Do bungalows deserve to be typecast as boring boxes? Richenda Oldham despairs of British bungalow design

Florida bungalow with classic wide verandah

Exotic living on one level: stunning Florida bungalow with classic wide verandah

Bungalows were recently dubbed “Britain’s favourite home” in a Halifax survey, yet apparently we are not building enough of them. Although Nick Boles, the planning minister has called for more bungalows to be built, developers are reluctant to construct low level living accommodation – presumably because they require more space and are therefore less cost effective per square foot to build than apartment blocks.

Conversely, despite their “popular” and “desirable” tags, bungalows also have a stigma attached and are viewed with scorn by property snobs, who deride them as outdated and stuffy. As long ago as 1927, the term “bungaloid” was used as an insult.

Our enduring relationship (good or bad) with bungalows goes back much further though, to the 17th Century when the term bungales (from the the Indian word Bengali meaning a house in the Bengal style, traditionally, a one story detached property with a wide veranda) was used to describe the humble dwellings or hovels used by English sailors of the East India Company. These later became the grander colonial homes we now associate with the British Raj.

African bungalow complete with palm thatch

African bungalow complete with palm thatch and tree growing through the front verandah

Bungalows were adopted in Britain in the 19th Century and became highly fashionable, particularly in seaside towns such as Westgate-on-Sea and Birchington, where their status was elevated even further by the pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti who died in a bungalow there. The Arts and Crafts movement in both the UK and America took the bungalow to heart and during the early part of the 20th Century bungalows become a stylish, much sought after form of architecture, promoted by the Ideal Home Exhibition.

Irish 19th Century bungalow

Quaint charm: Irish 19th Century bungalow

Popularity of the bungalow took off in Great Britain between the two world wars because of the changing needs of the lower middle classes, who were moving from rented homes to private houses. Inexpensive to build, bungalows were the ideal solution as they offered convenient, affordable living on one level and provided a good degree of privacy.

There are some superb examples of bungalows to be found, particularly British colonial style ones with thatched roofs, wide overhanging eaves and roomy verandahs. Arts and Crafts bungalows are attractive buildings in their own right and a testimony to the individuality of that design movement. American versions are often built from clapperboard  with distinctive front gables and entrance porches.

colonial clapperboard style bungalow in New Zealand

Bungalow down under: colonial clapperboard style home in New Zealand

But, alas, no one appears to have been paying attention to the design aesthetics of the British bungalow from the 1970s onwards. The majority of bungalows that you see on the market across the country – whether 30-40 years old or contemporary built – are unimaginative brick boxes, built by local builders on behalf of enthusiastic but ignorant clients. The end results, lacking any architectural credibility whatsoever, speak for themselves.

typical English bungalow

Still greatly in demand: typical English bungalow

There is no reason why bungalows shouldn’t deserve the same aesthetic attention as other homes. Yet, because of their suburban, homely origins they seem forever destined – in the UK certainly – to be unimaginatively designed to the point of being hideous. In rural areas, you often find bungalows in the most stunning locations with wonderful views, but little else to recommend them.

In complete contrast, the modern Florida (US) bungalow has been elevated to a stylish architectural form known as a villa, even though the footprint is just a simple rectangle. The  internal layouts are spacious and inviting with an open plan kitchen, breakfast area, utility room, living and dining room areas, at least three bedrooms – all with en suite bathrooms, a double garage and, of course, a swimming pool. They are designed according to a straightforward, but flexible template, allowing for different floor plans – no different really to the American Craftsmen bungalows of the Arts and Crafts movement, which were sold in kit form from catalogues produced by the likes of Sears Company and The Aladdin Company.

US suburban bungalow

Classic spacious US suburban bungalow

These catalogues can still be viewed on the internet and they make fascinating reading, with their promises of individuality combined with good taste, graceful columns, neat porches, light-filled, well ventilated rooms, sturdy construction, economical upkeep, dignified lines and up to date floor arrangements.

I would happily order one today as they put our British bungalows to shame.

By Richenda Oldham

© 2014 Richenda Oldham All Rights Reserved

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Foxes and Tweed – 20 examples of the top two rustic design trends for Winter 2013. By Richenda Oldham

There are two design trends for autumn/winter 2013, which I have been powerless to resist. The first is foxes and the second is tweed. Put the two together and you’ve got a rustic winning combination.

