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Edwin Lutyens

Edwin Lutyens


Edwin Lutyens: Short Biography

Lutyens was born on March 29th 1869, at Kensington London, the tenth of thirteen children. Lutyens mother, Margaret Gallwey, was Irish, her family hailing from Killarney, Co. Kerry, though Margaret (who was known as Mary) was born in Ballincollig, Co. Cork, in 1833.

She married soldier and painter, Charles Lutyens, in Montreal in 1852, and Edwin was named after his father’s friend, the well known sculptor and painter, Edwin Henry Landseer. Despite the rather grand moniker of Edwin Landseer Lutyens, that would eventually be prefixed with a Knighthood Sir, it seems Edwin was popularly known as ‘Ned’. He was by most accounts a shy individual, but also had a reputation for his quick wit and high spirits.

Lutyens, who as a result of having suffered with rheumatic fever, overcame a lesser education than that of his siblings, to study at the Royal College of Art, in London. In 1887 he joined a firm of architects, but left shortly afterwards to set up his own practise. His early works deviated little from the traditional architecture of his immediate Surrey surroundings. But all of this would change when he met Gertrude Jekyll, who schooled him in the “simplicity of intention and directness of purpose” that she herself had learned from art critic, John Ruskin.

Munstead Wood, Godalming, Surrey, is the house where Lutyens first displayed his own style of architecture in 1896. So many of what would become Lutyens’ traits, were in evidence such as a sweeping roof, buttressed chimneys, small doorways and long strips of windows. His collaboration with Jekyll on this project, was the beginning of a long and fruitful professional partnership, of which we have a truly fine example of at Heywood Gardens.

Jekyll was as influential and inspirational in the field of garden landscaping, as Lutyens was to the art of architecture, and their association with Heywood Gardens, is indeed to be cherished. And cherish it, we do! In 2019, the inaugural Twin Trees Heywood Festival, whilst celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sir Edwin Lutyens, will also remember the wonderful contribution of Gertrude Jekyll.

Lutyens’ received a knighthood in 1918, was elected a Royal Academician in 1920, and a member of the Royal Fine Art Commission in 1924, and his list of awards and recognitions include the RIBA Royal Gold Medal, and the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal.

This list of works by Edwin Lutyens exceeds ‘impressively extensive’. The catalogue includes houses, gardens, public buildings and memorials. Lutyens’ War Memorials have become the conscious symbols of the folly of armed conflict. Of the many he designed, Lutyens’ Cenotaph at Whitehall, London, is perhaps the best known. The design can be simply described as a pylon of Portland stone, on a rectangular plan, yet it stands with utter majesty, as a poignant reminder of the sacrifice of so many.

Lutyens is remembered for ‘imaginatively adapting traditional architectural styles to the requirements of his era’. Architectural historian Gavin Stamp described him as “the greatest British architect of the twentieth (or of any other) century”, and English Heritage echoed the sentiment, identify him as “one of the greatest architects the country has ever produced”.

The works of Edwin Lutyens are appreciated, cherished and celebrated wherever they stand. In fact more than 500 of his creations have been placed on the National Heritage List for England.

Lutyens’ association with Ballinakill, has long been known in the realms of architectural and garden design appreciation. In 2019, in the year of the 150th anniversary of his birth, it is our mission to impress upon all visitors to Heywood Gardens, the calibre of this significant part of Lutyens’ legacy. .

The estate is steeped in history! We can name-drop Gandon, Jekyll and even Empress Elizabeth of Austria, who dined there, with M.F. Trench in 1879, but perhaps the greatest chapter of the story of the place, is that of Edwin Lutyens, and the garden he designed.

It is in that very garden, one of the last vestiges of a Heywood from a very different age, that we will celebrate Lutyens, the visionary, the architect, the man.


Between farce and misery

Lutyens was the foremost natural talent English architecture ever produced. His buildings were better conceived than Wren's or Adam's, better made than those of Frank Lloyd Wright, an admirer. Long ago, Country Life journalists set him on a pinnacle. Since then, historians and camp-followers of Prince Charles have tried to put him back there. Against modernist barbarities, they say, Lutyens held up the banner of humanism.

