Walker. The Conservation Area covering much of the built form is broken down into the ‘character areas’ beloved of planners. There are two Locally Listed and six Grade II Listed properties on Bekesborne Lane. Church Road has two Locally Listed, two Grade II Listed and the only two Grade I Listed buildings. The Green has four Grade II and High Street has 15 Grade II. Four Locally Listed and two Grade II Listed buildings are to be found on The Hill. Nargate Street has two Locally Listed and 17 Grade II Listed properties.
St Vincent’s Anglican Church and Barn are the two Grade I Listed buildings. This parish church is dedicated to St Vincent of Saragossa, Deacon, Martyr and Patron of Vine Dressers. The Domesday Book 1085 to 1086 mentions a church in Littlebourne. It probably was built in wood by the monks of St Augustine’s who kept vines in the parish. The framework of the adjacent early 14th century barn with its sweeping thatched roof shows evidence of reuse of earlier timbers which may have come from the first church building. The nave dates from 200 years earlier than the barn; the chancel, the following century; and enhancements continued right up to the 19th century with the insertion of stained glass windows designed by Nathaniel Westlake and executed by his company Lavers, Barraud and Westlake. The porch was added in 1896
“I have left cities behind me, and I have followed the course of rivers towards their source…” Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre, 1938
Ickham, Littlebourne and Wickhambreaux are three exquisite Kentish villages east of Canterbury and west of Sandwich. A compact and discreet part of the countryside, the villages lie along the rolling floor of this shallow valley surrounded by fields of corn or cows grazing among wintercress. This area of southeast England is Country Life country life. Midsomer Murders on heat. Medieval patterns of development. Victorian houses still considered ‘modern’ (slight exaggeration but Elizabethan to Georgian is the norm). The Old Rectory is the most popular house name in Little Stour Valley. The meandering Little Stour River eventually feeds into the Great Stour confluence at Plucks Gutter.
At the heart of Ickham is of course an ancient church. St John the Evangelist Anglican Church is Grade I Listed. Its Listing states: “This church originally belonged to Christ Church Priory. Early English with transepts added in second quarter of 14th century. Built of flint. Cruciform building with aisles to the nave, south porch and west tower with broached shingled spire. Norman west doorway with embattled moulding billet hood and scalloped capitals. The nave, aisles and tower are late 12th century, the chancel is 13th century, the transepts are 14th century, the south porch is 19th century. The whole building was restored in 1901. The north transept belonged to the owners of Lee Priory and has a 14th century tomb of Sir Thomas de Baa. Wall monuments. Double piscina. The churchyard contains some 18th century headstones with skull, urn or cherub motifs.”
A long row of thatched roof timber hung wall converted barns lines the one edge of the open space in front of the church off The Street. Set back on the opposite side of The Street are four converted kiln oast houses. Other landmark buildings in between the cottages along The Street include The Old Rectory (a patchwork of the best bits of architecture across a few centuries) and Ickham Hall (an early 19th century country house faced with Roman cement set in a mini estate behind a high wall). There are two Grade II* Listed Buildings in the village and 22 Grade II.
At the end of the winding mountainous road leading down from the Gortin Lakes into the village is a single storey white rendered slate roofed building. Provincial Ulster architecture at its best. It overlooks St Patrick’s Church of Ireland. The pillar box red painted doors at either end of the façade are a drive-by giveaway: it’s The Old School (gender segregated entrances for schoolchildren). Upon closer inspection a plaque over each door reads: “Beltrim National School 1899”. Beltrim Castle is the estate on the edge of the village. The eight bay Old School – or should that be Auld School? – is now a smartly kitted out holiday cottage to let. A combined reception room and kitchen is open to the beamed ceiling and there are two guest bedrooms.
The most idiosyncratically located picnic table in the area is next to the roof of Rylagh Limekiln. Down a narrow road leading nowhere in particular, this square stone stower built into the roadside slope encases an egg shaped chamber made of brick. A hole in its base opening to the road facing front allowed in air to assist combustion, and at a later stage in the process, the removal of the end product. Limestone from a neighbouring quarry was burnt with peat for a week inside the limekiln to produce a white powdered form – lime – suitable for agricultural and building use. Erected in 1800, the limekiln was restored 215 years later by a local group of volunteers ‘Friends of the Glens’. The lime may have gone, but the stone structure stands as a reminder of Auld Times.
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.