clare sherriff : architectural historian

Current Research
Arnold Mitchell (1863-1944)
Exporting Englishness and The Bromsgrove Guild

Arnold Mitchell headed up a successful and diverse late nineteenth-century architectural practice. His work was noted by Muthesius, the German cultural attaché sent to England to investigate the success of British architecture at the turn of the century. The majority of Mitchell's drawings were destroyed after his death; his work has remained undocumented, bar a few biographical entries. Mitchell first established himself in Harrow in the 1890s, where he built his own home, decorated by the Bromsgrove Guild. His practice included both private and board schools, the prestigious University College School in Hampstead, opened in 1907 by Edward V11, the Thomas Cook building (1925) and the Mayfair Hotel (1926) in London's west end, and a concentrated nucleus of domestic housing in Harrow and the home counties. His foreign commissions included a Royal Villa and Golf Pavilion at Ostend for King Leopold 11 Belgium (1903) designs for a chapel for the Krupp family in Berndorf, Austria (1908) designs for a railway terminus in Buenos Aires, stations in Chile and Bolivia (1914) and a building at Pottsdam, Germany c. 1912. It is believed that he also did buildings at the first Aswan Dam and in South Africa. In England he made his name in the country house market designing an Arts and Crafts seaside house (1897) for Siemens, the electricity magnate, on the Hampshire coast. He was particularly proud of the dramatic re-fronting of the Jacobean Tissington Hall in Derbyshire (1902); the library frieze and internal plasterwork were executed by George Bankart of the Bromsgrove Guild. In 1912 Mitchell 'stunned' the profession by winning the Daily Mail Ideal Home competition with his £500 house, and later designed Lotts' building bricks for children, a forerunner of Lego. One of his most beautiful houses was Sundial Cottage (1903) on the Dorset coast in Lyme Regis; an Arts and Crafts 'seaside tower' with a giant ammonite embedded in its front. Despite his adherence to a somewhat formulaic architecture – red brick, tile-hung and gabled – and a tendency at times to over decorate, Mitchell was an individualist, a talented draughtsman with a passion for sundials, rainwater heads, ornate plasterwork, and quirky outbuildings, who sought out the magic of site. It was these attributes, along with his success in the export market, and his versatility and artistry, that set him apart from other architects of his period.

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