There is something comforting about the homespun qualities of tweed, which when teamed with the fox icon (the season’s most popular motif to emerge from the woodland creatures trend), has me reaching for a copy of Horse and Hound and settling down in front of a roaring log fire, wrapped in a tweed throw, while sipping hot chocolate from a fox-printed mug.

So here are some of my favourites for each theme. Which ones do you like best?

Top Ten Fox Themed Accessories 

Adorable cheeky Fox Face Egg Cup, £7.99, from the Arundell Arms Gift Shop

Adorable cheeky Fox Face Egg Cup, £7.99, from the Arundell Arms Gift Shop

There is something fitting about using this cheeky Fox Face Egg Cup for eggy dipping at the breakfast table, £7.99, from the Arundell Arms Gift Shop

Foxy Pair framed print, £49.95, from cuckooland.com

Foxy Pair framed print, £49.95, from cuckooland.com

Making a cunning statement – Foxy Pair framed print, £49.95, from cuckooland.com

Felt foxy rug, £55.95, from Sew Heart Felt

Felt foxy rug, £55.95, from Sew Heart Felt

This felt foxy rug is totally irresistible, £55.95, from Sew Heart Felt  Check out their web site for more brilliant fox items

100% linen Fox cushion, £38.95 (inc UK p&p), from madebyhandonline.com

100% linen Fox cushion, £38.95 (inc UK p&p), from madebyhandonline.com

The Devon-based company madebyhandonline.com has some fabulous hand-made fox themed items including this smart fox cushion, hand-printed using environmentally friendly inks onto 100% Irish Linen, £38.95 (including UK p&p)

Felt fox brooch by Simmi Duffin of GracesFavours, £7 available from etsy.com

Felt fox brooch by Simmi Duffin of GracesFavours, £7 available from etsy.com

Adorable fox brooch designed and hand-made from wool blend felt by Simmi Duffin of GracesFavours, £7 available from www.etsy.com 

Proud Fox set of stackable nesting tins, £14, from onebrowncow.co.uk

Proud Fox set of stackable nesting tins, £14, from onebrowncow.co.uk

Eyecatching Proud Fox set of stackable nesting tins, £14, from www.onebrowncow.co.uk

Bronze fox table lamp, £250 from Adventino

Bronze fox table lamp, £250 from Adventino

This bronze prowling fox table lamp certainly has the wow factor – perfect for a Victorian style library or a stone-flagged country hallway, £250, from Adventino

Fox mug, £14.50-£17.50, from Fenella Smith

Fox mug, £14.50-£17.50, from Fenella Smith

Charming fox mug available in mini, £14.50 and standard £17.50, from Fenella Smith

Day Woods with Foxes cushion, £54.50 from Orwell and Goode

Day Woods with Foxes cushion, £54.50 from Orwell and Goode

Day Woods with Foxes –  100% natural linen cushion from Orwell and Goode’s In the Woods collection, £54.50, from Orwell and Goode

purple fox head cushion by Lisa Bliss, £45, from Graduate Collection

purple fox head cushion by Lisa Bliss, £45, from Graduate Collection

This fearsome looking feller is the purple fox head cushion by Lisa Bliss, £45, from Graduate Collection

Top Ten Tweed Favourites

Luxury Moon's tweed dog bed, from £99; Heather Check sofa throw, £79.95, both from The Stylish Dog Company

Luxury Moon’s tweed dog bed, from £99; Heather Check sofa throw, £79.95, both from The Stylish Dog Company

Purple tweed, in all different shades from heather to lavender is bang on trend and looks fabulous teamed with silvery grey, old gold and emerald hues. Luxury Moon’s tweed dog bed, from £99; Heather Check sofa throw, £79.95, both from The Stylish Dog Company   

Tweeds from Linwood Fabrics Ollaberry and Roxburgh Collections, from £56.90 per metre

Tweeds from Linwood Fabrics Ollaberry and Roxburgh Collections, from £56.90 per metre

A single tweed covered armchair in a rich vibrant colour creates a stunning focal point. Tweeds from Linwood Fabrics Ollaberry and Roxburgh Collections, from £56.90 per metre

