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Welwyn Garden City
Author: C.H. James and F.R. Yerbury
Published: 1928 by The Technical Press Ltd.*
Format: Hardback 12" by 9¾" with 219 pages
* My copy of this book has Crosby Lockwood & Son, Stationers' Hall Court, E.C. printed on the title page as the publisher, but this name has been pasted over with a slip which says The Technical Press Ltd. The hard cover also has Technical Press on it. My copy is described as "Popular Edition" on the title page. The last advertisement at the back of the book is by Crosby Lockwood & Son. The title page and this advert are reproduced below.
The book begins with the Foreword (by Raymond Unwin) and an Introduction and 6 chapters of information on the planning and construction of houses (by James and Yerbury). This text is on 37 pages of thick cartridge paper. The full text is reproduced below.
Following the text are 140 black and white images, some full-page, some half-page, which cover 102 sides of fine glossy paper. The first 132 of these images are headed PLATES AND PLANS and are photographs or plans of houses or groups of houses from 19 different housing schemes, mostly in Great Britain, but including 3 schemes from European countries. The last 8 of the 140 images are headed DETAIL DRAWINGS. Apart from short captions on some of the 140 images, there is no commentary or description of them in the book. They are not mentioned in the 6 chapters of text. 25 of the Plates and Plans relate to Welwyn Garden City, as do 3 of the Detail Drawings. These 28 WGC images are reproduced below. The remaining 112 images are not reproduced here, but I have listed briefly the subjects of these pictures. There is no 'List of Illustrations' in the book and the photography is not credited.
Following the plates there is an Appendix (56 pages) entitled A group of Fourteen Cottages at Welwyn Garden City. The fourteen cottages were erected in "a close on the North-East side of High Oaks Road" for Labour-Saving Houses Ltd. which was a Public Utility Society set up under the 1919 Housing Act. The close referred to is Brockett Close although its name is not mentioned anywhere in the book. The architects for the scheme were Hennell and James of Russell Square, London. The Appendix comprises 6 pages of working drawings finely-printed on thin paper, a Specification of Works (19 pages), and a Bill of Quantities (31 pages) for the project. I have reproduced the 6 working drawings below, plus one page each from the Specification of Works and Bill of Quantities to give an idea of what they contain.
Finally, after the Appendix, are 24 pages (on glossy paper) of architecture-related advertisements. One of these is above right and three more are reproduced at the bottom.
This book does not include the bad, or even the average examples of post-war housing work in England; far more valuable than that, it contains an adequate presentation of the standard of attainment reached. It is no mean standard; it is one not altogether unworthy of the country which has inherited the richest and most varied traditions of beautiful cottage building of any country in the world: traditions the value of which was matched by the completeness with which they were ignored during the march of industrial enterprise in the nineteenth century.
Thirty or forty years ago a small group of people began to hark back, seeking first to pick up the lost threads of tradition, and then to stem the onward rush of congested ugliness, which threatened to obliterate what of ancient comeliness still remained in town or village, and to overwhelm in its flood of squalor what little love of traditional beauty still persisted. Slowly, but steadily, the spirit of the old work was recovered, and then applied to meet the needs of the new time; not without lapses from the strait path slipping towards archaism on the one hand or art nouveau on the other. Point after point was gained against those who thought they were interested in the methods then practised, until it was established that no real case existed for congestion, for squalor, or for ugliness; that even greed, if reasonably enlightened, must turn against them !
In fact the whole vast nightmare of ugliness was found to arise from interests that were merely shortsighted, economics that were not true, and a technique that was as careless and incapable as it was soulless and devoid of taste.
This volume fittingly marks a success in that long struggle to establish a new technique in the housing of the people. The housing schemes which it portrays, whether carried out by municipal, public utility or private bodies, have established beyond doubt the practicability of the high standard of attainment shown. That standard no one who is responsible for housing work can afford to neglect. Who falls below it will in future hardly escape reproach.
It is well that in this beautiful volume those alike who have to promote or to design housing schemes can keep before them this record of worthy attainment, useful not only as a measure of their own success, but also as a very efficient aid towards its attainment. For in addition to the photographs of many completed schemes in this country, and of a few well-chosen examples from other lands, the volume includes a concise statement of many of the chief points which must be kept in mind by the designer, and an example taken from good practice of the entire drawings, details, specifications, and other documents, through the medium of which the design can be reliably converted into the actual building. The housing problem exists because houses are too few and too bad; there is only one solution - to build plenty of good houses. This book should help to secure that if there be plenty they shall also be good.
