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chapter i HENBURY: A HOUSE

IN OUR TIME

a soft, rolling parkland with grouped clumps of trees and a few isolated grand specimens is a very English sight. While making the most of natural contours and features, such landscapes also reveal the guidance of human hands: from the eighteenth century, they were both inspired by nature and judiciously enhanced by landscape designers for the enjoyment of landowners. One such parkland, in the eastern part of the county of Cheshire, not far from the old silk-weaving town of Macclesfi eld, gives the immediate impression of having evolved from an eighteenthcentury plan. A long, narrow approach drive brings the visitor past a lake on the one side, and then into an area of mature trees. As the visitor emerges from the trees, a classical, domed and porticoed house suddenly appears up ahead: dream-like, crafted, serene.

There is, in that moment, a grand illusion at work: the house to which the rolling landscape leads did not exist until 1986–87. It was inspired by the vision of ancient Rome captured in villas by the sixteenth-century Venetian architect Andrea Palladio, and those grand British houses that took their cue from his example. It seems at first like a beguiling folly, but within its sublime and jewel-like form is a comfortable home, its intimate connection to its landscape continually reaffi rmed through large windows that look out on to the park.

I came here first in 2001, as Architectural Editor of Country Life, aft er a surprise invitation from the owner to see the house. Delivered by taxi from the station, I was taken on a tour by Sebastian de Ferranti, and we enjoyed a convivial lunch in the marble-floored entrance hall. It was a sunlit day, and it was impossible not to be enchanted by the house and the touching pleasure the owner-patron took in his highly individual creation. He enjoyed it all, and it was diffi cult not to enjoy it in his company.

opposite An avenue of lime trees leads through the park to the Hall. following pages Henbury Hall from the south, seen across the historic parkland.

henbury

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