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Somerton Erleigh

A Grade II Listed Building in Somerton, Somerset

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.0517 / 51°3'6"N

Longitude: -2.7139 / 2°42'49"W

OS Eastings: 350057

OS Northings: 128279

OS Grid: ST500282

Mapcode National: GBR MK.G47V

Mapcode Global: FRA 566B.NJV

Entry Name: Somerton Erleigh

Listing Date: 3 October 2012

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1406542

Location: Somerton, South Somerset, Somerset, TA11

County: Somerset

District: South Somerset

Civil Parish: Somerton

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset

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Summary

A private house, commissioned in about 1968 and built in 1972-3 to the designs of Roy Stout and Patrick Litchfield for the Pretor-Pinney family.

Description

MATERIALS: the walls are of cavity construction; the outer skin of reclaimed local blue lias stone, the inner skin of rendered concrete block. The pitched roofs are covered in slate tiles, and the eastern roof slope facing the courtyard has solar panels. The flat roofs are covered in glass fibre, replacing former asphalt. White painted fascia boards. Windows are timber framed and double-glazed, with full-height aluminium sliding windows. The sliding windows to the north side of the courtyard have recently (2011) been replaced with UPVC framed sliding doors. Those to the south side of the living room were replaced at an earlier date, in aluminium. External doors are natural timber with glazing. Those to the garage and stone water tower are timber replacements.

PLAN: a single storey family house, sitting at a high point in the centre of a rural landscape. The house has an intricate geometric plan, comprising a series of irregularly shaped pavilions arranged around a flat-roofed glazed 'cloister', which faces into a central square paved courtyard garden. The large living room is on the north-east side, two adult bedrooms and bathrooms to the south-east, three children's bedrooms lead off a playroom to the south-west, and an open-plan kitchen/dining room is to the north-west. The entrance and estate office are at the north corner, facing outwards as the more 'public' part of the house. The garage projects out from the main body of the house to the north-west, accessed internally via the utility corridor, creating an extended wing that frames the entrance drive.

EXTERIOR: the elevations are an external expression of separate internal volumes and the geometry of the plan. The skyline is fragmented, intended to echo agricultural buildings, punctuated by a chimney and water tower. The roofs of individual elements largely comprise two differently angled steep pitches set back to back, with a diagonal sloping ridge, creating triangular clerestory windows. Two of the larger triangular windows have now been replaced, and have a central mullion. The garage and study have mono-pitch roofs. On the north-west (entrance) façade the office and kitchen pavilions are divided by the low flat-roofed entrance, the kitchen and garage pavilions by a smaller flat roofed entrance, the water tower rising above. The kitchen has a band of windows, but the end walls of the office and garage are blank, save for a small office window. The projecting end of the garage forms the highest point of the house. On the north-east elevation, there are two volumes with full-height glazing: the longer dining room and higher office, the former bisected by the chimney, the pair divided by a narrow flat-roofed timber boarded link. To the left, the living room and set-back blank end wall of the main bedroom pavilion are divided by a flat-roofed brick recessed entrance. The south-east has two projecting bedroom pavilions with full-height glazing, and a flat-roofed timber-boarded bathroom between. The blank end walls of the children's block and living room are set back to the left and right respectively, with another recessed entrance dividing adult's and children's bedroom pavilions. The south-west façade has three smaller bedroom volumes with full-height glazing, stepping back from each other, between the blank walls of garage and water tower and the adult's wing.

INTERIOR: the interiors have white-painted rendered walls and quarry tiled floors, with open pitched roofs and pine-boarded ceilings. Original fittings and fitted furniture, such as the cupboards set into the wall to create deeper storage space, remain throughout. In the living room, dining room and playroom, which are open to the courtyard, the 'cloister' circulation space is delineated by the flat ceiling and wooden posts. Full-height sliding doors open onto the internal courtyard, providing views from room to room across this space. The dining/kitchen room is divided by a screen of fitted wooden cupboards running diagonally across the room. The living room has a stone fireplace in the north-east wall.

History

Somerton Erleigh was built in 1972-3 to designs by Stout and Litchfield for the Pretor-Pinney family, a land-owning family with a long standing connection with the site. They chose to retain the historic name of their former house, which was built on a different location within the estate. Stout and Litchfield received the commission for the house in c1968, but the scheme took a long time to realise. The client, Anthony Pretor-Pinney, arrived in Stout and Litchfield's office with pages that he had cut out from an article on Italian hill towns, and his interest had led him to be recommended to Stout and Litchfield. The Pretor-Pinney family had been well known local landowners in Somerton, and Anthony's brief was that 'the new house should provide a focus and act as a repository for the historical name, while being a convenient and modern family house'. As he had no interest in gardening, he wanted the landscape to come right up to the new house. The rooms were set around a courtyard, and included an estate office.

The architects Roy Stout (1928 - ) and Patrick Litchfield (1930-2002) set up practice together in 1962, and are best known for their domestic designs. It was at the New House in Shipton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire, built in 1964, where they first explored the use of local stone and pitched roofs, at the behest of the local authority. There they expressed each element of the plan as an individual building, and experimented with wedge shapes, resulting in variable roofs, similar to groups of farm buildings. Stout and Litchfield went on to develop these ideas further in a number of houses, both in the countryside and in London, such as for example 'Pyramids' in South Harting, though several of their houses have been significantly altered and extended since they were first built.

Reasons for Listing

Somerton Erleigh, built in 1972-3 to designs by Stout and Litchfield, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest: it is a good example of domestic work by the notable post-war architectural partnership, Stout & Litchfield, formed of a complex and playful composition of planes and forms, using interesting local materials, and expressing the architects' distinctive style and design solutions;
Degree of survival: despite some minor alterations to the windows and roof, the building has survived mostly intact with its interior surviving virtually unaltered including original fixtures and fittings;
Planning interest: an unusual and intricate geometric plan, comprising a series of pavilions arranged around a central courtyard garden;
Interior interest: the interior spaces are of high quality, containing interesting fixtures and fittings, created by leaving the rooms open to the wood-lined roofs, with substantial glazing creating a strong relationship with the landscape;
Historic interest: an interesting example of a modern country house for a land-owning family with a long-standing connection with the site.

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