A Passion for Architecture

PUBLISHED: 12:07 28 September 2011 | UPDATED: 20:04 20 February 2013

A Passion for Architecture

A Passion for Architecture

A Passion for Architecture<br/><br/>Sue Bradbury meets Stephen Tyrrell and finds out why he can't stop studying buildings

Stephens fascination with architectural history was sparked in his childhood

Homes are a reflection of an individuals social aspirations

Stephen Tyrrell is passionate about buildings. So much so, that he cheerfully admits to drawing the layout of every interesting one he comes across.

Architectural historian, author, editor, speaker, businessman and owner of a small country house estate near Falmouth, Stephen is one of those larger-than-life characters who never fails to entertain. Tall, fiercely intelligent and with a dry wit, Stephen likes to be forthright but not with malice. Instead, despite describing himself as shy and retiring, he livens up social gatherings with a blend of astute observation, off-the-wall comments, likeability and charm.

Educated at Winchester and Trinity College in Cambridge, Stephen married Katharine Cavendish at Constantine Church in 1978. They have three children Eleanor, Philip and Josephine, all now married and home for the last 25 years has been Bosvathick, the lovely listed Georgian house that has been in Kates family since 1760.

It is a fitting setting for a man who confesses he cannot watch a film or look at a painting without studying the background. Forget the bride and groom in artist William Hogarths work The Wedding Banquet, which hangs in the Royal Cornwall Museum it is the room with all its nooks and crannies that fascinates Stephen.

Stephens fascination with architectural history was sparked in his childhood when his father owned a series of beautiful old houses. I grew up surrounded by some wonderful buildings and spent ages mentally taking them apart, says Stephen. Winchester has been a school for over 600 years and is an astonishing collection of historic edifices. To study there and have the opportunity of singing in daily services in the 14th-century chapel felt very special.

Those early experiences had a powerful impact on Stephen and although he went into banking, trade and construction after graduation, it wasnt long before he followed his heart and started training and working in the design and renovation of buildings, which led to a career as an architectural historian. So immersed has he now become in industry that, when he walks into a house these days, hes acutely aware of the details most of us would fail to register.

I suppose Im a bit like a farmer who looks at a herd of cows and can immediately spot that the third one on the left has got something wrong with its hoof, says Stephen. I seem to see details that arent always apparent to other people and I envisage buildings as three dimensional images in my head. Construction fascinates me. Even when I go out to lunch I find myself looking at walls and beams I just cant stop it.

Stephens knowledge, experience and expertise have led to a string of Listed building design and construction awards. He works on the renovation of old buildings and the job list in recent years, which includes many prestigious houses, is now several hundred projects long. A frequent speaker on the subject, he is also a prolific author, editor and publisher, with books on Pentillie Castle, Harlyn House, the Earl of St Germans estate at Port Eliot, Caerhays Castle and, of course Bosvathick, to name but a few. Others are in the pipeline.

One definition of architecture could be that it is the study of social reaction to a clients wish to climb, says Stephen. Homes are a reflection of an individuals social aspirations. With historic buildings and their preservation so very close to Stephens heart, its not surprising that he also runs a holiday cottage agency. All the houses on his books have been personally selected by him for their location, architecture and history and anyone staying in them can expect truly remarkable settings.

Mellinzeath Farmhouse on the Helford River is the most popular house on his books with almost year-long occupancy rates. It has no TV, washing machine, freezer or microwave and visitors have to go outside to use the propertys bathroom and toilet wing. It holds a glorious, secluded spot in a tiny meadow next to a stream, with large wood fires, thick granite walls, a thatched roof and centuries of history. Guests are advised to bring rubber boots and be adventurous and hundreds visit each year.

We dont do boring houses each one is special in its own way, even the more modern ones, says Stephen. Im always looking out for new ones to add to the range on offer but they have to stand out from the crowd. Weve recently taken on Curlew House, for example, which, although built in the 1980s, is in a fantastic position in Antony Passage on the north bank of the River Lynher and is a great place for birdwatching, Stephen says.

Around half of Stephens forgotten houses as he calls them, have been renovated under his eye and some are on the sort of estates that the public cant generally access like beautiful 16th century Boconnoc, near Lostwithiel, Trereife House near Penzance and Bosvarren, near Constantine. He also has unusual houses in Wales and France.

Where some of us just see windows and doors, Stephen sees meaning. Where we see rooms, he sees possibilities. And where we see a nice house, he sees a monument to past aspirations. I dont always remember someones name but if theyve told me about their home I do remember that, he says.

For more information visit http://www.forgottenhouses.co.uk/

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