Vision of a Georgian genius
This is a Georgian rectory with a difference, thanks to the famous architect Sir John Soane who designed it at the age of just 31. Renowned for experimenting with classical styles, he created innovative curved brickwork here and the result is a house believed to be one of the finest examples of his early work.
This is a Georgian rectory with a difference, thanks to the famous architect Sir John Soane who designed it at the age of just 31. Renowned for experimenting with classical styles, he created innovative curved brickwork here and the result is a house believed to be one of the finest examples of his early work. CAROLINE CULOT, EDP property correspondent, learned more when she visited the Old Rectory, Saxlingham Nethergate, for sale for £1.6m with Savills.
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In the reception of this stunning Georgian rectory is a framed cutting from the New York Times, dated November 4, 1982, which states: “It is difficult to imagine that there is in all England a more beautiful house of its size and date… Saxlingham Rectory is perfection.”
And indeed this property, built in 1784 for the reverend John Gooch by the renowned Sir John Soane, is considered one of the finest examples of the architect's early work. The Old Rectory, Saxlingham Nethergate, is for sale for £1.6m with Savills.
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Apparently, the architect submitted four designs and the reverend chose what he deemed the simplest. It took two years to build, being finished in 1786, and cost £2,625. So, why is it so special? For a start, it would have been considered quite daring and different at the time to create the two central curved or bowed sections at the front and rear of the house because it deviated from the usual flat-fronted Georgian form. There are even semi-circular headed arches surrounding the ground floor windows, which became typical of Sloane, who experimented with new forms based on classicism.
The architect, a son of a bricklayer, was appointed as surveyor to the original Bank of England, but in fact a lot of his work features around Norwich. For example, he advised on the alterations for the original Norwich Hospital in 1788 and even remodelled the jail at Norwich Castle. He designed a number of bridges, including Blackfriars Bridge in Norwich in 1783, and Taverham Hall and Shotesham Hall in 1784 and 1785. Interestingly, the Old Rectory, which is Grade II star listed, was restored in 1869 when a further wing was added and after it was sold by the Church of England, the property underwent another major renovation. The Victorian wing was replaced in 1972 when a new extension was added which won a Civic Trust award for innovation.
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So this house is really defined by its architecture. Whether you approach from the front or rear, you are treated to a stunning view of it, with its unusual curves and lovely sash windows, nestling close to St Mary's church. And the extension, now itself 35 years old and generously glazed, does not detract from the main building.
Inside, what is lovely about this property is that because it was a rectory, it is manageable in size inside and feels warm and comfortable. You enter the rounded hall, which leads into a beautiful drawing room with the curved section of the rear of the property overlooking the gardens and outdoor pool - designed with curved sides to match the house.
Also off the hall is a library with intricate original cornicing and a dining room. An enormous cellar with windows just below ground level runs the length and breadth of the house, and would probably have housed the kitchen.
Off the main house is the 1970s extension called the pavilion which forms the more informal part of the house with the kitchen leading round into a sitting room, or snug, utility, cloakrooms and at the end a double-storey structure, which would have been considered highly innovative in the early 1970s. It houses a large glass-fronted room, which could be used as a workshop or office, and above a galleried sleeping area with bunk-beds and room for a double bed. With its own small kitchen and bathroom, and its own access, this could be an annexe.
Back in the main hall is the original staircase leading to a fabulous master suite, occupying the rear curved section, with a dressing area and “his” and “hers” separate bathrooms. There are two further bedrooms and on the second floor, four more large bedrooms and a bathroom.
Outside there is a separate cottage next to the garage which has a sitting room, kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom. The property is only eight miles from Norwich and right in the village, yet comes with about nine acres with two lakes as well as the pool and poolhouse.
t The Old Rectory, Saxlingham Nethergate, is for sale for £1.6m with Savills on 01603 229229.