Orchard House, Olney, Buckinghamshire, was designed by Alexander Ellis Anderson and built in 1904. It is a substantial town house that has been kept very much as the architect would have wanted it. The front of the house has large bay windows with impressive pillars by the door. Nearby at first floor level is an oval window, typical of Anderson’s work. The garden has original railings that include stylised orchard trees in an Art Nouveau style, however, the lines of the rails may suggest a later period. (Was Anderson ahead of his time in this respect?)
Inside there is a vestibule with Mackintosh-style glazed panels to the main hall. This is dominated by a stairway and gallery that terminate in a cupola, itself decorated with Adam-style gilded mouldings. Suspended from the centre is an elaborate chandelier, thought to be specially designed for the house. There is a fireplace in the hall (c.f. Hill House) The dining room is large with oak panels and carved features of a very high quality. The ceiling plasterwork and the dining chairs also have carved details, the theme throughout being fruit of the orchard.
A billiard room is of a similar size to the dining room. It is very light and airy with a roof light over the centre. Throughout the house each room has its own individual features; the morning room, for example, has a ceiling decorated with diagonal gilded plasterwork. It appears that a great deal of effort has been put into the maintenance of the architect’s original intentions, the electricity supply, for example, is still 50 volts. The generator of 1904 is long gone, but the system still works via a transformer from the mains supply.
The house was obviously designed and built to a high standard. It shows what Anderson was capable of when commissioned by a client of means. Was Anderson influenced by Mackintosh’s work? If so, this was 12 years before the involvement of both architects in the plans for 78 Derngate.
First published in June 2003 In The Friends of 78 Derngate Newsletter Issue 25.
Authors: Ken and Sheila Simpson
Transcribed 2018: Barbara Floyer