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The New House with surrounding pool and garden wall to the west

A Grade II* Listed Building in Shipton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.8591 / 51°51'32"N

Longitude: -1.5935 / 1°35'36"W

OS Eastings: 428094

OS Northings: 217912

OS Grid: SP280179

Mapcode National: GBR 5SB.KXL

Mapcode Global: VHBZM.BJGP

Entry Name: The New House with surrounding pool and garden wall to the west

Listing Date: 15 July 1998

Last Amended: 12 July 2012

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1375658

English Heritage Legacy ID: 469633

Location: Shipton-under-Wychwood, West Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire, OX7

County: Oxfordshire

District: West Oxfordshire

Civil Parish: Shipton-under-Wychwood

Traditional County: Oxfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Oxfordshire

Church of England Parish: Shipton-under-Wychwood

Church of England Diocese: Oxford

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Shipton under Wychwood

Summary

A private house built in 1964 by Stout and Litchfield for Milton Grundy.

Description

MATERIALS: Cotswold stone walls with stone slate mono-pitch roofs.

PLAN: the plan consists of five linked pavilions, informally arranged, each with three external stone walls and the fourth side glazed. The largest pavilion to the north contains the kitchen, dining area and study, with the sitting room pavilion attached to its south-west, from where a covered way leads to two small stores and two loggias in the north-west corner of the garden. Three bedroom pavilions of identical size and plan, arranged in a rotational symmetry, with glazed links between them, form the east wing of the house

EXTERIOR: The main entrance door is to the right of a three-side forecourt south of the house, with two glazed bays at right angles in front and to the right belonging to the largest pavilion. The three bedroom pavilions rise from the irregular pool which surrounds the house to the east. They have white-painted timber windows and eaves, and grey opening lights including the large additional window in the kitchen and sitting room, inserted later in 1972 to offer further views of the garden.

INTERIOR: the interiors have exposed roof timbers and trusses, with brown tiled floors and window sills. The main pavilion to the north contains a built-in kitchen unit with cupboards and counter back, and a built-in dining table with bench seating. The three bedrooms each have en-suite bathrooms with storage space over.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the Japanese garden, which forms an integral part of the house, includes the following main structures: a freestanding Cotswold stone GARDEN WALL to the west of the house with a Cotswold stone-tiled pent roof resting on timber supports. The east side of the wall is decorated with an abstract mural of c1971 by the artist Chinese-Russian artist Viacheslav Atroshenko (1935-1994), subsequently restored by the artist himself. The entire eastern half of the house is surrounded by a bio-morphic shaped concrete lined POOL, which forms a main feature within the garden.

History

The land on which the New House and its surrounding garden were built, was bought by the barrister Milton Grundy in 1958, and formed part of the grounds formerly belonging to the Old Prebendal House (qv). The New House was built as a weekend house in 1964 to the designs of the architects Stout and Litchfield, for Milton Grundy, a friend of Litchfield's. The commission enabled Roy Stout (1928) and Patrick Litchfield (1930-2002), who had met as students at the Royal West of England Academy, to form a practice together. Stout and Litchfield became best known for their private houses, mainly following the success of the New House, but they also produced many conversion schemes (mainly in Pimlico); a design for St Cross College, Oxford; and housing schemes for the GLC, LB Lambeth and in Docklands. Stout worked on the Roehampton Lane (part listed Grade II*) and Cedars Road estates in Wandsworth, while Litchfield was the assistant architect to Richard Sheppard, Robson and Partners for early phases of Churchill College, Cambridge (listed Grade II).

The New House took its unusual form because of strict conditions imposed by the local authority. A Public Enquiry was held before the design was approved, described by Stout and Litchfield as 'a thunderstorm'. The architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner was on their side, and Dick Sheppard, Hugh Casson and Eric Lyons all wrote letters of support. Pevsner declared the model 'absolutely charming' despite admitting that he 'liked flat roofs'. The first scheme for the New House was in the style of Le Corbusier, with a dominant cross-wall and large areas of glazing. But a condition of building on the site was that the house should have stone walls and Cotswold slate roofs. So the house would have to have at least a mono-pitch roof. Stout and Litchfield turned towards faceting, softening the areas between light and dark. The New House marks the beginning of this development, which continues in their subsequent work. The New House marked 'a simple reaction against the rigidity of structure, breaking down scale, accepting that you could put a roof on - and that you didn't have to stick to right angles', as Litchfield explained shortly before his death. It was the `dream job' for such an exploration - Stout and Litchfield accepted that they had to thoroughly understand functionalism in order to react against its formal order as they did, and admitted that an element of constructivism still firmly informs their work.

Breaking down the scale of a structure into separate elements or by putting separate roofs on a block became a key feature of Stout and Litchfield's work, but the concept was fully realised at its first attempt, with the New House. They found that having to put a pitched roof on helped to express the unit. Stout and Litchfield wanted to separate the elements so that you could see clearly from the outside the separate volumes of each space. They did not like the idea of building a `villa' in the countryside. They also experimented with wedge shapes - if you introduce a wedge-shaped plan, you also have a wedge-shaped elevation, with the difference made up in the extra curve to part of the roof. This can be seen especially in groups of farm buildings, where the roofs vary because of the introduction of a second angle. In addition to the total edict that there had to be stone walls and Cotswold stone slate roofs, the client wanted three separate bedrooms with three bathrooms and three separate views of the garden. It is claimed that some of the windows to the house, such as that to the living room to the south-west, were inserted later, after the completion of the garden in order to create an additional view of it.

Stout and Litchfield had envisaged a water garden for the New House, however, Milton Grundy, inspired by a recent visit to Kyoto with the painter Viacheslav Atroshenko (1935-1994), wanted a Japanese garden. Atroshenko, born in Shanghai and the son of Ukrainian émigrés, was an artist and scholar in art and architecture. A team of Japanese gardeners, led by Mr Kasamoto, were commissioned to create a large bio-morphic shaped pool surrounding the house and to build a garden wall to the west of the house to enclose a raked gravel garden. Atroshenko completed the design and planting together with Milton Grundy. The inspiration for the pool may partly have been the city of Venice, on which Grundy published a book in 1971 entitled Venice Recorded: A Guide Book and Anthology. As shown in an article in Country Life in 1966, this wall contained a mural reminiscent of Hiroshige prints. This was replaced in c1971 with the abstract mural by Atroshenko, and subsequently restored by the artist himself. It depicts the four stages of the day: morning, afternoon, evening and night. In 1985 Grundy published a book on Atroshenko's paintings.

Reasons for Listing

The New House of 1964 by Stout and Litchfield, including its surrounding pool and garden wall, are listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: it is a particularly important and innovative example of early 1960s domestic architecture with a distinctive use of traditional materials and mono-pitched roofs in a modernist idiom;

* Historic interest: it is a seminal design by the nationally renowned architects Stout & Litchfield, which established their distinct style and career as private house specialists;

* Interior and plan: its interior and unusual plan form of linked pavilions with a rotational symmetry, display an exceptionally high level of innovation and quality;

* Artistic interest: the abstract mural of c1971 by the Chinese-Russian artist Viacheslav Atroshenko (1935-1994) on the garden wall gives it additional artistic interest.

* Intactness: both its exterior and interior have survived remarkably intact.

* Group value: it forms a particularly strong and interesting ensemble with the contemporary Japanese style garden

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