A light filled modernist home with impressive sea views from large balcony
Recommended by: Peter Ruback, C20 Society Chairman: “The National Trust is mainly known for its splendid properties and gardens as well as its stewardship of countryside areas, but it also has a (pre Virus) prosperous business in letting out cottages or smaller houses for holidays. Many of these seem to be smaller ancillary or functional buildings, but hidden among them is at least one jewel of interest to C20 members. We’d been aware of the existence of Chert near Ventnor on the southern coast of the Isle of Wight for some time. It featured in a C20 magazine some time ago (in the monochrome days) and we knew that C20 members Tony Stokoe and Brian Quinn had stayed there. It also featured in a C20 weekend visit even earlier and as a Building of the Month on our website https://c20society.org.uk/building-of-the-month/chert-ventnor-isle-of-wight
“The property – built late 1960s in a simple uncompromising modernist idiom heavily influenced by the client – was a retirement house for two friends Koo Haddock and Connie McDowell, two pioneering women civil servants on the engineering and science side. Built into the hillside the property faces the sea and has a rather curious plan: two separate entrances at street level leading to two apartments with their own kitchens and bathrooms, but with bifold doors between the sea facing rooms that open up to link the main rooms. The fittings are original or restored: if you like formica kitchens (like my mother’s 1970s one) and light blue formica tiled floors, this is the place for you! And it has been furnished with John Lewis’ finest mid-century/retro fixtures and fittings. There are also rather charming tiles made of shells in concrete which decorate the downstairs entrance.
“There is a collection of books and notes about the property and its origins as well as personal documents from the two rather formidable owners which shed some light on their highly methodical approach to tasks, such as holiday planning, which must have been useful to them in commissioning the property. You can also find Roland Jeffrey’s notes from his C20 event. The Island is not best known for its buildings of our period, but Quarr Abbey is definitely worth a visit and the grounds of Mottistone Manor are charming containing a typically idiosyncratic holiday caravan designed by Seeley and Paget for themselves.”
More background to the building: Having a great deal of technical experience between them, Koo Haddock and Connie McDowell designed the house themselves and employed a firm of local architects, Gilbert and Hobson of Ventnor, to simply follow their plan. Koo used the workshop downstairs to create 12 inch square tiles of cement, inlaid with stones, which were used to decorate the exterior and entrance to the property. There were also 2 ponds – one at the front and one at the side. The house was bequeathed to the National Trust and it passed to them in 1995 after both women had died. After a programme of restoration, it became available to rent as a holiday cottage in March 2000.
Next door to Chert, the women also designed ‘Little Chert’ – a smaller, one-storey version to accommodate friends who came to stay. This is also available to rent https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/holidays/little-chert-isle-of-wight