Herbert Hutchinson (1868-1957)
Extracted, rearranged and reformatted from a longer essay, with the author’s permission, by Jacqueline Banerjee. The illustrations come, also with kind permission, from a folio of over seventy architectural drawings and details for the construction of these houses, held in the archives section of the Haslemere Museum. Click on all the images to enlarge them.
Set in a prominent location on the Half Moon Estate, Haslemere, The Heights is a medium sized private housing estate dating from the 1890s to the early twentieth century, situated to the south west of the town centre of Haslemere. It was designed by Herbert Hutchinson (1868-1957), who sought to create in this area a setting for a new lifestyle, something that was to be followed later by Ebenezer Howard, founder of the Garden City Movement. At the heart of Hutchinson’s aims was the creation of better housing, more space with decent gardens, and a new relationship between town and country. The land to this hillside slope of Haslemere, with the distant views and clean air, was considered perfect. Creating communities like this would transform their inhabitants’ way of life, combining the ease of commuting to London with beauty, a romantic idyll, and the delight of life in the country. Professor John Tyndall, an eminent physicist had publicly praised the purity of the air in the area and coined the phrase “English Switzerland.” In his spoof, “A Literary Discovery,” John Betjeman claimed to have found a poem by Longfellow which made the place seem the likely model of the Swiss village in his poem, “Excelsior.” Betjeman adds, tongue-in-cheek but with more than a grain of truth, “what could please a lady more / Than to find her Surrey mansion had inspired ‘Excelsior’?” (199).
History of the Estate
Herbert Hutchinson’s father, Jonathan (1828-1913, later Sir Jonathan) was a eminent surgeon, ophthalmologist, scientist, pathologist. He purchased the 200-acre Inval Estate to the north-west of the town, to which he and his wife Mary and their typically large Victorian family moved in 1872. Over time he invested in further land at Haslemere, Hindhead, Witley, Petersfield, Kingsley Green and Blackwater. The principal site was the Half Moon Farm Estate on the southern side of the town, which he bought in 1894 and developed extensively withroads and houses, including the site known as The Heights. In 1904 he also purchased the mediaeval Moses Hill Farm, together with the surrounding Marley Heights Estate, at Kingsley Green. His son Herbert, architect, builder and developer, then moved his growing family from Inval to Moses Hill. Herbert himself initially bought land from the Springfarm Estate Auction at the turn of the twentieth century at the bottom of Marley Lane, where he began development.
Although Herbert is best known for the development of the Marley Heights Estate and other land in Kingsley Green, he was at the same time designing and building houses on his father’s estate at Half Moon Farm and elsewhere. His inspiration was drawn from the Arts and Crafts, in particular the work of Sir Richard Norman Shaw (1831-1912) who was considered at the time to be one of the greatest of British architects. Hutchinson was to become one of the most influential architects in Haslemere, greatly aided by the fact he built up his own building team of carpenters and joiners who also had their own timber merchant’s warehouses: at his most productive, he had a staff of over 130 skilled men, and records show that his Nyewood Brick and Tile Works exported to America and Central Europe. Few architects could match him in the control of a large workforce and ready supply of building materials to maintain standards and the quality of build. His son, Jonathan Hutchinson (1900-1972), named after his grandfather, was to take over the supervision of the building works of the firm in Herbert’s later life and ran the building business until it became the Haslemere Builders and later Messrs Chapman, Lowry and Puttick.
The Half Moon estate was developed with strong personal involvement. Herbert Hutchinson was a pillar of the local community — which was a particularly impressive one. Known as Bertie to close members of his family, he was a founder member of the Haslemere Society of Artists, bringing him into contact with such notables as the watercolourists Walter Tyndale (1854-1943) and Helen Allingham (1848-1926); the watercolourist and wood-engraver Josiah Wood Wymper (1813-1903), whose sons Charles and Edward climbed the Matterhorn in 1865; and John Wornham Penfold (1828-1909), the architect who designed the Penfold Postbox. He himself had a top-class professional background: his early artist training was competed at the Slade in London, followed by being articled to the London based architectural firm of William C. Marshall, RIBA. His vision as an architect was very much in tune with the times. Like Richard Norman Shaw, he considered himself an artist. His drawings of country houses avoided the academic styles and revived the vernacular use of traditional materials – with timber framing in oak, clay hanging tiles, projecting gables with hand carved bargeboards, tall and massive brick chimney stacks – all combining to form what we now refer to as the Surrey Style. The product of these traditional ideas is essentially romantic with consciously retrograde beliefs that informed the designs. Retrograde they may have seemed at the time, in so far as they were steeped in the ideals of a then rapidly passing era – but not retrograde in the fact that these houses and beliefs sowed the seed for a humane architecture of the future. In his daughter, Margaret Hutchinson’s words: “As an architect, Father was a draughtsman, as an artist he could use his knowledge of perspective and ability to draw accurately to paint street scenes, churches and cathedrals.”
