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Welwyn Garden City
Author: Sir Lawrence Weaver
Published: *1926 by Country Life (3rd edition)
Format: Hardback 9" by 5½" with 402 pages
Lawrence Weaver, K.B.E., F.S.A., Hon.A.R.I.B.A., (1876-1930), was an architect who became architectural editor for the magazine Country Life. The book describes the design and construction of houses from two up to eight bedrooms. There are 483 illustrations, more than half of which are black and white photographs of the houses described in the text, the remainder being floor plans.
Below I am reproducing the Preface, Contents, and Chapter
XVII (Welwyn Garden City) including the twenty illustrations appearing
in that chapter.
WHEN the Country Life Book of Cottages was first published in March, 1913, I made some apology for adding to the already large literature on the subject, but claimed that there was room for a review of what has been done to produce types of true cottages, excluding the country houses costing thousands which masquerade under the name of cottages. With one or two exceptions, therefore, the cottages shown included none of more than eight rooms. At and below that limit most country types were shown, whether built for the rural labourer, the small holder, the estate servant, the clerk who lives outside the town, the "week-ender" or the people of moderate means and refined taste whose permanent home must be built with severe regard to economy.
The large new edition issued in 1919 included much new subject-matter, but in this, the third, edition, I have been drastic in cutting out much pre-war work in favour of the cottages which the post-war period has produced. I have also so expanded my references to suburban cottages and town planning in relation to them, and have introduced so large an amount of matter on the new materials and methods of construction now in use, that the title of the book has been altered also.
Less emphasis has been laid on details of building costs, because they cannot yet be said to be stabilized, and none can prophesy what will be their ultimate level when the shortage and consequent high cost of bricks have given place to normal supply, and when bricklayers and plasterers are to be secured in normal numbers (if ever). But without prophesying, I would counsel those intending to build not to multiply pre-war prices by less than 2% for some time to come. Even that may be optimistic. I have quoted from a few of the many reports of committees on housing, and I give their full names below should readers wish to seek for fuller details than can be included in a short review of a very large subject.
I have to acknowledge the courteous
help of scores of architect friends in supplying me with photographs and
preparing plans for reproduction, and also of the Ministry of Agriculture
and Fisheries in placing at my disposal a mass of material relating to
the cottages built under the Land Settlement (Facilities) Act.
|March, 1926||LAWRENCE WEAVER|
The blue print is what is in the book. My additional notes are in red. A.C.
CHAPTER I — Introductory
Aim of the book • Notes on seemly design • A record of the facts • Rise in cost of building • Architect, builder and client • Concerning specifications • Repair of old cottages
CHAPTER II — The Pre-War Search for the Cheap Cottage
The Letchworth Exhibition • Mr St Loe Strachey's attempts • and Mr Arnold Mitchell's • "Country Life" competition for rural cottages • Standards of accommodation • Mr Harvey's solution for Mr Christopher Turnor
CHAPTER III — Accommodation and Planning of the Workman's House
The parlour question • Kitchen and scullery • The downstairs bedroom • Women's views on bedrooms • The bath • Common defects in planning • Bungalows v. two-storey cottages
CHAPTER IV — Choice and Right Use of Materials
Cob and pisé • Clay lump • Welsh slates • Other slates • Pantiles • Weather-boarding • Timber • Concrete • Stone
CHAPTER V— Novel Methods of Constructing "Subsidy Cottages" 1925
The housing problem, technical rather than political • The flight from brickwork • "Steel" cottages • Alternative methods exhibited at Wembley and another
CHAPTER VI — Five-Roomed Cottages
Two main types of plan • County variations in design • Yorkshire West Riding • Essex • Northumberland • Bournville • Suffolk • Herts • Cotswold • Somerset • Hampshire • Sussex • Surrey • Oxfordshire
CHAPTER VII — Pairs of Six-Roomed Cottages
Yorkshire type • Thatched pairs in Dorset • Examples by Mr Clough • Broad and narrow frontages • Good Herts and Bucks types • Lord Riddell's scheme at Mitcham
CHAPTER VIII — The Six-Roomed Single Cottage
Inexpensive types by Mr Clough • Pre-war small-holdings buildings • Suburban types at Gidea Park • Limestone cottage at Chepstow
CHAPTER IX — The Ministry of Agriculture's Smallholding Cottages
At the Sutton Brudge settlement • Brick and concrete • An efficient shuttering • Omission of plastered ceilings • Stoneware baths • Doing without a front door • H. M. Office of Works cottages • A Hampshire comparison • Other county types
CHAPTER X— The Eight-Roomed Cottage
Examples from Gidea Park • Various types of plan • Notes on slating • Some Welsh examples • Use of old materials • Rockyfield • Heights of window-sills • A semi-bungalow
CHAPTER XI — Designs for an Eight-Roomed Holiday Cottage with Garage and Large Garden
The "Country Life" 1912 competition • The conditions • Three solutions of a typical problem • Planning of the garden
CHAPTER XII — Cottages for Estate Servants and Gate Lodges
For gardeners and chauffeurs • Cottage combined with garden-house • Planning and treatment of gate lodges influenced by design of main house • Double cottages with archway • A group of three
CHAPTER XIII — Repair and Alteration
The need to preserve character of old villages • Successful cottage revovation • Changing labourers' cottages into week-end homes • A converted oast-house • Examples from many countries
CHAPTER XIV — The Grouping of Cottages
Artistic value of grouping • Examples in Oxfordshire, Surrey, Essex Gloucerstershire, Herts, Lincoln Antrim, etc.