But only England roots its ideal of architecture in rich men's houses with pleasant gardens. Another perspective sees in Lutyens an opportunist with shallow culture and few scruples. Having won his spurs creating fetching but impractical houses for Edwardian plutocrats, he was seduced by a folie de grandeur out of key with his time.

He raised arresting monuments abroad - the solemn Arch to the Missing at Thiepval and Viceroy's House at New Delhi. Yet from afar, some of his more limited contemporaries now play better: Voysey for consistency, Mackintosh for originality, Holden for getting to grips with modern problems.

Part of the trouble is that Lutyens resists intellectualisation. His buildings were seldom about ideas that could be put into words. He loathed the verbiage that rusts upon art and architecture. "All this talk brings the ears so far forward that they make blinkers for the eyes," he quipped.

Yet words were what saved his marriage, a strange tangle of tolerance and abasement. More than 4,000 letters between Edwin and Emily Lutyens survive. They take pride of place in this vivid joint biography by the couple's great-granddaughter, Jane Ridley. It is a story which veers between farce and misery.

Much of the book is about Lutyens and women. Lutyens blended chastity with wit and flirtatiousness, a good balance for a housebuilder or decorator. He got his first big breaks through older women. The earliest was the gardener, Gertrude Jekyll, who entrusted him with her Surrey house, Munstead Wood, when there was little to choose between him and other Arts and Crafts architects. It was the first assured thing he built. The myopic Jekyll mothered the young prodigy, found him fresh clients, and took on garden layouts for many of the jobs that followed. Then he met Emily, daughter of the Earl of Lytton.

Emily was the grand-daughter of Bulwer Lytton, whose sins were visited upon her and her siblings. The eccentric novelist had neglected his son, a good diplomat and bad poet. The grandchildren in turn grew up spoilt and wilful. When Emily met Ned Lutyens, she was on the rebound from a risky dalliance with Wilfrid Blunt, Arabist and cad.

Marrying an unknown architect started out perhaps as just another escapade. Her family saddled Lutyens with taking out heavy insurance to guarantee her a settlement in the event of his death. The burden turned to his advantage, as the Lyttons and their friends rallied round with commissions. It screwed his ambitions up a notch and elicited the wonderfully versatile range of houses he built around 1900.

Naively chivalric, he thought he was working for her, writing often to lay his devotion at her feet. In reality he was enjoying himself in and with other women's houses, and shaping into a snob. Together things grew stickier, despite five children. By the time the couple began reading Edward Carpenter's Love's Coming of Age, things were amiss in the bedroom.

Soon they were leading separate, restless lives. "I know I am odd and perhaps growing odder," Emily told her husband in 1911. Being a Lytton, she took faddism to principled extremes. First came theosophy. That meant vegetarianism, and his and her dishes on the table. "There were only a few rissoles, and the rest veg," moaned Harold Nicolson after a miserable meal with the Lutyenses.

When the first world war started, Emily announced the end of sex ("I have suffered intensely physically during all my married life"). She did not mention that Lutyens reeked of pipe-smoke. Theosophy led to, but was displaced in time by, the beautiful young guru Krishnamurti, a platonic toyboy for Emily until he grew out of her. By the 1920s the viscount's daughter was travelling third class, serving Marmite and sleeping in Indian railway stations.

Lutyens showed loyalty by tolerance and endurance, the nearest he could manage to serious emotions outside architecture. For comfort he resorted to a long flirtation, which Emily approved, with the equally spoilt Lady Sackville, mother of Vita Sackville-West. His deepest fear was that his wife's crankiness would damage his work, in particular that her links with Indian "natives" would scupper his dreams for New Delhi, an absurdity out of date even when it was begun. At home she dropped all pretence of support. "I do wish it had been model dwellings and not a church," she wrote when he netted the Catholic cathedral for Liverpool, grandest of his unfinished projects. But the marriage held together by a thread.

