“The Big White House”, on the beach at Pett Level was featured in an episode of Channel 4’s “Grand Designs”.
The road from Winchelsea Beach, for about 2.5 miles in a westerly direction, leads to the small, quiet village of Pett Level where the Royal Military Canal ends its 28 mile journey from Hythe at Cliff End.
For a tiny village, Pett Level has a fascinating mixture of architectural styles, all situated within a space of one hundred yards, including a row of six early Victorian Coastguards’ cottages, and close to them a substantial white house in the shape of a cube. Its construction was featured in the television programme “Grand Designs” by the architect Kevin McCloud. Influenced by the style of Japanese houses, ‘The Big White House’ has flexible accommodation coupled with the latest technology and unbroken sea views. The garden is surrounded by a wall of huge oak ‘sleepers’ and houses an eclectic mix of modern sculptures among some unusual plants. The same can be said of the garden of neighbouring ‘Sea House’, another cube which is timber clad and painted black. It features a number of reconfigured windows each expressing its own identity, like pictures in a gallery. Between these two cubes is ‘Link Cottage’, a new ‘modernist’ style house extensively clad in unbleached wood. It is horizontally layered with balconies and huge floor to ceiling windows. The gardens behind the houses on this stretch have direct access to the seawall and thence to the beach.
The inspiration for these contemporary homes almost certainly came from ‘The Beach House’ a stunning cube from an earlier era. Built on concrete stilts it comprises three floors and has an external steel stairway that links the ground floor to the upper balconies. The house combines Sussex vernacular materials with the clean lines of the Bauhaus School of the thirties. Close to the sea and surrounded by pine trees, its privacy adds to its air of romance.
The properties on this stretch are given protection from the ravages of the sea by the huge shingle bank that butts up against the Fairlight cliffs.
Turning right along the sea wall, there is a tiny chapel and The Pett Level Life Boat House with its makeshift slipway running through the shingle and down to the sea. Then comes a small cluster of well maintained and sought- after holiday caravans with verandas and pretty gardens, nestled in safety behind the sea wall.
En route, the road has the 1940’s sea defence wall on its left and the Pett Pools, large shallow lakes and reed beds, to its right. These Pools attract a wide variety of breeding and over-wintering wildfowl and water birds, together with the many ‘twitchers’ who come to study and photograph them, especially when a rare sighting is reported. The more conventional houses on the north bank of the Canal, look across the water and the adjoining road.
Pett Level is popular with London creatives looking for a breath of sea air with a quick commute to the capital.