A great walking guide to Trobridge’s buildings in Kingsbury is available here.
The architecture of Ernest Trobridge is certainly not modernist, but it is an intrinsic part of Metro-Land. Influenced by his lifelong Swedenborgian beliefs, Trobridge’s houses for ex-servicemen looked to create a harmonious rural home in a fast growing part of the metropolis. Ernest George Trobridge was born in Northern Ireland in 1884, his father was a landscape painter and a believer in Swedenborgianism. Swedenborgianism, also known as The New Church, is a Christian denomination developed by Emanuel Swedenborg in the 18th Century, that looked to re-establish the primacy of scripture, and in particular charity. Ernest trained as an architect in Belfast before moving to London in 1907. He started his practice designing churches, before moving onto houses in the North London region.
n 1915 he moved to Kingsbury with his wife, Jennie Pulsford, where he began to formulate his ideas to help solve the post World War One housing crisis, specifically to house the returning soldiers. He first debuted these ideas at the Ideal Home Exhibition of 1920, exhibiting a house building system using green elm wood, thatched roofs and brick used only in fireplaces and chimneys, to counteract the post war material shortages. The use of green elm wood allowed the house to be completed in only 8 weeks from felling, and weighed a fifth of a similar sized brick house.This design was well received and Trobridge subsequently purchased a tract of land in Kingsbury to built the Fern Dene estate. Originally planned to have 32 residences, after protracted disputes with Kingsbury Urban District Council, only 10 were built, including one for Trobridge. The estate was not a financial success and for his second project, the Elmwood Estate, a member of the New Church had to step in and cover costs.
After the problems encountered in the construction of these two estates, Trobridge took on more work from individual clients, designing a number of homes, broadening his range of materials to include brick and tiles for either external tile hanging or roofing. These houses were largely in Colindale and Kingsbury, and can still be seen in Colindeep Lane, Buck Lane and Hayland Close in these areas. He was still adapting his designs to accommodate new materials and even included reinforced concrete in a number of houses on Highfield Avenue. It would be his 1930’s designs that would win him architectural fame. His most iconic building is probably the castle turreted Highfort Court on Buck Lane, upon which John Betjeman famously perched in his Metro-Land documentary. A number of other Trobridge designed buildings feature in this area, most of which have some form of battlements or castle theme. In the late 1930’s, Trobridge concentrated on designing flats, with Old St Andrews Mansions in Wembley being a good example of his later use of brickwork, particularly in the staircase and chimney designs.
As another war in Europe became more and more inevitable, Trobridge turned his mind to a modern version of the medieval castle, designing houses with a dual purpose garage/air raid shelter. These interesting designs were never built. Trobridge didn’t live to see the return of the troops of another world war, dying in 1942 after his strict vegetarianism stopped him taking the insulin that would have saved his life from Diabetes. His houses live on,with many now listed by English Heritage among the approximate 200 that survive, still providing security and comfort for the ordinary men, women and children of the North West London region he made his home.
A great walking guide to Trobridge’s buildings in Kingsbury is available here.
Metro-Land is 100 years old is this year. At least the idea of Metro-Land is 100 years old, which is all Metro-Land is anyway. In 1915 an employee of the Metropolitan Railway, James Garland, came up with the concept of Metro-Land to help sell some the excess land the Met had acquired in extending its railways out from the capital into the greenery north of London. This extension linked up the capital to villages such as Wembley, Harrow, Pinner and Ruislip, and towns like Amersham and Aylesbury. The surplus land was handed over to a newly formed company, the Metropolitan Railway Country Estates Limited (MRCE) which drew up plans to create commuter villages at some of the villages along the new railway. The first estates were built at Neasden (Kingsbury Garden Village), Wembley (Wembley Garden Suburb), Pinner (Cecil Park and the Grange Estate) and Rickmansworth (the Cecil Estate). These new garden villages were largely fashioned in the Arts and Crafts style, created by architects such as Oliver Hill who designed Wembley Garden Village.
Cover of the 1921 Metro-Land guidebook
Image from Wikipedia
The idea of Metro-Land, echoed by the tiled cottages of the garden villages, was to create a rural idyll for the commuter to escape to (via the Metropolitan Railway) after a day in the city. Posters show houses surrounded by gardens and parks where the harassed white collar worker could enjoy his free time and live in harmony with nature (at least until Monday morning). Metro-Land didn't just have the MCRE to publicise it, but also it’s own Poet Laureate. John Betjeman hymned Metro-Land praises in verses such as “Harrow-on-the-Hill” and “Middlesex”, where the poet talked of such places as Perivale, Wealdstone and Ruislip Gardens. Later on screen, his Metro-Land documentary, broadcast in 1973, went on to become a television classic.