Some part of him savoured her flightiness and adaptability, while she needed his mounting but ill-managed income. After years of pique and alienation they ended up doing the Times crossword together.

The children, to the fore in the rather inward later stages of the book, suffered yet also shone. With Lytton-like defiance, two committed suicide in old age. Elisabeth Lutyens developed into a respected composer. Her works have an architectural geometry about them, thinks her niece. But unusually for an architect, her father had no feeling for music.

Biography is sometimes disdained as a vulgar substitute for art history, yet it often sheds light on architecture. For a start, one finds out who knew whom. Lutyens was among the last architects who built for a set. The sentimentality and rootlessness of the Edwardian classes whom he served is mirrored in the brittle brilliance of the villas (seldom landed country houses) he created for them.

Later, his shift towards formal styles and abstract geometry coincides with his all but abandoning womanly home-making in favour of the male bastions of commerce, war, politics and religion. When his marriage was at its nadir, Lutyens was in the throes of a palace, a cathedral, offices and war memorials.

Ridley's critical ambitions are modest. Many of her architectural judgments are neatly filletted from others and relegated to footnotes. What she never quite addresses is the creative enigma. How could buildings of such power and beauty have come from the pencil of a dull Victorian horse-painter's 11th child, a figure of flagrant immaturity who read little and revelled in grubby jokes?

Even those of Lutyens's works that move people the most, like the Cenotaph or the Thiepval arch, seem hardly to have derived from deep feeling. Neither of the Lutyenses put themselves out or suffered during the first world war, except at each other's hands.

Perhaps he drew on personal difficulties. But the best explanation for the strength of his architecture is harrowing hard work. Such was Lutyens's obsession with minutiae that when Viceroy's House was being constructed, says Ridley, the drawings turned out by his underpaid staff sometimes cost more than the details they depicted cost to make and build.

It was willingness to compromise over professional quality that maddened Lutyens in his colleague at New Delhi, the much-abused Herbert Baker. Baker saw architecture as a reflection of a wider life. Lutyens cared only about architecture, not life.

This fine and even-handed book is trenchantly written in crisp, short sentences, but let down by its illustrations. All books about Lutyens need good pictures. For those who prefer architecture to life, Edwin Lutyens: Country Houses reproduces many of the enticing old photographs from Country Life that helped establish his reputation. They are prefaced with an essay by Gavin Stamp, Britain's most strenuous architectural writer and Lutyens fan.

· Andrew Saint edited Cities for the New Millennium with Echenique Marcial


The History of the Ned

Though it has only been around for about a year, the Ned is already the heart of the City. Okay, the prestigious building itself may have been around for a wee bit longer – say, a Century – but ever since it’s housing one of the City’s most talked about hotels it has become even more of a centrepiece. The prestigious grade 1 building (meaning that it’s listed with exceptional interest) is now as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside, and we just can’t stop thinking about spending the night in one of those dreamy rooms.

We’ve already written a full guide to the hotel’s range of restaurants and bars here, but the building’s history deserves attention too. Let’s take a look.

Sir Edwin Lutyens

The iconic estate was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in the early 1920’s and originally built to house the Midland Bank headquarters. Lutyens is particularly known for playing a key role in the development of New Delhi – so much so even, that the Indian city is often referred to as Lutyens’ Delhi. His architectural style is known for its adaptability, clearly visible in the way in which he combined classical architecture with Indian influences in his iconic New Delhi work.

For the Midland Bank, Lutyens designed exterior elevations, the ground floor banking hall, basement safe deposit area, directors’ and boardroom floors and all staircases. Interestingly, he designed the building to look its best from the side, instead of frontally. While colleagues Gotch and Saunders worked on the building’s remaining areas (predominantly its interior), Lutyens himself returned for the extension in 1935.

