Newspaper article International New York Times

A Restored Jewel of Britain's Gothic Revival ; Owners Have Fashioned a Home from a Library Designed by Gilbert Scott

Newspaper article International New York Times

A Restored Jewel of Britain's Gothic Revival ; Owners Have Fashioned a Home from a Library Designed by Gilbert Scott

Article excerpt

George Gilbert Scott designed some of Britain's best-known public buildings, but worked on few domestic residences.

Most people are surprised to discover that Fitzroy House, in the center of the pretty town of Lewes, 60 miles southwest of London, is a private home. A striking red brick building with decorative clock tower, wrought-iron balcony, gothic-style arched windows and stone- framed front door, it was, in fact, designed to be a library.

The architect, George Gilbert Scott, was at the forefront of Britain's gothic revival, which peaked during the mid-19th century. His designs are recognized for their elaborately carved stonework, ornamental archways and richly decorated interiors.

He worked predominantly on some of Britain's best-known public and religious buildings. They include the restorations of Westminster Abbey and Ely Cathedral, and original designs for the Midland Grand Hotel at St. Pancras Station and the Albert Memorial, in London.

Fitzroy House was commissioned by Hannah Rothschild, a member of the famous banking dynasty, as a memorial to her husband, William Fitzroy, and built in 1862. At the time, the house was in an industrial part of Lewes, next to the railway, but it is now at the center of the town's shopping and cafe district.

The building served as a library until the Second World War, but by the 1950s it was being used as offices. It was gradually left to decline until 1970, when part of it was demolished before an emergency protection order was obtained at the request of local residents.

Unused for two decades, the property became increasingly dilapidated until it was bought by James and Maureen Franks in 1978. Mr. Franks had experience in the building industry, and the couple intended to restore and convert the property into a home. The building was in such a state of disrepair that it was a daunting task.

"When we bought Fitzroy House it was a total wreck, it had every sort of rot and damp," said Eleanor Austin, the Frankses' daughter. "There was even a tree growing through its center."

The property's attraction was that it retained many of the original Gilbert Scott signature elements, which the family restored. …

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