Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hans Road, London


Voysey comes to town

Charles Francis Annesley Voysey was one of the great domestic architects of the Arts and Crafts movement, famous for his low-slung, landscape-hugging country houses, with their sweeping roof lines, rendered walls, low-ceilinged interiors, and meticulous details. But at 14 and 16 Hans Road, built in 1891–92 and just a stone’s throw from Harrods, is evidence of what Voysey could do when designing town houses.

Here in Knightsbridge, an area where many houses were built in the late-19th century in the ‘Queen Anne’ style, the emphasis is on tall, narrow buildings and the dominant material is red brick. Voysey went with this theme but played his own variation on it, with stone dressings, shaped parapets and neat tall oriel windows above the entrances. The house numbers are in cartouches that are shaped using a variant on Voysey’s trademark heart motif, and the wooden doors have striking iron hinges. The houses were designed for Archibold Grove, a Liberal MP and the designs were well liked, both for the elegant exteriors and the internal layout, with most rooms benefiting from plenty of natural light. The overall proportions of the houses were praised in the press, too, as was the restrained use of carved decoration.

Voysey was to have designed the neighbouring number 12 too, but Archibold Grove’s liberality was wanting when it came to the fee, and the architect and client fell out. As a result, the commission for this house, beyond Voysey’s pair in the picture below, went to A H Mackmurdo.

C F A Voysey's 14 and 16 Hans Road, with A H Mackmurdo's 12 Hans Road beyond

15 comments:

Michelle May said...

Hello!
I just found your blog and I love it! I'm following along now so I can keep in touch. I love architecture, stone, Baroque and Rococo. I'm a textile artist and these are my influences. Looking forward to enjoying many beautiful photos here and learning too.
Best wishes,
Michelle

Neil said...

Poor Mackmurdo, having to design something different, but not wanting to interfere with Voysey's achievement. Even without Prince Charles putting his oar in, that must have been quite a task.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Many thanks for your comment, Michelle. More stone coming up soon, and maybe some baroque, too!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Neil: Poor Mackmurdo indeed. He seems not to have had a very big practice, though he designed some interesting houses in London and, I think, Manchester. He's probably better known for his promotion of social and artistic reform – through bodies such as the Century Guild and books like The Human Hive: Its Life and Law. His graphics for his book Wren's City Churches were very influential in the development of art nouveau in Britain.

columnist said...

And costing a pretty penny nowadays. I think entire townhouses (rare of course) range from 12-15 million pounds, depending on the leasehold.

Auriel Ragmon said...

Too bad there couldn't be some interior shots. I would love to see what the insides look like, but perhaps in view of our currant cultural malaise, should not.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Columnist: Yes, property round here is punishingly expensive and, as I wandered around Hans Place and other streets behind the Brompton Road after taking these pictures, I noticed that most of the houses are now subdivided.

Philip Wilkinson said...

AR: I too would like to see what these houses are like inside. Many of the rooms were panelled in painted wood, but I don't know if this panelling survives.

bazza said...

The names of Hans Place, Hans Crescent and Hans Road have always evoked a sense of old money, uppercrust England to me. Named after Sir Hans Sloane (I think?), we used to admire these buildings after an occasional visit to Harrods. Red brick still carries that sense for me generally now.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Bazza: Yes, Sir Hans Sloane, of British Museum fame, is the eponym of these streets as well as of Sloane Square etc. For me, too, this part of London is associated with red brick - the brick of mansion flats as well as of Queen Anne houses.

Hels said...

Every year or so I come back to Arts and Crafts architecture, usually as a result of reading a book about Bauhaus (sic) or following Charles Rennie Mackintosh (sic). All obscure links, I realise.

Now I am thinking about Baillie Scott and wonder if he had anything to do with Voysey.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Voysey was a few years older than Baillie Scott, and the younger man admired Voysey and one can see a lot of Voysey in BS's houses. BS also wrote about Voysey in The Studio (BS wrote a lot of articles for this publication) praising his work. Diane Haigh, in her book Baillie Scott: The Artistic House quotes BS, writing in 1908, on Voysey's 'application of severely sane, practical and rational ideas to home-making' which makes Voysey sound like a pioneer of modern design à la Pevsner. Haigh goes on to say that perhaps BH found Voysey too severe and sane, since his own buildings developed rougher textures.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I know I'm very late coming to this. I used to work in 12/14/16 Hans Road (they are interconnected inside). The original panelling does indeed survive, although it is no longer painted.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Anon: Fascinating comment, thank you. It's never too late to comment.

Bertrand said...

Wonderful blog. Thank you.