Oliver Hill – Architect

Oliver Hill

Oliver Hill is not a name that is in the super league as it were of architects, the vast majority of the population probably do not know who he is or what he has done. But when you ask about Norman Foster or Frank Gehry people will quite happily talk about them until the cows come home (yes I have to put a cliche in here, if you don’t like it go cry in your classical English dictionary.)

Here is some background about him from Garden Visit:

English architect, landscape architect and garden designer. A family friend of Edwin Lutyens, Oliver Hill was apprenticed to a builder and then to an architect. After gaining a reputation as a country house architect he began to design gardens and became a Fellow of the Institute of Landscape Architects. Oliver Hill’s early garden designs were in the Arts and Crafts style but he turned towards modernism in the 1930s, favouring curved lines.

So why do I like him, well he designs in one of my favourite styles Art Deco with all the bells and whistles. His most accomplished pieces is the Midland Hotel in Morecambe (England;) with streamlined curves designed for the LMS railways in the 1930’s. This vast piece is the iconic image of Morecambe and has been recently restored to its former glory by Urban Splash and architects Union North.

Midland Hotel

The second reason is that although he appears to be a normal Brit from the outside, like many geniuses there was an altergether more excentric side to the architect.  He enjoyed nothing more than “slipping away” at the weekend in his blue Rolls-Royce coupe with pink trim to Valewood Farm, his bric-a-brac-crammed farmhouse near Haslemere, with its musical lavatory-paper dispenser, peacocks and parrots. There he would don “any absurd suit of clothing to suit his mood”, only to take it off to surprise his guests into joining nudist frolics on the hilltops in high summer.

This was my homage to the great man, if anyone could tell me any more info about him I would be greatful.

Ross Hetherington

Owner of this website

7 thoughts on “Oliver Hill – Architect

  1. Around 1966 – 67 I was a Design Engineer with Hotpoint in Peterborough. Oliver Hill was commisioned to lift the appearance of the Top Loading and Twin Tub Washing Machines out of the “engineered” appearance of the late 1950’s. The Oliver Hill I knew had a Studio in Kensington. Could this be the same man? If it is him I have copiesof the Sales and Marketing Brochure of that time.

  2. Hill was married to my godmother and as a child I used to go and stay with them in many Summers in the 50’s and early 60s. He was a great practical joker and often involved me me in his pranks. I remember him showing me the plans for a grand mansion for the Wills tobacco family and then showing how he took the whole design from a packet of Gold Flake cigarettes.

  3. My late Grand-parents rented Valewood Farm from Oliver Hill for 5 years during the 1940’s and were lucky to experience the paradise of living in his wonderful country residence with its sunken elliptical swimming pool, the peacocks (no parrots at that time!) bronze gazelles, gypsy caravan, huge barns and loggias, and the tree-house by the lake etc., etc. My Grandfather himself was an artist so greatly appreciated the work of a fellow creative mind, and likewise I think Oliver Hill liked having another artist living in his home. My Mother and my Uncle (now in their 70’s) still have very clear and fond memories of that unique period in their lives. And yes the musical toilet-roll dispenser did exist and played a tune right up until the time that they left!

  4. MY garndmother used to go and stay with him at his house when she was about 8 she is now 83. He used to pick her up in his rolls royce and would stay with him for the weekend he had 2 dogs at this point and a monkey called george! It was only last weekend she found some old photographs of them all on one of their weekends away.

  5. Oliver Hill sketched a design for a memorial to Detmar Blow at Cud Hill, Upton St. Leonards, Gloucester. The base of the memorial was erected but not roofed. Recently someone has added a ghastly looking baroque style roof and I would be most interested to see the original design drawing. Can anyone suggest where this might be please ?

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