Combe Royal Crescent, Bath

Dates: 1998-2001

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Tradition Revived in a Classical Crescent on a Romantic Hillside

During the last 20 years, with the increasing ease of communication by road and rail, the ideal residence for a wealthy, sophisticated Londoner has become, paradoxically, an 18th century town house in Bath. For theatre, shopping, access to limestone hills, the general civilised ambience, the city has recovered its earlier primacy as a place of pleasure and resort.

But, while a classical terrace house offers the outward show of a modestly designed palace, it does inwardly tend to dank basements, inordinately high reception rooms and cramped attics; the whole linked by stairs that occupy a full third of the available spatial area.

Mindful of this, the David Brain Partnership determined, whilst avoiding earlier errors and inconvenience, to build just such a terrace as Bath might have raised in 1820 in the tradition of Goodridge and Sir John Soane. Post-modernist pastiche was emphatically not the object. The aim was for true classical revival - pilastered, proportioned, balconied and arched, the whole composition to be executed in the finest Bath stone ashlar with elegantly substantial ironwork.

The site chosen more than complements the design. Combe Royal Crescent eases into the fringes of woodland on Bathwick Hill, at the head of a steep valley, looking down across the city and the Avon to the Cotswolds. The views are worthy of Poussin or Lorraine. Access is off an elevated drive through the wood where the garage accommodation is sunk into the hillside within a few steps of the front doors.

There are three 4/5 bedroom houses; the fall of land has ingeniously solved all the usual problems of three storey houses. Main entry is at first floor level. There both the spacious living room and an en-suite bedroom open out into a wide balcony commanding the prestigious view. On the floor above are two further bedrooms, bathrooms and a Study, and the floor below a Utility and study and a dining room and kitchen opening onto a side terrace and garden. These are family houses in the best sense - places where individual members can escape each other and come together with equal ease.