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A 1.5million sense of Liberty: The mock Tudor marvel with a unique link to London's most distinctive store
21:58 GMT, 22 December 2012
No seasonal shopping trip to London’s West End would be complete without a visit to Liberty. With its distinctive mock Tudor facade and small homely rooms with wooden carvings and ornate fireplaces, the department store in Regent Street stands out amid the bland chain shops in the heart of the capital.
Liberty’s frontage remains unique in the West End, but there was a time when mock Tudor was the height of fashion. Thousands of houses were built in this style in the Twenties – the decade in which the shop’s founder, Arthur Lasenby Liberty, had his flagship store constructed.
One example is Tudor House in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, which is now for sale at 1.5 million.
Shared history: Tudor House in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, has startling similarities to London's Liberty store
Landmark: Liberty on Regent Street is one of London's most recognisable stores because of its Tudor facade
Its owners, retired senior Metropolitan Police officer David Galbraith, 53, and his wife Esme, 50, suspected from the exquisite carvings on the central staircase and elegant Italian marble fireplaces that their house had a stronger connection to the Liberty store than the mere fact it was built in the same period.
There was another good reason for David to work on his hunch – the Liberty flagship store was also originally called Tudor House when it was built in 1924.
Proving the connection between his home
and the shop was to bring David’s detective skills to the fore. ‘The oak
carvings on the staircase are of little animals, exactly like the one
in Liberty, and we knew the wrought-iron Crittal window frames,
stained-glass panes and elaborate plasterwork were also certain to be
replicas of the ones in the shop,’ he says.
Esme Galbraith stands next to the carved animals on the central staircase in Tudor House that are identical to those in Liberty
‘We discovered that the interior of the house was created by a local nurseryman, Alfred Stevens. The house was built by his father-in- law, David Greig, in 1927 and given to him and his wife Elizabeth as a wedding present.’
But David wanted proof that Stevens and Greig modelled it on the shop. ‘I traced Mr Stevens’s daughter, Elizabeth Kernahan, who now lives in Chicago. She is very old but remembered that Liberty supplied the wood for the interiors. At the time, the store had a workshop in Hampstead.’
David contacted Liberty but drew a blank searching their archives. However, he was told that information might be stored in the archives of Westminster City Council.
There, he discovered brochures advertising panelling and arch door frames from the Hampstead workshop which matched those in Tudor House. From these, he was able to ascertain that the interior carvings of Tudor House were likely to have been made by one of the store’s master craftsmen.
Further investigations established that Tudor House was the centrepiece of the Broxbournebury private estate and the house once had extensive grounds. However, a large swathe was sold off to a developer in the Nineties and the house and garden are now surrounded by modern houses.
While David, who has three grown-up children from a previous marriage and moved into Tudor House three years ago to be with Esme, did the detective work to ascertain the property’s connection with Liberty, it is Esme who was actually responsible for restoring the interiors to their Arts and Crafts glory.
Esme, who like David has three children from a previous marriage, bought the property 12 years ago. She now cares for her elderly mother, who lives with the couple at Tudor House.
The property has seven bedrooms, three receptions, two kitchens, three bathrooms, a larder, three lofts and a large cinema room converted from an adjoining garage.
The building once incorporated a separate flat, hence the second kitchen and a second staircase.
This could be re-established if new owners wanted an elderly relative to live independently but under the same roof.
Old world charm: The grand living room is in keeping with the rest of the house
Carving out a niche: This wooden frog is one of the numerous stair carvings unique to Tudor House and Liberty
Because Esme’s mother now needs full-time care, the Galbraiths merged the flat into the main house.
‘I was careful not to change the fabric of the building when renovating,’ says Esme. ‘I sourced floorboards from a church in Southend, Essex, which perfectly complemented the wooden panelling.’
As a result of Esme’s careful work, Tudor House resembles a monument to the late 19th and early 20th Century Arts and Crafts movement, for which the Liberty store became a champion. Led by William Morris, the movement arose as a reaction against machine production and prized the qualities of the materials used in design.
‘Tudor House is a home with a real sense of grandeur and an essence of class with its classically designed staircase based upon the famous Liberty store,’ says Oliver Murray, of selling agents William H. Brown.
A colourful view: A stained-glass cockerel is one of many interesting features around Tudor House on the market for 1.5million
William H. Brown, 01992 505334, williamhbrown.co.uk