The question; what is Metro-Land? is easier to define than where is Metro-Land? As the MRCE produced Metro-Land guide famously said, it is “a country with elastic borders that each visitor can draw for himself”, an idea rather than a geographical marking. However we can shade in the map a little. Taking the aforementioned villages moving out in a line north west from Baker Street, we can see Metro-Land moving out of the capital from Neasden, taking in Wembley, Harrow, Ruislip, Pinner and then onto Amersham. Of course it didn't stick to this tidy trajectory. We can see its influence right around suburban London, taking in such places as Enfield, Barnet, Watford, Greenford, Ealing, Hillingdon, Hayes and all round the spreading ribbon developments of the capital. As another quote had it, “Metroland…the great suburban empire of the underground”.
Map of Metro-Land from in 1924 guidebook.
Image from Wikipedia
Being influenced by the Garden Suburb movement and due to its innate Englishness, the default architectural style of Metro-Land was nostalgic, a mixture of Mock Tudor and Elizabethan, nicknamed Tudorbeathen. However outbreaks of Modernism did occur in this realm of wistfulness. Charles Holden’s London Underground stations are the most prominent example. His ‘Sudbury Box’ first appeared at Sudbury Town in 1931, and its pared down brick and glass minimalism set a template for stations throughout suburbia. Another widespread but lesser known example of the Scandinavian modernism being built in Metro-Land were the schools of Curtis and Burchett for Middlesex County Council. The duo designed and built a swathe of schools throughout the county, often with their signature Dudok influenced central tower. The pair also built a number of other municipal facilities such as clinics, libraries and houses. There was also room among the mock timber for the white walled, flat roofed house. Welch, Lander and Day built large number of Deco influenced ‘Sun Trap’ houses throughout the 1930’s, as well as more robust looking brick dwellings in Hendon and on the Hanger Hill estate. The darlings of the international style in Britain were of course the partnership of Connell, Ward and Lucas. Their signature house ‘High and Over’ nestles in the green hills of Amersham on the Metropolitan Line, built in a Y plan for Professor Bernard Ashmole.. Perhaps even more cutting edge was their design for a whole estate in Pinner, of which only three houses were completed, 97, 99 & 101 Park Avenue. The art deco cinema was also in its golden age during the rise of Metro-Land, and many great examples still exist such as the Rayners Lane Grosvenor by local architect FE Bromige.
Sun Trap Houses, St Margaret's Estate, Edgware by Welch and Lander
Image from WGC Books
Much has changed in Metro-Land in the post war period. Just as Metro-Land had itself swallowed up tiny villages, the ever growing metropolis submerged the arcadian ideal sold on those posters from the MCRE. Now the former villages and Garden suburbs of Wembley, Pinner and Harrow have become part of the endless exterior sprawl of London, losing some of their unique character. And of course the growth of modernism in Metro-Land didn't stop either, it became part of the state sanctioned post war redevelopment. The harsher Brutalist style buildings of the the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s did not proliferate as much as in Central and East London, but there are some good examples of buildings by Erno Goldfinger, Owen Luder and the Smithsons in this area.
Palace of Arts, British Empire Exhibition, Wembley 1924
Image from NZ Design History
As redevelopment rumbles ever onward, many monuments to modernism in Metro-Land are disappearing, in the last year a number of buildings have been demolished, such as the Palace of Industry at Wembley and the Electricity Showrooms in Willesden.That of course is why we started this website, to document these wonderful and half forgotten buildings before they disappear through accident or design. This year we will be celebrating the great diversity of styles and architects that built modernist Metro-Land, from Holden’s tube stations and Wallis, Gilbert and Partners factories, to the individual Art Deco houses and on into the post war period of concrete and glass. We hope you will enjoy us in raising a toast to that country with elastic borders!
On 23rd August 1980, the Firestone Factory on Brentford’s ‘Golden Mile’ was demolished. Built in 1928 and designed by Wallis, Gilbert and Partners for the Firestone Tyre company. it’s demolition was done quickly on that August Bank Holiday weekend to avoid the building being listed, as had been recommended by an inspector from the Department of the Environment a week earlier. The outcry after the destruction of the factory led to greater powers being granted to list twentieth century buildings, and is regarded as the Twentieth Century Society's first important publicity case. In memory of this, we present an essay on the modernist factory originally written for Picpus magazine..