The heart of the financial centre

For the best part of the 20 th Century, the Midland Bank was one of the UK’s largest banks, rightly deserving to be housed in one of the City’s most prominent buildings. Including a theatre as well as an extraordinary walk-in vault that was even featured in James Bond film Goldfinger, the building perfectly reflected the bank’s prestigious position. It was taken over by HSBC in 1992, however, leaving the building to be tenantless for almost a decade. That is, until Nick Jones, founder of Soho House & Co, viewed the building in 2012 and fell in love.

In collaboration with New York hotel developer Sydell Group, Jones took on the challenge of converting the gigantic bank into a luxury (six star!) hotel. Although most of its original interior was torn out during this process, several of its typical bank features have been retained. The former banking hall, for example, now functions as the reception area in which 30’s art deco features are still evident. Paying homage to the building’s creator, Lutyens granddaughter was asked to replicate the architect’s clock and supply suitable light fittings.

Alongside the many preserved historical elements you’ll find in the Ned, the hotel’s overall look exudes modernity and cosiness. Its luxurious Parisian feeling invites to spending long nights at the bar sipping an old-fashioned or martini, and the bedrooms, well … just have a little look here. So next time you pass Poultry Street in the City, make sure to have at least a little peek inside this gorgeous hotel: can you spot the history?


The Thakeham Bench

Originally designed for the garden at Little Thakeham near Storrington, West Sussex, the Thakeham Bench was used by Lutyens in almost all his garden designs. The rhythmical symmetry of the bench is typical of Lutyens’s love of form. The bench has become an archetypal design in its own right and it is perhaps the piece of furniture which is most associated with Lutyens.

‘The Lutyens Bench’, properly called The Thakeham Bench or Thakeham Seat , is a garden seat designed by Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens (1869-1944), for the garden of Little Thakeham house, near Storrington in West Sussex , England. The bench, traditionally from oak or teak and at 6ft or 8ft wide, has one Lutyens’ family authorised maker to the original design, this in the UK. A bench style with the Lutyens Bench or Thakeham Bench name has become a prevalent derivative in manufacture and sale throughout the world, but with differing wood types, and to varying degrees of quality and adherence to the original design, particularly in the sleek top line of its back. [1] – From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository.


Further Reading

The best biography of Lutyens is Christopher Hussey's book The Life of Sir Edwin Lutyens (London, 1950), which includes an extensive analysis of his buildings. Later studies of Lutyens' work include Roderick Gradidge, Edwin Lutyens: Architect Laureate (London, 1981). Other sources which are particularly good for their illustrations are A. S. G. Butler's book The Architecture of Sir Edwin Lutyens (3 vols., London, 1950), which includes a magnificent compilation of Lutyens' main works in drawings, photographs, and descriptions, and the exhibition catalogue by Colin Amery et al., Lutyens: The Work of the English Architect Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944) (London, 1981), includes an excellent bibliography. For the creative relationship between Lutyens and the garden designer Gertrude Jekyll see Jane Brown, Gardens of a Golden Afternoon. The Story of a Partnership: Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll (London, 1982).


Just history.

Edwin Lutyens was born in London in March 1869. He was named for a friend of his father, artist Edwin Henry Landseer. Lutyens studied at the Royal College of Art and graduated as an architect in 1887 before working for a year in the offices of Ernest George and Harold Peto, where he met noted architect Sir Herbert Baker.

In 1888 Edwin Lutyens set up his own offices, working for several years in fashionable Bloomsbury Square, during which time he met garden designer and leading horticulturalist Gertrude Jekyll, with whom he collaborated on several commissions. His style mixed brick paths, with overflowing borders of lupins, lilies and lavender to create a mixture of the old formal style garden and the informality of a cottage garden and was to define many outdoor areas of period style houses of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His popularity was increased dramatically with the endowment of Edward Hudson, founder of “Country Life” magazine, in which Lutyens could showcase many of his house designs. Hudson commissioned Lutyens to work on several projects including his home, The Deanery in Sonning and8 the nearby headquarters of Country Life in Tavistock Square.