Harris Tweed coin purse, £26, Two Red Trees

Harris Tweed coin purse, £26, Two Red Trees

Harris Tweed is the only fabric in the world governed by its own Act of Parliament and is hand made by skilled artisans. This fabulous coin purse is made from Harris Tweed plaid in purple, teal and lilac complete with a purple lining, £26, from Two Red Trees

Benson footstool, £510 and Professor chair, £490, from www.haloliving.com

Benson footstool, £510 and Professor chair, £490, from http://www.haloliving.com

Two classic looking designs using tweed fabrics, which would suit a library style room – Benson footstool (Ailsa Plaid), £510 and Professor chair (Ailsa Plaid and Old Saddle), £490, from www.haloliving.com

Patchwork Pheasant Cushion, £75, Burford Garden Company

Patchwork Pheasant Cushion, £75, Burford Garden Company

Made from precisely cut out pieces of fabric, the Patchwork Pheasant Cushion is a quirky piece of tweedy artwork, £75, Burford Garden Company

Tweed stag's head, £40, made to order by Gertrude Anna

Tweed stag’s head, £40, made to order by Gertrude Anna

The ultimate vegetarian hunting trophy – a tweed stag’s head made to order by Gertrude Anna, £40

Charlie reversible draught excluder, £35, from Gilinix

Charlie reversible draught excluder, £35, from Gilinix

A tweed draught excluder will keep out the cold and look rather dashing. Charlie reversible draught excluder, £35, from Gilinix

Tweed fox doorstop, £8 from ASDA direct

Tweed fox doorstop, £8 from ASDA direct

What a cute little chap, this tweed fox doorstop is a bargain for just £8 from ASDA direct 

Dobbies Tweed Deer Decoration, £3.50, www.tesco.com

Dobbies Tweed Deer Decoration, £3.50, http://www.tesco.com

Dobbies Tweed Deer Decoration, £3.50, www.tesco.com

Beasties side plates, £20 for a set of four, from Magpieline

Beasties side plates, £20 for a set of four, from Magpieline

These Beasties tweedy 7.5 in porcelain side plates feature Carola Van Dyke’s appealing applique textile animals, £20 for a set of four plates , from Magpieline 

Ghostly goings on at an old rectory – Richenda Oldham recalls life in a haunted house

Always ask does this house have a ghost?

Always ask an estate agent whether the house you are viewing is haunted

“Does this house have a ghost?” is the first question that my husband and I ought to have asked when we viewed the shabby but elegant 17th Century  rectory, which became our home 19 years ago.

But we didn’t. Instead we fell in love with the rambling property, which was clearly in need of restoration, and bought it. There was after all a baby about to arrive.

For a while we didn’t notice anything unusual. We were too preoccupied with moving in, unpacking and then adjusting to parenthood.

Haunted by a 17th Century parson

We soon discovered we were not the only inhabitants of the old rectory

Our first indication that we were not the only inhabitants of the Old Rectory came when a local electrician rewired two former servants garrets at the top of the house.

It was a lovely sunny day when he came, so I didn’t quite believe this chap when he said he wasn’t happy working alone upstairs. I thought he was joking. But no he was absolutely serious. “There is another presence here,” he said firmly, “and it’s not you bringing me a cup of tea.”

Even so, I didn’t give it much further thought until I started hearing footsteps regularly on the stairs outside our bedroom at night. To begin with I thought it was my husband coming home late from work, as it was a fairly heavy and regular thump, thump, thump. But time after time I dashed to the the door, only to find no-one there. Was it a ghostly joke?

Strange as it may seem, I never felt afraid. I even became accustomed to the footsteps and was far more spooked when the house was invaded by bats.

That changed when our daughter was three years old and moved into her newly decorated “big girl’s” bedroom. “Who is the man in black?” she asked. At that point the hair on the back of my neck stood on end.

It was time to acknowledge that we had a ghost on our hands. But at least it was only us (and the electrician) who knew about our haunting…

Our ghostly secret came to an end when the “man in black” made his presence known to our trusty babysitter. We returned one evening to be asked point blank by her whether we had a ghost. It transpired that she had heard footsteps outside the sitting room (he was obviously a rather restless ghost) and thought we had returned. When we didn’t arrive home for several hours, the game was up. She was genuinely scared and from then on would only agree to babysit if accompanied by her husband.

Thanks to our resident spook, the babysitting rate doubled.