When people talk of iconic Modernist buildings, what are the first ones that are mentioned? Le Corbusier's Unite d’Habitation or Notre Daum du Haut?, Charles Holden’s Piccadilly Line Stations? or Erno Goldfinger’s Brutalist housing blocks? One type of building that isn’t immediately associated with the Modernist project are factories. But factories were among the first and most widespread Modernist buildings. The AEG Turbine Factory, Berlin (1909) by Peter Behrens and the Fagus Factory, Alfeld (1913) in Germany by Gropius and Meyer were among the earliest 20th Century buildings to follow the Modernist dictum, “form follows function”. As Modernism spread from Central Europe to the British Isles, this new form of factory design took hold quicker and with more acceptance than other buildings types, especially compared to housing which was still rooted in the Arts and Craft style. Out went the dark satanic mills of the industrial revolution, in came the whitewashed walls, large windows and open interior spaces of the International Style.
The two most significant designers of the Modernist factory in Britain were the firm of Wallis, Gilbert and Partners and the engineer turned architect Owen Williams. Wallis, Gilbert and Partners are most famous for their flamboyant Art Deco factories that were erected along the newly built roads into London such as Western Avenue and the Great West Road. The Grade II* listed Hoover Factory (1932-38) in Perivale is probably their most famous building. An Art Deco tour de force that was loved and hated in equal measure, Pevsner called it “perhaps the most offensive of the modernistic atrocities along this road of typical bypass factories”. The flamboyance of it’s ancient Egyptian decoration in colored tiling still gives a lift of the spirit to the thousand of commuters that pass it every day, just as it must have done to the workers who filed through its ornamental ironwork gates to clock on.
Owen Williams’ Boots Factory (1932) in Beeston, Nottinghamshire exemplified the puritanical end of the Modernist spectrum. More austere than Wallis, Gilbert and Partners Art Deco extravaganzas, but with a hint of German Expressionism, this was factory building not as mere icon or fulfillment of the owners ego, but as machine age functionalism. Designed to streamline every aspect of the industrial process, Williams combined flat slab concrete with curtain wall glazing to produce an integrated industrial site that could be rearranged or extended as needed. This was Williams masterpiece in factory building, something he had been building to since his first principal project, the proto-Brutalist Gramophone Company Building (1913) in Hayes Other examples of this restrained style in Britain include the Luma Light Bulb Factory, Glasgow (1938) by Cornelius Armour and the Shredded Wheat Factory, Welwyn Garden City (1925) by Louis de Soissons.
As manufacturing gave way to the services industry, these iconic buildings fell redundant. Some were adapted to the post-industrial world, converted into apartments or supermarkets. Others such as Wallis, Gilbert and Partners Firestone Factory on the Great West Road, Brentford fell victim to the wrecking ball, (An event which was greeted with outrage and ushered in more stringent listing procedures). Many are still extant, albeit reconfigured for other uses. The lucky few listed are by English Heritage, protected for future generations who will hopefully see them as not just architecturally ambitious and progressive buildings but also as example of an age when the industrial process was glorified and given centre stage, rather than hidden away on motorway ringed business parks behind barbed wire and under the gaze of CCTV.
Many architects are associated with the London suburbs of Metro-Land. Charles Holden and his tube stations, Ernest Trobridge with his Swedenborgian homes, Curtis and Burchett with their Dudok influenced schools. But one partnership who probably did the most to shape the visual identity of the outreaches of interwar North London were Welch, Lander and Day. The partnership designed much of the “Suntrap” estates that stretch from Greenford in the West to Enfield in the North-West, plus a variety of other buildings in this broad area.
The partnership was made up of three quite different architects; Herbert Welch, Felix Lander and Nugent Francis Cachemaille-Day. Welch was the elder to the trio, born in 1884. He started his career as one of Raymond Unwin’s assistants working on Hampstead Garden Suburb, and helped design a number of houses in the suburb in partnership with A.C. Hollis. One of Welch’s other notable early designs is the Arts and Crafts style Hendon Fire Station (1912). Welch went on to form a later partnership with Frederick Etchells, and they designed the Crawford Advertising office in High Holborn (1930), considered one of the first Modern Movement buildings in Britain. He joined Lander and Cachemaille-Day, who already were in partnership, in 1930.
