Ghastly good taste in the Weald

Again rural Kent and again a residential property – very different in scale and style to the cottages in Leeds featured a few weeks ago, but, like them inasmuch as it is the sort of architecture that slips below the radar of historians because it is neither ‘properly’ vernacular nor (at any rate, as far as I know) the work of a nationally important architect. Crownfield is a large residential property on the A28 between Bethersden and High Halden, located in the former parish. The earliest part of it stands front-on to the main road and looks like it is probably C18, although conceivably of more ancient origins behind a later brick front – this area is very rich in timber-framed houses. At some point between the first edition of the Ordnance Survey in 1871 and the second edition in 1898, an enormous new south-facing chamber block with a formal entrance was butted onto one end of it at a right-angle, exploiting its location on a sharp bend. Probably at that point the older part of the building was relegated to the function of a service wing. The disparity between the two phases, which are of very different proportions, is awkward to the point of being comic, but the chamber block is a very splendid thing, embodying the full panoply of picturesque devices that an architect-builder of the day could throw at it – constructional polychromy, textured terracotta facing, foliate capitals, cast-iron balustrades to the first-floor sills, decorative bargeboards, cast- and wrought-iron finials, decorative ridge crests and ornamental glazing bars. This sort of detailing often gets eroded (and the older portion of the house has already fallen to the double-glazing salesmen), but here it has survived very well. With the half-hipping and deep eaves, it has a slightly Gallic air and a conservation architect friend described its look aptly as ‘very Nord Pas de Calais minor railway station’. Its lively, vigorous ornament is a good antidote to the frightfully good taste of the Wealden villages and it deserves protection – being neither statutorily listed not in a conservation area, it currently has none.

Published by Edmund Harris

Heritage professional and architectural historian residing in Suffolk. All views expressed here are my own and do not represent my employer.

2 thoughts on “Ghastly good taste in the Weald

  1. I am the current owner of Crownfield House and we have strived to keep the House as original as possible we have lived here since 1978 and yes we did succumb to a window salesman the reason being to replace the House in wooden windows which many were rotten would have been in the region of £80,000 and needs must, it was a choice of another miserable draughty winter or a comfortable one. It is three times now we have had scaffolding and completely repainted and repaired the windows but 11 years ago i fell from some scaffolding and lost my leg above the knee so this created a problem for me as you can imagine that is why the picture of the house looks a bit run down but i am now bringing her back to life and when completed i will send you pictures of how she looks now.

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    1. Thank you very much for that! Getting a comment like that is the sort of thing that makes doing this blog worthwhile. I probably should apologise for publishing photos of your house without so much as a by-your-leave. But I glimpsed it so often from the car while driving along the A28 that it became a landmark that I always looked out for, and eventually I thought, ‘I really must stop and get a proper look at it’. And it didn’t disappoint! Glad to hear it’s in safe hands.

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