By the following summer, I finally decided enough was enough and invited an animal healer (who was also an experienced clairvoyant) to tea. We had other guests round that day who were blissfully unaware of our supernatural assessment, so we had to wait until after they had left before we could ask her: “Did you see anything?”

The parson's ghost was harmless but sad

The parson’s ghost was harmless but sad

“Well, you certainly do have a ghost,” she replied and went on to describe a man wearing what sounded like the plain and dark uniform of a 17th Century parson who came into the room as we were having tea. “He’s looking for a someone – a girl – but don’t worry he’s quite harmless, just rather sad,” she said.

So we asked her to have a word with him  (minus incense waving or bible thumping) and to politely ask if he could tone things down a bit or perhaps even leave?

We never heard from our parson again.

A year or so later, I came across a list of vicars who had held the living at the old rectory right up until the Church sold the property. In the early part of the 17th Century, one of the parsons had been murdered.

 

The fate that awaits tenants who complain. By Richenda Oldham

Landlords are responsible for the upkeep of residential rental property

A third of tenants have been threatened with eviction after complaining to their landlord about the poor condition of a property

I have just read the results of a sobering survey regarding tenants being evicted or threatened with eviction if they complain to their landlords.

As a home owner, I am not normally greatly disturbed by issues relating to the residential property lettings market. But in this case, I am (potentially).

You see, our house has just gone on the market and we are hoping to net ourselves a serious autumn buyer, ideally someone looking to complete by Christmas. One of the questions that our estate agent was keen to nail was whether we would contemplate renting a house, if by some miracle our own home sold quickly.

“But of course”, we trilled, anxious not to sabotage any potential sales, “we are more than happy to rent.” Which of course ticks the no ongoing chain box.

Thanks to this survey by Tenants’ Voice, a new online tenant community, the thought of renting is now leaving me feeling distinctly chilly.

It transpires that landlords are resorting to some pretty heavy-handed tactics when it comes to avoiding doing their duties and carrying out any repairs requested by their tenants.

In fact, a third of the 2,000 tenants who took part in the survey had been evicted or threatened with eviction, and were put in this position after complaining to their landlords about the condition of a property or after asking for repairs to the carried out.

This bum deal has an official title: It’s called Retaliatory Evictions and it’s where landlords use their power to evict a tenant after their statutory minimum tenancy period (section 21 of the Housing Act), rather than undertake the repairs they’ve been asked to carry out. They do this in the hope that new tenants won’t notice.

Top of the list of problems complained about by tenants was damp, with 58% of tenants having damp-related issues, followed by general property disrepair (54%), boiler repairs (36%) and exterior and garden issues (19%).

An old farmhouse next to ours was let for seven years to some grandparents living with their daughter and grandchildren. The house was 17th Century, listed and looked idyllic in a charmingly, dishevelled sort of way. After they had left and the house had been put on the market, a neighbour and I looked around.

The conditions in which this family of six had been living were monstrous. Damp didn’t even begin to describe the water pouring down the walls and green mould growing on bare plaster. There was no central heating, only open log fires. In the depths of winter the whole family slept in one room to keep warm. It was a disgraceful example of a landlord who refused to repair anything. The elderly tenants, who were in their 80s, had obviously lost the ability to look after themselves let alone do battle with their landlady over the badly decaying property that was their home. They paid money to live in near dereliction.

According to Glenn Nickols, director of The Tenants’ Voice: “Landlords do have a responsibility to ensure that the property they are renting is fit for purpose and that means ensuring that any reasonable requests made by their tenants are dealt with promptly.”

“Tenants need to feel comfortable about approaching their landlords about any issues. Suffering in silence could have potentially devastating consequences.”

Section 21 has much to answer for in the cases of houses that are going to be sold and where the landlord refuses to make any repairs because of that. However, withholding rent is not an option as it puts you in breach of your tenancy agreement.

Relationships between landlords and tenants are fraught with problems, exacerbated by lack of communication and this survey certainly underlines the need for better regulation of the industry as a whole. Letting agents, landlords and tenants all need to be educated.

