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Youlbury House

A Grade II Listed Building in Wootton, Oxfordshire

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Latitude: 51.7246 / 51°43'28"N

Longitude: -1.3058 / 1°18'20"W

OS Eastings: 448045

OS Northings: 203105

OS Grid: SP480031

Mapcode National: GBR 7XY.SST

Mapcode Global: VHCXT.BX08

Entry Name: Youlbury House

Listing Date: 28 July 2009

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1393396

English Heritage Legacy ID: 491570

Location: Wootton, Vale of White Horse, Oxfordshire, OX1

County: Oxfordshire

District: Vale of White Horse

Civil Parish: Wootton

Traditional County: Berkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Oxfordshire

Church of England Parish: Wootton St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Oxford

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Listing Text


1697/0/10007 BOARS HILL
28-JUL-09 Youlbury House

Weekend house. 1969-71 to the designs of Hal Moggridge of Colvin and Moggridge for William and Celia Goodhart, now Lord and Lady Goodhart; Ove Arup and Partners, engineers.

MATERIALS: The structure comprises concrete floors supported on precast columns set back slightly, each a slightly different shape on each level, reminiscent of the hierarchy of the orders and similarly becoming more slender at the upper levels. The exterior is clad in non-load bearing western red cedar boarding, backed by insulation and plasterboard. Internally there is one load-bearing wall that anchors the house to the slope; the other internal walls are brick. The roof is a long monopitch with skylights - those to the dining room have been added later, to bring light into the centre of the large room.

PLAN: Externally the design is a simple rectangle aligned NE/SW, but changing levels and the kinked central hallway make the interior more complex. There are two main levels, the entrance floor having a kitchen and dining room at its northern end, with entrances into an end lobby and to one side. Beyond, a corridor leads to a master bedroom and two family rooms, with a bathroom. The central hallway is angled, and the staircase is set on the diagonal to get extra light, partly concealed and deliberately inviting exploration. Stairs down lead to a large south-facing playroom. Above the master bedroom, likewise facing the principal view to the south-west, is a double-height living room, with behind it two further bedrooms intended for a visiting family or other guests.

EXTERIOR: Aluminium windows in timber soffits grouped along the facades are strongly vertical in their elegant proportions, the principal rooms have separate clerestory glazing above, the transoms making contrasting horizontals. The dining area has full-height windows, also with horizontal clerestory glazing. The side door has a projecting timber doorhood. The main entrance is in the lowest elevation of the house, set in timber surrounds.

INTERIOR: The staircase balustrade looks like concrete and is in fact cement. The living room is the great internal space with a Parana pine ceiling graded into curves, leaving a large void above where the roof carries on straight; flashgaps at the sides of the ceiling heighten the sense that the ceiling is floating in space. There are continuous built-in ash fixings, which have the heating system set below. In the dining room are built-in hot plates on an ash base, a design repeated as a desk in the study and for which a drawing survives in the house dated July 1971.

HISTORY: Lord Goodhart (the barrister William Goodhart QC, b.1933) has known the estate at Youlbury since 1935, when his father bought the house next door. Youlbury was then owned by the archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, but following his death it was bought, c1949, by Lord Goodhart's father. Lord Goodhart recognised the beauty of the site, and when he married in 1966 he was able to secure part of the site from his brother, to whom it had passed by inheritance. Goodhart was always interested in modern architecture, and thought the site would be perfect for a new weekend house. Hal Moggridge, brother-in-law to Goodhart's wife, had worked with Geoffrey Jellicoe before forming a partnership with Brenda Colvin in 1969 at Filkins in West Oxfordshire. Though trained as an architect, Moggridge's career had consequently followed his great interest in landscape design, for which he is today internationally known. This is one of just three houses by him. It was designed for weekends and as a holiday home, so it has large spaces for entertainment, and has never needed large bedrooms or amounts of storage space.

Goodhart decided to go ahead with his scheme in 1967. He gave Moggridge a detailed brief that the house be set over the slope instead of sideways on the flat as the old house had been. He also wanted the main living room on the upper floor as he could remember that the best views from the old house were at this level. Drawings held in the house show a design changing through 1968, when the rectangular internal plan was abandoned in favour of a hall running at an angle from north-west to south-east that ensures that no room is quite rectangular. The fenestration pattern assumed its final form as late as November 1969, having previously been more regular. The only major change to the design was made as work began. Early drawings show a balcony to the living room, and a car port where the kitchen was eventually built. Originally the house was planned to end with the dining room, which would have been a kitchen diner. At the last minute Goodhart had the design extend backwards to include a proper kitchen.

Sketches from August 1971 show the garden, where the old Gingko, yews, oaks and pines planted by Evans were retained, together with rockeries, raised paths and steps that head purposefully into the wilderness. The Victorian garden was contained in its wildness rather than restored, a mix of old and modern aesthetics that suits the house particularly well.

Youlbury demonstrates two important features of modern houses: one is the close collaboration required between architect and client to produce a house of individuality and refinement; the other is the exceptional relationship between the house and the land, achieved by a client who had known the site since a boy and an architect who had come to specialise in landscape design. The clever plan with its upper living room and skewed staircase is a direct response to the site as surely as the dramatic image of the slab suspended over the hillside. But it is important, too, as a rare architectural work by one of the most important landscape designers of his generation. It is a clean-cut, sharp piece of design that makes the most of good materials and careful craftsmanship, yet retains a warmth and humanity typical of the architect's work in other areas of design.

SOURCES: Mary Gilliat, House in the Country, the Second Home from Cottage to Castle, (1973) p144
The Times, 19 October 1991, p6
Information from Lord Goodhart, including plans held in the house

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: Youlbury is designated for the following principal reasons:
* It is a carefully made and detailed house responding in unique manner to an exceptional site;
* It demonstrates a close rapport between architect and client;
* It is of added historical interest that the original house, of which the grounds remain, was the home of the renowned archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans.

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

Reasons for Listing

Youlbury, built between 1969 and 1971 by Hal Moggridge for Lord Goodhart, is designated for the following principal reasons:
* It is a carefully made and detailed house responding in unique manner to an exceptional site;
* It demonstrates a close rapport between architect and client;
* It is of added historical interest that the original house, of which the grounds remain, was the home of the renowned archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans.

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