One of the hardest things to resolve when restoring a house is what to do when some architectural element is old, but all wrong. In the Pagoda House, which I am leaving to move here, I was too keen to establish some architectural harmony to the whole, so where crittall windows had been added in the early 20th Century, I replaced them with sashes to blend with the rest. But I feel I may have lost something in doing that: some oddity, some human footprint. It is just all too tidy.
So I contemplate two elements in the dining room at the Castle. A tripartite ‘Arts and Crafts’ style window, put in to replace a regency style sash at the beginning of last century, which frames perfectly, to my horror, a stucco rendered loo: part of the ‘below stairs’ arrangements and a grim high flush worthy of some terrible institution in a Panorama expose.
These changes were made by Harry Baldwin, who bought the house in 1902. He also pulled down the back crenellated wing and a long row of glasshouses (there were once as many as Osbourne House) to build his surgery and consulting rooms, where he removed the teeth of George VI. He was later knighted, not for this particular event, but for the important strides he made in the rebuilding of injured soldiers’ teeth and jaws after the First World War.
So while the window and loo are too terrible for words, they are relatively old. However, the window is rotten and needs replacing and I cannot envisage any family member, even during a chaotic family Christmas, rushing to this loo.
This does bring me on to the title of my blog. Subsequent residents, perhaps Harry himself, also found this loo unacceptable, wreathing it with a beautifully trained Garrya elliptica, which you can see in the photo below. Here is another wonderful photo, taken inside the house, merely entitled ‘Flowers’, showing a bowl with artistically drooping stems, at their absolute best, as the catkins hang earlier in the year. And finally, the plant today covering the box-like carbuncle, in exactly the same spot, though perhaps not the original plant.
So my secateurs have been stayed in mid air. The bay will go, surely self seeded here, as it is throughout the garden, but the Garrya must live to wreath the corner of the house again. Not by nature a tidy grower and this example has been poorly pruned, it will take a few years to sort an elegant framework for this plant. But there is a nice continuity to it being here.
Garden elevation before the tripartite windows were added. Below, with the new windows, to the left of the canopy.