© 2013 Richenda Oldham All Rights Reserved

Lawn of the Dead – Zombie Garden Gnomes – by Richenda Oldham

All About Property Blog has just received this morning the best halloween press release ever. I love people who think out of the box and Kieran Elsby, who is the PR and marketing Manager for Prezzybox.com has done just that with a killer press release, which starts off with the eye-catching headline:

LAWN OF THE DEAD

The content is even better…Gnomes. But not just any old Gnomes. Zombie Garden Gnomes

Prezzybox’s deathly Zombie Gnomes come as a hideous twosome. The Crawler Gnome, who is missing half his torso

Crawler Zombie Garden Gnome

Crawler Zombie Garden Gnome, who is missing half his torso

and his bloodcurdling partner in grime the Original Zombie Gnome.

Original hideous Zombie garden gnome

Original hideous Zombie garden gnome

Priced at just £14.95 each, these charming little people will certainly make a change from your run of the mill garden gnomes, who are also hideous but in a more cheerful kitsch kind of way.

I think these ghoulish little guys are PERFECT for halloween parties of all kinds and if parked in darkish corners, perhaps with a few fairy lights, they will certainly give unwitting guests a night fright.

So thank you Kieran for your timely news story. It’s kindled an idea for another blog post about garden gnomes. So to all PRs, marketing managers, garden centres etc who have good images of happy, normal gnomes, please send them to me. I will also be researching the history of gnomes, so any information would be good, too, and even an interview with a gnome or two? Email me: richenda@propnews.co.uk

 

Zombie gnome by moonlight

Ill met by moonlight – the Zombie gnomes are here – run!

How to Feng Shui your office. By Richenda Oldham

 

Feng Shui tactics can be used in a home office to improve productivity

Feng Shui tactics can be used in a home office to improve productivity

Whether you are a Feng Shui believer, sceptic or in-betweener, there is a lot to be said for this ancient Chinese practice, based on principles of harmony and stability, for simply getting your house or indeed your office in order.

Feng Shui has been around for about 3,000 years and its aim is to harness the Chi or energy in your living environment to help achieve specific goals. These could be wealth, happiness, health, career success and so on.

Make no mistake, Feng Shui is a hugely complex subject when viewed in its entirety, but it is also possible to drill down and focus on its basic strategies and to apply them to your own workspace.

What I find most appealing about Feng Shui is the intensely practical approach that it takes. After all, its origins lie in helping people to choose suitable places to build villages (around three thousand years ago).

In fact, some of its basic considerations seem to resemble pure common sense with the kind of tips you would expect to find in office ergonomics or organising-your-home type guides. But in a way, for a Feng Shui beginner, this is actually rather encouraging, particularly as you can take it one step or one room at a time.

In order to get the Chi flowing in your office and to open up the channels to increase productivity and happiness, here are my top Feng Shui tips.

1. Chi likes nothing better than spotless and orderly spaces. So it’s extremely important to clean the room thoroughly and to tidy everything away. This includes any cables and electrical wiring, which should be hidden away. Too obvious? Think basic health and safety, after all you wouldn’t want any stray loose wires to trip you up? Once your office is organised, it is important to keep it that way, as nothing destroys Feng Shui more than disorganisation.

2. Next take a look at your desk and chair. Is your desk strong, stable and clutter free? Does your chair give your back good support and is it at the right height for you to work comfortably. Be aware of the size of your desk. If it is too small you will feel cramped and restricted. Too large and you will feel swamped and overwhelmed.

A good sturdy desk is a must for stability according to Feng Shui principles. Mantis desk by Samuel Wilkinson, £849 from Case

A good sturdy desk is a must for stability according to Feng Shui principles. Mantis desk by Samuel Wilkinson, £849 from Case

3. Finding the correct position for your desk within your office is an absolute must. NEVER sit with your back to the door. Why? Because you won’t be able to relax and concentrate if someone is able to creep up behind you without you knowing. Symbolically business opportunities come through a door, so don’t turn your back on one.

4. Ideally your desk should be positioned in the North-East side of the room, which is Feng Shui’s sector for study and contemplation.

5. If possible try to have the desk facing south/south-west to attract fame and fortune and keep your desk a clutter-free zone: deal with all bills, enquiries, letters etc and file them away, so you don’t block the potential for new possibilities.

6. Try and make sure you can see the door from where you sit, but avoid sitting between a door and a window or in the direct line of two facing windows. Otherwise your concentration can be affected and all your ideas will fly out the window!

