A Report by Tim Brittain-Catlin, 2002
Monkton Wyld Court is one of a very few houses designed by Richard Cromwell Carpenter, the great hope of early Victorian Gothic architecture who died in his early forties in 1855. Inspired by his exact contemporary Augustus Pugin, the prophet of the Gothic Revival in England, Carpenter designed many fine churches during his short working life. His interpretation of the English Gothic style was personal and perhaps even slightly eccentric, but always original and creative, and altogether lacks the heaviness of later Victorian architecture. Possibly his most famous work is the quadrangle he designed at Lancing College, which was continued after his death by his son.
Carpenter designed three parsonages; at Bovey Tracey in Devon, at Kilndown near Lamberhurst in West Kent, and at Monkton Wyld, where he also designed the parish church. Although the house at Bovey Tracey is small and relatively conventional, the houses at Kilndown (1846) and Monkton Wyld (1848) are ambitious, highly ornate, and very original. Kilndown vicarage is now a private family home, but that at Monkton Wyld, now named Monkton Wyld Court, houses a lively community that welcomes visitors and thus gives many people the opportunity to enjoy its architecture.
The garden front at Monkton Wyld Court is principally derived from the great 15th-century Gothic manor house at Great Chalfield, not far away in Wiltshire. This house was well known to antiquarians and architects in the 1830s, since it was illustrated and published in detail as a rare surviving example of English mediaeval architecture. Carpenter did not however copy his house from Great Chalfield: he developed an original plan, and an expressive architectural vocabulary that distinguished between the different roles of the main rooms of the house in the way that Pugin had called for. Furthermore, the delicate tracery and decorative details of the garden elevation are an invaluable indication of the way in which the English Gothic Revival architecture was moving, even before the publication of Ruskin’s The Stones of Venice. The house has retained almost all of its original decorative features, including doors, fireplaces and its kitchen court, and therefore is invaluable to posterity as a record of Carpenter’s skill, as well as being an elegiac indication of what Carpenter might have gone on to do had he lived longer.