LCE was appointed by the owner, Ebrahim Golestan, an eminent Iranian film maker, to oversee storm damage from both 1987 and 1991 of this Gothic Revival Mansion. The appointment extended to undertaking work to convert the top floor into holiday lets and to carry out a feasibility study for a hotel through conversion and addition.
The original house is a Grade II* listed house designed, in 1871 by Edward Middleton Barry, designer of the Royal Opera House. It was built for the banker of German extraction Henry Huth, MP (1815-1878), a bibliophile and collector of paintings.
Its turrets, arches, conical roofs, and many architectural features give it the appearance of a fairytale mansion. Ian Nairn and Nikolaus Pevsner, in their influential series The Buildings of England, called Wykehurst “that epitome of high Victorian showiness and licence”. Each bedroom had en suite bathrooms – a rare luxury for the day – as well as their own balconies, private sitting rooms and drawing rooms arranged in suites. It was also one of the first houses in Britain to have all the main rooms heated by warm air.
LCE prepared a feasibility design to convert the house into hotel. The key to the development was how additions could be made to the house without compromising the existing building or its setting. The slope of the land across the site means that the full height basement is at natural ground level, which results in the ground floor terrace to the south of the house being a full storey above ground. It is therefore possible to have a single line of bedrooms under this terraces with views of the South Downs, served by a corridor looking into the existing open light wells that separate it from the back of house areas in the existing basement. By further optimising the differences in level around the house, this run of bedrooms could extend to the west at the lower level wrapping around a croquet lawn.
The front of house areas could take full advantage of the Grade II* interiors. In view of the foresight in the original design with en suite bathrooms it was easy to accommodate 18 bedrooms in the main house with minimal intervention and a further 40 rooms could be accommodated as described above.
In the end, the client decided to keep it as a house, in which he still lives.