Neo-Georgian house built in 1912 to the designs of A. Winter Rose.
Reasons for Designation
Upton House, built in 1912 to the designs of A. Winter Rose, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: it is a highly original house displaying significant architectural inventiveness in its fusion of Classicism and Arts and Crafts. The playful treatment of classical proportion and motifs inverts the anticipated symmetry to create an intriguingly irregular and animated façade;
* Craftsmanship: the effect of the house is as much to do with its fine craftsmanship and intricate detailing as its exuberant composition. The thoughtfully chosen building materials result in an aesthetically pleasing palette and texture;
* Interior: it has an elegant and imaginatively detailed interior, including an ornately carved staircase, decorative chimneypieces of various forms, and a series of reception rooms that are exquisitely styled with panelled sliding doors and delicately moulded joinery;
* Integrated design: the architectural lines are continued in the arrangement of finely crafted garden structures which are carefully integrated with the design of the house to create an open and dynamic relationship between inside and outside space;
* Architect: it is the creation of an imaginative and highly gifted architect whose design for the house and garden was featured at some length in the contemporary architectural press;
* Historic interest: it forms part of an exceptional suburban development in West Cambridge which encompasses the work of some of the most notable architects of the day;
* Group value: it has group value with numerous listed houses on Grange Road, particularly the nearby Five Gables (1898) by Baillie Scott and nos 5 & 7 (c. 1893) by Edmund Kett.
Cambridge is situated on the southern edge of the Fens at the highest navigable point of the River Cam. The original Celtic settlement had grown up on the north bank but the Romans established the small town of Durovigutum at the strategically important junction of four major roads. The Saxon occupation spread to the south of the river, and the Normans reaffirmed the strategic importance of the site by building a castle which led to the expansion of the settlement. Cambridge soon became a prosperous town in which several religious houses were established, and these attracted sufficient students for Henry III to recognise the town as a seat of learning in 1231. Most of the fifteen colleges in existence before the Reformation had evolved from the cloistered world of monastic scholarship. Additional colleges and university buildings have continued to be established up to the present day and much new housing was built during the inter-war period and post-war period.
The development of the former medieval West Fields began around 1870. This land, covering approximately 200 acres, was owned primarily by the colleges, notably St John’s, which had always strongly resisted any building west of the Backs (the stretch of land which runs along the back of the riverside colleges). It was the loss of college revenue from the agricultural depression that led to their decision to lease the land in building plots. Three new institutions were established – Newnham College in 1875, Ridley Hall in 1877, and Selwyn Hostel (now College) in 1879 – and suburban houses in various styles from Queen Anne to Arts and Crafts and neo-Georgian were built piecemeal over almost half a century. The demand for such large family homes was partly fuelled by a new statute passed in 1882 that finally allowed dons to marry without having to give up their fellowships. The main arteries of development were West Road, Madingley Road and Grange Road which forms the central spine road running north-south through the suburb.
Although economic necessity had forced the colleges to allow building on the land, they were determined to keep a strict control over the residential development which consisted almost entirely of high end middle class housing, interspersed with university playing fields, without any community facilities such as churches or shops. There was no overall plan but the landowners ensured that it was restricted to an affluent market by issuing leases that specified numerous conditions, including minimum plot sizes, minimum house costs, specification of superior building materials, usually red brick and tiles, and had stringent dilapidation clauses to ensure that property values did not deteriorate. St John’s, for instance, specified one-acre plots with a minimum house cost of £1500 on its Grange Road estate, and half-acre plots with a house cost of at least £1000 on Madingley Road. To put this in context, in 1906 the sum of £1000 was considered well above the price of a substantial suburban villa. The great majority of building leases were taken up by individuals who commissioned either local or London-based architects, many of whom are now considered to be amongst the finest of the late Victorian/ Edwardian age, notably M. H. Baillie Scott who designed nine houses in West Cambridge, E. S. Prior, J. J. Stephenson, and Ernest Newton. Most of these houses were designed to accommodate at least two live-in servants, as shown by the census returns, and some had stables; although by 1910 there were requests either to convert these to garages or to build ‘motor houses’, as they were then known.
