There cannot be many British architects with a fan club as active and as numerous as that of Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944): not Inigo Jones (1573-1652), nor Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661-1736), and sadly not Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723), which raises the question whether anybody is planning to celebrate the 350th anniversary of Wren’s knighthood and the 300th anniversary of his death in 2023.
Lutyens has been called ‘the greatest architect since Wren’, and it is a sign of his lasting appeal that most of the buildings he designed have survived, though heritage groups in India have condemned the current wholesale redevelopment of New Delhi, formerly the seat of India’s government, justice, and administration. Built to Lutyens’ masterplan from 1921, when the capital of the British Raj was moved from Calcutta to Delhi, Lutyens’ Delhi is regarded by the current government in India as ‘an outmoded colonial symbol’.
One of the activities of the Lutyens Trust is to scrutinise planning applications for just such threats, and their casework illustrates the range of Lutyens’ work, including war memorials, gardens, City of London office blocks, a cathedral, and numerous country houses in the UK, Ireland, and Normandy. One of those country houses – Goddards, Abinger Common, Surrey, an early masterpiece of Arts and Crafts design built by Lutyens in 1898-1900 with a garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll – was bequeathed to the Trust in 1991. Built as ‘a Home of Rest to which ladies of small means might repair for holiday’, it is still used for holiday lets for much of the year, having been leased to the Landmark Trust, but the house also serves as the venue for the Trust’s annual study week and members have free access to the extensive reference library.
Further membership benefits include a newsletter and an activities programme with visits to private houses not open to the public. The website has suggestions for walks and tours taking in Lutyens’ buildings visible from the road or open to the public. If you aspire to owning a Lutyens house and have very deep pockets, the Trust’s property column will alert you to houses for sale – or more modestly priced flats in homes that have proved to be too large for a single family and that are now in multiple occupation.
Further information: www.lutyenstrust.org.uk