Felix Lander also started out as an assistant to Raymond Unwin, but on his work with Barry Parker in Letchworth Garden City. After also working on the planning and design of Welwyn Garden City, Lander went to work for Adams, Holden and Pearson, and Charles Holden’s influence can be seen at Lander and Welch’s Park Royal tube station on the Piccadilly Line western extension (1935). Nugent Francis Cachemaille-Day was born in 1896 in South Woodford, Essex and is best known today for his church designs between 1930-55, these designs vary from traditional to moderne to proto-brutalist. Like Welch and Lander he cut his teeth in the Garden Cities, working for Louis de Soissons in Welwyn Garden City, where he met Lander. They went into partnership together, before joining up with Welch.
Despite the varied styles and experience of the trio, the partnership is most remembered for their houses. Although first popularised by the developers Morrell's, Welch, Lander and Day made the Sun Trap styled house ubiquitous throughout North London suburbia. This design incorporated Art Deco details within the traditional terraced house. These details include streamlined metal framed windows (the sun trap), patterned tiling, stained glass windows and sunken doorways. Some of their designs featured flat roofs, but most had traditional pitched ones. Early examples of this style was the partnerships work at Old Rectory Gardens in Edgware (1934) and Kingsley Close in Hampstead (1934). This design was copied and reproduced throughout the suburban expanses of London, by Welch, Lander and Day, and many other architects.
The Sun Trap home wasn't the only style of home the partnership produced, as houses in different areas of Metro-Land for the Haymills company show. The Middlesex village of Wembley was one of the first to be engulfed by the suburban sprawl accompanying the Metropolitan Railways expansion. By the 1930's it was home to 50,000 people, many middle class or with aspirations to be so. Welch, Lander and Day designed Lawn Court Flats (1933) and houses on Mayfields and The Avenue (1934), as well as 4 squat flat roofed brick houses in Barn Rise (1932). The houses in Mayfields and The Avenue are a prime example of the interwar International Style modernism, with white rendered walls and flat roofs with sun decks. This style also appears on the Hanger Hill estate in Ealing built in 1935 behind Park Royal tube station and the Hotel and Garage, both by Welch and Lander. Here the houses don't have the white render as at Wembley, but proudly show their brickwork. The firm also designed flats just behind the station, the crescent shaped Hanger Court (1935).
The partnership produced a more moderne styled detached house in Mill Ridge and Penshurst Gardens in Edgware, where the square edges of the Wembley houses have been curved and softened. Further east in Hendon, the partnership designed a number of houses that progressed their style from the earlier designs. These houses in Ashley Lane (1935) use the early International Style designs of Wembley and the brick details of Hanger Hill to produce a robust yet refined design that progresses from their earlier buildings. Unfortunately some have been demolished, while others have been redeveloped.
The trio did not stay in partnership for long, with Cachemaille-Day leaving to return to the church design work for which he is best remembered for. In the first 5 years after leaving the partnership in 1935, Cachemaille-Day produced a number of interesting church designs. St. Pauls Parish Church in South Harrow (1937) is a proto-brutalist concrete block, quite a odds with the tranquil suburban street it lies in. Two churches in the north west of England are among his most celebrated. The Church of St. Michael and All Angels in Horseden (1937) was called "a sensational church of its country and it's day" by Nikolaus Pevsner and is Grade II* listed. His Church of the Epiphany in Leeds (1938) is Grade I listed and was designed to serve the estate of Gipton, one of the first garden estates in the north of England. In the post war years Cachemaille-Day designed a number of churches in the inner city London area, replacing buildings destroyed in the Blitz, such as St Michael and All Angels, London Fields (1960) and St Paul, West Hackney (1962). Cachemaille-Day died in 1976.
Welch and Lander continued in partnership producing a range of projects from 1935 until well into the post war period. These included churches like Hendon Methodist (1937) and St. Martins, East Barnet (1938), as well as shops (Edgware 1937 and Hampstead 1939), factories (Watford 1956) and youth clubs (St Albans 1966), with Felix’s son Sean continuing the company after the death of Welch in 1956 and his father in 1960.
Although the trio of architects were not in partnership for long, they changed the face of the suburbs, in North London in particular. Their Suntrap house provided a stylish, modern, functional house for thousands and still does today, even as tastes move on. Their other projects, ranging from churches to tube stations to shops created the suburban fabric to knot these ribbon developments together and provide a new living space for people looking to move out of the city. They are perhaps better known today for their projects as individuals or duos, but as a threesome they bought their contrasting styles to produce a house for metro-land.