THE problem of providing small houses for the community generally seems likely to be one that will remain with us for very many years to come, particularly with the increasing recognition of responsibility on the part of the Government, Municipalities, and large employers of labour. The serious shortage of such houses after the Great War not only made it impossible for the housing question to remain the concern of the few, but awakened the interest of the whole country, with the result that for the first time in history an attempt has been made during the past few years to deal with the problem on a large scale. That much of the work accomplished may be open to criticism is possible, but, on the other hand there are everywhere examples of work which show an enormous advance in housing, both from the point of view of design and of arrangement.
It is the intention of this book to place on record for the use of those to whom they may be of value some of the best examples of completed work, showing that it is possible to carry out housing schemes and build small houses without either outraging the aesthetic sense on the one hand, or ignoring the question of cost on the other.
The introductory chapters deal with the various problems which arise in connection with the general layout of schemes, the use of materials, and the actual design and planning of the small houses.
A complete specification and set of quantities for a group of small houses have been incorporated.
The illustrations include plans and specially taken photographs of various schemes, and types of small houses erected under various conditions, examples built in various materials, and also a number of details of doors, fireplaces, windows, etc., inexpensively made, but of satisfactory design.
A few examples from Holland, Denmark and Sweden, have been added. Those from the last-named country are especially interesting in that they show how timber may be used for modern house building with eminently satisfactory results.
It is hoped that this collection of examples may be of service to those who may, either now or in the future, be engaged upon similar work, and also give satisfaction to those who for years past have laboured for reform in housing, and whose efforts and investigations have so lightened the task of the present-day Architect and Town Planner.
|C. H. JAMES
F. R. YERBURY
A Group of Fourteen Cottages at Welwyn Garden City
SURVEY OF THE PROBLEM
IT is not intended in this book to go deeply into the economic and social questions involved in the provision of houses for the less wealthy section of the nation. These considerations have been most ably dealt with by social reformers in book, pamphlet and press, particularly during the last few years, and as a result, very largely, of their labours we have gone far beyond the stage when the urgent need for the provision of numbers of small houses, in one way or another, was a subject for controversy.
The means for their provision is left to others to decide, for the immediate purpose of this book is to deal with the problems met with in their actual design and building, although it is, of course, realised that the economic aspect cannot be divorced from these problems. A sympathetic acquaintance with the social and financial difficulties surrounding the housing question is essential to any one attempting to contribute to its solution, and it is obviously impossible for the Architect to design satisfactory buildings without making a careful study of the outlook and habits of life of those who are to occupy them.
The most conservative estimate of the number of houses required in Great Britain immediately after the War was three hundred thousand, whilst some possibly more correctly suggested a figure as high as one million. It is certain that the normal requirements of the country, viz., between seventy-five and one hundred thousand new houses a year, are not being met, and have not been met for years past, so that as matters stand we are faced with an ever accumulating shortage. Again, that most vital problem, the clearance of slum areas, which every one agrees is a pressing need, remains practically untouched.
Whatever political or economic necessity may have excused the Rent Restriction Acts, the fact remains that these Acts put an end to the activities of the speculative builder, and made the "house to let" sign but a memory of the past. Thus, in a sense, those who were in occupation of houses were protected at the expense of those who were not. One section of the community was placated by removing the more unpleasant effects of the house shortage from their lives, but it may be supposed that had the problem become general, public opinion would have promoted a speedier issue than has been the case.
The private builder of small houses to let has gone, perhaps for ever. His enterprise before the war provided practically the only source of supply for that section of the community generally known as "the working classes," except in a few instances where more enlightened employers of labour on a large scale built garden villages for their employees, such as Bournville, Earswick and Port Sunlight. In addition there were a certain number of Public Utility Societies which did fine work, but the mass of people were housed by the much-abused speculator.
Rents which the average tenant could or would pay were not sufficient to encourage the speculator to do more than provide a series of rooms covered by a roof, crowding as many as he could on to the land and producing ugly rows of houses decked out, more often than not, with unsightly trimmings which were supposed to be an attraction. He did not consider amenities, for his was a business whose object was to supply accommodation and nothing more, his main consideration being naturally to get as big a return for his outlay as possible, and the average tenant with limited means was prepared to accept, with a measure of thankfulness, what was offered him.
Even in the most prosperous pre-war days cottage building was not an attractive proposition, and it was difficult enough to produce economic schemes, but with the high cost of building to which we are now becoming quite accustomed the pre-war difficulties fade into insignificance. The fact must be faced that the economic rent of a present-day cottage is something more than the majority of working-class tenants can afford to pay. Presumably this is a position of affairs which no Government can afford to ignore, and we may reasonably look forward to an extended period of schemes for housing the people emanating from the Government of the day. Whether the time will ever again come when housing can be left to take its chance as in the old days is a matter for speculation, but if it does, we may be certain that the standard of housing attained since the war will have its effect, and will, let us hope, make it impossible for the nation to be satisfied with that which existed before the war. It must be remembered that for the first time in this country the problem of housing was, immediately after the war, attacked on national lines, and it is important to note that, also for the first time, architects were called in to design the every-day working-class house in large numbers. Of course, there is room for criticism in some cases, but no one can deny that as a whole the result has been to raise the general concept of working-class houses to a plane immeasurably higher, from the point of view of design and arrangement, than anything to which the present generation had been accustomed, and it should be sufficient to convince the most sceptical that the services of an architect are just as essential to the proper design of a cottage as to that of a mansion or town hall.
