Edwin Landseer Lutyens (1869-1944) was born on the 29th March 1869 in South Kensington, and was one of ten children and the ninth boy in a family of thirteen. Edwin was known as Ned and because of rheumatic fever the only one not to be formally educated. Instead he wandered the country lanes studying the buildings and haunted the village carpenter’s shop. Ned acquired detailed technical knowledge through constant boyhood visits to Tickner’s builder’s yard in Godalming. He was also inspired by a neighbour, Randolph Caldecott, a children’s book illustrator, who lived at Frensham, and who encouraged him to turn his skill into architecture.
In 1876, Lutyens’ father, Charles Henry Augustus Lutyens, bought a house in Thursley, The Cottage, now extended and known as Street House. His mother, Teresa Mary nee Gallwey, died in 1906 and his father in 1915; both were buried in Thursley churchyard. Edwin’s sister, Aileen Lucy Lutyens, continued to live in the house until she died in 1926. Also buried in Thursley churchyard was Edwin’s nephew, Derek Lutyens, a member of the Royal Air Force, killed when his plane crashed at Mychett Heath, Surrey in 1918.
In 1885, when nearly sixteen, Lutyens went to the South Kensington School of Art to study architecture. He did not finish the course and started work under Sir Ernest George and Harold Peto in 1887, and went on sketching tours with Sir Herbert Baker, who became a life-long friend. Although without professional experience, Lutyens set up in practice on his own, and in 1889 received his first commission from Arthur Chapman to design a nine-bedroom house at Crooksbury, Farnham.
In Thursley he was commissioned by Edmund Gray, who lived at The Corner, opposite Street House, to design a drawing room with two bedrooms above in 1888. Lutyens kept the front, including a shop front and its interior, and added a tile hung wing at the back. In 1895 he was asked to draw plans for a morning room and a bedroom above on the southern side, and for four smaller rooms to be added to the western side. The works were completed in 1896. Lutyens designed Prospect Cottage, formerly the Village of Thursley Institute, which opened in 1901.
He met Gertrude Jekyll in the garden of Harry Mangles of Littleworth Cross, Seale, in 1889. They developed a friendship with over 100 plans, Lutyens designing the houses and Jekyll the gardens. Lutyens designed Jekyll’s potting sheds and garden outbuildings, known as The Quadrangle (1891). His first house designed for Jekyll, Munstead Wood Hut (1894) was for her to live in while Jekyll was waiting for her ultimate house, Munstead Wood (1896-7) to be built. Jekyll liked to watch thunderstorms and Lutyens designed the Thunder House (1895) in her orchard. Munstead Orchard (1898) was designed by Lutyens for Jekyll’s Swiss gardener. In Busbridge church yard is the family tomb he designed for Jekyll.
In 1896-99 Lutyens designed Fulbrook, Elstead; describing it to his client as “a house you will love to live in”. Godalming Museum has the archive of the construction of Fulbrook House, including letters, photographs and a rare Lutyens sketchbook. Lutyens started a fresh sketchbook, which he called ‘virgin’, for each project but only a few survived.
Lutyens became a protégé of Mrs Barbara Webb of Milford House who introduced him to society. It was through her that he met Emily Lytton. Barbara Webb died in July 1897 and he married Emily in August 1897.
Locally Lutyens’ designs include a pair of cottages at Park Hatch, Hascombe (1890), Tilford Institute (1894), Farnham Liberal Club (1894), Aston Cottages, Milford for his friends, Barbara and Robert Webb (1898), Tigbourne Court, Witley, Surrey for Edgar Horne (1899), The Red House, Frith Hill, Godalming (1899), a new kitchen wing for Rake Manor, Milford (1900). In Busbridge he designed the Chancel Screen in the church (1899), and the War Memorial (1923). In Compton he designed the geometric stepped arch road bridge (1931) for the slip road (B3000) from the A3 into Compton; accessed from Down Lane, following a footpath westwards past G F Watts's house Limnerslease. Lutyens in Waverley lists his buildings in Bramley, Elstead, Farnham, Godalming, Hambledon, Hascombe, Hindhead, Milford, Munstead, Thursley, and Tilford. A map shows the ten houses in Munstead he designed c.1891-1898.
In 1912 he was elected a member of the Delhi Planning Commission, and set sail for India the 28th March on the first of nineteen journeys there to investigate the site and plan of the new city. He began designs for the Viceroy’s House, New Delhi, India (also Viceroy’s Court, fountains etc). In 1918 Lutyens was knighted for his work.
Before the end of World War One, Lutyens was appointed one of three principal architects to the Imperial War Graves Commission and was involved with the creation of many monuments to commemorate the dead. Lutyens designed The Great War Stone (1917); Etaples Military Cemetery (1919); Memorial to the Missing and Cemetery, Faubourg d’Amiens. Arras (1924-25); Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, Thiepval (1926-27) and the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Somme (c.1927-38), as well as many other cemeteries in France. His designs are described in Lutyens and the Great War (2008). In November 2015 to mark Armistice Day and to commemorate the centenary of the First World War, all 44 First World Memorials designed by Lutyens in England have been listed and protected by Historic England.
In 1924 he completed the supervision of the construction of Queen Mary's Doll’s House, a four-storey Palladian villa in 1/12 scale, now in Windsor Castle, to exhibit the finest British craftsmanship of the period.
Sir Edwin Lutyens died in 1944. The Lutyens Trust has put on an exhibition showing 190 images of 100 of his works on www.lutyenstrustexhibitions.org.uk.
In Godalming Museum are Lutyens’ designs (never executed) for Piccadilly, a set square, and his bronze architect’s model of the Cenotaph in Whitehall c.1920, on loan from the Imperial War Museum, London. The Cenotaph was designed by Lutyens, who conceived the idea from a seat under a birch tree in Gertrude Jekyll's garden named the ‘Cenotaph of Sigismunda’ on account of its monumental simplicity.
The Cenotaph in Whitehall
image Wikipedia commons
The seat in Gertude Jekyll's garden
image: Annabel Watts
The library in Godalming Museum has published books and articles on Lutyens. Photographs of his work taken by Country Life for the 1981-2 exhibition at the Hayward Gallery are on display. In 2015 the Lutyens Trust generously loaned two letters and accompanying little watercolours by Edwin Lutyens to the Museum.
Godalming Museum © 2015