The History of Greyfriars House
Greyfriars House is not one of those houses that has come down through the generations of ancient relatives, but a house I stumbled across whilst living in Richmond with my young family. At that time Greyfriars was owned by an Iranian family who had been living here for 27 years, and it had become a somewhat lost, unloved and forgotten house...that was 2004.
Fast forward a few years, and my dream of owning this beautiful and historic house became a reality. We have transformed Greyfriars into a modern boutique wedding and event venue, but very much in a historic setting.
Set in 25 acres, this Grade II listed house is located near the village of Puttenham close to Guildford and Farnham. It is less than an hour from Gatwick, Heathrow and Central London, Greyfriars House is an important Grade II Listed house since 1984. It has been recently restored with the greatest care in preserving and restoring its original features. We know that some historic buildings can be a little "stuffy" but when Greyfriars was built it was very much a "modern" house. It still retains that contemporary feeling today.
We have furnished the house with modern furnishings, whilst also acquiring and mixing in some original Voysey pieces. Set high on the edge of a fifty foot cliff, its lawns are level with the treetops below and have spectacular views over the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
In 1896, John Sturgis, an American Victorian novelist commissioned the leading Arts and Crafts architect Charles Voysey to build a mansion house for a spectacular setting in the Surrey Hills. Voysey excelled himself by producing twenty sheets of detailed drawings (now held in the collection of the Royal Institute of British Architects at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London).
Today, Greyfriars is considered one of his finest works. Voysey's design for the house featured the most visually impressive elevations of all his works.
His plan was for one long line along a contour of the steep hillside. The entrance front is broken vertically into a number of sections, but it was the southern elevation which captured the attention of architects, writers and publishers... Greyfriars was undoubtedly the most widely published Voysey design, featuring in publications in America and Europe including Das Englishe Haus. The commission for Greyfriars came when Voysey's career had reached its height and he was being privately engaged to produce ambitious and grand houses for the wealthy.
"One of Britain's greatest Arts and Crafts masterpieces" BBC TV
His eye for detail meant that he designed not only the buildings themselves but also their interiors and furnishings.
Although Voysey hated the term "modern architecture", this cutting edge work meant that he was to become the greatest influence of his time on the Modern Movement which followed.
The designs for Greyfriars are still studied today by architecture and history of art students around the world.
Many years on, Greyfriars, considered by many to be Voysey's masterpiece, retains many of its original features including copper fireplaces, staircases, and of course his signature heart-shaped motifs - the letterbox, door handles and hinges, and even the tiny keys that still remain to open cupboards.
Protected by English Heritage as a "building of more than special importance" (Grade II* listed), it contains wood-panelled rooms, high vaulted ceilings, impressive fireplaces and stone mullioned windows.
The house has always been in private ownership, and remains so today. Previous owners have included the Lyle family (of Tate & Lyle), the industrialist Robert Turner, and the leading civil servant and diarist Sir Julian Grant-Sturgis.