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Description: The Pleasaunce
Date Listed: 27 September 1972
English Heritage Building ID: 224691
OS Grid Reference: TG2475540902
OS Grid Coordinates: 624755, 340902
Latitude/Longitude: 52.9185, 1.3417
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1273/8/29 HARBORD ROAD
27-SEP-72 The Pleasaunce
Large house built around 2 earlier villas. Largely 1897-9 by Sir Edwin Lutyens for the first Lord Battersea. Brick, part rendered and tile-hung. Tiled roof with many elaborate stacks. It is in Luytens' version of the Arts and Crafts style with Art Nouveau touches. Irregular plan with small internal courtyard. Irregular facades of 2 and 3 storeys, gabled. Entrance archway has paired stone Doric columns with carved coat of arms in the broken pediment. This gives access to a 2-storey, 6-bay range; the ground floor, originally open to the garden and sea, now has fenestration. To the upper, roughcast floor, are 3 pairs of small oriel windows, each pair with a gableted roof over. To the right of this wing are 3 bays of 2-storeys with casement windows and a stone-dressed parapet. The right hand return range is of 3 storeys with irregular sash and casement fenestration. An overhanging tile-hung upper floor bay shelters a loggia on the first floor. Pyramidal and hipped roofs. Canted gabled bays. To the left hand ground floor of this range is an octagonal open structure with stone Doric columns supporting a pyramidal roof.
The fittings are imaginative and of very high quality whether exquisite bottle-glass glazing in the interior courtyard, tiles by de Morgan in the main room fireplaces, very extensive tiling in fine coloured tiles in the service areas (possibly from Spain or North Africa), lamps on the staircase from Venice, stained glass, or fine oak panelling in the dining room with an integral buffet and plasterwork ceiling. Panelling also in several bedrooms. The whole house is filled with wonderful Lutyens details such as the ironwork hinges to the shutters in some of the main rooms.
This group of buildings is a very significant seaside home built from 1897 onwards by Lord and Lady Battersea and designed by one of the most important of all British architects, Sir Edwin Lutyens. It follows the development of Cromer, which is only a couple of miles away, as a very fashionable seaside resort in the 1880s and the building of large houses by well-to-do families relishing the bracing air. However, The Pleasaunce is almost certainly the largest: its original name 'The Cottage' was probably for the original house incorporated in the core of the new one. It might have been a joke (the house has some 35 bedrooms), except for what it could be compared with, since Lady Battersea was the eldest daughter of Sir Anthony de Rothschild, of Aston Clinton, Bucks, niece of Mayer Rothschild of Mentmore, and Lionel, the first Jewish MP and granddaughter of Nathaniel Mayer Rothschild, the founder of the London branch of the great banking house. She was thus a cousin of Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, the builder of Waddesdon. Waddesdon was being completed in 1888 at the same time as the Batterseas bought the couple of original villas, linked to form one home. Set alongside Waddesdon and other Rothschild properties, The Pleasuance is perhaps a cottage in comparison.
Cyril Flower, created Lord Battersea in 1892, was the son of a wealthy business man with multiple shops in Battersea, a Liberal M.P. and Chief Whip in Gladstone's 1886 Government. Both he and his wife had artistic interests. Indeed Lady Battersea was interested in architecture early on, as, near to her home, Aston Clinton is a former infants school, now listed, built as a present for her on her 16th birthday 'at her own request'. The quality of the Batterseas' pictures inherited by members of the Rothschild family testifies to these artistic interests since they included C16 Italian pictures and a Tiepolo, now at Ascott. The rest of the contents of the house took 12 days to sell in the 1930s after Lady Battersea's death.
However, this important commission, that Lutyens received early in his career, had an architectural sting in the tail because the couple insisted that the recently built villas set close together and united as one were not demolished for the new house but incorporated in it. Perhaps this quirky demand was something to do with their philanthropic interests and that they did not wish to be labelled as a couple so rich that they could pull down a couple of houses only a few years old. Whatever the reason, it may have given to Lutyens the concept of a large house evolved over several generations for, in addition to disguising the pre-existing, he added elements which are mid C17, late C17, and early C18 in style, both vernacular and polite, to achieve a very large rambling house which seems endless. Lutyens also built stables, cottages, an amazing open covered walk, a chapel-like place, for writing and contemplation looking out to the sea, for the poetess Emily Lawless, and a gateway in Moorish style, as well as other entrance gates and garden features. There are many imaginative ideas and, as the overall atmosphere is a wonderful seat of pleasure by the sea, The Pleasaunce is well named.
Whilst it may not have been of the grandeur of Waddesdon, visitors were of the grandest: Queen Alexandra and her sister, the Empress of Russia, made an unexpected visit in 1911 just driving over from Sandringham, much to the consternation of the staff. Indeed the Royal connection may have helped in getting the 27-year-old Lutyens the commission, for it was in the year of his marriage. His mother-in-law was a Lady-in-Waiting and the Batterseas had bought the house from Lord Suffield who was a friend of the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII. Lady Battersea and Queen Alexandra were probably friends long before 1911, and indeed in 1896 Lutyens had designed The Inn, Roseneath, Dunbartonshire for the sculptress Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, sister of the Prince of Wales.
Although the house was virtually complete by August 1898, Lutyens returned to make additions and alterations nearly every year from 1899-1909. Although the Batterseas were not easy clients and Lutyens wrote in 1899 that he was 'not at all proud of the Pleasaunce', this view is from his own perception of perfection.
The Batterseas extended the garden and lived on in the house until their deaths, Lord Battersea in 1907 and Lady Battersea in 1931. In 1936 the house was sold and became a Christian charity holiday home and it continues in this use with the house filled with visitors as was always intended. The beautifully tiled kitchens and service areas have still a suitably large batterie-de-cuisine constantly in use!
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE:
The Pleasaunce is a very significant seaside home built from 1897 onwards by Lord and Lady Battersea and designed by one of the most important of all British architects, Sir Edwin Lutyens. To the couple of small existing villas which the couple had bought in 1888 Lutyens added to and disguised the original and produced a large house seemingly evolved over several generations for he added elements which are mid C17, late C17, and early C18 in style, both vernacular and polite, to achieve a very large rambling house which seems endless. The house is built in brick with some tile hanging and some whitewashed render and tiled roofs. It is in Luytens' version of the Arts and Crafts style with Art Nouveau touches. The whole effect is romantic and playfully spectacular: the fittings are similarly imaginative and of very high quality whether exquisite bottle-glass glazing in the interior courtyard, tiles by de Morgan in the main room fireplaces, very extensive tiling in fine coloured tiles in the service areas (possibly from Spain or North Africa), lamps on the staircase from Venice, fine panelling in the dining room and several bedrooms, and the whole filled with wonderful Lutyens details such as the ironwork hinges to the shutters in some of the main rooms.
Although there has been an extension to the dining room and the creation of some extra bathrooms the house survives very little altered and shows the young Lutyens rising to the challenge of an awkward commission to produce a work of much imagination with high quality architecture and very fine fittings.
Note. The gardens at The Pleasaunce are included in the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens at Grade II.
Laurence Weaver, Houses and Gardens by E.L. Lutyens, 1913.
Mark Girouard, Sweetness and Light-The 'Queen Anne' Movement 1860-1900, 1977,pp.186-192.
Lutyens Exhibition catalogue, 1981, pp.80-2.
Pevsner and Wilson, Buildings of England, 2nd Edn.1997, pp.634-5.
Margaret Richardson, Notes for SAHGB visit, 1991.
Monica E.Sykes, The Pleasaunce, guidebook, 2nd edn.
Listing NGR: TG2475540908
This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.