Sampson Society

Sampson Society Appreciation Visit - 21 May 2014

Sampson built Marrick House, which he named Shatterway, for his own occupation in 1939. He lived there until his death in 1950.

Since this was the last house that Sampson designed for himself, it seems appropriate to set out the various houses he lived in following his first arrival in the town in 1891.

The first address record we have for Sampson (Kelly’s Directory 1893) was 3 The Myrtles. This house formed part of the terrace on the High Street between the Masonic Hall and the Co op supermarket. The houses had only been built a year or so before Sampson arrived and have subsequently been converted to commercial properties.

 Marrick House, about 1940, soon after it was built

Above Marrick House, about 1940, soon after it was built.

In 1899 Sampson designed and built a house for himself on Seafield Road. He named it Wychwood Cottage after the village in Oxfordshire, Milton under Wychwood, where his first wife came from. There is a rendered panel at the back of the house bearing the date ‘1899’ and the initials ‘RWS and H’, the H standing for Helen his first wife. The house is now known as Sunglow.

About 1903 Sampson built his first house in Bickwell Valley, naming it Bickwell House. The house is now called Valley Mead and was extended by a later owner to provide a ballroom to Sampson’s design. The house is located towards the top of the valley, allowing Sampson to monitor the ongoing development of other plots without even leaving his house!

We know that Sampson was still living at Valley Mead at the time of the 1911 census, but by 1914 (Kelly’s) he had moved to Marycourt on Convent Road. Some would regard this as Sampson’s finest house - a more formal Queen Anne design, contrasting somewhat with the Arts and Crafts designs produced in earlier years. It is claimed that the house was named after his eldest daughter, Winifred Mary.

His stay at Marycourt was relatively short lived as he is recorded as living at Stokesay, Convent Road in the Kelly’s Directories for 1919 and 1926. This house, now known as Craiglands, was built in 1909 (before Sampson moved here) and as at Valley Mead, incorporates a ballroom. Sadly Helen, his first wife, died in 1923 during the time Sampson lived here. The following year he married his second wife, Dorothy Andrews.

In 1935 Kelly’s Directory listed Sampson’s address as Shatterway, Sidbury. Since Marrick House was not built until 1939 it’s clear that there was another house of the same name. It’s known that Sampson lived at Littlefields, Sidbury Hill for a period during the 1930’s (Littlefields is the last house near the top of Sidbury Hill). It is probable that Sampson called that house Shatterway during his occupation, and transferred the name to his new house in 1939.

The name Shatterway appears to derive from an area of woodlands above Littlefields. The woodlands are identified as Shatterway Copse on Ordnance Survey maps from the nineteenth century onwards.

Sampson gained a reputation during his lifetime for moving house regularly. It is probable that he stayed longer at Marrick House than any other of his properties. He was 73 years old when he built the house, and although he continued to design the odd building, his output as an architect was much diminished. Marrick House was essentially a house for him to enjoy his retirement.

Design of the house

The overriding appearance of Marrick House is that of a traditional Devon farmhouse. It’s something of a contrast from Sampson’s Arts and Crafts houses, not least because Sampson rejected his usual roofing material of plain tiles.

Like many Arts and Crafts architects, Sampson seems to have developed an interest in local vernacular architecture and this has clearly inspired the design of the house. The most striking feature is, of course, the thatched roof, a traditional Devon roof covering. However, this is not the only Sampson building incorporating this material. At about the same time Sampson was designing rural council houses with thatched roofs for Honiton Rural District Council.

On 23 December 1944 the Times reported on the Government’s wartime programme for the construction of agricultural dwellings. The Ministry of Health was seeking to promote high standards in the design of such houses and the article featured a photograph of a pair of houses at Yarcombe as such an example. A couple of days later, the Times printed a letter from a rather indignant Sampson. He explained that the houses had been designed by him and that the Ministry should have acknowledged this when publishing the photograph.

Council houses at Yarcombe - extract from the Times, 23 December 1944

Above - Council houses at Yarcombe - extract from the Times, 23 December 1944

The internal layout of Marrick House is designed on classic Sampson lines. In it’s original form the house was a simple rectangular shape, with a garage block linked at first floor level to the main house by means of an archway.

The entrance door is on the eastern elevation and a hallway runs along this side of the house. The hallway, which was built with a traditional stone flagged floor, was originally split so that the kitchen (now a study) and other ‘working’ areas of the house to the north were separated from the living areas. The living rooms all had a southerly or westerly outlook, taking advantage of sunlight and views. There was a small study at the south eastern corner of the original house (now part of the kitchen).

The first floor layout follows a similar pattern, with the main bedrooms having an outlook to the south or west. A corridor at first floor level linked to a room above the garage, which, it is understood, was used by Sampson as an artist’s studio.

