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Saxmeadham, including flanking walls, front boundary wall and gate piers

A Grade II Listed Building in Newnham, Cambridgeshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.2095 / 52°12'34"N

Longitude: 0.1061 / 0°6'21"E

OS Eastings: 544000

OS Northings: 258899

OS Grid: TL440588

Mapcode National: GBR L78.HN2

Mapcode Global: VHHK2.SQFK

Entry Name: Saxmeadham, including flanking walls, front boundary wall and gate piers

Listing Date: 22 December 2014

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1422623

Location: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB3

County: Cambridgeshire

District: Cambridge

Electoral Ward/Division: Newnham

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Cambridge

Traditional County: Cambridgeshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cambridgeshire

Church of England Parish: Cambridge The Ascension

Church of England Diocese: Ely

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Summary

House in the neo-Georgian style built in 1911 to the designs of Arnold Bidlake Mitchell.

Description

House in the neo-Georgian style built in 1911 to the designs of Arnold Bidlake Mitchell.

MATERIALS: dark red brick laid in Flemish bond with lighter red brick and stone dressings, and handmade plain tile roof covering of variegated colours, mostly brown and red, with bonnet tiles.

PLAN: the house faces east onto the road and has a rectangular double-pile plan with a projection on the north gable end for coals etc. The reception rooms occupy the rear west pile overlooking the garden, and the service rooms are located in the north part of the house.

EXTERIOR: the house has a restrained neo-Georgian character, relying on the textural quality of the materials for effect. It has two storeys and an attic, and five symmetrical bays under an M-shaped hipped roof with sprocketed eaves, the underside of which are clad in timber. Two wide chimney stacks with a moulded cornice rise from the roof valley in which dormer windows are also situated to light the attic rooms. The regular fenestration consists of two-light casements with leaded lights set in moulded wooden frames with ovolo mullions. In between the ground and first-floor windows are panels of roughly dressed coursed stone, edged in light red brick which extends both up and down to enclose the windows. The central two-panelled front door has an ashlar stone bolection moulded surround with a pulvinated frieze and dentilled canopy. On the left side of the façade is an oval plaque of nabrasena stone inscribed with: ‘SIR FREDERICK GOWLAND HOPKINS O.M F.R.S Pioneer Biochemist Nobel Laureate lived here 1911-1947’. On the right side is a square plaque of Hoptonwood stone inscribed with ‘SAXMEADHAM seventy-one’.

The west garden elevation has canted bay windows in the second and fourth bays which have a dentilled cornice and French windows with leaded lights and two lower moulded panels, flanked by tall windows also with leaded lights. The first-floor windows are positioned directly under the eaves, as are those on the façade. The north gable end is lit on both floors by a window on the left side. On the right is a single-storey projection under a hipped roof which provides shelter for the back door and contains the coal and wood store with original timber partition, and the original outdoor W.C. The south gable end is lit by a first-floor window.

INTERIOR: this is decorated in an elegant, restrained C18 style and retains many of the good quality fixtures, fittings and joinery, including moulded cornices, picture rails, skirting boards, and door frames, as well as two-panelled doors – which are plain in the service area but fielded and panelled elsewhere – complete with lock cases and drop handles. Some rooms have parquet floors or floors with wooden floorboards; and the windows have moulded wooden canopies and ornate ironmongery. The staircase hall, study, sitting room and dining room all have delicate Classical fireplaces of painted timber with beautiful tiles in various Art Nouveau and floral designs, predominantly in green and blue. Some have been boarded over or fitted with gas fires but most of the grates are said to survive. The dining room and drawing room have an interconnecting double-leaf panelled door; and the ceiling of the latter is embellished with a delicate border of raised plaster in an intertwining Tudor rose design. The open well staircase has a panelled spandrel, closed string, turned balusters supporting a moulded handrail, and square newel posts which descend below the string to form drop finials. The bedrooms have moulded picture rails, built-in cupboards, and simple painted timber fireplace surrounds, some boarded over but retaining a grate.

The small entrance hall and adjacent W.C. have black and white tiled floors, and the W.C. retains its lavatory with square wooden seat, oval basin supported by ornate brackets, fitted towel rail, and the door lock which displays ‘SHUT’ or ‘OPEN’. The first-floor W.C. also retains this door furniture, and the bathroom in the attic has a roll-top bath and original basin. The service rooms are similarly well-preserved. The kitchen retains the alcove and mantelshelf for the range (now removed), service hatch, some built-in cupboards, and the service bell and indicator board. The scullery has a sink and fitted bench; the larder a slate bench and shelves; and what was probably the butler’s pantry has a sink with wooden draining boards, and built-in cupboards.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: curved flanking walls extend from the front corners of the house, the north side containing a plank and batten door under a round brick arch, providing access to the garden.

A dwarf wall borders the lawn at the front of the house, terminating at both ends in a pair of square brick piers with stone caps and ball finials.

