Goddard’s in York: An Arts and Crafts House Made with Chocolate

Goddard’s is an interesting house and garden in the suburbs of York (Fig. 1). It was designed by Walter Brierly, the Lutyens of York, and has many Lutyenesque moments. (It is not to be confused with Lutyens’ building with the same name.) It was made for the Terry chocolate family, whose factory, now being converted to housing, is visible nearby. The Terry who built it, and who only died in the 1980s, in the same year as his wife, collected Georgian furniture which was willed to Fairfax House in the city centre, where it allows that building to be presented as an authentic seventeenth-century York townhouse.

The Trust only acquired Goddards for their offices in York, and only recently have opened half the house. The furnishings are consequently minimal. It is therefore rather a strange house in that it is an Arts-and-Crafts house the ‘true’ furnishing of which should be Georgian. This makes it a problem for the Trust. At Coleton Fishacre the Trust could reconstruct the Art Deco furnishings as recorded in photos, but here neither this strategy, nor an attempt to find Arts-and-Crafts era furniture, would be appropriate and to attempt to recreate the Georgian furnishings of its heyday would be bizarre given that the original furnishings are still visible a few kilometres way. As the main function of the building seems in reality to be a tea-room in the suburbs for local York people, I rather favour the idea of giving the interiors (including the living rooms) to a decorator to come up with a slightly theatrical neo-Arts-and-Crafts interior where it would be fun to have afternoon tea.

Most of the oak woodwork is in good shape, often Georgian rather than Elizabethan, which is understandable given Terry’s interests. The neo Georgian doorcase under the staircase leading to the tea-room on the ground floor is rather good (Fig. 2). The tea room is fully panelled with a seventeenth-century century English style chimney piece all painted blue green, which made this more like Fairfax House (Fig. 3). Seeing one building immediately after the other made me realise the extent to which the Georgian Fairfax House is all about the staircase, which is lit by a beautiful two storey Palladian window (Fig. 4). The window necessarily does not follow the flights, but starts at the full-width landing. There is a servant’s staircase only a few metres away, which emphasises the way the functioning of the building depended on servants, and the social segregation.

At Goddard’s, on the other hand, the staircase, in a full-blown Elizabethan revival style (Fig. 5), though interesting, is not the main theme. It has a version of those ‘flat’ balusters that you find in many Arts-and-Crafts houses, the most authentic models for which see to be at Canons Ashby (Fig. 6). The oak carving of the details is good quality neo-Elizabethan (Figs 7, 8, 9). It leads to the galleries on both floors on the side facing the car entrance (Figs 10, 11). On the first floor a slightly raised alcove with gothic window bay over the porch is called The Bower (Fig. 12).

The gallery leads to a double living room (Fig. 13). This is painted a horrible shiny yellowed white paint. The light fittings seem to be original but the bracket lights are rather ugly. This has a half-width fireplace that is bigger and more expansive than an inglenook. The main space has a gateleg table of sixteenth or seventeenth-century type, a bit like the one shown in photos of the original furnishing (Fig. 14), with views onto the garden and a little nook where a party was having tea. The panelling give a more eighteenth-century air: it is interesting how by the 1930s things are blurring into an ‘early modern’ style, fusing everything from Elizabethan to Georgian. The fierce Old English nationalism of the later nineteenth-century has faded to a genteel aristocratic air, rather like the showrooms of a fashion house (or the gallery dressing of the Dior exhibition at the NGV, which prompted this analogy.) In short, the house was furnished with ‘antiques’, today a style that seems wholly dated. The old photo shows the rather horrible shiny paint was always there.

The niches in the living room (Fig. 15) demonstrate a desire to embrace the seventeenth century, and are interesting because they are made of wood. Niches are essentially a form that evolved from working stone, and the heads are difficult to execute in other materials. Brick niches, like those at the Oratory of the Filippini or the garden piers at Hampton Court, are tours-de-force of cut brickwork, and very expensive. Niches are practically impossible to do in wood. The heads here (Fig. 16) seem to be of solid carved wood. The cylinder seems to be of veneer or plywood. The shelves, designed to support ceramics, though, are of shaped wood supported on fretwork brackets, which is an interesting response in the material of wood to the niche form (Fig. 17).

Goddard’s is a much bigger building than it seems, since you are only allowed to visit half. There are copies of the original plans around the walls. It was a pouring wet day where the rain never let up and it was very cold. The only visitors apart from me seem to have been locals: a few local tourists and several who had come for the tea rooms.

 

 

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