The southern end of the house has been extended, initially by a single storey structure enlarging the original living rooms. Later extensions were more radical, two storey in form and including a projection on the eastern side of the house. This allowed the kitchen to be relocated at the southern end of the house, giving direct access to the garden. This clearly reflects changed times - the kitchen is no longer a servant’s room to be placed in the darkest parts of the house, but is now a principal room for entertaining. The two storey extension also enabled provision of dressing areas and an en-suite to the master bedroom - again a reflection of changed times.

The house originally had Crittal metal windows. These were much favoured by Sampson during the 1930’s as an alternative to traditional timber casements. Not only were they considered modern (Sampson liked to keep up with the latest developments) but because of their narrow glazing bars they also let in more light to the house (something which was of critical importance to him). The early single glazed units had a tendency to rust, and were replaced here about 10 years ago with standard double glazed windows.

Sampson would have designed the layout of the extensive gardens surrounding the house. He built a summerhouse on a turntable arrangement, allowing him to orientate it at different times of the day to gain maximum sunlight. Sadly, this has since been removed, but a particular feature of the gardens which still remain are the rhododendrons. Sampson originally owned the adjacent house, Woodcutters, which was probably used as accommodation for the gardener and possibly other staff. It is understood that the detached building close to the garage was later referred to as a gardener’s cottage, but was used in Sampson’s time by Dorothy to keep goats.

Sampson’s original architectural drawings have often remained with the houses he designed, and are proudly displayed by their owners. Sadly there is no trace of the plans for Marrick House, but there are four watercolours of the house which Sampson painted, and these are displayed in the hallway. The pictures depict the original study (with it’s doorway to the garden) the hall (with it’s original stone flagged floor) the entrance and porch area, and the back of the garage block.

Doris Sampson

Dorothy Agnes Sampson was born in Brentford on 16 March 1885 and was the eldest daughter of Frederick William Lacey. After working in South America as an engineer, her father had returned to Britain in 1881. He was appointed that year to the position of surveyor to the Brentford Local Board with a salary of £175. Frederick’s primary task was to install a system of mains drainage in the town. This was completed in 1884, whereupon the Board awarded him a salary increase of £50 per year.

Whilst at Brentford, Frederick Lacey also practised as an architect, designing a number of buildings in the town, including a house known as the Gables, which he built for his own occupation. The house was built in 1887 and bears a striking resemblance to Sampson’s early work in Sidmouth. Built mainly of orange brickwork, it incorporates steeply sloping roof pitches clad in plain tiles, with deep overhangs at the eaves. At the attic level the gable ends are rendered and project slightly from the main walls. The chimney stacks, also in orange brickwork, form substantial features.

In 1889, when Doris was 4 years old, the family moved to Bournemouth. Her father had been appointed to the position of Surveyor to Bournemouth Corporation, a post he retained until his death in 1916. Whilst at Bournemouth, Doris attended Cheltenham Ladies College.

In his work for Bournemouth Corporation, Frederick was responsible for the complete reconstruction of the town’s drainage system, the construction of the entire tramway network, the creation of various parks and the construction of a number of roads, including both the Overcliffe Drive and Undercliffe Drive. The Russell - Coates Art Gallery has a large portrait of Frederick in it’s collection.

In 1907 Doris married her first husband, Henry Godfrey Andrews. Henry was born in South Africa but spent most of his life in England. In 1902 at the age of 18 he was engaged in the drawing office of Messrs Lacey and Sillar, consulting engineers. Ernest Lacey, the senior partner in the business was in fact Doris’s uncle. In 1904 Henry was appointed Assistant Borough Electrical Engineer to Bournemouth Corporation.

Doris and Henry had a daughter, Joan, who was born in 1908. After work commitments took Henry to Nottingham and then Canada, he decided to enlist on the outbreak of the first world war. He was badly wounded, but returned to active service in France where, in March 1918, he was sent home with trench fever and suffering from gas attack. He never fully recovered, succumbing to influenza and pneumonia, and died on 22 November 1918 at the age of 35. Joan went on to marry in 1932 and had 3 children. Interestingly, as with Sampson’s own children, all three were known by their middle names.

We know that Sampson went on a cruise shortly after the death of his first wife Helen, and it was on the cruise that he met Doris. They were married in London during the summer of 1924, only 12 months or so following the death of his first wife. Whilst Sampson’s decision to marry so soon after Helen’s death may have been regarded as somewhat unseemly at the time, it’s clear that Robert Sampson and Doris had much in common. Her own father was an architect and clearly had a similar design approach to that of Sampson. Doris would have been brought up with architectural drawings and all the issues to do with the building trade. Not only that, Doris had described herself in the 1911 census as an artist. Although she had a reputation as a miniaturist, it’s not known the extent of other work she may have painted.

Doris outlived Sampson by 10 years, and died in Surrey in 1960, aged 74.

Martin Mallinson May 2014