The Country House/Chapter 6
Y my first letter you will see I have explained to you the site and I think the next point which we have to settle will be the advantages and disadvantages of aspect; and whether the house should be placed at the top of the low hill I have mentioned to you, or halfway down, or at the bottom. I think in general, the modern fashion has been to seek a lofty spot, without reference to shelter; so that the architect's work should shew well to the surrounding country. My object is that the house should be placed in the most convenient spot as to shelter, with the best aspect suitable to our uncertain climate, always taking care that there be sufficient drainage, an essential, though often a neglected point.
Having explained the essential, I come next to the ornamental; I do not think it is so necessary that the house should form a handsome feature of the surrounding landscape, as that it should form an harmonious picture in combination with the grounds in immediate connexion with it; I must refer you again to a description of the locale. I have nothing to add to this. You will see that the spot I have chosen has somewhat of an amphitheatrical shape, and that I have the means of making a terrace; that I am well backed at the north by trees and hill, and open well to the south-east. You have the choice of aspect within the range of south-east to south-west; yet the house, for meteorological reasons, should not be placed too low down in the valley. I refer you to Mr. Professor Daniell's essays on the subject of the difference of temperature between the top and bottom of a hill; this, though it applies principally to the position of a garden, has some weight even in the site of a house.
It will be necessary that the approach should be from the south-west; and as regards plantations and protection from wood, I am well defended on all sides. I had meant to have added some observations on the picturesque, of which we fancy we are the discoverers; but at present, I have not time. I may, perhaps, (if I find you inclined to enter into the subject,) send a few remarks on this; particularly, as I believe it is considered that the ancients did not, in the situations of their houses or buildings, consult those principles of taste which we call the picturesque. I think Dr. Copplestone, in his lectures on ancient poetry, states this, and yet one should judge otherwise, from seeing the sites of many of the Roman buildings in this country. That at Bignor in Sussex is particularly beautiful, nay, grand; but yet it was low; perhaps, the advantage of a running stream was the general cause in former times of building quite down in the valley.
I think it will be an object to have as much veranda as possible, closed in and very wide, but not, perhaps, in front of the best windows; but somewhere so as to have both a shaded and a winter's sheltered walk.
I must apologize for the indefiniteness of this letter, but I think I have given enough to serve as a text for the answer. The style and site settled, I propose we should at once come to materials to be used, ground plan and elevation. As regards offices, I will mention such as are essential; as you may, in consideration of the plan, like to know this; there will be one small lodge at the entrance on the south-west, and should have no objection to a back entrance at the north; as this may be used as a labourer's cottage. There will be a double coach-house, stables for six horses; a small ice-house and gardener's cottage. The two latter may be arranged so as to form part of the garden wall. I mean the kitchen garden, which will be at some small distance from the house, at the back, or north; but I mean it to be connected with the house by the flower-garden and plantations.