As a Director in Savills Country Department, Paul Finnegan visits some of the UK’s finest properties and estates. Over 35 years, he’s admired exceptional architecture, and stood in rooms of great cultural and historic significance. Then he came upon Cherry Hill.
Situated at the heart of Surrey’s Wentworth estate, alongside, but hidden from, the fourth fairway of the famous golf course, Cherry Hill has been a flagship of British modernism, it’s welcomed royalty and heads of state and, in the past decade, has been restored and enlarged to the most exquisite of standards. All in a little over 80 years.
“It is rare to find this standard of architecture in such a glorious and desirable setting,” says Finnegan. “Cherry Hill was designed by the visionary architect Oliver Hill in 1935 and showcased in a Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) exhibition in 1937.
“At that time, it was called Holthanger, but was renamed Cherry Hill after the new US ambassador to Britain, John Hay Whitney, bought it in 1958. The name derives from the Cherry Hills Country Club in Denver, where Whitney played golf with President Dwight D Eisenhower.”
Befitting a US ambassador from one of the US’s oldest and richest families, Whitney and his wife Betsey invited royalty, presidents and prime ministers to their strikingly modern country residence. Even after his term as ambassador was over, Whitney regularly returned to Cherry Hill and owned the property until his death in 1982. The house was sold a few years later.
Following a period of neglect, Cherry Hill was rescued by a developer who understood the importance of the estate’s heritage, but also recognised the standards of design and build an owner would expect of a house in such a prestigious location.
“Over the past decade, Cherry Hill has been gloriously restored and enlarged to the very highest standard by the current owners,” says Finnegan. “In consultation with respected designers, historians and architects, the property’s original character has been retained and enhanced, producing a modern, luxurious living environment with all the appropriate facilities and fittings of a residence of this magnificence.
“The design uses a cohesive palette of stone, marble, steel and glass, with the finest materials sourced globally, including a garden wall of Verde Tinos marble cut from a single block found on the Greek island of Tinos, and the rare green-grey and cream ‘zebra-striped’ Calacatta marble in the master bathroom suite brought from Italy.
The house now measures approximately 15,000 sq ft and sweeps from east to west, following the sun. Its expanse of glass and light, open spaces interact with the terraces and gardens and form warm and bright living areas.
The infilled east courtyard has been rebuilt and now houses a basement cinema, study, laundry and wine cellar with a subterranean link to a new single-storey, stand-alone pavilion which provides guest accommodation, a new plant room and a large garage.
To the west of the main house, a new wing has been constructed beyond the defining curved wall of Hill’s original design. Planned on three levels, this provides a generous part double-height reception room, two guest bedrooms adjoining a south-facing balcony, a spa and relaxation suite and the house’s most dramatic contemporary feature – an underground indoor swimming pool.
Most importantly, Cherry Hill’s architecture is as striking today as when it was first built.