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Photographer: Paul Waite

The Red House

Gazetteer No. G0050

Date 1899

Address Frith Hill Road Godalming, Surrey GU7 2DZ England


Built on a tiny site on the edge of a cliff for a retiring house master, Rev W H Evans, at nearby Charterhouse school, it was small by Edwardian standards but the budget and site gave Sir Edwin a chance to play with the levels in the house. Built in the form of a large tower, as the stair descends through the house, each level changes. the major feature is the central, open-well, wooden stair lit by coved top light with columns supporting cornice. Here he introduces his first castellated façade similar to what he would develop later for Castle Drogo. Gertrude Jekyll had planted the garden down the precipitous slope that must have been good experience for planting Lindisfarne where it is said she lowered small children in wicker baskets to plant out the cliffs below the castle. (Contributor: Paul Waite)

Godalming – Frith Hill. The most important house on the hill was and is RED HOUSE, Frith Hill Road, by Lutyens, 1897–9, an irregular keep-like mass on the escarpment in simplified Tudor, a little like Edgar Wood’s pioneer house at Stafford. Built for the Rev. Henry Evans, chaplain of Charterhouse School. On the entrance front, set just below the road, it has a late C17 character, reminiscent of his Liberal Club in Farnham (p. 334), two-storeyed with small casements in a flat expanse of brick wall topped by a parapet and robust diamond-shaped chimneystacks clamped to the ends, ingeniously arranged so that, while one stack is in line with the front, its pair is set back and buttressed. The house projects far out from the hillside, however, and on the garden side the reticence of the entrance is swapped for high drama, with a pair of three- and four-storey towers of canted bays on battered bases and with flat timber casements under tiled lintels that wrap around the chamfered angles. At the top, the suggestion of crenellations. This anticipates much that would reappear in many of Lutyens’s more famous houses (e.g. Castle Drogo, Devon). On one side, steps up to a columned loggia projecting against a heavy chimneystack; on the other, windows asymmetrically arranged with arched tympana of tiles. Inside, the drastic changes in level from front to back are resolved by a very wide top-lit staircase with a thrilling central cage-like well with columns and turned finials for the flights from ground to first floor and, descending around this core, wider sets of five risers at a time, with the rooms around it entered at slightly different levels (in all six half-storeys; one consequence is that the cellars are above the kitchens!). This is the most passionate of Lutyens’s youthful love affairs with such stairs. The drawing room and dining room are set one above the other on the SE corner, their fireplaces a significant contrast: the latter a dynamic Baroque composition of niches, miniaturized, the former among the first of Lutyens’s Neo-Georgian. Some traces of unusual Bloomsbury-type decoration in the dining room and also pretty hand-painted decoration to the stair. The GARDEN, plunging precipitously downhill in stone-walled terraces, was by Jekyll but reduced in the 1970s. (O’Brien et al., 2022, pp.367-8)


O’Brien, C., Nairn, I. and Cherry, B. (2022) Surrey. Pevsner Architectural Guides: Buildings of England. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Also Cited In

Gradidge, R. (1980) Dream houses: The Edwardian ideal. London: Constable & co. ltd.

Gradidge, R. (1982) Edwin Lutyens: Architect Laureate. London: Allen & Unwin.

Aslet, C. (1982) The Last Country Houses. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Nairn, I., Pevsner, N. (1971) Surrey (Pevsner Architectural Guides: Buildings of England). 2nd edn. Yale University Press.

Listing Grade


Listing Reference



Rev W H Evans