20th Century Society welcomes listing of 1960s cliffhanger

By Culture24 Staff Published: 17 March 2009

a photo of a modern falt roofed building sat on the edge of a cliff

Parkham Wood House in Brixham

A striking and dramatically-perched house in the coastal town of Brixham in Devon has been given listing status by the DCMS after a recommendation from English Heritage.

Built in 1960 by regional architect Mervyn Seal, Parkham Wood House cantilevers out over a cliff edge overlooking the town and the bay and has been given grade II status after a request by the Twentieth Century (C20) Society.

In a statement the C20 Society said they were pleased with the decision to list the strikingly modern house.

“The C20 Society is delighted, not least because we have rediscovered and underlined the importance of a hitherto largely overlooked, regional architect. Despite numerous awards for housing, Mervyn Seal has never previously been given any national recognition."

a photo of a split level building interior with wood panelling and seventies style decor

The interior of the House

Built against a steep cliff with natural rock formations into the design, the house’s unusual design is further enhanced by a dramatic zigzag driveway that was cut out of the rock.

Now that Parkham Wood, the earliest and best survivor of the four ‘butterfly’ houses designed by Seal in the Torbay area is listed the Society are hoping the architect’s national importance will now be recognised.

As part of their recommendation for the listing, English Heritage praised the house for its innovative and striking design, describing it as “a very interesting example of English domestic architecture that faithfully follows particular aspects of international 1930s architectural idiom and theory, as expressed by Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier.”

As well as marking the building as being of architectural and historic interest, the Listing status means that consent must be applied for before any changes can be made to the building that might affect its special interest. Of the estimated 500,000 listed buildings in England, the total number of post-war listed buildings has been calculated to be 0.11% (425) of the total.

Mr Seal described himself as being "extremely happy" about the decision.