Tavistock Square is one of several “squares” which stand on the site of the former land owned by 18th century architect and builder James Burton, who bought the land piecemeal that belonged both to the older foundlings hospital and that of the Duke of Bedford. It became known as Bloomsbury Square and the later squares grew from that. Lutyens also designed the British Medical Association’s building also in Tavistock Square which stands on Burton’s former home. Lutyens was to become well known as an architect with a keen eye for detail and the ability to reproduce substantial private homes in the styles of much earlier periods, notably the late medieval and Tudor styles. His work so impressive that many have difficulty knowing the difference. Key buildings he contributed to include Marsh Court, Overstrand Hall, the Main building of Amesbury Prep School – originally a private residence – and Le Bois de Moutiers in France. He was also hired to renovate and rejuvenate 16th Century Lindisfarne Castle into a family home.

Lutyens received one of his biggest honours, the work for which he will eternally be remembered, when commissioned by David Lloyd George on behalf of the public and the Imperial War Graves Commission to submit to the committee designs for the layout of the war cemeteries under consideration following the Great War. His work includes some of the “stones of memorial” in some of the larger war cemeteries. In addition, Lutyens was asked to put forward a design for a memorial on the Somme battleground to those killed in action during that battle, who had no known grave. The result was the iconic Thiepval Memorial. Lutyens further designed both the temporary and the later permanent Whitehall Cenotaph structures, requested initially to commemorate the 1919 victory parade, and later to provide a lasting memorial to the fallen in the Nation’s capital. He also designed similar cenotaphs and other memorials, notably several in Canada, British Columbia, Sydney, the War Memorial gardens in Dublin, the Memorial Arch in Leicester and the Tower Hill Memorial.

Following his work on war memorials, in the late 1920s Lutyens designed and oversaw the famous mock-medieval Castle Drogo in Devon, England for businessman and entrepreneur Julius Drewe. During this period, he was also engaged by Sir Herbert Baker to work with him on commissions in New Delhi, most notably the India Gate, the Viceroys Palace, (now Rashtrapathi Bhavan) and Hyderabad House. In 1924, Edwin built four storey replica Palladian villa, Queen Mary’s Doll House, in 1/12th Scale. This piece was never designed with the intention of actually being a toy, merely a presentation of the standards and styles of British Architecture. It is now part of a permanent display near Windsor castle. A few years later, Lutyens was awarded the commission for the design of the new Catholic Cathedral in Liverpool. Sadly World War Two interrupted the building, and lack of funds post-war prevented the commission being completed. The Cathedral only reached crypt level, and the design was modified into the present Cathedral. In recent years, the model of the complete original was restored by Walker Art Gallery, and now rests on display in the Museum of Liverpool. Its front entrance startlingly reminiscent of the archways of the Thiepval Memorial.

Edwin Lutyens died on New Years’ Day in 1944 following several bouts of pneumonia over the preceding years, and a diagnosis of cancer. He left a reluctant widow, Lady Emily Bulwer-Lytton, with whom his marriage had failed somewhat from the beginning, despite having five surviving children. Lady Emily had proposed to Edwin, in 1895 with their wedding taking place two years later. She had then developed a disconcerting obsession with theosophy and one of its leading philosophers, to the detriment of her relationship with Lutyens. Following his death, Edwin was cremated at Golders Green, where his ashes remain interred. A memorial to him was designed and constructed by his friend and fellow architect William Curtis Green, which can be found in the crypt of St Pauls in London.

In a fitting continuation to the memorial work for which Lutyens is best known, the Bloomsbury area, in which Lutyens worked and designed several of the buildings for, became something of a peace gardens, with the laying of memorials in honour of Mahatma Ghandi, the victims of the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Conscientious Objectors of the War. Nearby was also the Tavistock Clinic, a psychiatric facility, used during and after the Great War to treat victims of shell shock.