Here is the complete run down of our Top 12 Cinemas that we have been Tweeting of the last 2 weeks;
12- Herga Wealdstone (1939) by AP Starkey
11- Ealing Odeon (1932) by Cecil Masey
10- Burnt Oak Savoy (1938) by George Coles
9- Uxbridge Regal (1931) by E Norman Bailey
8- Watford Essoldo (1932) by George Coles
7- Swiss Cottage Odeon (1937) by Herring and Weedon
6- Barnet Odeon (1934) by Edgar Simmons
5- Finsbury Astoria (1930) by Edward Stone
4- Gaumont State Kilburn (1937) by George Coles
3- Acton Granada (1937) by FE Bromige
2- Muswell Hill Odeon (1936) by George Coles
1- Rayners Lane Grovesnor (1936) by FE Bromige
We hope you enjoyed it!
Many of the lines that make up the London Underground network are renowned for their architectural qualities. The most famous of course is the Picadilly line with its Modernist masterpieces by Charles Holden, such as Sudbury Town and Arnos Grove. The Northern Line also has some early Holden stations, with his Art Deco works in Portland stone along the Modern extension and a later masterpiece at East Finchley. The Northern Line also features a number of stations by one of Holden’s predecessors, Leslie Green, with his distinctive Oxblood tiled buildings in Belsize Park and Mornington Crescent. More contemporary designs can be seen in the Jubilee line Docklands extension stations, such as Sir Norman Foster’s Canary Wharf and Canada Water by Buro Happold and Eva Jiricna. Lesser known than the buildings mentioned, are the post-war Central line stations that make up most of the lines eastern and western extensions.
The Central Line was opened in 1900 between Shepherds Bush and Bank, extending 12 years later to Liverpool Street. As part of the New Works Programme, extensions were planned, westerly through Acton towards Ruislip and easterly through Leyton and out into Essex. These extensions were interrupted by the Second World War, with the result that many of the stations were designed before the war, and then redesigned after it to account for the lack of materials. Here is a short guide to the stations that sprang out of this period.
Most of the interesting stations along the Western extension were designed Brian Lewis. Lewis was an Australian architect who moved to Britain to study at the Liverpool School of Architecture and later became Chief Architect to the Great Western Railway. He designed the stations at West Acton (1940), Hanger Lane (1949), Perivale (1947) and Greenford (1947). Of the four, only West Acton was finished to his designs, with a glass frontage sandwiched between two brick side walls. The other three designs were modified post-war by Dr. F.F.C. Curtis. Hanger Lane is a drum style station similar to Holden’s Arnos Grove and Southgate, but with a less decorative concrete finish. Perivale features a concave glass and brick frontage. Greenford also features a curving frontage, but much lower than Perivale, and still has an original wooden escalator in working condition.
Dr. Curtis was also the designer of South Ruislip station. One of the most distinctive stations on the line, it features a polygonal metal clad ticket hall that contains a cast concrete interior frieze by artist Henry Haig. Although the station opened in 1948, the hall was not finished until 1960.The later western extension stations in Ruislip and Northolt were designed by John Kennet and Roy Turner. West Ruislip (1948) is the terminus of the western extension and is notable for its splayed concrete front canopy. Another prominent station at the western end of the Central Line is White City. It was completed in 1947 to the designs of Seymour, Bilbow and McGill. Its asymmetrical brick frontage helped it win an architecture award at the Festival of Britain in 1951.
The eastern extension of the Central Line expanded out from Liverpool Street into Essex through the East London towns of Mile End and Leyton. Leytonstone (1940) was designed by Thomas Bilbow, part of the team that designed White City. It is a Streamline Moderne style station, that now features mosaics celebrating local lad Alfred Hitchcock. The principal architect of the stations at this end of the line was Charles Holden. Redbridge (1947) features a tower and a circular booking hall similar to his iconic 1930’s stations like Chiswick Park, but show Holden edging towards a more ‘Festival’ style. Wanstead (1947) is one of Holden's most austere works, with its grey prefabricated panel construction and finish in grey render, replacing the all glass tower Holden had originally envisioned. Holden had been a consultant to the Soviet Government in their Moscow subway construction of the 1930’s, and some of that experience is reflected in the design of Gants Hill (1947). There is very little surface building to this station, but plenty to see underground, where the barrel vaulted halls bring to mind the famous Moscow stations such as Kiyeskaya and Smolenskaya.
