Architects Architecture Developers Town Houses

Courtenay Square Kennington London + Adshead + Ramsey + Prince Charles

The City Four Square

Georgian House Kennington © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Kennington has some of the best Georgian architecture in London. And some of the best neo Georgian. Take the Duchy of Cornwall’s estate in Kennington. In 1911, architect Stanley Adshead was commissioned to design this residential scheme. He partnered up with fellow architect Stanley Ramsey.

Georgian House Cleaver Square Kennington © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Prince Charles is a fan of his family’s commission: “Courtenay Square – a subtle reinterpretation of a Regency square, carried out in a ‘progressive spirit’ to use King George V’s own description. The architects Adshead + Ramsey were renowned pioneers of ‘planning’ in this country. They created a civilised architecture employing the simplest of means. The houses in Courtenay Square of around 1914 are not of the finest materials, nor richly decorated, nor on a grand scale. The Square works because of its proportions and straightforward detailing.”

Georgian Pediment Kennington London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Georgian House Cleaver Square Kennington London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Georgian House Facade Cleaver Square Kennington © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Courtenay Square Entrance Duchy of Cornwall Kennington Estate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

200 Kennington Road Duchy of Cornwall Kennington Estate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Quadrant Duchy of Cornwall Kennington Estate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Kennington Road Duchy of Cornwall Kennington Estate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Courtenay Square Houses Duchy of Cornwall Kennington Estate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Courtenay Square Trees Duchy of Cornwall Kennington Estate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Courtenay Square Terrace Duchy of Cornwall Kennington Estate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Courtenay Square Crescent Duchy of Cornwall Kennington Estate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Courtenay Square Duchy of Cornwall Kennington Estate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Courtenay Square Porches Duchy of Cornwall Kennington Estate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Courtenay Square Park Duchy of Cornwall Kennington Estate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Courtenay Square Rear Elevations Duchy of Cornwall Kennington Estate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

A pair of three storey red brick apartment blocks mark the entrance to the estate off Kennington Road. Each has a concave quadrant angle gracefully gesturing towards the two storey yellow stock brick terraced houses beyond. The apartment blocks are more flamboyant than the understated terraces, with an ensemble of Roman cement dressings. Prince of Wales’ feathers feature in the capitals of the apartment block pedimented porches and the mid terrace attic pediments. Each terraced house is treated to a delicate timber trellis porch topped by a swept lead hood. A Greek key patterned Roman cement first floor cill band wraps around the terraces.

Courtenay Square Pediment Duchy of Cornwall Kennington Estate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Architectural historian Andrew Saint observed in his 2018 European Commission Lecture, “The persistence of classicism continued throughout the 20th century. In 1900 it was there and is still going today.” Studying Courtenay Square it’s as if Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts never happened. Adshead + Ramsey didn’t rest on their Grecian laurels or stick to their neo Georgian guns though. In the 1930s they designed the Romanesque St Anselm’s Church in Kennington and the modernist block of flats John Scurr House in Limehouse.

Courtenay Square Window Duchy of Cornwall Kennington Estate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Architects Architecture Country Houses People

The Queen Mother + The Castle of Mey Caithness

The Definite Article

Hoy Orkney Islands © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“That is possibly the funniest episode I have ever read,” emailed the much missed Min Hogg, Founding Editor of The World of Interiors, in response to a descriptive summary of a group visit to a certain castle in Sussex. Said summary included a luxury coach breaking down, a shuttered up gothic castle, a game septuagenarian scaling a battlemented wall, a mass trespass into the castle, a hungover hostess lying in a four poster bed… and then things went from bad to worse… Fortunately, a visit to The Castle of Mey is less turbulent.

The Castle of Mey Caithness View © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“It’s very romantic,” notes heritage architect John O’Connell, “and the walled garden is beautiful.” Teetering on the edge of the world, or at least the top of Britain, overlooking Hoy, the second largest Orkney Island, is the only private residence The Queen Mother ever owned. In August 1952, just widowed, she bought the derelict Barrogill Castle for a token £100 from a local landowner. It was love at first sight, and who could blame Her Late Majesty? It helped that her great chum Lady Doris Vyner just so happened to live next door, or rather next estate, at The House of the Northern Gate.