Upton House on Grange Road was built in 1912 for Mrs S. M. Blanche, the sister of a Cambridge don, to the designs of Algernon Winter Rose (1885-1918) who also designed the large garden. A. Winter Rose was educated at Bedford Modern School and articled to Messrs Usher and Antony of Bedford where his gifted draughtsmanship and skills in design, particularly for gardens, were noted. He was engaged by W. Beddow Rees of Cardiff as an assistant architect designing chapels in Wales, and after a spell working in London with the Office of Works and then with W. D. Caröe, he turned to garden design. In 1908 he was awarded the AA Travelling Scholarship, and decided to travel in England, particularly in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, concentrating on ‘the memorable work of other days’ rather than ‘modern products’. He wished to ‘restore to domestic architecture the dignity and charm of the past, whilst introducing such modifications of plan and design as were necessary to meet the needs of the present day.’ His subsequent commissions include Cloister Garth in Purley, Surrey; The House in Chatteris in the Isle of Ely; additions to Millfield in Brentwood, Essex; and the reconstruction of the C18 Grade II-listed Morton House in Old Hatfield, which is the only listed building associated with his name. Several of his garden designs were featured by Gertrude Jekyll in Arts and Crafts Gardens (1912), such as Morton House and Goodrich House, both in Hatfield. At the outbreak of the First World War, Winter Rose obtained a commission in the Yeomanry and was sent to France where he won the MC. He survived the war but died of influenza on 29 October 1918. He had been tipped by The Builder (November 1912) as a successor to Richard Norman Shaw, and so what would undoubtedly have been an illustrious career was regrettably cut short.
A ground-floor plan and description of Upton House was featured in Small County Houses of Today (3rd edn, 1922) by Sir Lawrence Weaver who commented that ‘in many ways it shows the influence today of late eighteenth century design, and this has extended even to the plan.’ The entrance hall on the east front of the house leads to the suite of reception rooms and servant’s hall on the west garden front. The three rooms, labelled drawing room, boudoir and smoke room, are separated by two pairs of double sliding doors which, when open, create an enfilade. The dining room is to the left of the hall, and to the right is a lavatory. The north part of the house is occupied by the pantry, kitchen, boots, and larder on the east front, the scullery on the northern end, and the WC and coal shed on the west front. The dining room has a door to the loggia which extends from the south gable end and is also reached from the entrance side of the house by an archway. Weaver describes this as a ‘practical provision’ as ‘Cambridge is not insensible to the pleasure of garden parties, and this garden entrance has an eye to them. The loggia within is a very suitable place for a hostess to receive her guests, who need not be inconvenienced by crowding through the house on the way to the garden.’ The article also included a plan of the garden layout which includes a sunken garden in the angle of the loggia and house; a herbaceous walk along the southern edge terminating in a ‘rond-point’ with a segmental seat and sundial; and a croquet lawn bordered at its western end by a pergola.
In 1980 the north part of the house containing the service area and smoking room and corresponding rooms on the upper floors was divided from the rest of the house to form two dwellings. Then in 1983 the south part of the house containing the loggia and dining room and corresponding upper rooms was also divided, resulting in three separate dwellings. This conversion involved inserting a staircase and some discreet kitchen units in the former dining room and blocking the door through to the entrance hall. In the middle section of the house, the former lavatory and pantry were converted into a kitchen; and a partition was inserted in the corridor to the north of the hall. The north part of the house has not been inspected so it is not known what alterations have been made. Recently, the formerly open west side of the loggia has been glazed, and a small area at the south end partitioned to create a kitchen. A small brick bicycle shed was erected at the front of the house in the mid-1980s; and the semi-circular chequerboard design on the drive, laid out in red tiles and flint, is a replica of the original, some of which survives underneath.
Detached, neo-Georgian house, with Arts and Crafts influences, built in 1912 to the designs of A. Winter Rose.
