Dream Acres week five: Estate buildings

* For more Dream Acres and to find out how to create your own Dream Acres please see our microsite which explains  how to create your perfect landscape, gardens and outdoor spaces 

There is a long and glorious tradition of adding new buildings to British country estates. The buildings may be modest, such as the sheds made from upturned boats at Lindisfarne Castle in Northumberland, or monumental, such as the 10th Duke of Hamilton’s vast mausoleum in Lanarkshire. They may be practical, such as the 15th-century columbarium at Cotehele in Cornwall, or decorative, such as the Temple of Ancient Virtue at Stowe in Buckinghamshire. Regardless of their size or function, however, the best examples are architectural masterpieces.

Indeed, one of the great pleasures of adding a building to a garden or estate is that it offers a wonderful opportunity to create something unique and exceptional. Even a potting shed, run-in shelter or summer house can be designed and positioned in such a way as to enhance the landscape. Building on a smaller scale has many benefits not least low costs and fast results.

Dream Acres contains a large number of different buildings. Those not covered elsewhere in the series are described here, together with lots of information on commissioning and sourcing everything from huts to hothouses.

Small is beautiful

Recommended videos for you

Many Architects welcome commissions to design even relatively simple garden and estate buildings. Not only does it allow them to give free rein to their imagination, but there’s a greater likelihood of their visions actually being realised. One architect with an enviable reputation for garden buildings is Edward Bulmer (www.edwardbulmer.co.uk), who was responsible for the Commemorative Temple for Diana, Princess of Wales at Althorp. He has just completed a pair of oversized fruit cages in the shape of giant Victorian glasshouses for his own estate.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (www.architecture.com/useanarchitect) makes finding an enthusiastic architect relatively easy, but it’s well worth preparing a detailed brief before you begin. Set out your expectations for the building, its intended use, the features you want incorporated, its size and your likes and dislikes. Think about whether you want it to be in keeping or as a contrast with other buildings on your estate. Further issues to consider are materials, sustainability, timing and budget.

An example of a new garden building that has been a huge success is William Kendall’s eco pool house in Suffolk. Mr Kendall, the former CEO of Green & Blacks chocolate, says that, apart from the obvious, the building could eventually be used as a permanent home. ‘Like many Country Life readers, we live in a large, unsuitable house. Our eco pool house at least provides us with a (very small) means of continuing to live where we do.’ The architect was Cowper Griffith (www.cowpergriffith.co.uk) and the interiors were done by Retrouvius (www.retrouvius.com).

The summer house

British writers from Dr Johnson to Roald Dahl have long been drawn to the summer house as a quiet retreat in which to work, which may account for the fact that one joiner, Scotts of Thrapston (www.scottsofthrapston.co.uk), has got together with the National Trust to create two literary huts. The Writers Retreat is based on George Bernard Shaw’s shed in Ayot St Lawrence, Hertfordshire, and the Reading Room is based on Virginia Woolf’s hut at Monk’s House in Sussex.

If you’re looking for a slightly more sumptuous summer house, HSP Garden Buildings in Suffolk (www.hspgardenbuildings.com), has a wonderful range that features beautiful lead roofs.

* For more Dream Acres and to find out how to create your own Dream Acres please see our microsite which explains  how to create your perfect landscape, gardens and outdoor spaces

Moving an existing building

Marble Arch was originally the main entrance to Buckingham Palace, and was only moved to Hyde Park in 1851. The 18th-century Pin Mill by the canal at Bodnant Hall in Conwy was relocated there from Gloucestershire in 1938. Even my brother Will’s London garden has a bothy that he had transported, stone by stone, from the Orkneys.

If you want a genuine period building, you can buy and move an existing structure. Ask estate agents and auctioneers, or try architectural-salvage businesses (www.salvo.co.uk has a list). David Shepherd and Paulo Gucci had success with Antique Buildings (www.antiquebuildings.com), and Barns etc (www.barnsetc.co.uk), has a 15th-century barn for £14,000.

A touch of glass

The first proper glasshouse was built ‘for tender greens’ in the University of Oxford Botanic Garden during the second half of the 17th century, and the practice soon caught on. Glass was used not only for greenhouses, but also for other buildings, including banqueting halls, orangeries and vineries.

There’s a long glasshouse at Dream Acres, and, if you’re interested in commissioning something along the same lines, Marston and Langinger, London SW1 (www.marston-and-langinger.com), has been specialising in traditional hardwood, alloy and steel greenhouses, orangeries and pool houses for more than 30 years.

Another well-established firm in this field is Vale Garden Houses, Lincolnshire (www.valegardenhouses.com), which is used by the National Trust to re-create period conservatories for Trust properties. Alitex, Hampshire (www.alitex.co.uk), which was founded in 1958, also works with the Trust, using recycled aluminium for frameworks, as it avoids the need for maintenance. Hartley Botanics, Greater Manchester (www.hartley-botanic.co.uk), is an even older company it was founded in 1938 and has plenty of expertise in aluminium-and-glass structures. The firm has produced a range with the endorsement of Kew Gardens.

Something completely different

If you want something small and simple, ask Prince Charles’s hut and fence maker. Bryan Harwood of Winterborne Zelston Fencing (01929 459245) holds a Royal Warrant for the work he’s done at Highgrove. He specialises in small structures, such as rustic huts, boat houses and pergolas.

The Raffle brothers, Andrew and David, as Raffles Garden Build-ings (www.rafflesgb.com), do a nice line in thatched buildings, such as summer houses, fishing huts and chicken sheds. Finally, no mention of such buildings is complete without including Court & Hunt (www.courtandhunt.co.uk) or Cotswold Shepherds Huts (www.cotswoldshepherdshuts.co.uk), which will  restore and build shepherd’s huts.

* For more Dream Acres and to find out how to create your own Dream Acres please see our microsite which explains  how to create your perfect landscape, gardens and outdoor spaces