The Castle of Mey Caithness Coast © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Following a three year reconstruction, The Queen Mother spent four weeks every August and 10 days every October at The Castle of Mey, as she rebranded it, right up to her death in 2001 aged 101. She furnished it simply with purchases from local antiques shops complemented by a few family pieces. And a Linley occasional table. Curtains are draped below bathroom basins in that upper class domestic fashion. Prince Charles continues the holidaying tradition and stays in the castle for 10 days every July. The building dates from the late 16th century except for the double height front hall which was added in 1819 to the design of William Burn for James Sinclair, 12th Earl of Caithness.

The Castle of Mey Caithness Garden © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Castle of Mey Caithness Walled Garden © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Castle of Mey Caithness Glasshouse © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Castle of Mey Caithness Flowerbeds © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Castle of Mey Caithness Facade © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Castle of Mey Caithness Scotland © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Queen Mother's Castle of Mey Caithness © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Castle of Mey Caithness Side Elevation © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Elizabeth Angela Marguerite’s younger daughter wasn’t just so keen on The Castle of Mey. Despite having a bedroom named in her honour, Princess Margaret never slept in the castle, preferring the luxury of the Royal Yacht. The Queen Mother’s favourite colour, Phoenix Blue, is everywhere from picture frames and towels to her raincoat on display in the front hall. There’s a well stocked drinks table in the drawing room. “The Queen Mother’s best loved tipple was one measure of Gordon’s Gin and three measures of Dubonnet served with lemon and ice,” explains her close friend Major John Perkins. He’s still a regular guest at the castle. “She always had ice in drinks and used her fingers, claiming ice prongs were an American invention!”

The Castle of Mey Caithness Wing © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Queen Mother frightfully loved picnics,” he continues, “but when she formally dined in the castle, the seats on either side of her were called the ‘hot seats’ for special guests. At the start of the meal, everyone spoke to the person on their right and then swapped to the person on their left. That way no one was left out of conversations. She rang a bell for the next course to be brought out. Her three corgis would bark at the same time. After dinner, the gents would remain in the dining room drinking port, while the ladies would withdraw to the drawing room. If the gents lingered too long, The Queen Mother would start a rousing rendition of ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’! That meant get packing!”

The Castle of Mey Caithness Lawn © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Major adds, “The Queen Mother had a terrific sense of humour. She was highly highly intelligent. She met all the world leaders of her time except for Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin.” On décor, “The Queen Mother didn’t like suspended lights. She liked soft lamps which cast more flattering light and shadows. The castle is exactly as she had it as her home. We haven’t added posh stuff!”

The Castle of Mey Caithness Keep © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Architects Architecture Developers People Town Houses

Rue de Laeken Brussels + Prince Charles

A Study of a Street

A summary of the eastern street frontage of Rue de Laeken, which runs between Rue du Pont Neuf to the north and Rue du Cirque to the south follows. The Foundation for Architecture in Brussels organised a Europe wide competition in 1989 for the reconstruction of this part of Rue de Laeken which had been demolished in the 1960s. Over 200 entries were received. The overriding criteria used by the international jury were that the projects should recreate a street suitable for the heart of Brussels and for the people who would live there. The winning team, then all aged under 40, came from Belgium, England, France, Italy and Spain.