Holden wasn't the only architect to produce progressive buildings on the Eastern extension. John Murray Easton of the firm Stanley Hall, Easton and Roberston designed Loughton (1940) station with a square ticket hall featuring glass brick arched windows, and platforms with flat-slab canopies. Oliver Hill’s Newbury Park bus station (1949) adjacent to the tube station, also won a Festival of Britain award for its concrete arches and copper clad barrel vault roof. Although the completion Central line stations of the 1940’s took much longer than anticipated due to war, and their designs were modified due to material shortages, they are a fascinating example of a change of architectural styles. Moving from the Holden style moderne stations of the 1930’s towards a more Festival of Britain and even proro-Brutalist style that would show the way for the golden age of public building design in the 1950's and 60’s, these stations deserve to be ranked among the most interesting on the London Underground network.
This blog is an amended version of an article that first appeared in The Modernist magazine #8 "Carried Away".
Introducing a new section to our website, New Town Herts, in which we will be documenting the modernist and art deco architecture of the Garden Cities and New Towns of Hertfordshire.
Letchworth Garden City, Welwyn Garden City, Hatfield, Stevenage and Hemel Hempstead were all built in the 20th Century to create living places balance between work and leisure, urban and rural. These towns feature a variety of architectural styles from Arts & Crafts to Brutalism, and designs from a range of architects, such as Louis de Soissons, Clifford Culpin and Sir Basil Spence.
In this section you will find guides to the modernist and art deco buildings of each town, a map of all the buildings and a profile of some of the important town architects and planners.
The film “The Monuments Men” opened in cinemas last Friday 14th February. Directed by George Clooney and starring Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray and many others, it tells the story of an Army Unit convened for the purpose of rescuing great works of art from destruction at the hands of the Nazis. The unit featured a mixture of Allied nationalities, and in the film the most prominent British character is Ronald Balfour, played by Hugh Bonneville. Another monument man, although not featured in the film, was architect Lt. Col. John Edward Dixon-Spain. Born in 1879, Dixon-Spain went into partnership with Charles Nicholas in 1905, and they remained in partnership throughout their careers.
Dixon-Spain became one of the first “Monument Men” charged with recovering missing art works, and along with American officers Cpt. Bancel LaFarge and Lt. George Stout. The three offices landed in mainland Europe two weeks after the Allied landings in Normandy on D-Day, and began to track down and rescue works of art from the debris of the conflict. The intrepid trio were eventually joined by 5 more officers, and the 8 of them used their persuasive charm to hitch lifts with other Army units to move about Europe, eventually inspecting 3,000 monuments and archives.
If the film had been made a couple of decades earlier it may have opened in a cinema designed by Dixon-Spain and Nicholas, such as the Gaumont Streatham or the New Gallery Cinema in Regent Street. Both buildings are still extant, although neither are showing films any longer. The Streatham cinema opened in 1932, but was damaged by a V1 rocket during the war and was rebuilt by TP Bennet & Son. It became a bowling alley in the 1960’s and today is waiting undergo redevelopment. The New Gallery Cinema was originally built in 1888 as an art gallery, and Dixon-Spain and Nicholas redesigned the building in 1925 with a 256 foot Greek style frieze by Gertrude Halsey. It is now Grade II listed and open as a Burberry store.
Dixon-Spain and Nicholas designed a variety of buildings from factories to churches to schools. The Aladdin Lamp factory in Greenford built in 1932, is still a recognizable presence alongside Western Avenue with its bell tower. The building had been turned into a B&Q store but that has now closed down. The partnership also designed number of churches, St Aphage’s in Hendon (1927) was designed to serve the newly built Watling Estate and features a brick basilica in the Early Christian style. St Joan of Arc, Farnham (1929) is constructed with red brick in the Romanesque style, and features statues by artist Vernon Hill. The church is Grade II listed. St Hugh of Lincoln in Letchworth Garden City was designed by the partnership in 1938, but not completed until 1960. Originally featuring a flat roof, this was replaced in the 1980’s due to leakages.
Further afield, Nicolas and Dixon-Spain designed a number of significant buildings; the Qaer-El-Aini Hospital and Medical School in Cairo (1921), City Hall, Northumberland Road, Newcastle (1928) and the Rock Hotel, Gibraltar (1932). Dixon-Spain also designed film studios and after the war concentrated on nationwide school building programme. He died in Graveley, Hertfordshire in 1955.
Info from Our Illustrious Family.
To coincide with Jonathan Meades return to the small screen to celebrate Brutalism (Sunday 16th February BBC4), we present our guide to Brutalism in Metro-Land. As we hope we have have shown through our site, the suburban hinterland is not an empire of neo-tudor semi detacheds and pebbledash bungalows, but an area of varied and interesting modernist architecture. From Charles Holden’s brick box stations, to the art deco cinemas and houses such as Amys Connell’s High and Over. The modernism of the suburbs does tend to be of the modest International Style kind, but there are examples of it’s bigger, uncompromising brother, Brutalism, and the architects associated with it.