The Heights as an Example of Hutchinson’s Work
The Heights was drawn up by Hutchinson in September 1899 and as stated on the plans and elevations, was commissioned by his father, Sir Jonathan Hutchinson. Construction of the new house is noted in the records, which are dated to February 1900 with a price £4000 with the note that “would sell land at back @ 300 per acre not less than 2 acres or £350 per acre if bought without house unless more than 5 acres is bought. Will only sell not let as a school. Whole field were taken with the house the price would be £250 per acre.” The original drawings for the house show pin holes at the corners where they have been fixed to the wall and in the top left-hand corner of No.1 The Heights in pencil is the sum £2277, almost as a note or reminder as it is underlined.
The date of 1900 is carved into the central section of the fireplace surround to the dining room. The newspaper described:
A choice freehold property, comprising a very picturesque house in a grand position 600ft above the sea level with magnificent views of Haslemere, the Weald and Hindhead. The residence, which is built of red-brick, partly in panels and with black and white gables, extended window in stone and red-tiles roof, is approached by a carriage drive, and contains: paved entrance lobby, inner hall about 15ft by 15ft with panelled walls of white wood, fireplace, dining room 21ft exclusive of bay by 14ft drawing room 16ft by 14ft with annex, study 14ft by 12ft with bay in addition lavatory and w.c., large kitchen, scullery, pantry, larder, Tradesmen’s porch. Boot and knife house, w.c. Above, on two floors approached by front and back staircases, are 9 bedrooms, dressing room, box room, fitted bath room with hot and cold supplies, w.c. Gas and water laid on, electric bells and drainage into public sewer. The garden is planted and lawn made. The subsoil is sand. The area of land is about 1¼acres, more can be had if desired. The house is particularly well and solidly built and fitted with cupboards and every convenience; the views from it are probably unsurpassed in the county. Price freehold £3900. Rent £200 per annum on lease.
In September 1901 The Heights was sold to a Mrs Eleanor Anne Lucey, whose name appears on the later more detailed drawings and further documents currently held at the Haslemere Museum. Mrs Lucey moved from Hampstead and would let the house over the summer months. These lettings are all recorded in the Hutchinson’s archives and log book for The Heights from 1901 to Mrs Lucey’s death in 1930. Her husband, William Cubitt Lucey, a GP in London, died in June 1905. They had seven children in total and her third son, Herbert Lucey, went on to become a surgeon. The youngest brother, Ambrose was a civil engineer and both sons and their sister Alice were all living at The Heights in the 1911 census returns.
The Later History of The Heights
After the death of Mrs Lucey the house was offered for sale, with price £7000 in 1930 and the sole agents were Bridgers. By 1932 under the instructions from Col Lucey of Harrogate the price was £4250 with a rent £200 per annum. The last note in the book states the house was let to Commander and Mrs Roncaglia in 1934-1937, in 1937 to Miss Ruga and in April 1938 to Prince C. Lobanoy-Rostorsky (from Moscow) on lease. In the 1950s The Heights became a Preparatory school, and was subject to some extension, but with sympathetic attention to the original. Although it is in a poor state of repair now, internal inspection has shown that the historic fireplace surrounds, skirtings, cornices main staircase, painted timber panelling, original doors all survive, as does the original main staircase with carved newel tops, decorative turned balusters, hardwood handrail, skirtings and a cornice complete with a carved heart shaped base to the extended newels.
No wonder the local Borough Council has identified and listed The Heights as a non-designated heritage asset. Well worth preserving and restoring in and of itself, it contributes greatly to its immediate context, which represents an outstanding survival of a planned Arts and Crafts residential estate. As mentioned in the headnote, a folio of over seventy architectural drawings and details for the construction of these houses is held in the archives section of the Haslemere Museum, and bears witness both to Hutchinson’s professional skill and artist’s vision. As his daughter Margaret Hutchinson says. “As an architect, Father was a draughtsman, as an artist he could use his knowledge of perspective and ability to draw accurately to paint street scenes, churches and cathedrals.” His success in this estate is acknowledged in Nikolaus Pevsner’s Buildings of England series, which praises it for the “the extreme subtlety with which the late c19 houses are fitted in to the hilly, romantic landscape” (304-5). More generally, The Heights, prominently located as it is on elevated ground is highly visible from the distant townscape and within the street scene. In every respect this is an important landmark building.
- Garden Suburbs: Architecture, Landscape and Modernity 1880-1940
- Review of Sarah Bilston’s The Promise of the Suburbs: A Victorian History in Literature and Culture
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