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Heatherden Hall, Pinewood Studios, South Bucks

Description: Heatherden Hall, Pinewood Studios

Grade: II
Date Listed: 27 August 2013
Building ID: 1414431

OS Grid Reference: TQ0179984111
OS Grid Coordinates: 501799, 184104
Latitude/Longitude: 51.5467, -0.5333

Locality: South Bucks
Local Authority: South Bucks District Council
County: Buckinghamshire
Postcode: SL0 0NH

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Listing Text


Country house, original part c.1865 by Charles Frederick Reeks, extended 1914-28 by Charles Melville Seth-Ward for Walter Grant Morden.

Reason for Listing

Heatherden Hall, a house of c.1865 by Charles Frederick Reeks, greatly enlarged in 1914-28 by Melville Seth-Ward, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: an unusually large and sumptuous house of predominantly early-C20 character, containing a suite of luxurious and well-preserved interiors including a ballroom and swimming pool;
* Historic interest: an archetypal late-Edwardian country mansion, built for a wealthy and politically ambitious Canadian financier, and used from 1935 as a country club associated with Pinewood Studios, a key site in the history of the British film industry;
* Setting: the gardens to the south and west of the house were laid out at the same time as the main building phase (1914-28), allowing the building to be seen in its original landscape context.


The first house on the site was a large villa known as Heatherden, built c.1865 and attributed to the architect Charles Frederick Reeks, a local resident who also designed St Margaret's church at Iver Heath. The tree-lined drive was laid out at this period. The house was enlarged between 1914 and 1928 by the Canadian financier (and later Conservative MP) Walter Grant Morden, who employed the architect Melville Seth-Ward to create a grand mansion with a huge ballroom and swimming pool. The gardens to the south, with their serpentine paths, specimen trees, sunken garden, cascade and lake with ornamental bridge, were laid out at this time.

Morden was declared bankrupt in 1931, and on his death in 1934 the estate was acquired by Charles Boot, head of the enormously successful Sheffield building firm of Henry Boot and Sons. In partnership with the millionaire flour miller and film entrepreneur J Arthur Rank, and employing the architects AFB Anderson and HS Scroxton, he developed the parkland to the north of the house as a complex of film studios, known as Pinewood (in Rank's words, 'because of the number of trees which grow there and because it seemed to suggest something of the American film centre in its second syllable') and intended to rival the big Hollywood studios in scale and sophistication. A large administration block was built alongside the house, which became a country club. The studios, opened in September 1936, grew to become a mainstay of the British film industry, home of the Rank Organisation and the birthplace of hundreds of films including The Red Shoes (1947), The Ipcress File (1965), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) and the James Bond and Carry On series. Heatherden Hall itself was frequently used as a film location, as well as to accommodate visiting actors, directors and production staff.

Charles Melville Seth-Ward FRIBA (1868-1946) was articled to Sir Ernest Newton, and worked in partnership with William Harrison from 1898. The greater part of his practice was as a designer of substantial suburban and country houses, though he also designed a number of pubs for Fullers Brewery. Known works include 48 Parkside in Wimbledon, the Green Man in Willesden (both in Greater London) and the clubhouse at Denham Golf Club, Buckinghamshire.


MATERIALS: stuccoed and painted brick with slate roof concealed behind parapet.

PLAN: the original villa, which forms the south-eastern part of the present building, was roughly square on plan, with the entrance to the east and a small service courtyard to the north. The extensions of 1917-19 were palatial in scale, yielding a footprint of nearly 1700 square metres, more than four times that of the earlier house. The long south range contains a grand enfilade of rooms, approached via a deep porte-cochère at the eastern end and comprising entrance hall, inner hall and stair hall, with two large rooms (marked as 'drawing room' and 'lounge' on a plan of the late 1930s) overlooking the garden to the south via a columned loggia. The main corridor leads on to the west wing, which contains the library (later the bar) and beyond it a great double-height ballroom with a dais at the northern end. Alongside this, and also accessed from the corridor, is the swimming pool, with changing rooms and a gallery at the south end and, to the north, a palm court and a former Turkish bath and a squash court. The east range contained a billiard room, kitchens and service rooms. On the first floor were six main bedrooms and two bathrooms, with a further eight bedrooms at mezzanine level and seven guest bedrooms on the second floor; all these are now offices.