CHAPTER XV — Village and Suburb Planning: Pre-War Examples
The lesson of the Hampstead Garden Suburb • Squares and crescents • Absence of garden walls • New Eltham • Ruislip • Earswick • A co-partnership scheme at East Grinstead
CHAPTER XVI — Village and Suburb Schemes: War and Post-War
Gretna • Dormanstown • Stanmore Estate, Winchester • Durlocks, Folkestone
CHAPTER XVII — Welwyn Garden City
Idealism and economic common-sense • The model for satellite cities • Details of house-planning • Concrete houses • Public utility society finance
CHAPTER XVIII — Post-War Housing by the L.C.C.
Three great London housing estates • A word about speculative builders • The brick problem again • And Mr Topham Forrest's future recourse to timber
CHAPTER XIX — Housing at Hammersmith
A panel of architects • Open forecourts v. hedged gardens • Square houses • Playgrounds • Linoleum and dry-rot
CHAPTER XX— Duchy of Cornwall Housing at Kennington
The King and Prince of Wales as housing reformers • Simplicity and dignity of the late eighteenth-century traditions • Cottages and flats by Professor Adshead and Mr Ramsey
List of Architects' Names and Addresses
Chapter XVII - Welwyn Garden City
THE experience gained at Letchworth, the first Garden City, enabled the promoters of Welwyn Garden City to avoid the pitfalls inevitable in pioneer enterprises. It is obvious that the first people to develop a scheme so novel and difficult must make mistakes, but they were few at Letchworth, which has at last justified itself financially, as it did from the first socially. Architecturally, Welwyn has no features of the experimental sort seen at Letchworth, and benefits from the fact that, when it began, contrived picturesqueness had gone out of fashion. Economy as well as current fashion have been on the side of a greater severity of mass and line. This is not the place to go into the social and administrative aspects of the Garden City movement. Suffice it to say that Welwyn, under the chairmanship of Sir Theodore Chambers, is developing services to the community which are worthy of careful study. Sir Theodore and his colleagues have based their adventurous idealism on a foundation of sound economics. It used to be said that garden cities were the homes of cranks. Welwyn Garden City has reacted in this matter and is almost aggressively commonsensical.
The Welwyn directors are uninterested in phrases and do not chop logic about social theories. The system is in some respects acutely socialistic, but there is no democratic control. The administration is almost feudal, but so controlled by its self-imposed altruism, that it is the citizens of Welwyn as a body, and they alone, who will benefit by the values now being developed so rapidly and so shrewdly. When the Nation and the Government have the wit to see that the problem of London can only be decently and intelligently solved by the creation of a ring of satellite towns, the model for their creation will inevitably be found at Welwyn Garden City. My concern, however, is rather with the architectural aspect of the place and the character of the citizens' homes. Mr. Louis de Soissons is the City Architect and has done much of the work, but other architects have been employed and there is no sameness of aspect.
Handside Close is one of the many attractive groups of quite small houses - they can reasonably be called eottages - which achieve their dignity by simplicity of mass and outline, with just those variations which emphasize scale and banish dullness. An example of this is the treatment of the two pairs of cottages flanking the pair which fills the end of the hollow square (Fig. 429).
