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Description: Clock Tower, Loggias, Towers, and Associated Buildings at the Pleasaunce
Date Listed: 15 February 1988
English Heritage Building ID: 224692
OS Grid Reference: TG2479240912
OS Grid Coordinates: 624792, 340912
Latitude/Longitude: 52.9186, 1.3423
Explore more of the area around Overstrand, Norfolk at Explore Britain.
1273/8/30 HARBORD ROAD
15-FEB-88 Clock Tower, loggias, towers, and asso
ciated buildings at The Pleasaunce
(Formerly listed as:
Clock Tower at The Pleasaunce)
Clock tower with flanking loggias and an attached series of outbuildings with smaller round towers and a feature bake oven. 1897-9. By Sir Edwin Lutyens. Roughcast brick with tile dressings and tiled roofs. It is a rectangular courtyard in plan with one open side and the further outbuildings to the right hand side of the courtyard, stretching up the drive. The western range has a central square battered tower, ie tapering to the top, with central semicircular headed doorway with a monumental keystone. To either side of the doorway is a small recessed rectangular light with a continuous band of tiles to their heads, then a band of tiles, then two more bands of tiles framing 2 more slit lights. There is then a clock face and the top storey glazed with sloping horizontal sliding sashes with specially sloping glazing bars. Above is the pyramidal roof. One flanking bay to either side of the tower is now a garage, with doors. The northern and southern ranges are each of 3 bays with open semicircular arches on squat piers. The gable returns have archways with semicircular heads and a half-hipped roof under the eaves of which a semicircular opening is scooped out, echoing the archway (q.v. The Covered Walk at the Pleasaunce, item NO. 8/31). To the right of the southern range are further ranges with two round towers with conical roofs, and on the corner facing the house a large feature bake oven, the spherical top partly revealed within the surrounding brickwork. Above is a pentice roof and a massive stack. Beyond is a building with altered fenestration and a hipped roof.
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.
This clock tower has flanking loggias and an attached series of outbuildings with smaller round towers and a feature bake oven. The ensemble is a very fine example of Lutyens' genius with the smaller scale of the lower buildings enhancing the grand entrance to the house opposite and contrasting with the extremely unusual clock and look-out tower, which is the climax of the group. The whole is of very high quality whether the outstanding tower, or the loggias with monumental keystones and the reversed arch detail, or the conical towers and bake oven.
The group stands just across the drive from the main house and all form an imaginative and picturesque ensemble.
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, pp.220-1 and fig.209.
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: TG2479240912
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.