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Memories of Lord Carrington

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Peter Aldington
The Architecture Club member

Lord Carrington interviewed myself and John Craig in the early 1970s with a view to appointing our architectural practice to design a small group of houses. He appointed us after asking advice from two other architects, Lords Casson and Esher. They both said you should employ someone local and there is a good local firm. Lord Carrington later found out that we had built a substantial extension (which I think he‘d approved of!) for John Craig’s father, Teddy Craig, who was a near neighbour.

We built Lyde End for him in 1975/6. It consists of five small scale dwellings to house either a single person, a married couple or two single people sharing. There was a sixth dwelling for an estate worker.

We rapidly discovered that Lord Carrington was a highly perceptive person who needed to see that any ideas which you presented to him were because of your conviction that you were presenting the right solution to a problem. He did this by very astute questioning while peering straight into your eyes. Once convinced, he would support you to the hilt. This became very apparent when the district planning officer (an architect!) had aesthetic objections. History does not relate what took place at a private meeting he insisted on between himself and the planning officer. The result was a planning permission!

Lord Carrington had a wicked sense of humour. Part of his brief was for us to provide a wall, (preferably blue-tiled) to receive design awards. We managed to fulfil this (minus blue tiles).

Towards the end of the Lyde End building project, Lord Carrington showed us plans his garden designer, who had previously helped design Bledlow Manor Gardens, had made with him for The Lyde, a deep ravine with redundant watercress beds at its base, between Lyde End and the village church. This ravine contained many mature trees, but had suffered severely from Dutch elm disease.

The plans felled everything and started again with proposals for a garden of steeply winding paths, steps, decks, pools and bridges at which he and Lady Carrington were later to be seen labouring. I was foolish enough to express regret at the removal of so many mature trees. He never let me forget this implied criticism and each time we met during the intervening thirty odd years, he would ask, though with his usual twinkle, if we had seen the Lyde Garden recently. I eventually had to admit that they had created a magical place, which he generously made available to the public at all times.

Whilst he was someone who expected of others his own exacting standards, he was also remarkably sensitive in personal dealings. He once called round personally to answer a query which he felt could not have been answered sufficiently by more remote communication.

Our association continued after the completion of Lyde End. The gardens at Bledlow Manor, developed largely by Lady Carrington since the late 1940’s, had become well-known as modern post-war gardens.

By the late 1960’s we were developing (much smaller) gardens at Turn End and later it became fairly common for visiting gardening clubs and other bodies to link the two together. We also found that often our National Garden Scheme Open Daysalmost coincided with theirs. They were always kind enough to display posters of our garden openings. On these occasions Lord Carrington often insisted on showing us the latest developments, sculptures or other acquisitions in his gardens. These tours were usually accompanied by his two loyal long-haired dachshunds, one of which bore the middle name of a certain lady prime minister, and he gained great pleasure from frequently hurling verbal abuse at the dogs, who took it as signs of endearment.

Answering a letter of condolence, Lord Carrington’s son Rupert, sent a hand-written card in which he said, “The Lyde Garden and Lyde End houses were his favourite projects and a lasting memorial.”

It is a privilege to have been associated with some of this.