Villa Rotonda and its influence

Henbury Hall

Design for the Henbury Rotunda, Henbury, Cheshire

Julian Bicknell
Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings Collection

Henbury Hall was built in 1984-86, the result of a collaboration between the patron Sebastian de Ferranti, the architect Julian Bicknell and the artist Felix Kelly, all Palladio enthusiasts.

Sir Vincent de Ferranti had bought the former 18th century hall and estate near Macclesfield, Cheshire in 1957, but soon after demolished the house and moved into the converted stable block.

With his son Sebastian, he contemplated rebuilding, playing with various ideas including erecting a Modernist house. However, after a conversation with Felix Kelly, Sebastian de Ferranti decided to create a Palladian temple in which he could live. Kelly produced an artist’s impression and Sebastian contacted various architects to realise the design.

In 1983, Sebastian de Ferranti chose Julian Bicknell, an architect who had worked previously at Castle Howard alongside Kelly, to execute the project. Bicknell designed a structure closer to Kelly’s painting, modelling the house on the Villa Rotonda.

Some alterations to Palladio’s design were made. These included reducing the number of columns from six to four in the porticos, adding giant Venetian windows to the façade under each portico and significantly raising the profile of the dome.

To provide more space for accommodation and better lighting, the entrance was no longer at piano nobile level. Palladio’s proportions and functional divisions of the structure were thus subtly changed: this is a Neo-Palladian interpretation of the Villa Rotonda for modern living in Britain.

It was recently featured in an exhibition of 'New Palladians', along with other works by Julian Bicknell’s practice, joining a long list of contemporary British architects who continue to be inspired by Palladio.

You can find out more on Julian Bicknell’s practice and understanding of Palladio, in Palladio’s legacy.