A True English House In France!
A unique French house and garden created by British designers more than 100 years ago is about to be put up for sale. The family owners want it preserved intact, and kept open to the public - but for that to happen, a wealthy patron must step forward.
If you wish to behold the perfect epitome of an English country house and garden, then you may have to leave England far behind.
Go instead to an obscure corner of northern France. In a hamlet on cliffs outside the port of Dieppe is a place called Le Bois des Moutiers.
A luminous lawn loses itself in woods overlooking the sea, while bright rhododendrons line the pathways. A formal English garden adjoins the southern face of the house, with protruding brick walls creating a series of flowered and flagstoned spaces.
The house itself has high chimney-stacks and mullioned windows. Inside are wooden ceilings, a plain baronial staircase, a double-height music room with a minstrels' gallery and a vast 150-pane window.
The bookshelves are full of late Victorian English classics, some better remembered than others. There are first editions of J M Barrie's Peter Pan and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, as well as the complete H Essenhigh Corke on Wild Flowers As They Grow.
The house is the work of that quintessentially English architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens. In 1898, well before he made his name, Lutyens was given the commission by a French banker called Guillaume Mallet - Antoine Bouchayer-Mallet's great-grandfather.
Monsieur Mallet wanted a home whose simplicity and harmonious proportions would be an encouragement to contemplation and the arts.
More importantly, he was strongly influenced by the ideas of the English Arts and Crafts movement, and he saw in Lutyens a fellow believer.
Lutyens, then aged 29, performed to perfection. His architectural design was pure Arts and Crafts, with an almost monastic plainness and not-so-subtle gestures to medievalism.
He then decorated the house with fittings and furniture produced by the finest English craftsmen of the day, many of them working for Morris and Co - the company set up by the movement's founder, William Morris.
And for the garden, he turned to the woman who was to be his long-term collaborator, the horticulturalist Gertrude Jekyll.
If Le Bois des Moutiers is unique today, it is not only because it is such a strange outpost of Englishness abroad. In the words of the wine writer Hugh Johnson, it is "a little like a Sussex garden on vacation on the French coast".
“so if you have a small fortune tucked away in the bank maybe this is the house for you” says Greengates Builders Merchants Accrington, Lancashire.