The competition was a quest to combine architecture and urbanism: how to reconstruct a section of a street that would respect the scale and structure of the traditional city and the aesthetics of a historic street dominated by neoclassical language while meeting the economic, functional and technical requirements of contemporary shops, workshops, offices and houses. The buildings work symbiotically together; concessions to modern requirements such as lifts and underground car parking are hidden from view. Prince Charles approves: “The completion of this project to reconstruct the Rue de Laeken is a sign of hope that we may at last be entering a new and more humane age of European urbanism.” So from left to right, north to south, in a particular order, there are lots to see:

  • Lot 1 by Gabriele Tagliaventi + Associates. A three bay by three bay corner pedimented tower rising five storeys with arch headed ground floor windows. Attached is a two bay four storey with dormer building; blind windows on either side of the doorway.
  • Lot 2 by Atelier 55 + Marc Heene + Michel Leloup. Four bay three storey building with dormers; a shopfront takes up half the ground floor façade. Attached is a narrow four storey with dormer building; first floor rectangular oriel almost spans its full width.
  • Lot 3 by Sylvie Assassin + Barthélemy Dumons + Philippe Gisclard + Nathalie Prat. Symmetrical seven bay street centrepiece; four storey with attic; shopfronts either side of gated archway.
  • Lot 4 by Jean-Philippe Garric + Valérie Négro. Seven bay four storey with blind central bay on upper floors; shopfronts either side of arched doorway; first floor treated as mezzanine.
  • Lot 5 by Javier Cenicacelaya + Inigo Salona. Four bay three storey with dormers; arch headed ground floor doorways and windows.
  • Lot 6 by Liam O’Connor + John Robins. Three bay three storey pedimented townhouse. Attached is a four bay four storey heavy corniced symmetrical building; doorcase on either side of shopfront.
  • Lot 7 by Joseph Altuna + Marie-Laure Petit. Six bay four storey corner building accentuated by arch headed first and third floor windows; first floor metal balconies; chamfered corner.

Fashion Luxury People

Argentine Open Polo Championship Palermo + La Dolfina

Campeonato Argentino Albierto de Polo 2017

The Campeonato Argentino Abierto de Polo (Argentine Open Polo Championship) is to polo what the World Series is to baseball. Quite simply it’s the single most important international polo event on the planet. Cue the jetset. Held every year since 1893 at the historic Campo Argentino de Polo of Palermo, popularly referred to as the Cathedral of Polo, the Open Championship welcomes some of the world’s greatest equestrian athletes.

Today it’s 33 degrees and being an exclusive midweek match (a recent intervention), family and friends only. And us. Not only is this event important to the sporting community, it’s one of the hottest social tickets in Buenos Aires. Later, the fashionable restaurants of Palermo will be thronged. The Telegraph calls the Argentine Open “polo’s pinnacle”. Ezekiel P, himself a polo player and proud Porteño, is our English speaking guide. So who’s playing? La Dolfina against La Albertina. Get ready for the thunderous thud of hooves.

“This polo tournament is the most competitive in the world. Not in Argentina, the world! There are 10 teams in the tournament. Competitive polo playing follows spring season round the world. That way you can practise the whole year. It’s all very sociable!”

“The perfect team handicap is 40. An individual player’s handicap ranges from zero to 10 with 10 being the best. There are players at the highest level in Argentina, England and the US but nowhere else. Polo is the hobby of ‘patróns’ who fund the sport. The money is in breeding, training and selling the horses. All you receive when you win a match is a handshake – from the Queen if you’re lucky!”

“This match is at a really really high level. So you’ve got four versus four players and one sub on either team. There are two yellow jacketed referees on horses. There will be around 160 horses between the two teams. That’s 20 horses per player. The horses are all pure Argentinian pedigree. The field has to be perfect. After each goal teams switch sides of the field.”

“There are five to eight ‘periods’ per match. A period lasts six and a half minutes of real playing time. It’s a very dangerous sport! The horses are travelling at 60 to 70 kilometres per hour. Polo is very physical, like ice hockey. The Royals play for charity – they’re not professionals. When passing the ball to Prince Charles you have to say ‘Please sir’. The match will start soon. We do everything late! Everything in Buenos Aires starts late!”

“Polo horses have very pronounced tendons in their legs. They’re like the best girls: beautiful faces and big asses! Most of the horses playing are clones. Look at the scoreboard – the horse’s head beside any horse’s name means they’re cloned. All four of La Dolfina’s horses playing now are clones! Dolfina B04 C Clon 4; Dolfina Polemica; Irenita Acertada; and Vasca Harrods.”

