Peter Womersley Modernist house, Valley Spring

Built in the Sixties and nestled in a wooden dell, Valley Spring is a Modernist masterpiece with the majority of its original features intact.

By Hannah Fenton | 22 November 2017

Built in the Sixties and nestled in a wooden dell, Valley Spring is a Modernist masterpiece with the majority of its original features intact.

Peter Womersley Modernist house Valley Spring 1

South of the historic city of Bath sits Valley Spring, built in 1968. The Grade II-listed home is remarkable in two regards. First, for its secluded setting in a wooded Somerset combe with a spring-fed pond. Second, for its heritage: it is one of only a smattering of Modernist houses designed by the nationally important architect Peter Womersley. With its flat-roofed pavilions, glass walls and imposing brick structure of dark-brown Westbrick Devonian masonry, rather than the local mellow Bath stone, Valley Spring is the antithesis of Georgian Bath, a bold expression of the Sixties.

Valley Spring was commissioned by Womersley’s brother, John, who had bought the plot of land, formerly a plant nursery, in 1965. John Womersley was the managing director of Arkana, a contemporary furniture company, and wanted a stylish family home for his wife Vivien, their three children, and his elderly mother. Womersley had already designed two houses for his brother, one in West Yorkshire, another in Surrey, so collaborating again seemed natural.

Peter Womersley Modernist house Valley Spring 2

Womersley is said to have been Le Corbusier’s favourite British Modernist architect and in Valley Spring he did not disappoint. The house is designed along core Modernist principles, such as creating a relationship between the building and its surrounding landscape. To this end the three flat-roofed pavilions (now four) are set into the side of the valley, facing south, ensuring superb views and maximum light. A roof deck and dining room terrace ensure quick access to the invigorating outdoors.

Rooms inside the three pavilions are arranged along a linear, free-flow plan executed on split-levels over a generous 813 square metres, connected by glass links and low flights of stairs. Womersley factored in a relatively modest four bedrooms, four bathrooms (extravagant at the time), a kitchen and dining room, a playroom for the children, plus a self-contained, single-storey annexe for elderly parents or children as they grew up. The seamless Modernist look is enhanced by bespoke fitted furniture and timber-clad ceilings in sycamore, yew, rosewood and cedar.