7. Pay attention to the north-west corner of the office, which represents helpful

A globe or two will help worldwide communication for your business. Globe Bookends, £51 from The  Contemporary Home

A globe or two will help worldwide communication for your business. Globe Bookends, £51 from The Contemporary Home

friends and potential international trade and travel. Keep this area well lit and consider placing an illuminated globe in it to encourage worldwide communication.

8. Avoid mirrors in your office, as they can reflect negative energy and instead concentrate on creating strong positive fields. You can do this by hanging images of stability such as mountainous landscapes, as well as pictures of moving water such as streams and oceans, which can aid inspiration.

9. Chi prefers rooms that are harmonious and in good taste. Choose bright clear colour schemes: white is a good working colour, while pale blues create calm atmospheres. Red produces extra energy, so make sure you can cope with that!

10.  Plants are an integral aspect of office Feng Shui, as they help to soak up negative energy, while releasing positive energy and purifying the air. The top plant for any office has to be Lucky Bamboo. Keep it right next to your computer so it can enhance the peaceful energy. Putting crystals or rocks in the bamboo’s pot can also be helpful for promoting wealth and aiding concentration. Count the number of stalks on your Lucky Bamboo as the total number has a significant meaning.

Lucky Bamboo is the top plant for any office and can enhance peaceful energy. Lucky Bamboo £5.99 each, from Homebase

Lucky Bamboo is the top plant for any office and can enhance peaceful energy. Lucky Bamboo £5.99 each, from Homebase

11. Aim to balance the yin and yang in your office. Yin and Yang are one of the main theories in a number of Chinese philosophies (including Feng Shui) and represent two opposing but interconnected forces Yin = Feminine and Yang = Masculine. To make sure yin and yang are working in harmony, match and contrast rough and smooth textures and dark and light colours in your furniture and flooring.

12. Don’t hang shelves loaded with books or files directly behind your computer, it will make you feel trapped, overburdened and uninspired.

13. Keep your out tray on the left side of your desk, as this is your health area and this will enable you to relax when each project is finished.

In essence, utilising Feng Shui to create a harmonious, balanced workspace is a bit like optimising your web site. There are lots of little tweaks that can be done without spending a fortune and by following the basic principles it should be possible to make a better, more efficient office that works for and not against you. A place where you will want to spend time and ultimately be more productive.

How to Feng Shui your office was written by Richenda Oldham, a freelance journalist, editor and copywriter 

Richenda Oldham, freelance journalist, editor and copywriter

Richenda Oldham

Some Quick Feng Shui Fixes for the Office

Metal is an element that is directly related to prosperity, financial success and progress. This metal sculpture also has curves, which help the Chi energy flow. Wave modern metal sculpture, £142 from Artisanti

Metal is an element that is directly related to prosperity, financial success and progress. This metal sculpture also has curves, which help the Chi energy flow. Wave modern metal sculpture, £142 from Artisanti

The water element of Feng Shui will calm and refresh your energy. Copper meditation bowl with flowers and candles, £45 from Maud Interiors

The water element of Feng Shui will calm and refresh your energy. Copper meditation bowl with flowers and candles, £45 from Maud Interiors

Use candles to represent the element of fire, which will uplift your office environment. Oolong and Ginger scented candle, £9.95 from On a Wick & a Prayer

Use candles to represent the element of fire, which will uplift your office environment. Oolong and Ginger scented candle, £7.95 from On a Wick & a Prayer

The lucky Chinese coin is a symbol of wealth and money and should be tied in groups of 3, 6 or nine with red ribbon to activate energy. Place them under your office phone to boost prosperity!

The lucky Chinese coin is a symbol of wealth and money and should be tied in groups of 3, 6 or nine with red ribbon to activate energy. Place them under your office phone to boost prosperity!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A right Royal show home – No 1 Royal Crescent, Bath. By Richenda Oldham

When it comes to residential property design the Georgians were in a league of their own with their classically inspired symmetrical architecture. They certainly knew how to put on a good show, but more importantly they also knew how to market their new developments.

The city of Bath in North East Somerset is virtually one big Georgian development, packed with miles of gorgeous honey coloured streets, squares and terraces. By far the grandest terrace is the Royal Crescent, a spectacular curve of 30 Grade I Listed Palladian style houses, designed by John Wood the younger and built in Bath Stone. As terraces go it takes some beating.

But even great examples of architecture require marketing and 18th Century prospective purchasers needed to be shown what the Crescent was going to look like. So John junior constructed and invested jointly in a magnificent “showhome” – No 1 Royal Crescent – to help sell the development.