In a previous blog we have discussed the suburban work of one the most famous architects associated with British post war architecture, Erno Goldfinger. He produced a range of designs throughout Metro-Land, from houses to flats to shops. The most brutalist of his suburban designs is Hille House in Watford. A office and factory complex on the St. Albans Road in Watford, Hille House is an instantly recognizable Goldfinger building, with a reinforced concrete frame, and a central cantilevered box with coloured glass. Not far from Hille House on the outskirts of Watford is Sugden House, by a pair of architects who are as identified in Britain with Brutalism as Goldfinger, Alison and Peter Smithson. The house was designed for Derk Sugden of the engineers and architects Arup Associates, who wanted a “simple but radical” house. Alison Smithson’s initial design featuring a butterfly roof was rejected, and the finished house features a catslide tiled roof from a design by Peter, and an exterior of second hand London brick around a reinforced concrete frame.
Other architects strongly identified with Brutalism have built buildings in Metro-Land. Owen Luder, whose partnership designed some of Britain's most iconic concrete buildings like the Trinity Car Park, Eros House and the Tricorn Centre, has Colman House in Hayes and Hendon Hall Court. Colman House on the Uxbridge Road, completed in 1962, was built as an office block but has now been renamed Pointwest and converted to residential use. Hendon Hall Court, just off the North Circular, is an apartment block built between 1961 and 1966 in shuttered concrete with projecting balconies. Richard Seifert, designer of Centrepoint and Space House in Central London, also has a couple of buildings to his name in the suburbs. Ever Ready House was built in 1966 as the British headquarters of the American electrical company. The building is a 12 storey office block in a T-Plan on tapering stilts. The building has now been taken over by Barnet Council. Angel Cottages in Mill Hill use red brick and timber boarding to blend in to this picturesque outreach of North London, while still looking modernistic.
Aside from the famous names associated with Brutalism, there are a number of buildings built by the public sector in the style in Metro-Land. The Greater London Council Architects Department was responsible for a number of projects in the suburbs. The housing estate at Colindale, Grahame Park (1969-75), is probably the most famous (or infamous). A collaboration with the Barnet Borough Council Architects Department, Grahame Park was designed to house 10,000 people on the site of the old Hendon Aerodrome. The site features nearly 1800 homes, a library, community centre, schools and a shopping parade. The estate was remodelled in the early 1990’s by Barnet Council, and is today undergoing another redevelopment scheme. A neighboring housing scheme, Grahame Park West (also GLC and Barnet Arch Dept.), was more successfully received than its neighbour, and is today a private estate renamed Willow Gardens. Another GLC built project is the West Waste recycling centre in Ruislip. Built in 1980, it is a classic monolithic concrete block in the brutalist style.
Famous for featuring in that Brutalist roll call “A Clockwork Orange”, the Grade II listed Lecture Block at the Brunel University in Uxbridge is also an overwhelming slice of Brutalism. Designed by Sheppard, Robson and Partners and completed in 1966, the building is formed of an exposed reinforced concrete frame, infilled with precast concrete panels. A rather less spectacular, but equally interesting building is the Fernedene Apartments in Kingsbury, Brent. Designed as retirement apartments by former assistant to Basil Spence, Clifford Wearden, and built in 1966, the flats themselves are rather overpowered by the concrete ramp that fronts the building. Nevertheless, the complex forms an interesting contrast to the Ernest Trobridge cottages opposite.
This is just to show that you can find a wealth of brutalist and post war modernist buildings in the sleepy suburbs…..
The Hungarian emigre architect Erno Goldfinger (1907-87) is best remembered for his brutalist tower blocks around the edges of central London, such as Trellick Tower in North Kensington, Balfron Tower in Poplar and Alexander Fleming House in Elephant and Castle. These tower blocks, so divisive when first built, are all now listed by English Heritage, and are magnets for architectural students, designers and photographers. Goldfinger also produced modernist schools in Haggerston, Shepherds Bush and and Putney. But Goldfinger has another legacy in the suburbs of London, which host some of his more uncharacteristic and lesser known works. These buildings, stretching from Hampstead through North London and out to Buckinghamshire, show a different side of Goldfingers work.
