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Three Gables, Bedford

Description: Three Gables

Grade: II
Date Listed: 9 November 2012
Building ID: 1411059

OS Grid Reference: TL0294850091
OS Grid Coordinates: 502948, 250089
Latitude/Longitude: 52.1395, -0.4971

Locality: Bedford
County: Bedford
Postcode: MK40 4AX

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Listing Text


Arts and Crafts house designed by C E Mallows in 1900.

Reason for Listing

Three Gables, an Arts and Crafts house designed by C E Mallows in 1900, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: it is a finely crafted and thoughtfully designed Arts and Crafts house of modest size which received considerable praise in the contemporary architectural press.
* Interior: this has a high standard of design, demonstrating the fine craftsmanship and use of good quality materials that is typical of Arts and Crafts houses. It is almost certain that the joinery was made by the local Pyghtle Works, the nationally renowned high-class joinery firm based in Bedford.
* Architect: Mallows is an architect and garden designer of national repute, with ten other listed buildings to his name. He has a particularly close association with Three Gables as he not only designed it for his future father-in-law but also came to live there himself: his son remembers him working extensively from home.
* Planning: Three Gables is one of Mallows’ earliest designs for a ‘garden house’, an integrated approach to planning in which he evinced great skill. The special interest of the house is enhanced by its close relationship with the garden.
* Architectural context: it is one of a cluster of five Arts and Crafts houses designed by Mallows and Baillie Scott in Biddenham between 1899 and 1909; the two by Baillie Scott are listed at Grade II. There is thus a strong tradition of Arts and Crafts architecture in this part of Bedford to which Three Gables makes a significant contribution.
* Alterations: the house has been subject to a number of alterations but these have not unduly affected its special interest which is based on its overall design, quality of fixtures and fittings, and close relationship with the garden.


Three Gables was designed by Charles Edward Mallows (1864-1915) in 1900 for his father-in-law, Henry John Peacock, a wealthy Biddenham farmer. In 1905 Mallows moved into the house with his wife and young family and he died there in 1915. Mallows had been a student at the Bedford School of Art and after several apprenticeships, including one at the offices of William Wallace and William Flockhart, set up his own practice in London. After travelling and making measured drawings of English and French cathedrals, which won him the RIBA Pugin travelling scholarship in 1889, he returned to Bedford where he opened an office with George Grocock in 1895. One of his clients was John White of the Pyghtle Works, the acclaimed joinery firm for whom Lethaby and Bailie Scott designed furniture. Mallows designed garden ornaments for the catalogue, and in 1898 White also commissioned him to design King’s Corner in Biddenham, the first of Mallows’ garden houses. It was through White that Mallows was asked to design Three Gables which was almost certainly built by the White family firm.

The house was the subject of an article in Country Life (Jan 29 1910) in which it was described as ‘a very simple bit of designing. Need for economy controlled the whole conception, yet care was taken that the result should in no way suffer in the matter of agreeable appearance. It is an example of the right use of ordinary materials at hand and a realised perception of good line and form […] It reflects great credit upon Bedford craftsmanship, and shows that builders only need to be working to good designs and right principals in order to excel.’ The house was also covered in Country Cottages and Week-End Homes (1912) in which Elder-Duncan explained that it was built of ‘local “mingled” bricks, hard and well burnt, but the cheapest – or nearly the cheapest in the district.’ The cheapest bricks were probably used as the house was originally whitewashed. This soon wore off however, leaving ‘traces that lighten the general effect and contrast the wall colour with that of the roof’ (Country Life). The external woodwork was originally painted green.

Gertrude Jekyll included Three Gables in Gardens for Small Country Houses (1912) as an example of the ‘close connection between house and garden.’ Mallows’ plan for the garden – ‘a rectangular space of an about an acre’ – shows the house near the middle of the plot, the south-facing elevation looking over a ‘bottle neck’ shaped rose garden. On the right is a tennis lawn and two orchards which occupy the north-east corner. On the left of the house, a spinney occupies the south-west corner, and the rest of the plot is taken up by three kitchen gardens (the two occupying the north strip were sold for development in 1986). Thereafter Mallows received further commissions for houses with integrated gardens, most notably at Tirley Garth in Willington, Cheshire West and Chester, which he designed in the early C20. The house is listed at Grade II* and the garden is registered, also at Grade II*. Mallows has one other registered garden (formal gardens added to the C18 landscaped park at Canons Park, Harrow) and ten other listed buildings, mostly houses, all at Grade II.

Three Gables has undergone some alterations and repairs. A photograph of the inglenook in the drawing room printed in Country Cottages and Week-End Homes shows that the fireplace originally had dark tiles with bands of a much lighter colour, continuing round to the sides and onto the hearth. These tiles have since been replaced and the sides have been panelled. The bedroom fireplaces have been removed; one of the bedrooms has been converted into a bathroom; and a secondary staircase was added in the service range around the 1930s. The majority of the original timber casements were replaced with metal replicas, probably in the 1920s and 1930s, due to rotting timber. In the 1970s the area for coal and bicycles was converted into the utility area, and the wide door opening to the former bicycle store was reduced. During the same period, a three-light window was removed from the kitchen and inserted on the east elevation to create more light in the drawing room; and in the kitchen French doors were inserted on the east side, and a one-light window on the west side was enlarged to create a three-light window. One chimney stack has been rebuilt, and brick bases have been inserted under the pillars that support the loggia due to the rotting of the timber. The wall between the scullery and larder was removed to create the current large kitchen in 2007. A garage was built in the north-west corner of the garden in the 1990s using bricks and roof slates from the various outbuildings taken down when the kitchen garden was sold for development.


