Comment: Celebrating a local architect's unique legacy

One of Ferrum House's four bedrooms. 

Ferrum House is on the market for £2.5m. - Credit: The Modern House

This week's Property Spotlight is a bit of an unusual one.

While multi-million pound properties on exclusive private roads are par for the course in Harpenden, not many of them are as distinctive or as spectacular as Ferrum House. 

Acclaimed architect Jack Bonnington designed this steel-framed property - a rarity at the time - and moved into it with his wife Esme and their two children in 1964. 

Jack said his inspiration, Bauhaus architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, “taught me about the elimination of superfluous detail”, something that he firmly put into practice with this build. 

Ferrum House is minimal in the extreme, and it's also on the market for the first time ever following Jack's death last year. 

My predecessor Andrew Bullock was lucky enough to meet Jack at his home back in 2016, and the architect was well aware that the house wasn't for everyone. 

“It appeals to some people, but not many,” Jack said. “I once invited the senior partner of a big firm I was working with to come and visit. When he came, he asked when I was going to finish it.

“We were very lucky with this build," he added. "The chief engineer in Harpenden had all the powers of planning at the time, and was very keen on modern architecture. There was no hesitation approving this project.

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“We would never get planning permission to do this now. Never. These days, things have got to be a copy of something that never existed. Planners are very difficult. Designs have to fit in. It’s ignorant, frankly.”

Jack wasn't all about the mid-century modern, however: he was once the owner of Grade I listed Tyttenhanger House, a 17th century pile sitting in 40 acres just outside London Colney.

The ornamental fish pond at Tyttenhanger House

The ornamental fish pond at Tyttenhanger House - Credit: Archant

Jack oversaw its conversion to offices in 1973, after which it became the home of his architecture firm.

Different to Ferrum House in every way imaginable - apart from its hefty price tag - it was sold in 2018 for £4.7m. 

Jack may be gone, but his legacy lives on locally in these two amazing buildings.