“A polo field is the size of six football pitches. An underlay of sand keeps the grass bouncy. There’s only one match per day on the field. The match continues when players have to change horses, unless they’re hurt.  Look how they pass the ball so perfectly. The speed is always amazing!”

At the half time interval TV screens broadcast a six year old, an Adolfo Cambiaso in the making. “The fun part of polo is having fun,” he declares. The final score? La Dolfina 22: La Albertina 6.

Architects Architecture People Restaurants

Prince Charles + Christ Church Spitalfields Crypt London

By Royal Appointment

Christ Church Spitalfields Weathervane © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“10 minutes.” Frisson of anticipation. High flying MD Sara Nilsson DeHanas rocks up off the red eye Eurostar, suitcase in tow. Johannesburg this evening but in the meantime there’s a rendez vous with a Crown Prince to be had. Salut! Some meetings are unmissable. Reverend Andy Rider reminds us we’re in a place built to worship the King of Kings. “And a future king is on his way.” Phew, no pressure then. A chauffeur drops off the Lord Lieutenant of London. Police are everywhere. The eight bells are chiming. A choir gathers on the steps of the church. This is big.

Christ Church Spitalfields Crypt Entrance © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“Five minutes.” Excitement mounts. Stewart Grimshaw of The Monument Trust, benefactor of Christ Church Spitalfields Crypt, is at hand, impressed by the finished restoration and conversion to additional church space, community use and café. “It’s wonderful The Wallace Collection is free for visitors,” he says of another Monument Trust funded project. Artist Emily Wolfe arrives. She painted a window scene, cleverly elongating the staircase landing of the Crypt with an imaginary vista. “It was a great commission.” Another artist arrives. Nikki Cass admires her own stained glass in the chapel. “I’m so pleased how well the light falls on it.” Totes agree.

Christ Church Spitalfields Crypt Prayer Chapel © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Christ Church Spitalfields Crypt Emily Wolfe Artist © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Sara Nilsson DeHanas @ Christ Church © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“Two minutes. The Prince wants a tea. Earl Grey with honey.” Flurry of activity. Cups and saucers all round and quickly. Then in walks someone familiar. Do we know him? Is he family? Yes, Royal Family. Here’s a man, sorry, prince, comfortable in his own skin. He makes a beeline for us, recognising the fleur de Lys tie. “Very tactful,” he smiles. Gazing round: “The oak is simply sublime. Wonderful. What’s that?” pointing to a tiny hatch door in the apse wall. “Is that for Harry Potter to walk through?” He’s great company, witty, warm and relaxing. Little wonder Prince Harry is good fun. Like father…

Lord Lieutenant of London & Bishop of London @ Christ Church © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Architect Biba Dow is given a two minute slot to explain a decade’s worth of work. Time is precious. Even past retirement age, the Prince is clearly in high demand. Andy makes a speech. We hear the bit about the Crypt not being possible without architects and planners being in the congregation. And his thanks to The Monument Trust. And thanks to Prince Charles. The Bishop of London prays majestically. Everything is dreamlike. Minutes last for hours.

Prince Charles & Bodyguard © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Time for His Royal Highness to unveil the plaque we’ve had a hand in designing. “This Crypt will allow many more activities to be performed at Christ Church, serving the community… It’s been at least 10 years since I’ve been to Christ Church. The Crypt looks like the best place to eat in London!” Plaque revealed. Applause. The private secretary beckons. His press officer calls. The black Jaguar pulls up at the bottom of the steps of the church. Prince Charles declines, instead strolling down Commercial Street with his bodyguard. Clarence House can wait.

Rev Andy Rider & Prince Charles © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley


Lavender’s Blue + Prince Charles

More Than A Stitch in the Fabric of Time

HRH Prince Charles @ Christ Church Spitalfields © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

It’s not every day we get to shoot a future monarch. So it was a great honour to meet – and photograph – His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. Lots of laughter, and Earl Grey with honey. The outcome? A portrait of a smiling modern prince.