The English Country Home edited by Vanessa Berridge was published in 1987. Despite its title, Sally Phipps writes about Mount River, a country house in County Kildare which would later be bought by the Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood. She notes, “The owners… worked with the architect John O’Connell, who is becoming to Irish houses what John Fowler was to English ones: many have benefitted from his keen appreciation of individual atmosphere and history.”
On an off-duty visit, John casts his unrivalled eye over Sudbrook Park, now Richmond Golf Clubhouse, Petersham. The outer London village is synonymous with Petersham Nurseries, the garden centre with a restaurant which has become the restaurant with a garden centre. Wealth is in the air. Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner observe in The Buildings of England London: South, 1983: “Petersham, for its small size, is unusually rich in fine houses of the late 17th century and 18th century whose dates and ownership require further investigation.” Grade I Listed Sudbrook, built to the design of James Gibbs, is the finest.
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.