This section is from the book "Modern Buildings, Their Planning, Construction And Equipment Vol1", by G. A. T. Middleton. Also available from Amazon: Modern Buildings.
As houses are built of all sizes, to suit an infinite variety of conditions, it is difficult to classify them; but perhaps it will be generally conceded that a large country house is one in which extreme economy is not a primary condition, and one, moreover, in which the servants' quarters are entirely distinct from the family residence. This is, in fact, essential where any considerable number of servants are kept.
Thus something of a formal and dignified character becomes both possible and right, such as would be out of place in a small house. Large rooms take the place of small, with definite architectural treatment of each, and the addition of many a minor convenience.
Still, every point to which attention has already-been drawn must be observed. The house must be capable of being constructed and roofed with ease, while aspects, prospects, and such details as the relative positions of doors, windows, and fireplaces are all of just as much importance in a large house as in a small one.
The problem, therefore, is an expanded problem rather than a new one, and has several recognised solutions, typical examples of which have been selected for illustration.
"Britwell," Herts (shown in Fig. 46), designed for Sir John Evans by Messrs. Hubbard & Moore, is an example of axial planning, such as is usually employed for larger works, and has many centuries of custom to recommend it. Architecturally no system is more successful.
If a centre line be drawn from back to front it will be noticed that it passes entirely through openings forming an axial vista through the house when the doors are open. To right and left of this the exterior is symmetrical, although the plan, which is in outline based on the letter H, is necessarily varied on either side internally.
The main entrance is on the north,1 under a "porte cochere," or porch of sufficient size for a carriage to stand in it, and to afford protection from the north wind. This opens directly into a square hall, the evident intention being to give an impression of dignity. The stairs are not visible from the hall, but rise on its left behind an intervening wall, being balanced by a strongroom similarly placed on the right.
1 It may be interesting to note that the house has been set out on the ground to the true and not to the magnetic meridian - that is, the axial line is almost correct to the north star, and not to the compass needle, which is always inaccurate, varying from time to time, and at present pointing some 17 degrees west of true north.
The drawing-room door opens centrally out of the hall immediately opposite the entrance, for reception purposes, and the room, facing south, opens on to a loggia.
The large library is an unusual feature, and is planned so as to be easily converted into two rooms - study and billiard-room, for example - if desired. It extends from back to front at the west end of the house, thus enjoying sunlight all the afternoon. The bookcases are arranged to give plenty of storage room under the best possible lighting conditions, while leaving the middle of the room free for reception purposes or for a billiard table.
The corresponding wing to the east is given up, in front, to a large boot or cloak-room with lavatory and w.c. for gentlemen, and at the back to the dining-room, which is wide enough for the fire to be placed centrally without serious discomfort. The communication door with the drawing-room, enabling the ladies to retire after dinner without traversing passages, will be noticed, as will also the proximity of the door from the corridor to the gentlemen's lavatory. A third door to the dining-room is intended for servants' use only, opening at the end of the servants' corridor in what is, to all intents and purposes, a separate house containing the kitchen and the servants' quarters generally.
The kitchen and pantry are both in close proximity to the dining-room, though so placed that no smell of the cooking would penetrate, and the butler's bedroom is reached through his pantry, and contains a safe for the deposit of plate. This room, and also the servants' hall, face south, while the kitchens and larders are, for the sake of coolness, kept on the north.
All these are the usual arrangements of a large house, though they have been planned in this case with unusual simplicity and skill, while the hall to the back entrance gives more comfort to the servant's quarters than is often met with.
The w.c. for the women servants is placed near that of the main building for ease of drainage, and is under the servants' staircase, which rises and turns into the main building on the first floor, which does not extend over the servants' annexe. It is given up to a few good bedrooms, including a suite of three rooms for nursery use, though so planned that both the day and night nursery could be used as a bedroom, and each be provided with an adjacent dressing-room a luxury not to be found to so large an extent in many houses.
The second floor is reached by the servants' staircase only, and contains enough bedrooms for several visitors' servants as well as those belonging to the house. Each room is so planned that the bed could be placed out of the draught between door and window.
The house near Rye (see Fig. 47), designed by Mr.
Reginald Blomfield, A.R.A., is of much the same size but less formally treated, with almost the same aspects. The axial arrangement has here been abandoned, and a large well-lit hall provided out of which the staircase rises; otherwise the ground plan of the main block is very similar indeed to that of "Britwell." The servants' annexe, however, in two long wings, is quite different, the central corridor lit from the ends being replaced by a side-lighted corridor with rooms on only one side of it. As a result more ground is covered, and the kitchen is farther from the dining-room; but the corridors are better lit and ventilated. There is a lift for coals from a basement coal-store right up the house; and in the basement there is also a heating chamber, so that the house is warmed by hot-water radiators as well as by open fires.