Stay the night: Anderton House, North Devon
Amid traditional thatched West Country cottages, Sophie Lam discovers an elegant Modernist homage to space and light
Armed with printed directions, a road atlas and satnav, I should have made easy work of finding Anderton House. But the satnav sent me to the end of a drive on a private estate; the road map wasn't quite detailed enough and the Landmark Trust – which owns Anderton House – assumed I was good with directions. Happily, a well-versed and willing neighbour led me back out of her courtyard and pointed down a steep drive in the opposite direction. Even from here, the house was elusive – where it should have been, I saw only the hazy splodges of sheep on the other side of the valley.
When Anderton House was given Grade II heritage status in 1998, it was one of only seven such buildings from the 1970s (among them London's Trellick Tower and the Royal National Theatre). But this resolutely Seventies pad is some 200 miles west of London on a hillside in the traditional North Devon hamlet of Goodleigh, a parish of thatched roofs, terraced cottages, a village pub and only about 500 residents.
Its architects, Peter Aldington and John Craig, looked to Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier for inspiration. In Anderton House – named after the family that commissioned it – they blended vernacular traditions with the Modernist austerity of the time. So, from the top of the drive you don't see the barn-like structure, just like the region's farm buildings that are cut in lower down the hillsides. Unlike agricultural architecture, though, the house is a study in the pioneering and radical Modernism of the 1970s, a concept currently being celebrated in the V&A's exhibition British Design 1948-2012: Innovation in the Modern Age.
The Anderton family wanted its home to make the most of views across the valley, while Peter Aldington's brief was "(to listen) to the past to make a building of the present that would serve for the future". Both parties triumphed. The tent-like structure is topped with glass panels so the roof seems to float above the walls, giving a sense of space and airiness. The materials are self-consciously unaltered (unplastered white breezeblocks, no wallpaper or paint) but similarly inoffensive. There's an open-plan, multi-level design – the sitting room rises into the kitchen, which funnels into a hallway where three bedrooms peel off on one side and a circular section is split between a bathroom and separate loo on the other. Huge windows that frame the valley views form the walls of the sitting room, while varnished pine, redwood and quarry tiles add warmth.
Acquired by the Landmark Trust as its first modern property in 2003, Anderton House's history is preserved right down to the small details. The citrus-striped curtains, bold patterned wall hangings and lighting are all original and Eames loungers, artworks (including a Bridget Riley print) and period crockery add to the retro ambience. It felt like the film of A Clockwork Orange (a copy of which was in one of the bedrooms along with Tarka the Otter). There's no TV, radio or sound system; the beds were Seventies solid, the blankets Seventies scratchy, but there were modern concessions such as a dishwasher, washing machine, microwave and oven.
Out and about
An undulating trail among hedgerows, fields and woodland starts just beyond the entrance. Barnstaple is a 10-minute drive west, the sand and crashing surf of Croyde Bay (croydedevon.co.uk), Saunton Sands and Woolacombe Bay (woolacombetourism .co.uk) are around 15 minutes' drive further west. The pretty cove town of Combe Martin (visitcombemartin .com) is the same distance north and the fringes of Exmoor (exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk) are the same distance east. The Tarka Trail (devon .gov.uk/tarkatrail) passes nearby.
The food and drink
The New Inn (01271 342488) serves as Goodleigh's meeting point, a cosy, convivial pub serving good food and local ales. In Barnstaple, Fat Belly Fred's (01271 345700) is a popular new fish restaurant with imaginative tapas (whelk fritters, salt and pepper squid) and creative mains (sea bass with fondant potatoes and red pepper reduction). A three-course meal for two costs around £60 with wine.
Anderton House, Goodleigh, Barnstaple, North Devon EX32 7NR (01628 825925; landmarktrust.org.uk). Three nights' rental starts at £496; sleeps five. Dogs and families welcome.
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