The peace was shattered in July 2005, at Tavistock Square, when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive packed rucksack on a crowded double decker bus, onto which commuters had been forced to travel due to emergency closures on the underground trains that morning. The closures were caused by similar devices being detonated by fellow terrorist perpetrators following their attacks, all underground services had been cancelled and passengers sent above ground to make their way to their destinations by alternative means. One of those to board the bus was the final bomber who had not yet had chance to detonate his device, intended for another underground train. In all, fifty-two innocent people were killed that morning, thirteen of whom were fatally injured as the bomb tore the bus wide open outside of Lutyens’ fine British Medical Association Building. Many passers-by were also caught up in the blast. Several medical personnel who were attending a meeting there, that morning, made their way out of the building following the explosion and dedicated their efforts to treating as many of the victims as they could.

Edwin Lutyens is not everybody’s first choice when asked to name any renowned British Architect. His name falls by the wayside when compared with such well-known and prominent fellows as Christopher Wren and Capability Brown. But with the legacy remaining from Hampton Court Bridge, the 44 memorials to the Great War found throughout Britain and Ireland, which have now been granted protected status as listed monuments and buildings, and his most prominent works around the world, Lutyens has ensured that his memory will continue in the fine examples of architecture he left us with which arguably outrank anything that his better known contemporaries could offer.


Discover the Arts and Crafts Houses by One of England’s Top Architects

Bearing a bright white façade, Marshcourt in Hampshire, England, was one of Lutyens’s most daring designs. It was built in 1901.

In the long history of British architecture, there are several names that stand out, and for the 20th century, perhaps none more so than Sir Edwin Lutyens. Working in the Arts and Crafts style, the architect mainly designed private homes, often opting to add Classical design details into his projects. The new book Sir Edwin Lutyens: The Arts and Crafts Houses by David Cole ($85, Images Publishing) is the latest tome praising the architect, specifically focusing on his earlier works, built between the 1890s and 1910. “Lutyens’s houses of this period reveal the flair and brilliance, the unerring eye for fine proportion, and a highly intellectual understanding of form and geometry, which he brought to combine with the materials, colours, textures and craftsmanship of the vernacular buildings of his native Surrey, that had first inspired him to be an architect,” writes Cole in the preface. There are 45 houses covered in the book, and we’re bringing you a preview of some of our favorites below.

Located in East Lothian, Scotland, Grey Walls was built as a golf retreat for its owner in 1901.

The curved façade was designed to take the impact of the harsh north winds while maximizing natural light in the house.

Cole writes of this home in Sussex, England, “Little Thakeham marked a zenith in Lutyens’s bringing together of the Classical and vernacular architectural languages.”

This image shows the 1902 home’s symmetry.

Lutyens used Tudor-style design elements at Little Thakeham, like this bay window.

Goddards in Surrey, England, was built in two phases: the first in 1898, the second in 1910. The house that stands today is the expanded version.

The common room displays a traditional timber frame.

The 1896 Munstead Wood in Surrey, England, is considered Luytens’s first masterpiece.

Homewood, located in Hertfordshire, England, was built in 1900 and reflects its natural setting with its wood façade


What We Do

The Lutyens Trust America is an organization formed to promote the appreciation and knowledge of the work of the British architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens OM (1869-1944). Considered one of the most remarkable architects in British history, Sir Edwin Lutyens left behind a rare architectural legacy that included a rich variety of form and style. Among his over 800 commissions, Lutyens designed many beautiful country houses, public buildings, bridges, and war memorials in Britain. His prolific work abroad includes designs such as Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi, Thiepval Arch on the Somme in France, and the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., as well as many other distinguished buildings.

The wit and finesse of Lutyens’s architecture continues to be a source of inspiration and delight to architects and those interested in architecture, making his built work, memorials, drawings, and letters worthy of preservation and study, not just in Britain but also in the United States. As an educational organization, The Lutyens Trust America focuses on enhancing appreciation of, and on providing opportunities for the study and conservation of Sir Edwin Lutyens’s work. Events for The Lutyens Trust America will include tours of Lutyens-related sites, lectures, and the support of ongoing preservation efforts related to Lutyens’s legacy of architectural design. One of our aims is to inspire new generations of architects and designers to revisit Lutyens’s work as an inspiration for their own creative paths.


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