Family Group Sheet
Family Group Sheet
NameDetmar Jellings BLOW JP FRIBA
Birth1867
Death1939
EducationHawtreys and South Kensington School of Art
Marriage1910
SpouseWinifred Gertrude TOLLEMACHE
Birth1882
Death1954
Children
Birth1919
Death1977
Birth1915
Death1963
Birth1914
Death1956
Birth1923
Notes for Detmar Jellings BLOW JP FRIBA
3rd son. British architect of the early 20th century, who designed principally in the arts and crafts style. His clients belonged chiefly to the British aristocracy, and later he became estates manager to the Duke of Westminster.

Early career
Blow was one of the last disciples of John Ruskin whom as a young man he had accompanied on his last journey abroad. Blow was patronised by the Wyndham family, who at their country house Clouds in Wiltshire created a salon frequented by many of the leading intellectual and artistic figures of the day, known as The Souls, who welcomed Blow into their midst admiring his romantic socialist views.

Blow's architectural work was very much influenced by his mentors Ruskin, William Holman Hunt and Philip Webb, the architect of Clouds (1886). In his early career he adopted the role of the wandering architect, travelling artisan-like with his own band of masons from project to project. He married the aristocratic and intellectual Winifred Tollemache, and began to be patronised by the higher echelons of the British aristocracy. While much of his early work was, like that of his contemporary Lutyens, in the Arts and Crafts style, his later work was dictated by the whims of his aristocratic patrons. At one point during his career he and Lutyens contemplated entering together into an architectural partnership.

Amongst the buildings designed by Blow were Hilles, near Stroud in Gloucestershire, the mansion he built for himself after 1914, very much influenced by the ideals of Ruskin, Webb and Morris. In 1908 he rebuilt Bramham Park for the Lane Fox family; however, this commission was a restoration of the former Baroque house which had been severely damaged by fire in 1828.

Blow designed various properties for the Duke of Westminster, including a hunting lodge near Bordeaux. In due course he became a great friend of the Duke, which led to the latter appointing Blow in 1916 to manage the vast Westminster estates which covered vast tracts of Belgravia and Mayfair in London, a position to which the idealistic Blow was completely unsuitable. As a result of the demands of running Westminster's estate, Blow allowed his architectural career to dwindle. This proved to be a catastrophic mistake, when his reputation was later destroyed. Blow had become enemies with the Duchess of Westminster who convinced her husband that Blow was embezzling money from the estate, a claim Blow vigorously denied. Following a vindictive campaign of hatred by the Westminsters, Blow and his family were shunned by society. He was driven by the scandal to insanity.

After his death and the divorce of the Duke and Duchess of Westminster the Duke re-investigated the matter and found Blow to be innocent of all accusations of dishonesty.

Notable works
• Amesbury Abbey, Wiltshire
• Billesley Manor, Warwickshire
• Bramham Park, Yorkshire
• Breccles Hall, Norfolk
• Eaton Hall (Cheshire)
• Happisburgh Manor (St Mary's), Norfolk
• Hatch House, Wiltshire
• Heale House, Wiltshire
• Hilles, Stroud, Gloucestershire
• Holcombe House, Stroud, Gloucestershire
• Horwood House, Little Horwood, Buckinghamshire
• Lake House, Wiltshire
• Lavington Park, West Sussex
• Stanway House, Gloucestershire

He was educated at Hawtreys and at South Kensington School of Art, where in 1883 he formed a long-standing friendship with his fellow student Lutyens. In 1885 he was articled to Wilson, Son & Aldwinckle with whom he stayed for four years, attending the classes of the Architectural Association from 1887. He won both the Association's Silver Medal and travelling studentship and the Royal Academy's Silver Medal and travelling studentship, enabling him to undertake an extended continental study tour, initially with Sydney Cockerell. At Abbeville in 1888 they met Ruskin who first supervised their studies and then took Blow on a tour of Italy in the autumn and winter of 1889. On his return to London he worked with the Bond Street art dealer Arthur Collie and made the acquaintance of Sedding, Morris, Lethaby, Reginald Blomfield, Sydney Barnsley and Ernest Gimson. On Ruskin's advice he spent almost a year with a working mason in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, learning the practical business of building before completing his articles with Philip Speakman Webb, whose repair and restoration work on East Knoyle Church he supervised in 1891-93.

In 1892 Blow won the Pugin Prize and was admitted to the Art Workers' Guild. In the previous year he had been commissioned to advise on work on Hugh Fairfax Cholmeley's Gilling Castle estate, and he was formally appointed its architect in 1893. A London office shared with Alfred Hoare Powell was opened at 21 Old Buildings, Lincoln's Inn, but he continued to operate a peripatetic architect-craftsman practice with a caravan until 1906 when he formed a partnership with the Frenchman Fernand Billerey, born 1878, who was eleven years younger. Billerey was Ecole des Beaux-Arts trained and much of the practice of Blow & Billerey thereafter took a French eighteenth-century character, their principal client being the Duke of Westminster.

Blow married in 1910 Winifred Tollemache, second daughter of the Hon Hamilton Tollemache of Helmingham Hall. This consolidated his high society connections, but with the advent of the First World War the practice began to run out of work. In 1916 he became the Duke of Westminster's private secretary and manager of the Grosvenor estates, although his partnership with Billerey was to continue until 1924, Billerey retaining the practice title of Blow & Billerey. Part of Blow's financial arrangements with the Duke was the gift from him of seven leases in Mayfair, the sub-leasing of which financed the Blows' lifestyle at Hilles, Gloucestershire, which they had built in 1914-17. In 1933 these arrangements turned sour with largely unfounded allegations of financial mismanagement of the Grosvenor estates and the sub-leases in particular. Although Blow repaid the monies from the sub-leases, further allegations continued to be made: Blow thereafter retired completely to Hilles where he died on 7 February 1939. Billerey survived him, living on until 1951.
Last Modified 28 Jun 2015Created 28 Jan 2018 using Reunion for Macintosh