Peach of a Place

The peach house 2Nick Churton of Mayfair International Realty discovers a unique building in an English country garden.

In Codicote – which is a small village about 30 miles north of London – is a fairly large country house called The Node. A wealthy-ish Victorian built it in the mid 1800s. It has had a chequered history. After serving as a comfortable home it later became a corporate HQ for various large organisations including the oil company, Shell, when it was used as a management training facility. Treated as a balance sheet asset and business tool rather than a home the house and grounds suffered and eventually became run down and then, latterly, redundant. The house was left purposeless and empty. It was a great shame.

Wrapped round the attractive house and its large and impressive coach-house is a once-fine garden that, along with the buildings, has gone to seed. This has been the fate of countless English country houses with fine gardens over the years when they were deemed to be too large for a modern small family without staff, and in any event too expensive to renovate. The solution for some of these houses has been drastic – demolition. The answer for others has been a conversion to suit modern lifestyles.

Fortunately the latter solution is being applied to The Node. The project is being jointly handled between two firms of respected local developers. A project manager who has previously worked on sensitive buildings such as Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament will oversee it on a day-to-day basis.

The Victorian house will be carefully restored and made into spacious apartments. Outside in the grounds some new houses in the Arts & Crafts style will be built. There will be seventeen units in all, including a fabulous contemporary-designed house in the round with the original Victorian­­­ high brick garden wall running through it.

Another special feature of this project is the garden. This is an important landscape. Designed around the house by Victorian landscape architect, James Pulham, it had become overlooked and overgrown – a lost garden in the great tradition of British lost gardens. Among some very fine features, including a fabulous chinoiserie fountain and beautiful rock cascade – a speciality of Pulham – there is one particular structure that must be mentioned. It is a peach house.

The Victorians loved to grow tropical and exotic fruit. Not having the climate in England for these fruits to grow outside, they built special glasshouses to provide the correct growing conditions. These came in many shapes and sizes according to the fruit they were designed to accommodate. Perhaps the most rare and beautiful of these is the peach house. So rare is this structure that it is thought to be the only one left in existence. It was designed by Joseph Paxton and built in 1854. Like the rest of the house and garden the peach house will be restored to its former glory, which for residents, visitors and garden enthusiasts the world over makes this whole project a peach.

For further details please contact: Mark Shearing, Putterills New Homes Department, 32 Bridge Street, Hitchin, Herts SG5 2DF.  Tel: +44 (0)1462 453195

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