A right royal show home - No 1 Royal Crescent, Bath

No 1 Royal Crescent was the first house to be built in the Royal Crescent development in Bath and was effectively a show home for the site

Built in three phases between 1767 and 1774, No 1 is referenced in the leases of the Royal Crescent’s 29 other houses as the “blueprint” for how all the properties in the development were meant to look. However, the overall result is a bit of a sham, as each new Georgian owner simply bought a length of the columned frontage and then commissioned their own architect to do the rest of the house. So what looks like two houses is often one and the rear of the Crescent is a hotchpotch of roof heights and building design.

Nonetheless, No 1 had all the wow factor that a good show home should possess including generously proportioned rooms and a fabulous location. The opening sentence of a 1772 advertisement describes the property as: “All that elegant and well-built House and Offices at the East End of the Crescent, in Bath, commanding in Front, Southward, the most pleasing View of the City and of the Country, by Prior Park, and on the West, the whole sweep of the Crescent with the Country and Serpentine River leading towards Bristol.”

The advertisement also rubbished rival buildings (just a little)…

“The buildings are finished (not in the common building stile [sic] for sale), but in the most substantial and fashionable manner.”

The target market was clearly identified: “…they [the buildings] are calculated for the reception of a genteel and large family and are now completely ready to be inhabited…nor is there any Convenience wanting suitable for a Family of Distinction.”

No 1 certainly provided every domestic convenience that a modern Georgian family could desire, with a formidable array of ancillary offices (attached by a passage to the main house) that included an “excellent Kitchen, Brew-House, Wash-House, Laundry, and Servant-Maid’s Rooms.” Plus of course Ale Cellars. There was even a dog wheel, a rather cruel (by today’s standards) means of turning a cooking spit.

The "excellent kitchen" at No 1 Royal Crescent

The “excellent kitchen” at No 1 Royal Crescent

Four main reception rooms are mentioned in the advertisement – a “Large Parlour 26ft x 20ft”, a second Parlour 21ft x 16ft, and a Spacious Dining-Room, but the one that stands out the most is a “…a connected room of 16 feet square for a Library and Gentleman’s Retreat.”

"…a connected room of 16 feet square for a Library and Gentleman's Retreat."

“…a connected room of 16 feet square for a Library and Gentleman’s Retreat.”

This particular hang out may have helped land No 1’s first tenant, Henry Sandford, a wealthy landowner and widower who lived at the house from 1776 until his death in Bath in 1796.

Henry was an enlightened ‘gentleman of the most benevolent disposation’ who took a keen interest in science, classical history, agriculture and politics. He kept scrapbooks cum diaries, known as “Commonplace” books, which give clues to his pursuits as well as his social life in Bath. So a “Gentleman’s Retreat” would have been the perfect place for Henry to immerse himself in periodicals such as the Gentleman’s Magazine and to write up his observations on Captain Cook’s expeditions.

It is Henry’s “Commonplace Books” that have provided additional information to help the restoration of No 1 by the Bath Preservation Trust, who run the house as a museum and who were responsible for its extensive refurbishment.

The Withdrawing Room at No 1 Royal Crescent

No 1’s Withdrawing Room was where Georgian ladies sipped their (highly expensive) tea after dinner. Note the stunning lime/gold wallpaper

No 1 is still a show home, albeit with a slightly different brief – in June 2013 it was reopened to the public with ten beautifully presented authentic period room sets where visitors can experience Georgian life above and below stairs. It showcases the glories of the Georgian period impeccably.

Globe in Gentleman's Retreat, No 1 Royal Crescent

Globe in Gentleman’s Retreat, No 1 Royal Crescent where Henry Sandford was the first tenant.

No 1 Royal Crescent, Bath BA1 2LR. Tel: 01225 428126/487713. Email: no1royalcrescent@bptrust.org.uk. Web site:  http://no1royalcrescent.org.uk Open seven days a week from 10.30am to 5.30pm, except Mondays, when it is open from 12noon to 5.30pm. Last entry is 4.30pm.

Admission Prices: Adults: £8.50; Seniors: £6.50; Children (6-16 years): £3.50

My thanks to the Association of Women in Property  for allowing me to join their trip to No 1 Royal Crescent.