Arts and Crafts purpose-built stable and motor yard incorporating chauffeur and groom’s accommodation, built in 1913-14 to designs by Walter Cave.
Reason for Listing
Littlecourt Yard, a purpose-built stable and motor house built in 1913-14 to designs by Walter Cave, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
Rarity: it is a rare and important building that represents a brief moment in time between 1905 and 1925, when an important change was occurring in the history of transport, and a few combined stable and motor house complexes were built
Historic interest: it is an eloquent reminder of the gradual transition from horse power to the motor car
Architectural interest: it is a finely detailed building in the Arts and Crafts style, displaying a high level of craftsmanship and sensitive handling of both building materials and vernacular motifs to create what was regarded as a thoroughly modern building type
Architect: it was designed by a leading architect, Walter Cave, who was one of the few architects to take the design of motor houses seriously
Intactness: it has survived with a high degree of intactness, retaining many of its original internal fittings, notably in the stables
Littlecourt Yard was designed in 1913-14 as a purpose-built stables, coach house and motor house by the architect Walter Cave (1863-1939), along with a number of other estate buildings including cottages and a Racquets court. The new house, Littlecourt, had been designed and built by Cave in 1906 for Philip Agnew, the owner and editor of Punch magazine, and was demolished in the late 1950s. The stable yard forms an open courtyard looking south across a valley. It was designed to be seen from the main drive to the house, and as a picturesque element in the landscape. The south, open side of the complex has a gateway leading out into the fine hunting country all around. This is the side of the building that was seen by Philip Agnew’s guests, invited here to participate in riding and hunting. The building’s more functional approach is from the north, off Maidford Road. Coaches and horses entered through the central archway in the north range into the main court, which contains stabling on all three sides and a coach house at the end of the west range. The usually noisy new motor cars were not allowed in the central court, instead turning left before the north range and making their way around the building to the motor house situated on the east side of the east wing of the building. The motor house comprised the essential elements for this building type with heating pipes, an inspection pit, and a concreted and well drained washing place with a glazed roof in front, all of which survive, together with a workshop and chauffeur’s cottage. The whole building was lit by electricity generated on site, which also powered the modern fire alarm system. The building was served by a heating system in the basement that provided hot and cold running water.
The stable yard was sold after the house was demolished and has since been used as an equestrian centre. The main alteration to have taken place is the conversion of the coach house and sick bay into a dwelling in 1963. The west façade had an extra storey and flat roof added, and the interior was remodelled. The groom’s cottage in the east side of the north range was updated in the 1970s with the addition of a kitchen and fireplace. In the 1960s the motor house was subdivided by temporary breeze-block walls, and the folding doors were replaced in the 1990s. The gates along the open south side of the courtyard were replaced like-for-like in oak in the late C20.
Few motor houses of any distinction were built at older country estates, whilst at brand new houses, or those which were virtually rebuilt, elaborate motor houses were constructed, but only for a very brief period. The complex and delicate apparatus which was the early combustion engine needed very specific requirements and equipment to maintain and service it, hence the need for specialist accommodation for the motor and the chauffeur. But very soon the necessary local infrastructure, in the form of garages, dealerships and petrol filling stations, was developed and this, along with the ever increasing reliability of the motor cars themselves, meant that little more than a garage was needed to house a motor car after the 1920s. Cave was one of the pioneers of the motor stable and his work at Ewelme Down, Wallingford, Oxfordshire (1905) is one of the most important examples of a country house garage. Cave had been articled to Sir Arthur W. Blomfield and set up his own practice in 1889. He was appointed Surveyor to the Gunter Estate, Brompton, London, laying out their model housing estate in Fulham (1900-04), and was also consulting architect to the Whitely Cottage Homes, Burhill, Surrey. Cave was a prolific architect whose many commissions include Burberry’s in the Haymarket (1912) and The Wharf, Sutton Courtenay, Berkshire (1912), which was the home of Herbert Asquith, Prime Minister from 1908 to 1916, both listed at Grade II. Cave was a Fellow of the RIBA, serving as Vice President 1917-21, President of the Architectural Association 1907-08, and a prominent member of the Art Workers Guild.
A courtyard stable, coach house and motor house designed in 1913-14 by the architect Walter Cave (1863-1939).
MATERIALS: coursed rubble ironstone and Collyweston stone slates.
