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The Grange Estate + Festival Hampshire

Cono Sur  

It is one of the greatest flowerings of Greek Revival architecture in Europe. Yet it wasn’t purpose built: it’s a radical remodelling of an earlier building. This is the story of how a Restoration house in rural Hampshire became a Greek temple (make that two Greek temples: minor and major) and after a few additions and a few subtractions became a theatre and a theatrical backdrop for an opera festival.

“My father bought the estate in 1964,” recalls the Honourable Mark Baring on a private tour of the house (it’s not normally open to the public) accompanied by The Grange Festival’s Chief Operations Officer Michael Moody. “The Grange was out of Baring family ownership for 30 years. As a six year old I remember rooms with huge great pillars and bits of plaster in some disrepair. My father had a sale of contents which included the fireplaces. The stairs were sold and curiously they came back! My great grandfather had sold all the pictures.” In 1975 English Heritage took over the grey elephant that is The Grange. Mark has managed The Grange Estate, which his family own, since 2014.

He relates, “My father the 7th Baron Ashburton bought back the house and park for £157,000. That was for 660 acres and a crumbling house. Big houses were impossible to live in then under taxation rules. The house now gives so much to the feel of the opera!” Michael agrees: “It’s all about the setting in the landscape.” The inaugural opera festival was held on the estate in 1998. Four years later the orangery cum picture gallery (minor Greek temple) was opened as a theatre. Studio E were the architects for the conversion. The conservation architect was John Redmill who cleverly advised reinstating the Robert Smirke façade. “This reconnects the two temples,” John explains, “and acts as a screen to hide the modern building behind.”

When Mark’s ancestor Alexander Baring bought the estate in 1817 he commissioned Robert Smirke to add a single storey west wing and Charles Robert Cockerell to terminate the wing with a conservatory cum dining room (which would later become the orangery cum picture gallery). Robert was a pupil of George Dance and a leading light in the Greek Revival craze. His younger brother Sydney, also an architect, designed several Italianate villas stuccoed to the nines in Kensington Palace Gardens, London.

The main block of The Grange (major Greek temple) – is the work of architect William Wilkins. In 1804 then owner Henry Drummond appointed the trailblazing Greek Revivalist to transform his Restoration house into a Greek temple. The Doric portico (which swallows up the entire east elevation) is based on the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens. Michael explains, “This drastic transformation resulted in some windowless rooms!” The introduction of a high entablature meant the servants’ quarters in the attic lost their dormers. Form didn’t always follow function. Henry Drummond wasn’t impressed and sold up.

“The 1664 house was designed by William Samwell, one of Charles II’s three Court architects, for Sir Robert Henley,” says Michael. “It was all about very clever maths. The double height entrance hall was like the hall in the Queen’s House, Greenwich. It was a 27 foot cube. The bedrooms on either side were 18 feet square. The corner closets were nine feet square.” A Running Times Master Sheet is pinned to the wall of the basement kitchen cum dressing room, the last room on the private tour:

  • Le Nozze di Figaro Run Times
  • Monday to Saturday
  • 17.30 – Curtain Up Part One (1 hour 37 minutes)
  • 19.07 – Curtain Down Part One
  • Interval (1 hour 40 minutes)
  • 20.47 – Curtain Up Part Two (1 hour 37 minutes)
  • 10.24 – Curtain Down Part Two

  • Sunday
  • 17.00 – Curtain Up Part One (1 hour 37 minutes)
  • 18.37 – Curtain Down Part One
  • Interval (1 hour 40 minutes)
  • 20.17 – Curtain Up Part Two (1 hour 14 minutes)
  • 21.31 – Curtain Down Part Two

  • Falstaff Run Times
  • Monday to Saturday
  • 17.30 – Curtain Up Part One (1 hour 15 minutes)
  • 18.45 – Curtain Down Part One
  • Interval (1 hour 40 minutes)
  • 20.25 – Curtain Up Part Two (42 minutes)
  • 21.07 – Curtain Down Part Two

  • Sunday
  • 17.00 – Curtain Up Part One (1 hour 15 minutes)
  • 18.15 – Curtain Down Part One
  • Interval (1 hour 40 minutes)
  • 19.55 – Curtain Up Part Two (42 minutes)
  • 20.37 – Curtain Down Part Two

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Architecture People

Villa Patumbah Zürich + Zollikerstrasse

Smoking Hot

It’s official. Smoking is good for your wealth. Or at least it was if you happened to be a tobacco plantation owner a century ago. With money to burn from his Sumatra based enterprise, in the 1880s Carl Fürchtegott Grob hired architects Alfred Chiodera and Theophile Chudy to design him a house in the hilly Riesbach district of Zürich. Actually this being Zürich, everywhere is pretty much hilly. It’s on Zollikerstrasse which is like Kensington Palace Gardens – with gardens. Über villas lurk in sylvan settings, each richer with a richer patron than the last.

Villa Patumbah is one of the most flamboyant. It’s a typical eclecticism of baroque, gothic, Italian Renaissance and just a little Swiss chalet (all that wood!). Two years before he died, Herr Grob got the landscape architect Evariste Mertens to give the house a setting worthy of its opulence. Its inspiration was English formal gardens. “Patumbah” is Malay for “longed for land”. Carl got his longed for land – and house – and more recently, the Swiss Heritage Society has ensured the public can share in his dream. Not such a drag.