Whitwell House is a remarkable Grade II-listed home in Huntingdon, originally Queen Anne in style and updated in the Georgian period. The result is a wonderful townhouse with a fantastically regular façade, a rare combination of historic architectural details – such as original oak panelling and a Delft-tiled fireplace – as well as incredible qualities of light and volume. The front door is bookended by two gardens, set behind wrought iron gates and an intricate latticework porch, while behind the house is a beautifully planted walled garden. Extending over 4,600 sq ft internally, the house is full of potential; it has been used by an architect as his family’s home and studio for many years and recently, by various writers, a film maker and artists for their respective creative endeavours.
Setting the Scene
Lying in the predominantly agricultural landscape of north Cambridgeshire, Huntingdon is a market town best known as the birthplace of Oliver Cromwell. Indeed, Cromwell House lies opposite Whitwell House on the High Street and there is even rumoured to be a tunnel between the two houses. Please see the History section below for further information on the history of Whitwell House.
Whitwell House has undergone various restorations and extensions over the years, the first of which took place in 1727 when the house was refaced to become a spectacular example of a Georgian townhouse. A hopper head on the side elevation of the original part of Whitwell House bears this date. The elevation is typical of the era, with symmetrical sash windows, decorative bands delineating each floor and a parapet concealing the roof above.
The Grand Tour
A path leads through the rose-planted front garden to the intricate latticework porch, where a glazed door opens into a wide, stone-flagged hallway, with three sets of decorative paired columns. The house has lovely proportions, typical of the Georgian period, with some features dating from even earlier. Immediately to the right is a study with original, now-white-painted panelling on the walls and an open brick fireplace dating from the early 20th century. Another corridor leads to a guest WC beyond.
Across the hallway is the dining room, half of which is clad with original Georgian oak panelling, and half of which has newer panelling dating from the early 20th century. This room leads to a kitchen, which requires some updating. The hallway then leads in turn to the Georgian addition and the drawing room. This is a wonderfully light and airy room, with high ceilings, bay windows and a set of French doors that open to the rear garden. Wooden panelling, arches and engaged columns decorate the walls and frame the wood-burning stove, which has been set into a Delft-tiled fireplace. A rear hall by the back door completes the ground floor accommodation.
A fine staircase, with turned balusters and a hardwood scalloped handrail, ascends to the first floor, past a beautiful arched Georgian window. The upstairs corridor is decorated with deep dentilled cornicing and moulded plaster ceiling details. There are three generous double bedrooms on this floor with the main bedroom situated at the rear of the house, in the Georgian addition. It has high ceilings, large windows and fantastic floral wallpaper, as well as an en suite bathroom with art deco green tiles and sink. There is also a family bathroom, a laundry room, and another room currently set up as a studio at the top of a secondary staircase.
On the top floor, there are four further bedrooms and a large storeroom. The bedrooms have original lime plaster on the walls, original sash windows and wooden floorboards underfoot. One of the rooms could potentially be converted to an additional bathroom, subject to any necessary consents.
The Great Outdoors
The wonderfully private rear garden is enclosed by a tall brick wall. One section is laid to lawn, while the rest is comprised of beautifully planted flowerbeds and a number of mature trees.
There is pedestrian access to the side street and access to a single garage from the garden. There are also two private parking spaces in nearby Chapel Court.
Out and About
Huntingdon is an historic market town on the north bank of the River Great Ouse. The town is well served by a range of shopping, cultural and recreational facilities; it is also home to the Old Bridge Hotel. Cambridge is half an hour by car from Whitwell House; famous for its university and college buildings, it is home to numerous excellent schools, pubs, shops, parks, a weekly market and punting on the River Cam.
There is a good selection of state schooling for both primary and secondary in Huntingdon, as well as private schooling at nearby Kimbolton.
The station is a short walk from the house and runs trains to London King’s Cross in an hour. The house also has easy access onto the A14, which leads east to west, north to the A1 and south to the M25 and London. The recently improved A14 joins the M11 at Cambridge and in the other direction connects with the M1 & M6 and A43, providing easy access to Oxford and beyond.
Whitwell House has had many owners over the years. In 1791, Bateman Robson, a wealthy solicitor, died and gifted his estate (which included Whitwell House) to his daughter Elizabeth Bateman Robson and her husband, Richard Holland. His brother was Henry Holland, architect of Carlton House by St James’s Park in London, as well as other beautiful Regency essays. Henry was also the son-in-law of Capability Brown, who lived locally in Fenstanton. There is some speculation that the late-Georgian rear addition was based on an envelope sketch by Holland, since the external stone detailing and the lovely proportions of the house arguably bear signs of his classicist touch. Notably, there is one pediment still intact on one side of the house, and the remnants of stonework can be found in the garden. Could this have been a mark of Holland’s design? Alternatively, perhaps he was just a visitor, and the works were possibly done earlier by his father Henry Holland the well known master builder. In that case, perchance Henry the younger was impressed by the pediments, pilasters and niches when he visited, going on to aggrandise them elsewhere.
Later Edwardian modifications were undertaken by the Brown family. Mr Brown was the region’s dentist and ran his practice from the adjacent building. It is likely that he added the rare panelled Lincrusta wallpaper to the dining room, and the casement windows with their leaded upper sections to the rear of the house.
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