What then is the architect's contribution ? He must of course realise that he is dealing with a problem hedged with its own peculiar difficulties, which he must overcome and yet still produce designs which reveal the hand of the artist. "Minimum cost" is a phrase which will meet him at every turn, and this he cannot ignore without a confession of failure. Let him study the old villages and their cottages, and he will find that their charm results from their essential simplicity and lack of conscious design and obtrusive "features." To copy these slavishly would be folly. Modern conveniences such as sanitation, and improved ideas of light and air, would in any case make this impossible, but the essential qualities are the same to-day as in the days when these old cottages were built, viz., proportion, proper spacing of openings and, not least in importance, grouping.
Some of the schemes illustrated in this book are to an extent marred by the extreme "openness" of their development, and by the large number of houses built in pairs. Four cottages together is a sufficiently small unit of design, and even then such small groups should be linked up by walls and outbuildings to obtain a built-up appearance, otherwise it is difficult to avoid the spotty appearance of a large poultry farm, and easy to lose entirely any feeling of considered communal development. The single cottage is seldom a success unless standing well away from its neighbours, and the cost of land makes this an impossibility. Groups of four to sixteen are much more satisfactory in appearance, and although no doubt the sickening repetition of the Victorian terrace has caused an excusable revulsion of feeling, the possibility of incorporating some of the charm of the terrace of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century into modern housing should not be ignored. Moreover, we have long passed the time of "The Grump," of whom we are told that, "If your house was in a row or even half detached, your name from his acquaintance was immediately scratched."
From the prim little terraces of a hundred or more years ago, scattered about London and many of the provincial towns, there is yet much to learn. No individual house shouts for recognition, ornament is subdued, here and there a doorway is perhaps a little different from its neighbours, as possibly the ironwork of a balcony also, but every one is content to form part of a pleasant group, and to set us a model which we should do well to study.
SELECTION OF THE SITE
THE question as to whether existing large towns should be allowed to grow by adding suburbs to their boundaries, or whether self-contained satellite or dormitory towns should be built, hardly comes within the province of this book, though most reformers incline to the latter view. A really enlightened borough should realise when it has grown large enough for comfort and amenity. It will then take steps to ensure the preservation of a certain amount of open space before beginning to expand again by means of dormitory suburbs connected by fast trains or trams to the centre, or by means of satellite towns or "Garden Cities."
Starting off with a definite limit of area and population, the Garden City has the advantage of keeping the worker near his work, and thus saving large sums which would otherwise have to be spent in fares, and at the same time providing better homes, cheaper food, and far more time and opportunity for healthy outdoor recreation.
In any case, the first important consideration in connection with the provision of the houses of the future is the selecting of the place where they are to be built, and for this purpose careful thought and expert technical advice are needed. An unsuitable site may not only lead, as will be shown later, to great difficulties in development, but may also involve considerable and needless expenditure of money required for building purposes.
The Architect or Town Planner's task should begin before land is purchased, for he is best able to see the possibilities or drawbacks of a particular site. It should, for instance, be obvious to him that it is wiser in the end to pay more for gently sloping land easily drained and having a good subsoil than for a site that may have grave disadvantages of subsoil or contour.
The cost of the land is, therefore, not of such great moment as at first sight seems to be the case; the cost of road making and building is of far greater importance, for, with development costing on normal sites from four to six hundred pounds an acre, it may readily be seen that the development of an awkward site would soon eat up any saving that may have been made in the purchase price, and the resulting plots would probably be less valuable.
Building on hilly sites is bound to be more than normally an expensive operation. It entails extra digging and banking, extra walling at the low side, and, in addition, either the erection of single houses or pairs, or awkward alterations of roofs and floor levels if larger groups are used.
In the selection of a site there are five main points to be considered :-
The Survey and Planning of the Site
The site having been chosen, the next important step to be taken is the making of an accurate survey. This should show the position of all good trees, hedges, ponds, existing buildings, streams and other natural features, and should be supplemented by a careful contour survey and photographs.
With this contoured plan before him, the architect can make the very best use of the land at the least possible expense, and it must be remembered that while a pretty geometrical pattern may be very pleasant from the air or on a drawing, it becomes ludicrous in actual practice unless the site be more or less flat and devoid of natural interest.