Aside from his iconic tower blocks, his most famous work is the terrace of 3 houses at Willow Road in Hampstead (1939). No. 2 was Goldfingers home with his wife Ursula Blackwell and their children, until his death in 1987. Built on the site of a row of 18th Century cottages, the terrace is constructed of reinforced concrete, with the outer walls faced with red brick. Nos. 1 and 3 are still private residences, whilst No. 2 has been taken over by the National Trust, who have preserved the interior as Erno and Ursula had it, including works by Bridget Riley, Marcel Duchamp and Henry Moore. Like Goldfingers later tower blocks, Willow Road was initially controversial, with its presence in the heart of Georgian Hampstead the subject of complaints from his new neighbours. But like Trellick and Balfron, Willow Road has become an iconic member of Goldfingers works.
Further along the Northern Line at Golders Green is one of Goldfingers more obscure buildings. No.2 Golders Green Road was originally designed in 1935 as hairdressing salon, but was converted into a shop for S. Weiss ladies clothing. Situated on a corner of the High Street, Goldfinger planned the redesign and rebuild of this site to include a curved glass second floor. Goldfinger also redesigned the interior of the shop and its fittings. This building still exists today as a bank, with the curved glass second floor still intact. Goldfinger also designed some other shops around the same time, including a toy shop in Wimpole Street, W1 and a hair salon in Grafton Street, Mayfair.
On the outskirts of London in Watford, is Hille House, probably the most recognizably Goldfinger designed building in Metro-Land. Built in 1959 for the Hille furniture company, this factory and office complex was built on the site of an old Wells brewery and workers cottages. The building is constructed using a reinforced concrete frame, with a Uxbridge brick infill. The front of the offices also features the first use of a Goldfinger signature, a cantilevered box with coloured glass. This design was used on some of Goldfingers most famous buildings like the Trellick and Balfron towers. Goldfinger also produced designs for an enlargement of the site, including a factory, boiler house and timber store, although these designs were never executed. Today this building on the St.Albans road is a business centre, but many of Goldfingers original design details are still in place.
Just outside Watford, in Abbots Langley, Goldfinger was commissioned by Watford Rural District Council to build a social housing estate. The architect originally designed a nine storey block of maisonettes, but this idea was rejected by the council and instead a modified plan of mixed terraced houses and small apartment blocks was accepted. The site was opened in 1961 by the Swedish Ambassador. As with much post war social housing in the UK, Gade View Gardens was allowed to deteriorate until it was unlivable. In 2009 the council put forward a plan to demolish the building and redevelop the site. Due to the credit crunch the redevelopment languished until last year when most of the buildings were knocked down and replaced by new flats. However there is still a row of terraced houses from the original plan intact and occupied on the Gallows Hill Road side of the site.
Out the at the edge of Metro-Land, near one of its most iconic buildings is the Red House, in Cherry Lane, Amersham. Less than 2 miles from High and Over by Amays Connell, the Red House is one of Goldfingers most conventional designs. It is built in traditional materials of brick and timber, has a tiled pitched roof and was completed in 1957. It has been refurbished by subsequent owners, but does still show Goldfingers touches in it’s use of light and space. Goldfinger also designed many rural houses around the South East of England, including a house in Broxted, Essex (1938) for painter Humphrey Waterfield, later renovated by John Winter, and Benjamins Mount (1967-9) in Windlesham, Surrey.
There are also a number of unbuilt Goldfinger projects throughout the Metro-Land region mentioned in his archives at RIBA. These include houses in Hounslow, and Oxhey and Bushey in Hertfordshire, a shop for Dunns Footwear in Watford and flats in Finchley Road. The archives also show two other much more interesting unexecuted ideas by Goldfinger. First, plans for a fun fair and restaurant on Hampstead Heath for the Festival of Britain in 1951. Goldfingers reputation was in the doldrums at this point and the only thing he got to design for the festival was a kiosk. A sketch of the fun fair, seemingly from the viewpoint of his home at Willow Road, can be seen here. Goldfinger also applied to be the chief architect and planner for the development of Stevenage New Town, a position that went to Leonard Vincent. It raises the tantalizing idea of a Goldfinger designed concrete utopia!
Now so identified with brutalist tower blocks, Goldfingers suburban buildings show another side to his craft. Ranging from private houses to commercial premises to factory and office complexes, these buildings show the range of materials and designs Goldfinger employed. Willow Road remains the only one of theses that is listed, and despite the architects reputation (or because of?) some like Gade View Gardens have been demolished. It would be a shame if more of these buildings were forgotten and destroyed as they show that Goldfinger was not just Brutalist supervillain, but an artist and craftsman of great range and subtlety.