MATERIALS: gault brick with occasional red brick laid in a variation of English garden wall bond with dressings in red tile, yellow and red brick, and a plain tile roof covering of variegated colours, mostly brown and red, with bonnet tiles.
PLAN: the house faces east onto the road and has a rectangular double-pile plan with a loggia extending from the south gable end.
EXTERIOR: Upton House has two storeys and an attic under a deep hipped roof with sprocketed eaves and four tall red brick chimney stacks with oversailing brick courses and varying degrees of decoration. Rising somewhat erratically, there is a ridge stack on the north gable end; a panelled stack rising from a base on the north end of the east pitch; a transverse ridge stack on the west side; and a panelled stack on a stepped base with chevron decoration of tiles laid on edge which rises straight through the dormer window on the south gable end. The façade has eight regularly spaced but irregularly treated bays. The front door, positioned in the third bay, has a large single panel and is coated entirely in sheet lead with a cast door knocker in the form of a clenched hand holding a circular wreath. It has a delicate fanlight with a batwing pattern and an oversized elaborate classical doorcase. This has a panelled soffit and jambs, fluted square pilasters with Corinthian capitals supporting a segmental pediment and a frieze embellished with a festoon bearing the date 1912 underneath a female head which is flanked by rams heads. The two bays either side of the front door are lit by oval windows with a delicate batwing pattern, whilst the other windows are six-over-six pane sashes set flush in the wall, some beneath gauged red brick arches. The three bays to the right are lit by sashes, although the window in the sixth bay may have been replaced with a door when the house was converted in the 1980s (it was not possible to see this section of the house). The first floor is lit by two sashes, followed by a two-light casement in a lugged architrave decorated with margents (a vertical line of husks), which is squeezed between the doorcase and eaves. The fourth and fifth bays are lit by two sashes positioned lower than those in the first and second bays, whilst the former height of the windows is resumed in the last three bays, the middle one of which is blind. A lead downpipe between the fifth and sixth bays has a rainwater head embossed with the architect’s initials ‘A. W. R’ and ‘aedificavit’ (translated as ‘built’). The attic is lit by four irregularly spaced hipped dormers of different sizes which have swept valleys and casements with leaded lights, all positioned wholly in the roof space. Rising behind is a belvedere-attic with splayed edges, constructed of red brick with diaper work, surmounted by two ball finials of tiles laid on edge, and lit by a row of four small windows with leaded lights. The coped loggia wall extends from the south-east corner of the house. It has a wide semicircular archway with an archivolt of three rows of chamfered red brick and an Arts and Crafts square-panelled door, flanked by low raked buttresses.
The seven-bay west garden front has a symmetrical composition dominated by a central three-storey canted bay that rises through the eaves. It has a band of zigzag decoration of tiles laid on edge around the top and is surmounted by two ball finials made of the same material. In the front of the bay is a recessed multi-pane glazed door and delicate fanlight in a classical doorcase with fluted half-columns, a frieze embellished with a festoon and egg-and-dart, and a shaped canopy. The ground-floor windows, including those on the canted bay, are tall nine-over-nine pane sashes with gauged brick arches; and those on the first floor are six-over-six pane sashes, except for the second bay (from the left) which is blind on both floors. The attic floor of the canted bay is lit by an oval window flanked by two-light casements with leaded lights. There are four regularly spaced hipped dormers similar to those on the east pitch but of a uniform size.
The south gable end has a central pair of double-leaf, multi-pane glazed doors beneath a canopy supported by shaped brackets, and an oval window above. To the right, the original pair of double-doors beneath the loggia has been replaced. The loggia has a pitched pantile-clad roof and a wooden cornice supported by four pairs of replica Tuscan columns, the space between now glazed. (The original columns are in storage.) It was not possible to inspect the north gable end.
