Description: Bentley Farm, with Attached Walls and Gatepiers
Date Listed: 26 November 1953
English Heritage Building ID: 296149
OS Grid Reference: TQ4861815894
OS Grid Coordinates: 548618, 115894
Latitude/Longitude: 50.9234, 0.1132
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House, now the Gerald Askew Wildfowl Reserve with residential accommodation above. C18 central range, with east Drawing Room wing of 1960-1, attached wall of 1965, entrance gates and terrace steps in 1967 and west Bird Room wing of 1969-71 to house a collection of bird pictures, all by Raymond Erith.
EXTERIOR: Red brick and grey headers with hipped tiled roof and large brick chimneystacks. The central section is C18 of two storeys and attics six bays. Windows are multipane sash windows, the end ones tripartite. Originally there were a plain eaves, five hipped dormers and a porch wih Tuscan columns. Raymond Erith added two Palladian style wings to east and west, converted the five existing hipped dormers into pedimented dormers, added a continous timber cornice and replaced the columned central portico with a doorcase with curved open pediment with ball finial, brackets and moulded architrave. Erith's extensions are the same height as the centre, but are of only one storey, with vertical areas of flintwork on the front elevation with rendered niches marking the junction with the earlier house. Three windows each, the centre one Venetian. A continuous timber entablature unites the old and new parts on the same building line. The rear elevation has three gables, two of them in English bond brickwork and mainly sash windows but two cast iron casment windows. There is a wooden verandah designed by Quinlan Terry in 1978.
An attached U-shaped wall to the east encloses the house in its south-facing courtyard, separating this from the gardens to the rear. It runs east to a pair of gatepiers that give on to the wildfowl centre, and turns to enclose the formal gardens. The gatepiers are square, of red brick like the walls and have stone tops with ball finials. The entrance to the garden is through a centrally placed gate in this eastern wall, with piers topped by urns. An attached wall to the west links this house to the barchessa (cart lodge) and a further wall and piers listed separately.
INTERIOR: The central ground floor room has exposed C18 ceiling beams and a wide bressumer. The first floor retains some C18 floorboards and the attic has some visible C18 collar beams. The lower flight of the central staircase with balusters and Tuscan column newels might be original or could be an import. The flight from the first floor to the attic has stick balusters and urn finials to the newel posts. The interior was remodelled from 1945 onwards by Mrs Gerald Askew with French marble chimneypieces. The ground floor has a bolection moulded marble fireplace and the sitting room a marble fireplace with panel of palmette and cornucopiae and end pilasters. The first floor study has a marble fireplace with reeded pilsters and floral paterae and the sitting rooma marble fireplace with central panel of wreath and swag and end pilasters. The first floor Octagon room by Erith 1969-71 was formed in an existing space with timber Tuscan columns and panelling. The ground floor sitting room has a pair of fitted bookshelves by Erith. The East wing Drawing Room has a carved stone chimneypiece by Erith with eared architraves and console brackets. Ionic columns with enriched volutes to the Venetian window and ornamental centre panel to the ceiling with swag decoration around border. The walls of this room are hung with C17 Chinese wallpaper from Hatfield House. The west wing `Bird Room' has an Italian Renaissance style chimneypiece by Erith with veined marble inset and white marble surround with console brackets and Askew coat of arms based on a simplified chimneypiece in Palladio's villa at Maser. There is a black and white marble floor with octagonal patterns. The Venetian window has Tuscan columns and an ornamental centre panel to ceiling with pulvinated frieze bands. Two and six panelled doors throughout.
HISTORY: Bentley Farmhouse was an C18 farmhouse. Mrs Gerald Askew re-modelled the interior from 1945 onwards with imported fireplaces and other features. Gerald Askew began his wildfowl collection in 1960 and by 1966 when it opened to the public it was the largest private collection of wildfowl in Britain. As a result the farmhouse and grounds were enlarged over a period of twelve years. In 1960-1 Raymond Erith was commissioned to add an east wing for a new Drawing Room in Palladian style. A detached cart lodge (or barchessa) with Tuscan columns followed in 1962. Garden walls and gatepiers followed in 1965 and entrance gates and terrace steps in 1967. Finally a west wing was added to provide a "Bird Room" to display a set of bird paintings and an Octagon room on the first floor. A verandah at the back of the house was designed by Quinlan Terry in 1978.
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE: An C18 farmhouse with substantial alterations and extensions by Raymond Erith between 1960 and 1971. The commission to add two very large rooms to the modest original house brought out all Erith's imaginative qualities and skill. It forms a group with outbuildings added by Erith. The house was adapted for Gerald Askew, who established England's largest private wildfowl collection there, with his wife Mary Doberer, who had an enthusiasm for French houses and gardens. Erith's work brings elements of French and particularly Italian influence to the house and its setting.
SOURCES: Country Life, 13 September 1984, pp.694-8; 20 September 1984, pp.756-9
Lucy Archer, Raymond Erith, Burford, Cygnet Press, 1985, pp.155-9
Listing NGR: TQ4850715986
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.