From 1766, when James Christie first banged his gavel down in his auction room at Pall Mall, the Christie’s name has been associated with fashionable society. Thomas Gainsborough, Christie’s friend and neighbor, painted his portrait, which was exhibited in a place of honor at Christie’s auction house. James Christie negotiated the sale of statesman Sir Robert Walpole’s art collection to Catherine the Great, auctioned the former collection of Pope Paul IV in 1772, and dispersed the contents of the studio of late painter Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1794. The firm stayed in the family for over a century and remained centered in London until 1958, when it opened a sales office in Rome. Today, Christie’s is the world’s leading purveyor of art with offices and showrooms around the world. The company also runs an art education program offering graduate and non-degree programs in four countries.
In celebration of its 250th anniversary, Christie’s is offering exhibitions and events at its auction houses around the world. The celebration was launched in its home city of London with Defining British Art, a historic exhibition showcasing British artwork—including a number of masterpieces sold by Christie’s—alongside pieces by international artists inspired by visits to Britain. Here, Luxury Defined offers a look back over the history of British residential architecture as embodied by five British estates built in styles ranging from Tudor to Victorian and Edwardian.
Malmesbury, Wiltshire Abbey House, a stone estate with three sides, was built in a shape commonly used in clerical buildings during the Tudor period, when floor plans or motifs were often designed to evoke the Christian Trinity. The home’s oldest features, a kitchen fireplace and the Abbot’s Hall, were built in the late 13th century. The hall with springs of an early English rib vault and octagonal columns is half the size of the original Great Hall. The depressed stone arch of a side door is typical of clerical design in the period, and the stone cross integrated into the largest chimney, as well as the crosses atop each roof ridge, indicate the building’s origins. During the Tudor period, English architecture began a shift from the medieval period to a more modern focus on comfort, and some monasteries and clerical buildings began to be repurposed as private homes. The 16th-century winder staircase of solid oak as well as the stone-mullioned windows and large fireplaces suggest that this property underwent such a transformation. Of particular note is the drawing room’s fireplace overmantel with strapwork and caryatids, above which is a family’s coat of arms.
Wotton-Under-Edge, Gloucestershire Commanding nearly 390 acres of farmland outside the village of Godshill on the Isle of Wight, Stenbury Manor is Grade II listed Jacobean manor complete with formal gardens, two cottages, an eight-bedroom farmhouse, a stone barn, and several outbuildings. One of the original manors mentioned in the Domesday Book, the estate was originally built in the 16th century and altered in the 18th century when the west wing was added by Sir Robert Worsley of Appuldurcombe (who is said to have lived here during the reconstruction of his ancestral seat, Appuldurcombe House). The house requires renovation, yet it has retained many of the original Jacobean details such as the beautiful four-centered stone fireplace in the great hall, fielded paneling in the dining room, and the original 17th-century mullioned windows. The estate is being offered in its entirety or sold as six separate lots.
Southampton, Hampshire This Georgian house above the River Meon captures the symmetry, elegance, and domestic comfort of Georgian architecture. The interior hallway is light and spacious, with an elegantly proportioned light-filled sitting room on one side paired by a library on the opposite side. Bedrooms on the upper floors similarly benefit from the Georgian emphasis on large windows, natural light, and well-proportioned living spaces. Externally, a walled garden with a summer house and terrace allow for outdoor entertaining. The terrace is accessed by a 17th-century stone staircase from the central hall. A Victorian wing with a master suite, kitchen, family room, and conservatory extends the interior space.
Rowland’s Castle, Hampshire The Victorian period in English architecture was highly eclectic, encompassing revivals of Gothic, Romanesque, and Renaissance styles and incorporating elements of Scottish baronial and vernacular English architecture. This spacious village home, which originally dates from the early 1700s and was enhanced throughout the 18th century into the early Victorian era, exemplifies the Victorian combination of colloquialism and grandeur. The steeply pitched roof, asymmetrical façade, and informal landscaping typify Victorian country homes. Inside, a period fireplace, galleried hall, and spacious reception and music rooms with high corniced ceilings exemplify Victorian diversity by pleasingly contrasting with the private family room and bedrooms, which feature beamed ceilings and exposed brickwork.
Godalming, England The Edwardian style of the early 20th century in England was elegant, prosperous, and optimistic. This graceful country home showcases the return to a balanced Neoclassical aesthetic, reimagined with a lighter palette. The pale stone pillars and balcony that frame the entrance with its large windows provide a stately yet amiable welcome. Inside, the light-colored woods and elegantly turned balustrades of the reception hall, stair, and gallery offer typical Edwardian touches that are both refined and stylish. Spacious formal sitting rooms are softened by wood panelling and beams in the same light tones of the entranceway, and large windows throughout the home generously allow for the entrance of natural light.