Monday, July 9, 2012

Aynho, Northamptonshire

Five early pieces: 4

Another celebratory 5th-anniversary reposting, this time of a favourite landmark in a small Northamptonshire town.

Aynhoe Park is a striking country house in Northamptonshire, constructed in golden stone for several generations of the Cartwright family, who lived here from 1615 until the mid-1950s. This picture shows just one wing of the building. The house evolved over the decades between the 17th and early-19th centuries, and includes work by two great architects, the baroque master Thomas Archer and the Regency genius John Soane. Capability Brown landscaped the grounds.

In a way though, this illustrious pedigree doesn’t matter very much. What matters most about this house is its location. It’s a country house in the middle of a village, one that stands on its head the convention of the upper classes isolating themselves in large parks and sweeping away their tenants’ cottages when they spoil the view. So when you approach Aynho from Banbury, the road bends dramatically to the left – and there’s the house, one the best surprises English architecture has to offer.

Actually, the cottages of the village don’t spoil the view either. Aynho is one of Northamptonshire’s most beautiful places. Naturally, the houses are all built of local limestone. Naturally, lots of them have espaliered apricot bushes growing up the walls. A delicious place, if ever there was one.

Postscript 2012 I like this post because it exemplifies a way in which I often respond to buildings – in terms of their context and setting. The architecture of this building is fascinating and beautiful, but the bend in the road, the surrounding houses, the intimacy of the great house and the small town, is what makes the place. The nearby church, designed in the 1720s in an almost domestic style by local carpenter Edward Wing, was obviously meant to complement the house too, so forms another key part of the context. Here is a photograph of this unusual building.

                                        St Michael's Church, Aynho


Anonymous said...

Wonderful post. Aynho is such a beautiful spot, and the church is so unusual. The grain of the place, with intimate lanes and cottages piled on each other, is contrasted beautifully with the strong classical complimentary Hall and Church.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Anon: Thank for your comment: you put it well.