History

Cambridge is situated on the southern edge of the Fens at the highest navigable point of the River Cam. The original Celtic settlement had grown up on the north bank but the Romans established the small town of Durovigutum at the strategically important junction of four major roads. The Saxon occupation spread to the south of the river, and the Normans reaffirmed the strategic importance of the site by building a castle which led to the expansion of the settlement. Cambridge soon became a prosperous town in which several religious houses were established, and these attracted sufficient students for Henry III to recognise the town as a seat of learning in 1231. Most of the fifteen colleges in existence before the Reformation had evolved from the cloistered world of monastic scholarship. Additional colleges and university buildings have continued to be established up to the present day and much new housing was built during the inter-war period and post-war period.

The development of the former medieval West Fields began around 1870. This land, covering approximately 200 acres, was owned primarily by the colleges, notably St John’s, which had always strongly resisted any building west of the Backs (the stretch of land which runs along the back of the riverside colleges). It was the loss of college revenue from the agricultural depression that led to their decision to lease the land in building plots. Three new institutions were established – Newnham College in 1875, Ridley Hall in 1877, and Selwyn Hostel (now College) in 1879 – and suburban houses in various styles from Queen Anne to Arts and Crafts and neo-Georgian were built piecemeal over almost half a century. The demand for such large family homes was partly fuelled by a new statute passed in 1882 that finally allowed dons to marry without having to give up their fellowships. The main arteries of development were West Road, Madingley Road and Grange Road which forms the central spine road running north-south through the suburb.

Although economic necessity had forced the colleges to allow building on the land, they were determined to keep a strict control over the residential development which consisted almost entirely of high end middle class housing, interspersed with university playing fields, without any community facilities such as churches or shops. There was no overall plan but the landowners ensured that it was restricted to an affluent market by issuing leases that specified numerous conditions, including minimum plot sizes, minimum house costs, specification of superior building materials, usually red brick and tiles, and had stringent dilapidation clauses to ensure that property values did not deteriorate. St John’s, for instance, specified one-acre plots with a minimum house cost of £1500 on its Grange Road estate, and half-acre plots with a house cost of at least £1000 on Madingley Road. To put this in context, in 1906 the sum of £1000 was considered well above the price of a substantial suburban villa. The great majority of building leases were taken up by individuals who commissioned either local or London-based architects, many of whom are now considered to be amongst the finest of the late Victorian/ Edwardian age, notably M. H. Baillie Scott who designed nine houses in west Cambridge, E. S. Prior, J. J. Stephenson, and Ernest Newton. Most of these houses were designed to accommodate at least two live-in servants, as shown by the census returns, and some had stables; although by 1910 there were requests either to convert these to garages or to build ‘motor houses’, as they were then known.

71 Grange Road was built for Frederick Gowland Hopkins in 1911 to the designs of Arnold Bidlake Mitchell FRIBA (1864-1944). Mitchell was articled to Robert Stark Wilkinson and became the assistant to George and Peto, amongst others, before entering the Royal Academy Schools in 1884 and setting up his own practice in 1886. He specialised in parish halls, houses and schools, many of which were featured in the contemporary architectural press. Mitchell’s academic buildings included the School of Agriculture in Cambridge (1909-10), and his domestic work included the Grade II* listed Trevelloe House in Paul, Cornwall (1911) a small Arts and Crafts country house with an unaltered interior in the C18 style. He is associated with seven buildings on the List, all Grade II except for Trevelloe House.

The first owner of 71 Grange Road, Frederick Gowland Hopkins (1861-1947), was a pioneering biochemist who first lectured at Cambridge in 1898, later being elected to the Chair of Biochemistry in 1914. Hopkins made several outstanding contributions to science and was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1929. He received numerous honours, including a knighthood in 1925 and the Order of Merit in 1935. After Hopkins’ death in 1947, the house passed into the ownership of the historian Dr J. P. T. Bury (1908-1987) of Corpus Christi College who wrote The College of Corpus Christi and of the Blessed Virgin Mary: a History from 1822 to 1952 (1952), and works on the history of France, including France 1814-1940 (1949). His son engraved the plaque bearing the house’s name ‘Saxmeadham’ (from the Saxon burial ground on which the house is built) at the David Kindersley Workshop in 1971. He also engraved the early C21 plaque to Hopkins.

Reasons for Listing

71 Grange Road, a neo-Georgian house built in 1911 to the designs of Arnold Bidlake Mitchell, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architect: it is a good example of an assured work by this accomplished architect at the height of his career whose buildings are numerously represented on the List;
* Architectural interest: it has a subtle eclecticism drawing on Georgian and vernacular traditions with textural and polychromatic richness conferred by carefully chosen high quality building materials;
* Interior: finely crafted, combining typical Georgian elements such as two-panelled doors, with contemporary features such as the Art Nouveau fireplace tiles and subtly modelled plasterwork;
* Intactness: the fixtures, fittings and joinery survive throughout the house, including the plan form of the service area which retains original sinks and draining boards, altogether providing a near complete example of an Edwardian interior;
* Historic interest: it is associated with two distinguished Cambridge academics, notably Frederick Gowland Hopkins, the Nobel prize-winning pioneering biochemist who commissioned the house;
* Context: it forms part of an exceptional suburban development in West Cambridge which encompasses the work of some of the most notable architects of the day;
* Group value: it has particular group value with the nearby Grade II listed 60 and 62 Grange Road, a pair of houses designed by Amian Champneys in 1907, and with the Grade II* registered gardens of St John’s College opposite.

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