Having suffered several unsympathetic internal refits in the twentieth century, when it was a care home, Trewarthenick House in Cornwall deserves better fortune in the twenty-first. The house, though remote, is an obvious candidate for conversion back to family home and it is a sign of the continuing robust health of the country house market that a proposal has come forward to do exactly that - and also, remarkably, to rebuild the flanking wings that were demolished in the 1950s.
The lost wings, if not exactly an afterthought, were certainly a later addition. Humphry Repton had wanted them when he remodelled the house in the 1790s but his scheme was never fully realised and the unbuilt wings were eventually added in 1832 to a design by Hutchens and Harrison. The current proposal envisages wings closer in scale and conception to their design than to Repton’s, for which documentary evidence exists in his 1793 Red Book.
The waters are even muddier inside the house, where it was believed, wrongly, that nothing of note survived. Our inspection revealed that the Repton plan form was intact but also that many of his fine doorcases and doors survived. Many of these had been destined for removal. And so, while having no wish to jeopardise the broader project, which in many ways was brave and laudable, we felt obliged to object to the proposed internal alterations. There is no substitute in such cases for really detailed analysis of the architectural history of a building, so that major works are not underpinned by flawed assumptions and false attributions.