Britain has some truly unusual houses, each with ability to make a passerby stop and wonder if what they are seeing is actually real. Some were built to inspire wonder while others were simply created as a process of history. These strange houses are just a few of the weird and wonderful homes that can be found in the United Kingdom.
The Traffic Island House – Stanton Drew
At the northern entrance to the village of Stanton Drew, and just before the bridge over the River Chew, is a white thatched, fifteenth-century cottage which was used as a turnpike toll house during the eighteenth century. It is a Grade II listed building and is located on a small triangular traffic-island at a T-junction. Although it’s known as the Round House, it is actually hexagonal and designed in the Picturesque Gothic style. It features a pointed arched door as well as a pointed arched casement with leaded lights. The apex of the thatched roof has a moulding that may represent the cup of an acorn. It was occupied as recently as 2012 and has a shield constructed to protect the front of the property.
‘The House in the Sea’ – Newquay
This is the only house with its own island and suspension bridge in Britain and probably the World. It’s located on a tidal island on the popular surfing beach of Newquay, Cornwall. The Island was first sold in 1838 to the Billing brothers who used it as a potato patch. The suspension bridge was built in 1902 and the house was built in 1910. Owners and visitors have included Dr O’Flaherty, a rich Canadian who played the organ at midnight, Alexander Lodge who invented the Lodge Spark Plug and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle creator of the fictional character Sherlock Holmes. It has been an art gallery and a tea room. There is garage parking for two vehicles … on the other side of the 70ft high and 100ft long suspension bridge.
‘House in the Clouds’ – Thorpeness
One of the best known ‘curious’ houses of Britain is the “House in the Clouds’ which started its life in 1923 as a water tower for the village of Thorpeness. The structure was considered extremely ugly and it was later disguised as a house. It was originally designed for Mrs Malcolm Mason who was responsible for naming it the “House in the Clouds”. During WWII an anti-aircraft shell was accidentally fired through the upper structure but fortunately nobody was injured. In 1979 the main tank was removed and the additional space converted.. The actual cottage is only the top part of the structure and now features five bedrooms and three bathrooms. It no longer operates as a water tower.
Centre Parcs – Tree House
In the UK, Center Parcs is a collection of holiday villages located in very forested areas of the countryside where the accommodation is designed and built to appear rustic and in harmony with the environment. The owners decided to extend the natural living concept and in 2010 construction began on a series of luxury tree-houses. The first were completed in 2010 and are situated in the Sherwood Forest Complex surrounded by 400 acres of woodland. Each tree house has four double bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms as well as various reception rooms. Since their construction they have proved to be very topical and highly photogenic with images of the structures appearing across the internet. The tree houses are designed to be eco-friendly.
The Pineapple House – Dunmore
During the 18th century people who had travelled to the Indies and America would often bring back exotic fruits as trophies of their voyages. In particular they would choose items that would keep reasonably well during the lengthy journey such as coconuts and pineapples. The 4th Earl of Dunmore was the last British Governor of Virginia who returned home to Scotland in 1776. The story goes that he was so impressed by the Pineapple that in 1777 he had his traditional summerhouse extended with a giant pineapple as the main feature. The summerhouse overlooks a large walled garden and houses a modest pavilion. The style may be eccentric but the architecture and masonry work is of the highest standard. The property can be rented from the Landmark Trust as holiday accommodation.
The Bottle House – Tixall
Known today as ‘Bottle Lodge”, this tiny house in the picturesque village of Tixall was probably built as a folly associated with Tixall Hall (or possibly even the magnificent Shugborough Estate) and dates back to around 1807. (some say 1575) Local historians believe that it was later used as a toll house and its position next to the bridleway from Great Haywood to Tixall would have been perfect. It is directly opposite Tixall Farm and during the 19th century it was used by the local shepherd. It’s octagonal in shape and made from ashlar stone with an ogee stone vaulted roof . It features mullioned windows, moulded stone eves and a cambered stone doorway. It has been listed as a Building of Special Architectural or Historic Interest.
Clavell Tower – Kimmeridge
Clavell Tower, or the Kimmeridge Tower as it is also known, was built in 1830 on the top of Hen Cliff overlooking Kimmeridge Bay in Dorset. It was originally constructed as a folly and observatory by Reverend John Richards Clavell of Smedmore House. it is made of mortared stone with brick windows in the Tuscan style. It has four floors which includes a basement. It is said to have been the inspiration for Baroness James’s award winning novel, ‘The Black Tower’ published in 1975. It was also once used as a romantic hideaway by the novelist Thomas Hardy and his first love Eliza Nicholl. In 1985 it was even featured in a pop music video by the band ‘The Style Council’. Located on the famous Jurassic Coast, it was restored in 2008 and moved 25 metres inland to protect it from cliff erosion.
The Thin House – London
The Thin House (Number 5) at the junction of South Terrace and Thurloe Square in Knightsbridge, London, has become something of a tourist attraction. Approached from the west the entire house appears to be only 7ft wide. This is something of an optical illusion as the house is actually triangular in shape and widens out a little. Even so it’s still only 34ft across at its widest point. The reason for this unusual shape is the adjacent railway line. What isn’t certain is if the house was modified when the track was built or if it was constructed with a wedge shape from the start. Even with its odd shape the house is estimated to be worth well over two million pounds given where its located in the heart of London’s Royal Borough of Kensington.
Martello Tower House – Bawdsey
In 1804 the threat of invasion by Napoleon was a real danger. The solution; build, at great expense, 103 forts along the South East coast of Britain from Seaford in Sussex to Aldeburgh in Suffolk. Each tower was 30ft high with walls 13ft thick and featured a roof mounted cannon able to fire iron and lead balls more than a mile out to sea. The plan to remodel the tower near Bawdsey into a home was conceptualised in 2000. Working with heritage organisations, the designers spent several years restoring the structure and converting it into habitable accommodation. A parasol dome encloses the roof and provides spectacular views of the surrounding region. At night, with the mists coming in off the sea, the saucer of light could easily fool a passerby into thinking a UFO had just landed.
The Balancing Barn – Thorington
The ‘Balancing Barn’ near Thorington in Suffolk is a interesting example of how modern architecture can be integrated into a rural and natural landscape. Located on the edge of a nature reserve the house replaced an earlier brick cottage. Conceptualised and designed by the Dutch firm MVRDV, the house dramatically extends over a slope in the landscape, thus offering exceptional views of the surrounding woodland from its large panoramic windows. The 30 metre-long building, clad with stainless steel, is intended to be a modern interpretation of the traditional Suffolk barn. It is managed by Living Architecture and sleeps up to eight people in four double bedrooms. The structure had to be anchored securely with sufficient weight to maintain its stability.
And the bonus house … because it was just too good to leave out!
The Headington Shark – Oxford
There must be very few towns in the world that can claim to have their own giant fiberglass shark protruding from the roof og an otherwise normal residential kome. Headington, near Oxford in England, may actually be the only one. In first appeared on the 9th of August 1986 and looked as if it had fallen from the skype to pierce the roof of number 2 New High Street. Natrually it quickly became a press sensation that was covered by media from around the world. Called “Untitled 1986” it was put in place to mark the 41st anniverary of use of an atomic wapon on Nakasaki. It also symbolically had a direct link to the Chernobyl disaster and is said to have demonstrated the danger could fall from the sky at any time anywhere. What the Headington Shark really represents is something hard to define about the British culture. Perhaps it’s a desire to be different or an innate sense of eccentricity but it is really no different from the thousands of other less recent follies that litter the UK landscape.
Where you see the symbol of a key in a photograph it means that these properties can be rented for holiday or temporary accommodation.