INTERIOR: the Georgian character is continued in the finely detailed interior which has remained little altered despite the conversion. The entrance hall and staircase hall have a unified architectural scheme incorporating a deep moulded cornice, square pilasters with moulded capitals which support the raised and moulded sections on the ceiling, and a bolection-moulded fireplace (converted to a central heating convector) with framed panel above. The elaborate open well staircase has square corner columns and slender fluted columns along the first-floor landing. Twisted balusters and thick twisted newel posts rise from an open string and support a heavy square handrail. It is lit by a circular light within a large oval moulded frame, located in the belvedere-attic. The joinery, fixtures and fittings, which are of a high quality and craftsmanship throughout, are more elaborate in the reception rooms and principal bedrooms. These have two-panelled doors with brass lock cases and drop handles, bordered parquet floors (laid over original boards) or floors laid in narrow boards, deep moulded cornices, dado rails and picture rails. The three reception rooms on the garden front are divided by sliding doors set within a panelled frame with large raised and fielded panels, the upper one longer than the lower one, which has a fluted surround with square corner roundels and a cornice. The drawing room and dining room have reeded and roundel fireplaces with a pulvinated frieze, elaborately moulded mantelshelf, and small grates surrounded by grey marble. The boudoir has a corner stone bolection-moulded fireplace with a fluted entablature and side hermes, tiled cheeks and back, and a framed panel above. The first-floor and attic bedrooms retain numerous fireplaces, notably two with a pulvinated frieze, jambs with roll mouldings, grey marble slips, and salvaged hob grates and delft tiles. Another bedroom fireplace has tiles depicting various birds and a delicate plaster surround with a scroll pattern which is repeated above to form an overmantel. The two bathrooms retain their original white wall tiles with black tiled border, and these rooms, together with the secondary bedrooms, have plank and batten doors with applied fillets, H-hinges and upright handles. The north part of the house, containing the former smoking room and service rooms, was not inspected but is thought to retain some fixtures and fittings.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: there are two pairs of square brick gate piers in the front of the house. The principal pair, aligned with the front door, have stone plinths and moulded caps surmounted by ball finials on high circular bases. Fixed to the piers is the original metal lettering ‘VPTON HOVSE’ and the number ‘II’. The decorative wrought iron gate has plain section top and bottom rails, the latter with a dograil of arrowheads, and an overthrow incorporating an oval bearing the initials ‘SMB’ (of the original owner) embellished with scrolls. The second pair of piers, to the right, are shorter and have plain stone caps. The pair of gates has vertical rails and cross rails, surmounted by small finials and a plaque inscribed ‘TRADESMEN’.
In the corner of the loggia and house is a square sunken garden with a square pond. It has four steps on the east side, flanked by square capped piers constructed of ashlar, rubble stone, red brick and red clay tiles. These are mirrored by a pair on the west side which flank a wall fountain spouting water from a pair of cherubs’ heads. Two sides of the pond retain the original square paving, and the surrounding paving is the original York stone, two sides of which have recently been relaid.
At the west end of the herbaceous walk is a circular feature laid in zigzag brick, at the centre of which is an octagonal base and octagonal sundial plinth with a moulded cornice (the sundial has been removed). Curving around the western side is a segmental bench constructed of roughly dressed ashlar and red clay tiles laid in a decorative pattern.
The pergola along the western end of the garden consists of eight pairs of square piers constructed of ashlar, red brick and red clay tiles, with capitals of tiles laid on edge which corbel out on each face and are capped in terracotta. The path underneath, laid in crazy paving and partly edged with rill-shaped brick plant boxes, extends westwards to the end of the garden, and terminates on the east side in three shallow semi-circular steps, aligned with the canted entrance bay of the house.
To the south-west of the pergola is an original weather-boarded shed with a tile-clad roof, wide plank door, and internal wooden lining.
Along the southern half of the west garden front of the house is a narrow terrace of crazy paving (it is not known if this extends to the northern half), terminating in a pair of gate piers constructed of ashlar and red clay tiles, one of which is surmounted by a stone thistle finial, added recently.
There is a flat-roofed rectangular building to the north-west of the house, shown on the 1927 Ordnance Survey map, which is probably the original garage, since extended on the west end. It was not possible to inspect the building but it appears to be constructed of gault brick with tiled saddleback coping.