MATERIALS: Local red brick of slightly varying hues, laid in Flemish bond, under a roof covered in red clay plain tiles. Canary whitewood is used throughout, painted white on the outside and originally left exposed inside, although the woodwork in the kitchen, utility, bathrooms and four of the bedrooms has been painted.

PLAN: Asymmetrical plan with a south-facing section containing the reception rooms, and a rear north range, formerly housing the services and now consisting of a kitchen and utility. The south section has a long drawing room taking up the east side, and on a west side a south-facing dining room and a study in the north-west corner. The principal staircase is positioned to the north of the dining room. The first floor has five bedrooms leading off from the staircase in the south section, and two bathrooms and another bedroom in the north range.

EXTERIOR: Two storeys with steeply-pitched roofs and varied elevations. The principal south elevation has three prominent gables with a slightly higher one in the centre. The gable on the right has a timber kneeler whilst that on the left slopes down to ground-floor level. The central gabled bay is recessed at ground-floor level to create a loggia supported by two timber columns with four fillets, resting on late-C20 brick bases. It is lit by two single-light casement windows with leaded lights, and shallow sills and lintels consisting of headers. The fenestration is regular on all the elevations, although the majority of the original timber casements have been replaced with metal replicas. The central bay is flanked by canted bays lit by three-light windows on the front, and tall, narrow windows on both sides. The outer edge of the left bay has a loggia which supports the elongated slope of the gable. On the outer edge of the last bay, the first-floor overhang over the chamfered ground-floor corner (caused by the canted bay) is supported by a single column. The ground-floor has a wide string course at lintel level which also acts as the cornice for the loggia.

The loggia continues round onto the west elevation with four columns supporting the first-floor. The roof sweeps down to ground-floor level and is lit by a long flat-roofed dormer with three-light windows at either end. The front door, on the left end of the loggia, has two vertical panels with a horizontal panel above. It has an elaborate brass lock plate with pierced Art-Nouveau style decoration and an upright handle. The narrow, panelled section to the right incorporates the brass letterbox and doorbell. To the right of the loggia is a small square single-light window. The return wall slightly projects at ground-floor level under a hipped roof. It has battered sides formed by shallow buttresses, and is lit by a three-light window. To the left of this is a recessed gabled bay that has a tall, six-light canted oriel with a moulded sill, lighting the staircase. At right angles to this, the recessed service range continues under a mansard roof which has a flat-roofed three-light dormer. The ground floor is lit by a small square window, followed by a larger single-light square window, and then a three-light window. The left end of this elevation is dominated by a wide gabled bay, battered on the left side, and lit in the gable head by a small square window. The ground floor has two doors: that on the left is a simple vertical plank door (having replaced the double-doors in the original wide opening), and that on the right is the same as the front door, with much simpler door furniture. It is slightly recessed under a segmental arched opening.

The east elevation, from the left, has a chamfered corner from the canted bay window on the south elevation, followed by a three-light window (inserted at a later date to provide more light in the drawing room) which is flanked by narrow, single-light windows. Above, the long dormer window is the same as that on the west elevation. The return wall of this section has a three-light window on the ground-floor which lights the partly enclosed window seat in the drawing room, and a square, single-light window above. Following this, the recessed service range has a three-bay loggia with a pentice roof, under which is a single-light window and double-leaf French doors, added in the late C20. The first floor above the loggia has, on the left, a wide chimney stack which rises through the apex of a gable and has a decorated brick cornice and tapered pots, as do all the numerous chimneys. Underneath the chimney, the first-floor is lit by a square, single-light window, followed by a large, flat-roofed dormer with three windows. The end of the elevation has a wide gabled bay, like that on the west elevation, which has a three-light window at ground-floor level and a square, single-light window above. The narrow north elevation has four ground-floor windows and a flat-roofed dormer.

INTERIOR: The Arts and Crafts interior is characterised by the use of exposed timber and has fixtures and fittings of a consistently high quality. The doors have two vertical panels with a horizontal panel above; those belonging to the reception rooms have large, decorative brass lock plates, whilst those to other rooms have plainer door furniture. The joinery, including the picture rails, survives almost intact, as does some of the window ironmongery which has catches with a heart-shaped motif.

The staircase and reception rooms are given the most elaborate treatment. The drawing room has full-height square and rectangular panelling without mouldings. On the west wall is an inglenook, lit by a small window on the left, which has benches on either side of the fireplace with shaped, concave ends. The fireplace has a plain mantelpiece and panelled overmantel, but the reddish brown tiles and the panelling on the sides are not original. On the north wall is a window seat, partly enclosed within a panelled alcove which is pierced along the top with a heart-shaped motif. In the dining room there is a prominent fireplace on the north wall which has buff-coloured tiles set in a lugged surround. The mantelpiece is supported by consoles, and the square panelled overmantel reaches to the ceiling. The west wall of the small study is panelled with fitted cupboards and a corner area, lit by small windows either side, which was probably designed for a desk.

One of the dominant internal features is the quarter-turn, closed well, timber staircase. The first four steps leading up to the quarter-pace landing have a square newel post with a flat cap followed by wide moulded balusters rising from the corner of each tread. After the turn, the straight flight gives the effect of being almost boxed in as the wide moulded balusters rise from the floor through the spandrel up to the ceiling. Along the top is a narrow panel pierced with the same heart-shaped motif used in the alcove seat in the drawing room. The balustrade continues around the landing but has plain wide balusters and paired newel posts. The top of the staircase is the axis for a short, wide corridor running east-west and a long, narrow corridor running north-south. The latter corridor is articulated by a series of arched openings and has a fitted bench underneath a window. Some of the bedrooms retain their original fitted cupboards but none of the fireplaces remain.

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.