Thank you to everybody who came along to the two tours of Stanmore's modernist homes on Saturday, it was great to see so many of you. As promised here are the full notes of the tour plus all the interesting photos mentioned.
Metro-Land was created by the extension of the Metropolitan Railway out of London and into Middlesex and the home counties. Land leftover from the construction of the new line was used for speculative housing, and formerly sleepy towns and villages like Wembley, Harrow, Pinner and Ruislip experienced a population boom in the first half of the 20th century. For example the population of nearby Harrow Weald went from 1,500 in 1901 to 11,000 in 1931.
The default architectural style of these new leafy suburbs was Tudorbethan as seen at nearby Canons Park, a mix of traditional styles on the exterior, matched by the comforts of modernity inside. Modernism was the upcoming style of the era, spreading to Britain from Europe, and examples can be found throughout Metroland; in Ruislip with house designs by Connell, Ward & Lucas and Ealing by Welch, Lander & Day. These buildings, as well as Charles Holden’s tube stations and George Coles’ cinemas, all added art deco and international style modernism to the growing suburbs, including here in Stanmore.
Stanmore also underwent a growth spurt after the new Metropolitan Railway terminus, designed by Charles W. Clark, was built in 1932. This area we are now in was part of the Warren House estate, founded by the first Duke of Chandos. In 1922 the house was inherited by Sir John Fitzgerald, and he decided to sell parcels of the land off for the development. The company initially given the rights folded without building anything, so construction did not take place until the 1930’s. The part of the estate we will look at is the junction of two roads, Valencia Road and Kerry Avenue.
Architect Gerald Lacoste was given the commission to build 6 houses on Kerry Avenue. These designs were intended to be part of larger modernist style estate, but these 6 where the extent of the plan. Lacoste had previously been assistant to architects Edwin Lutyens and Oswald Milne, and was only 27 at the time of the Kerry Avenue commissions. He had also previously designed a house for Gracie Fields in Frognal, Hampstead. His six houses share many similar features with the Valencia Rd buildings, flat roofs, rounded staircase towers, etc, but are more circumspect in appearance. The houses as a group are designed to be similar but not monotonous, using the same elements but in differing arrangements. The Kerry Ave buildings are constructed of brick, but have a mixture of exposed brick and snowcrete finishes. which is a white cement used for rendering, to give the impression of concrete. Building the houses in brick may have happened because there was a shortage of building firms who had expertise in constructing in reinforced concrete in the 1930’s. These houses were completed in 1937, and are now part of the Kerry Avenue conservation area.
The Valencia Road section was developed by Douglas Wood Architects. Although they were granted permission for development in 1931, the houses were not built until 1935. Nos. 2-10 (even) were designed by the firm in the international style with plain rendered walls, central staircase towers and sun decks. The houses have an obvious vertical emphasis, with the staircase towers, vertical window strips and sun decks adding the bulk of the buildings, already emphasized by their position on a slope. The large windows and sun decks came from the growing awareness and fashionability of the health benefits of sunlight and sun bathing.
The houses are constructed of brick, and finished in snowcrete, like the Kerry Ave houses. Nos 4&6 were built as a symmetrical pair, and have rounded tower staircases. Nos 8 and 10 are also very similar to each other, whilst not quite being identical, composed of all straight lines. No.2 is the most altered of the five houses, having originally looked like its immediate neighbour, without the tower staircase. The Valencia Road houses are also now part of the conservation area.
14 & 16 Kerry Avenue
At the northern end of Kerry Avenue are two individual modernist houses, No.14 designed by RH Uren for himself in 1937, and its neighbour No.16 designed by Gerard Kauffman in 1968. No.14 is built in yellow brick in the international style similar to the other houses in the area. Uren was a New Zealand born architect, who moved to Britain in 1930. His big break was his winning design for Hornsey Town Hall in 1933. He designed a number of other buildings in Britain, including Rayners Lane Tube station (1938) and the Granada Woolwich cinema (1937).
No.16 is a much later building, designed and built in 1968 by the architect Gerd Kauffman for Cherrill & Ian Scheer. Cherrill Scheer, heir to the Hille Furniture family, grew up at No.14. Like its neighbours, it is constructed of brick, with large windows to create differing light levels in each room. Kaufmann is known mainly for his suburban houses, there are examples here in Stanmore, as well as Mill Hill and Hampstead.
Unrecognisable today, these twin apartment blocks were designed by architect and engineer Owen Williams and built in 1936. Designed in an austere fashion and built in concrete, the buildings have undergone successive refurbishments and extensions. Williams is not known for his domestic designs so it is a shame these buildings have ended up as they have.
Nos 1 & 2 Halsbury Close were designed by emigre architect Rudolf Frankel, who fled to Britain from Germany via Romania in 1933 No.1, built in 1938 for Frankel's sister, is made up of two brick cubes, one for a garage and one for the main house. The house features a cut away corner that opens out onto the garden. No.2, built for himself also in 1938, is a simple box form finished in render and with tile hanging on the second floor. It was apparently altered in the 1970’s to fit in with the new houses built behind it. Frankel mainly produced industrial buildings in Britain, designing factories in London and Cheshire before moving to America in 1950.
This close on the private Aylmer Road estate features a couple of interesting post war houses. No.1, designed by Edward Samuel in 1963, is a long low bungalow, built of brick and wood. According to Wikipedia, Stanley Kubrick wanted to use the house in A Clockwork Orange.The owner, Ernest Shelton refused, and Kubrick instead used Team 4’s Skybreak House in Radlett. Samuel, who trained under Sir Basil Spence, was known for his bungalow designs, as well as his work on the townscape in Highgate. No. 2 is a brutalist style concrete house, designed by Gerd Kaufmann in 1967, designer of No.16 Kerry Avenue, and it echoes in its design the 1930’s houses of Kerry Ave & Valencia Rd, which its circular staircase tower and flat roof.
Elsewhere in Stanmore
Elsewhere around Stanmore there are plenty of interesting inter and post war houses of all styles.
Cedar House, Common Lane (1938) Designed by architect and planner Max Lock for Miss M. Welsford
44 & 45 Little Common (1970) A pair of split pitched roofed houses by Harrow Borough architect J. Redman.
Tremar, Green Lane (1935) by A.L. Abbott. An asymmetrical Art Deco style house.
Eden Lodge, Stanmore Hill (1935) by H. Hobson Hill. A colonial style house, with dutch gables and green tiled roof, similar in design to No.116 opposite.
51 Dennis Lane (1936) Also known as the Garden House, designed by architect, landscape designer and planner Geoffrey Jellicoe.