Anatomy of a House No.9 Studio House, Duke’s Head Yard, Highgate 1937-40 Tayler & Green
Studio, Duke's Head Yard, Highgate (1937-40) by Tayler & Green
The subject of our ninth Anatomy of a House is of interest for its design, its patron and for the architects behind it. The house is known as the Studio House, located in Duke’s Head Yard just off Highgate High Street in the heights of North London. The architects were Herbert Tayler and David Green, a partnership both in work and at home. After meeting as students at the Architectural Association, they would work and live together for 60 years. Tayler and Green would become more well known in the postwar years for their work for Loddon Rural District Council, but the house in Duke’s Head Yard was their first big commission.
The Studio area at Duke's Head Yard. Image from RIBApix.
The house was commissioned by Roger Pettiward, a cartoonist known by the pen name of Paul Crum. As Crum, Pettiward drew cartoons for Punch, Night & Day and London Week, as well as painting under his own name. Pettiward had also travelled to Mato Grosso in Brazil in 1932 to search for the missing explorer Major Percy Harrison Fawcett, to no avail. Pettwiard had inherited his fathers estate in Finborough, Suffolk in 1933, but sold it 3 years later and commissioned Tayler and Green to design a house and studio in Highgate for him and his family. Pettiward only got to live in the house he commissioned briefly. In March 1940 he joined the Beds and Herts Regiment and was killed two years later on the raid on Dieppe on 19 August 1942.
The ground floor plan for Duke's Head Yard.
The roof terrace at Duke's Head Yard. Image from RIBApix.
The house itself is a great piece of International Style modernism, functional yet stylish. The house was built behind the Pettiward’s existing house on Highgate Hill, on the site of a coach house. It is three storeys high with a roof terrace and also a cellar. The house is built in brick, and has large strip windows to allow light into the second floor studio area. This space occupies almost the whole of the second floor with uninterrupted views to the north-east and north-west. The roof terrace has a small sitting room, with glazing on three sides which can be opened in good weather. On two sides of the terrace there was obscured glass for privacy.
Unlike the usual white walled look of the era's modernist houses, the Studio House was painted dark red on three sides and grey on the other, with the window frames in white. At the rear is a spiral staircase housed in a semicircular staircase tower. Inside, the house had flooring of oak plywood squares and fitted furniture including “cupboards, shelves, seating, lighting, heating pipes, mirrors, food lift, picture rails”. The house was listed in 1985, with the listing noting that the interior “survives remarkably intact”.
Other modernist studio houses of the era include Augustus John’s Studio house at Fordingbridge by Christopher Nicholson (1933), Dora Gordine’s house and studio for herself in Kingston (1937), Denys Lasdun’s house at 32 Newton Road, Paddington for F.J. Conway (1938), and Brackenfell in Cumbria (1938) by Leslie Martin and Sadie Speight for painter and designer Alistair Morton.
An example of Tayler and Green's work for Loddon UDC in the postwar years. Image from RIBApix.
Tayler and Green’s subsequent work was quite distinct from the Studio House. They moved from London to Lowestoft in 1941 and began their work for Loddon RDC, producing house types that responded to the locality and needs of the local population. Between 1945 and 1976, the duo produced over 700 houses spread over 26 villages in the area. The houses were usually in terraces or grouped together in units, traditionally styled in brick with pitched roofs. Their other projects include similar social housing in Basildon, Cambridge and Suffolk, and a factory in Uxbridge and house in Kingston for businessman A.G. Imhof. The pair retired in 1973 and moved to Altea in Spain, where they built themselves a house. Green died on 3rd October 1998, and Tayler on 3rd February 2000.