DescriptionA villa on a suburban site of four acres in the prosperous outskirts of Ilkley, it was built for a Leeds businessman. Its massive Sanmicheli-inspired Classicism has always been recognised as marking a turning point in Lutyens’s career. He wrote to Herbert Baker in 1911: ‘Ilkley. San Michel (sic). This house was for a very rich man who could not spend money: until he met me! In an ultra suburban locality’…’To get domination I had to get a scale greater than the height of my rooms allowed, so unconsciously the San Michele invention repeated itself. That time-worn Doric order – a lovely thing – I had the cheek to adopt.’ Lutyens had fallen in love with the elements of classical architecture and the games he could legitimately play with it.
In one of the most famous letters exchanged between two architects, Lutyens wrote to Herbert Baker in 1903: ‘In architecture Palladio is the game. It is so big – few appreciate it now and it requires considerable training to value and realize it. The way Wren handled it was marvellous. Shaw has the gift. To the average man it is dry bones but under the mind of a Wren it glows and the stiff materials become as plastic clay. I feel sure if Ruskin had seen the point of view he would have raved as beautifully as he raved for the Gothic, and I think he did have some insight before he died; his later writings were much more gentle towards the Italian Renaissance. It is a game that never deceives, dodges never disguises. It means hard thought all through – if it is laboured it fails. There is no fluke that helps it – the very what one might call the machinery of it makes it impossible except in the hands of a Jones or a Wren. So it is a big game, a high game, a game that Stevens played well as an artist should – tho’ he never touched Wren’.
Heathcote is built of coarse yellowish local stone from Guiseley with grey stone dressings from the Morley quarries and red pantiles. Lutyens said of it: ‘My house does stand there plumb. I don’t think it could be built anywhere else.’ This shows how fruitfully Lutyens was able to incorporate into the classical tradition the characteristically Arts and Crafts preoccupation with the use of local materials. The plan is dramatic and picturesque, forcing the visitor to move circuitously through a planned sequence of spatial contrasts and surprises. The stepped gardens continue the massive geometry of the house. Lutyens’s love of paradox is indulged at Heathcote – he plays with the Doric pilaster sunken into a rusticated wall. This ‘disappearing pilaster’ appears frequently in later work. It flirts with two sorts of architectural relief – the pilaster and the rustic – operating in the same vertical plane. The sources are Vignola at Caprarola and Wren’s late additions to the Greenwich river front. A.S.G. Butler saw Heathcote as ‘really sculpture – like Michelangelo’s carving of stone’. (Amery et al., 1981, cat no.136)
Lutyens claimed a classical style was necessary to remove the house from the ‘villadom’ in which it was set in the suburbs of Ilkley and revelled in the ‘high game of Palladio’ while working on the designs for Heathcote. However, the style is far closer to the Edwardian Baroque of Norman Shaw and owes much to Vanbrugh and Giulio Romano in the handling of the wall surface and the coupled rusticated chimney-stacks. The red-pantile roof, recalling Philip Webb’s work at Rounton and adding colour to the rather dour local stone, again removes it from the eighteenth century. Blocking the central axis within the house is certainly not found in Palladio and retains the circuitous patterns of circulation used to enlarge the experience of Lutyens’s earlier houses such as Little Thakeham.
The terracing of the site and the treatment of house and garden as one pyramidal composition of horizontal planes contrasts strongly with the neighbouring picturesque suburban gardens. The cost of the building was £17,500. (Inskip, 1986, p.72)
BibliographyAmery, C., Richardson, M. and Stamp, G. (1981) Lutyens, the Work of the English Architect Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944): Hayward Gallery London, 18 November 1981-31 January 1982. London: Arts Council of Great Britain. Inskip, P. (1986) Edwin Lutyens: Architectural Monographs 6>. 2nd edn. London: Academy Editions.
Also Cited InLeach, P.E. (2009) Yorkshire West Riding – Leeds, Bradford and the North. The Buildings of England. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Gradidge, R. (1982) Edwin Lutyens: Architect Laureate. London: Allen & Unwin.
Edwards, B. (1996) Goddards: Sir Edwin Lutyens. London: Phaidon.
Weaver, L. (1913) Houses and Gardens by E L Lutyens. London: Country Life.
Aslet, C. (1982) The Last Country Houses. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Lawrence, R. R. (2009) The Book of the Edwardian & Interwar House [2013 ed]. London: Aurum Press.
L, W., 1910. COUNTRY HOMES GARDENS OLD & NEW: HEATHCOTE, ILKLEY, YORKSHIRE, THE RESIDENCE OR MR. J. T. HEMINGWAY. Country Life (Archive : 1901 – 2005), 28(705), pp. 54-65.
ClientJohn Thomas Hemingway