The farther house in each pair has a boldly projecting octagonal bay, which gives the needed variety. But it has the practical purpose of linking a parlour house (there are also living-room, working kitchen and three bedrooms) with a non-parlour cottage, and so widening the choice of available accommodation. Note from the plans that the living-rooms in both types are through-lighted, as is the best bedroom in the parlour type. The same good features of planning are shown in the pair at the end of the close (Fig. 431).
The ample effect of the street planning is well seen in the next picture (Fig. 432), and I include a detail photograph (Fig. 434) of a practical and attractive type of mansard-roofed cottages with square projecting bays, which contribute much to the good effect of the street. The plan of this type (Fig. 433) again reproduces the through-lighting of living-room and chief bedroom, but the arrangements for meals are different. A dining-room recess opens off the living- room, with one door to the hall passage and another, for service, to the kitchen.
The plan shown in Fig. 436 is an interesting variant of the last, but on a smaller scale and with through-lighting in the living-room only. Mr. de Soissons appreciates the value of the mansard roof for inexpensive construction, and with a scarcity of bricks; he uses it again in this simple pair.
I come now to two groups designed by Messrs. Hennell and James. They adopted the gable and dormer as the characteristic features of their houses, but used the former in large simple units at the ends of the groups and provided good stretches of unbroken roof-line to connect the gabled ends. In each group a central through-passage was provided in the middle, to be seen in the plans, which show in each case three houses of the four.
In both groups the presumption is that no maid is kept and there is a compactly arranged kitchen-dining-room (see plan, Fig. 438) and a large living-room. The planning of the middle two of the four is ingeniously devised in one of the blocks (Fig. 438), so that the area occupied below by the through-passage dividing the houses is used above to give a third bedroom in one of the houses, the outer two having, also, three bedrooms each. In the other block (Fig. 439), with the attractive little octagonal bays, the bedrooms in the middle two are planned interlocking, so that each house has the same accommodation, but in this block the outer two of the four have only two bedrooms. These points are small in themselves, but of use as showing how infinite is the variety of planning that is possible and how necessary that the skill of architects should be exercised in providing accommodation that will suit the small shades of different people's ideas of living.
Other interesting Welwyn houses are those designed by Messrs. Lander and Kemp, six-roomed (Figs. 441 and 442) and five-roomed (Figs. 443 and 444). The remaining plan of these architects (Fig. 445) shows a pair with rather more accommodation specially devised to suit a north aspect.
Welwyn, like every other centre where building is active, has been obliged to explore methods of construction alternative to brick. Their latest device is specially interesting. By giving especial pains to the preparation of a flint aggregate for concrete, the City's building department is building houses with 8 in. solid walls, 5 in. outside of flint concrete and 3 in. inside of breeze concrete. They are satisfied that what seems a risky business, the omission of a cavity, has succeeded in giving a perfectly weatherproof wall. So am I, for I have never seen a better aggregate, but it is necessary to warn builders of solid concrete walls that unless they allow expansion joints, cracks will inevitably develop. These are not likely to endanger the structure, but they look very bad. The walls at Welwyn are put up between special steel shuttering, which yields a good surface, and reinforcement is provided where required. Mr. de Soissons has given the groups a very attractive shape (Fig. 447).
The little glazed bays are novel and very practical in conjunction with the method of wall-building. Despite the simplicity of the elevation, it is not bald, but has its own touch of distinction. The importance of the construction is that the cottages, despite their adequate accommodation, shown in the plans (Fig. 446), cost on an average, parlour and non-parlour, about £525 each, and land, roads and sewers account for about £50 per house, with a nominal ground rent of ten shillings a year. This makes a feasible financial scheme for the Welwyn Public Utility Society which is building them. Of the total sum required the Local Authority advances ninety per cent., repayable over a period of forty years. The Government subsidy is £75 a cottage. It is therefore possible, by issuing six per cent. loan stock for the comparatively small balance of capital required for each house, to let them at an average rent of 16s. 6d. per week, including rates. So satisfactory a result is only got by first-rate organization in building, as well as shrewdly considered economies in design, and by carrying through a good number at one time. Not the least attractive part of the scheme is that the loan capital required is only about £50 a house, and so sound is its financial basis that the Garden City Company is able to guarantee the six per cent. payable on the housing bonds. One valuable point on rent must be noted ; it is differential. From the basic rent of any one type of cottage, sixpence a week is deducted for each child under sixteen, and one shilling a week is added for any lodger.
All these developments are well worth studying on the spot.