PLAN: the stable building has a U-shape plan which forms an open courtyard. The north range has a central entrance, flanked by a tack room, saddle room, wash room and stable on the west side; a mess room, scullery, lavatory, and stable on the east side; with a former groom’s cottage above. The east range has a hay loft and four stables terminating with the former motor house, workshop and chauffeur’s cottage at the south end. The west range has four stables terminating with a dwelling that was converted from the former coach house and sick bay.
EXTERIOR: the building has steeply pitched hipped roofs with wide, sweeping valleys and a pagoda-style tilt to the deep eaves, as do all the gables and dormers. The north range is dominated by a central cross gable, rising above the roof ridge, which has a wide central segmental archway in dressed stone and a pair of oak plank and batten gates. Above is a three-light and then a two-light casement window with timber mullions, lintels and sills, and metal glazing bars. This fenestration, mostly of two or three lights, is regular throughout the building. From the left hand side, there are three windows on a higher level to the centre, and on the other side of the archway are three windows at ground floor level. Flanking the central gable are small gabled dormers in the roof space, and at either end of the roof are larger dormers with windows above the eaves. There are two ridge stacks. The inner elevations of the courtyard are linked and protected from the weather by a continuous glazed canopy supported on pairs of square posts on stone pads, and the resulting passageway has a herring-bone patterned tiled floor. The inner north elevation has a similar central gable to the outer except the archway has a timber bressummer. The ground floor has multi-light horizontal casements and doors to the service rooms and stalls, with four dormers in the roof space. The east range has four stalls with plank and cross batten stable doors, and the two-storey chauffeur’s cottage which is positioned at right angles to the range. The south elevation has three two-light, ground-floor windows, whilst the east and west elevations have one window, the former also containing a door with one margin light. There is a single ridge stack and a dormer window across the eaves on each side of the hipped roof. The west range is similar with five stalls and the converted two-storey coach house. This resembles the chauffeur’s cottage, except the south elevation has a French window and two dormer windows, and on the west side a two-storey, flat-roofed extension has been added with replica fenestration and a conservatory under a lean-to roof.
INTERIOR: the internal fixtures and fittings of the stable yard and accommodation have survived to a high degree, even down to the original electric fire alarm system. The stalls and loose boxes retain all their original fittings, including doors with kick bolts, timber stall dividers, hayracks and light fittings. The tack room, which has a parquet floor and softwood matchboard cladding, retains a fitted mahogany cabinet for displaying bits, and custom made wrought-iron brackets and hooks for bridle, saddles and driving harness etc. The saddle room is similarly intact with its saddle racks and hooks, fitted bench, and deep ceramic sink. The double-height motor house survives largely unaltered, although it has been subdivided by temporary concrete breeze blocks and is currently used for storing hay and feed. It retains heating pipes, inspection pit, and a concreted and well drained, covered, washing place in front, although the original glazing has been replaced with transparent corrugated plastic sheeting. The two sets of double doors are modern replacements, and the generator and switching gear have been removed. The workshop for maintaining the motor still survives although the work-benches have gone. The groom’s accommodation, which occupies the two storeys above the archway, and the chauffeur’s cottage on the south end of the east range, have been modernised with new kitchens and bathrooms but are otherwise substantially as built, retaining much of their original joinery, including fitted cupboards and two-panelled doors. The accommodation is mostly plain with some detailed elements such as the diamond balusters and, in the chauffeur’s accommodation, the deep triangular or arched recesses above the dormer windows.
In the centre of the gravelled courtyard is an octagonal stone pier with seats and a sundial, beneath which is a water tank for the collection of rainwater.
The south side of the courtyard has timber gates (replaced in the late C20) and seven stone gate piers which are square on plan and have hipped caps with flat centre section, partly rebuilt. The tall, stone boundary wall along Maidford Road has flat coping, and it curves inwards to form the entrance which has oak gates and two gate piers, similar to those on the south side of the stable yard. On the outward facing side of the wall is a small recess set in a square-headed, moulded surround in dressed stone, which contained a pump but was converted in 1963 to house a bench. In the west corner of the inner wall is a contemporary stone dog kennel with a small railed and gated yard. It is timber-lined for warmth and was re-clad in like for like tongued and grooved timber in the 1980s.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.