Sugden House, 2 Farm Field


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
2 Farm Field, Watford, Hertfordshire, WD17 3DF


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Statutory Address:
2 Farm Field, Watford, Hertfordshire, WD17 3DF

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Watford (District Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


A detached house built in 1956 for Derek and Jean Sugden, designed by Alison and Peter Smithson.

Reasons for Designation

Sugden House, no. 2 Farm Field, Watford, a house by Alison and Peter Smithson of 1956, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural Interest: the design of the completed house combines the visionary aesthetic of the Smithsons with the indelible stamp of their clients. The superficial simplicity of the exterior treatment belies the subtle nuances of the design, expressed particularly in the form and arrangement of the windows; * Alterations: the building is little altered; * Plan-form: the simple ingenuity of the plan form is attested by the thoughtful application of levels to denote different use of spaces while still maintaining an open plan; * Materials: the imaginative use of exterior and interior materials exemplifies what was described by Alison and Peter Smithson as a ‘reverence for materials’ ; * Interior: fixtures of note and craftsmanship include the free-standing fireplace, carefully placed storage units, and built-in cupboards designed by Alison Smithson. The finishes are thoughtfully applied, denoting different areas of use within the house; * Rarity: the architectural partnership of Alison and Peter Smithson was one of the most influential of the post-war period nationally and internationally. Sugden House is one of their few domestic commissions which came to fruition.


No. 2 Farm Field, the Sugden House, was built in 1956 to the designs of Alison and Peter Smithson for Derek and Jean Sugden, who had considerable input into the final scheme. Derek Sugden was a founder-partner of Arup Associates, and later a founder of Arup Acoustics. He met Peter Smithson when the latter was working with his colleague Ronald Jenkins on a design for the Coventry Cathedral competition in 1951. When the Sugdens bought a plot of land in Watford, Derek Sugden discussed his ideas with Smithson, who volunteered himself as architect. Sugden says his brief was 'for a simple house, an ordinary house, but that this should not exclude it from being a radical house' (Webster, 1997). With a budget of approximately £2,500, the first scheme by Alison Smithson was rejected by the Sugdens because they did not want a butterfly roof with a deep valley gutter, and preferred the kitchen to be facing the north-west, rather than the south-east. Alison Smithson was 'very cross' that her scheme was not accepted, but the revised design with a reversed plan and gabled roof by Peter Smithson was taken forward, with Alison concentrating on the interior detailing. Jean Sugden designed and planted the garden.

The building is little altered, attesting to its successful and practical design. On the first floor, the north-east bedroom, once open to the stairs was enclosed with a pine-clad partition with the approval of Peter Smithson. The play room is now the study, the boiler has been relocated and the yard glazed in.


A detached house built in 1956 for Derek and Jean Sugden, designed by Alison and Peter Smithson. The garden was designed and planted by Jean Sugden.

MATERIALS: second-hand London stock bricks built around a nine inch brick crosswall frame with exposed reinforced concrete beams. The roof is covered with tiles.

PLAN: square in plan, incorporating a garage to the north-east.

EXTERIOR: a two-storey house with a catslide roof over the single-storey garage and enclosed yard. There are two ridge stacks. All of the windows are metal casements. The near symmetrical front elevation faces south-west and overlooks the garden. There is a garden door to the right, a large central window and a smaller window to the former playroom to the left. Above at the first floor are two inverted 'L'-shaped windows. The fenestration to the south-east and north-west elevations is more irregular. The garage door and entrance are at the south-east elevation; a large stepped window lies to the left of the entrance door and lights the dining area. At the first floor, there is another inverted 'L'-shaped window and two rectangular lights at the apex of the roof over the stairs. At the north-west elevation, the yard has been glazed; a door leads from the former playroom to the garden, with a large window to the left.

INTERIOR: a semi-open plan on the ground floor with room divisions between the dining space, living room and kitchen formed by cupboards and curtains. On the ground floor, the brick crosswalls and Columbian pine joists are exposed in the ceiling; the living room is higher to allow steps up to the master bedrooms directly above on the first floor. The underfloor heating by Benhams is overlain by Loliondo teak strip floors in the living room and playroom and polyvinyl tiling in the dining room, hall and kitchen. In the living room there is a brick fireplace with concrete lintel and tiled surround. Service rooms run along the length of the garage wall, accessed from the dining area; at the first floor this linear space is used for storage. An open staircase with simple stick balusters, designed by Alison Smithson, leads to the first floor, where the rooms have french-polished Columbian matchboard ceilings and tongue-and-groove boarding to the floors.

The original doors, door furniture, light switches and fittings remain throughout. In the living room, kitchen and master bedrooms are cupboards and shelving designed by Alison Smithson.


Books and journals
Davies, C, Sugden House, (2006)
Webster, H, Modernism without Rhetoric, (1997)
'Architectural Review' in Architectural Review, (1957 )
'Hertfordshire Life' in Designed For Life, (June 2007 pp55-59)
Hawkes, D, 'The Architects Journal' in A Celebration of Domestic Life, (26th June 1997)
Sugden, D, 'Architectural Association' in Architecture is Not Made With the Brain, (2005)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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