Alexander’s paintings are born of his extensive travels in search of the ‘spirit of place’, great architecture and beauty, but it is to Copse Hill that Alexander returns to distil his ideas from his writing and sketches and create his finished paintings.
Copse Hill is a most often described as a Mediterranean Villa and it is a marked contrast to the ‘Surrey Style’ of many of its Arts-and-Crafts neighbours and contemporaries. Perched on a south-facing escarpment in the Surrey Hills, Copse Hill turns it back on London to face a magnificent view across the Weald to the South Downs to a glimpse of the sea beyond. On a sunny day when the shutters work beautifully to cool the rooms, it’s quite extraordinary how continental it feels.
The house was originally designed by Christopher Turnor for a lady, Miss Head, who died before the house was completed. The site was sold to Alexander’s grandparents in 1908 who came across the stunning view and house mid-build by chance after taking a wrong turning whilst motoring to visit cousins nearby.
Copse Hill is unlike Turnor’s other domestic works but has some similarities to his Art-and-Crafts style the best known example of which is the Watts Gallery in Compton. Completed in 1904, just a year before Turnor embarked on Copse Hill, the Watts Gallery was built to house a permanent display work by the pre-eminent Victorian artist G.F. Watts. Turnor’s spell as an architect was brief and, after inheriting extensive estates in Lincolnshire from an uncle in 1897, he went on to became better known as an agricultural reformer.
Alexander’s grandmother, Isabel, saw the potential immediately for creating a superb garden at Copse Hill. From the 1930s the garden was spectacular but after Isabel’s death in 1957 it became overgrown all but lost except to the little boy who grew up amongst its magic.
From 1989 Alexander and Mary have been restoring the garden gently, revealing terraces and herbaceous borders which fall away from the house to ponds and bluebells woods below.
Copse Hill is a magical place which has gently transformed over the last century whilst nurturing four generations of Creswells.
Country Life feature article on Copse Hill.
Hyland feature article on Copse Hill.