EXTERIOR: Seth-Ward's elevations have a French-Classical formality, but the overall composition is loose and Italianate, with each element of the building given its own independent emphasis. The irregular east (entrance) front represents the vestiges of the older house; its salient feature is a deep porte-cochère with paired Doric columns. (The projecting single-storey block on the far right belongs to the Pinewood administration building and is not included in the listing.)

A wrought-iron gate in the screen wall to the left leads through to the garden front, which is of thirteen bays arranged 1-4-3-4-1, i.e. almost symmetrically, though the outer bays do not match. The centrepiece has a big triangular pediment and engaged half-columns flanking the windows, which are six-over-six pane sashes, and there are smaller segmental pediments in the wings; in front is a deep curving loggia with a Doric colonnade (the modern glazed infill is not of special interest).

The block forming the 'hinge' between the south and west ranges is treated as a distinct entity, a tall pavilion with big round-arched French windows flanked by engaged columns and - on the west side - projecting tower-like corner bays. The main part of the west range (the ballroom) is lower, with two superimposed orders - three-quarter columns and French windows below, pilasters flanking oeil-de-boeuf windows above - and a crowning balustrade; the middle two bays break forward and have festoon ornament, and the left-hand bay is drawn up into a 'tower' to balance those on the right. (The short link block to the left, connecting to the Pinewood administration building, is excluded from the listing.)

INTERIORS: the principal interiors are approached via a sequence of three spaces. First is the entrance hall or lobby, which is panelled to its full height and has ornamental double doors and a decorative plaster ceiling. Next comes the 'inner hall', a double-height space with a dramatic curved balcony and an oval skylight. The stair hall beyond has much plaster ornament, including Ionic pilasters and blind arcading at the upper level; the stairs themselves have decorative balusters and richly-moulded tread-ends. This space once extended southward beyond a screen of two unfluted Ionic columns into a smaller 'crush hall', now part of the dining room.

The dining room overlooks the gardens to the south and has large French windows opening into the loggia. Pairs of fluted Ionic columns and pilasters support a rich frieze and cornice and a decorative plaster ceiling. In the western bay is a fireplace with a rich Classical surround and a chimneypiece incorporating a painted canvas, dated 1917, showing a young girl and three dogs.

The bar (formerly the gun room) is an almost square room with windows looking south and east. It has a very large stone fireplace and chimneypiece with flanking columns and a coloured heraldic escutcheon in relief. The walls have raised and fielded panelling, with glazed cupboards in the corners, and the ceiling has rich plaster decoration. It was converted to its present use in the 1930s, and the curved counter is presumably of this date.

To the north, reached via a small vestibule and running the full length of the west range, is the ballroom. This has a sprung oak floor and is panelled almost to full height, with pairs of giant fluted Ionic pilasters at the bay divisions. Along the west side are tall round-arched windows with circular openings above, an arrangement replicated in the blind arcading of the east wall. The two southern entrances are enclosed by elaborate openwork screens with 'Jacobethan' ornament, presumably inserted during the 1930s reordering. The richly-moulded ceiling has a coved central section with palmette decoration. At the northern end is a raised dais with a stone fireplace and chimneypiece similar to that in the library; the panelling in this area has two tiers of small close-set pilasters.

Alongside the ballroom is the swimming pool. The main entrance is from the south, where there are changing rooms set beneath a balustraded viewing gallery supported on a curved Doric colonnade. A raised platform at the northern end opens into the palm court, an octagonal space top-lit by a glazed dome, with a central fountain (a marble nymph and scallop shell) and corner niches on dolphin scroll-brackets. To one side is the former Turkish bath, later converted into a bar (the modern fittings here are not of special interest).

Other interiors (not seen) include a billiard room, service rooms and kitchens, and numerous bedrooms and bathrooms (now offices) on the upper floors.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: to the south of the main house, in front of the loggia, is a paved terrace with a stone balustrade with steps flanked by urns leading down into the formal gardens.

The terrace to the west of the main house, in front of the ballroom, is of more recent date and is not included in the listing. The Pinewood Studios administration block of c.1935, which abuts the house on its northern side, is likewise excluded from the listing.

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