When the owners of this Cotswolds house bought it, it was a bland Twenties reconstruction of a seventeenth-century house that had burnt down. They and their architect set about rebuilding it, reconnecting it with its gardens and wider surroundings. The results are a topiary dream world of hidden nooks and ravishing views
Visiting for the first time, you might be forgiven for thinking that this house had stood, hidden away and presiding quietly over its surrounding yew hedges and lawns, for several centuries. You would be wrong; the house and its gardens, in their present form, are only 20 years old, the result of imagination, dedication and attention to detail on the part of the owners, in conjunction with architect Robert Hardwick.
A seventeenth-century house had stood on the site, but it burnt down in 1920, and was replaced three years later by a bland substitute, half the size of the original and with little detailing. This was the house the current owners bought; with little to recommend the building, it was the glorious, far-reaching views of valleys, deciduous woodlands and wild-flower meadows, and the lack of light pollution at night that appealed. That, and its non-listed status - a rare advantage, especially with a house of this size.
Robert Hardwick, an expert in the Cotswolds vernacular, had designed their previous home and so again the owners sought his advice. A larger and lighter house was required; in short, the building was not merely to be extended, but the whole style was to change.
Robert began by adding two wings with bay windows at either side of the original three-gabled building. After some discussion, it became clear that the favoured styles were somewhere between Strawberry Hill gothic and traditional Cotswolds vernacular. 'We eventually plumped for the latter,' says the husband, 'especially since, although we had assumed that the new wings would mirror each other, Robert pointed out that one of the joys of the Cotswolds vernacular was that the design of each could be subtly different, a look we much preferred since it gives the appearance of natural growth and development.'
As the house took shape, it became apparent to the owners that the garden was in the wrong place. 'There had been a perfectly nice garden before, with the land just sloping away from the house,' says the husband, 'but now it was much larger, the house needed something to sit on.' This had not been in the original plans and presented a daunting task.
A series of terraces was created, dropping down to a croquet lawn and from there to the fields below. An army of JCBs descended and the whole place was flattened; then topsoil was brought in and, for five months, everything was left bare. 'This was something we had to do, but it was a pretty grim period,' recalls the husband. 'It rained non-stop, so the whole building was surrounded by mud.'
In planning the garden, they decided that the stunning view should be hidden, as they reasoned that if they emphasised the view, no one would look at the garden. A number of yew hedges were planted, creating a series of 'rooms' running along the terrace, from which you emerge out on to the lawn. An oak window has been set in one of the hedges, through which you can see the landscape beyond, or alternatively, can look in at the house and gardens, the two now so completely in harmony with their surroundings that they could indeed have been there for centuries.
Robert Hardwick: 01285-831559; [email protected]
Taken from the October 2012 issue of House & Garden.
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