Every endeavour should be made to take advantage of lines of trees, hedges or brooks, and no possible amenity should be lost. Building plots should be rectangular in shape; awkward road junctions, which are wasteful of frontage and expensive to make, should be avoided.
The old method of developing a building site for residential purposes is only too well known. Long parallel roads of more or less equal, and far more than sufficient, width, were cut through at intervals of about 200 feet, this being just enough to give an inadequate garden to the houses on each road. The process was carried on ad infinitum, without the smallest regard for contours or other natural features, with the result that, in many instances, roads ran directly up very steep hills; in some towns such roads may be seen with a gradient as steep as one in ten.
These parallel roads were joined up at intervals with short cross roads, which were entirely useless so far as affording building plots was concerned, being merely flanked by the ends and gardens of the houses on the longer roads.
All roads were of the width required by the bye-laws, namely, 36 or 42 feet, 24 or 30 feet of which was carriageway and the remainder footpath. They had granite curb and channel, paved side walks and expensively constructed carriageways, and as means of access to residential property were unnecessarily wide and strong. Many roads of these dimensions may be seen in any provincial town used to serve two or three houses or a small cul-de-sac, with an abundance of grass and weeds showing up their extravagant and unnecessary width.
The old method of putting as many as forty or fifty houses to the acre was largely the outcome of circumstances connected with this method of developing the land. Many expensive roads having been made on a given area, it was necessary for the landowner to reimburse himself by charging for the plots, not by area, but by the foot run of frontage. Hence, if the selling price or rent of a house was not to be unduly increased by the price of the land, the frontages of the houses had to be kept within as small a space as possible, often as little as 16 or even 12 feet being given to each house.
The bye-laws mentioned above were very largely responsible for this state of affairs. Framed fifty or more years ago, with a very laudable desire to prevent stuffy courts and back-to-back houses, they seem to have been interpreted without imagination or understanding. The thing that was, and still is, of the utmost importance, is that houses on opposite sides of a road should be spaced sufficiently far apart to enable them to get as much sunlight and air as possible, the actual width of the carriageway, provided it be adequate for its purpose, being of little importance.
The slightest foresight and intelligence exercised in the laying out of a building site will indicate with reasonable certainty the roads likely to have to take heavy traffic; the remainder may then be suitably constructed to serve their purpose simply as a means of access to dwellings, their traffic being limited to a few tradesmen's vans each day.
It has already been pointed out that the cost of road making is a more expensive item than the first cost of the land; it therefore follows that the less road it is necessary to make on a given site, the less the cost of the developed land will be, and, consequently, the larger the plot that can be given to each house for the same outlay of money. Before any road is made, it is thus essential to ascertain whether it will bring in sufficient revenue from the resulting frontage to pay for its cost.
An open system of development, such as would result from this method, inevitably leaves irregular plots of land of fair size totally undeveloped, and consequently appears uneconomical; but these spaces have very many uses, serving for tennis courts, children's playgrounds, communal gardens or allotments, being particularly suitable in the last-named instance because screened from the road and with ready access from the surrounding houses. Little difficulty will be experienced in letting these plots, and though the rents charged must be small, the expenses are almost negligible, no money having been expended in making road frontages to them.
After having laid out the plots in the residential roads, the largest of the spaces left over will possibly repay an access road and may be used as culs-de-sac for ten to twenty houses, approached by a drive 10 or 12 feet in width. Such culs-de-sac afford quiet and pleasant dwelling-places, and are often in greater demand than those fronting on to the roads. A limit to their depth is, however, necessary, as traffic must not be encouraged on the small access road. Tradesmen will leave their vans at the end if they have not to walk too far, and can keep their horses or motors under observation.
If the length does not exceed 100 yards, a branch water main of the exact size required to feed the houses only need be provided, greater depth would entail a larger main for fire-prevention purposes.
Small roads for getting to the backs of houses were in most parts of the country a normal feature, but the need for these is, at present, dormant, as they have been superseded, for the time being at any rate, by open passageways through the blocks of houses themselves.
The Construction and Width of Roads
For general development purposes, leaving out arterial and main roads, 40 or 50 feet highways, of which the major part will consist of paths and grass margins, are all that will be necessary.
The carriageway, even on an important development road, never need be more than 24 feet wide, while 16 or 18 feet is much more usual. It must always be remembered that this can, if necessary, be widened at a future date by taking slices from the grass margins.
Carriageways of even less than this width have been tried, but the tendency on one of, say, 12 feet is for traffic to stay in the middle, thus making two ruts with a rough space between kicked up by the horses' hoofs. Even if turning-places are provided, they are not always used, it being so very easy to drive over the edge of a carriageway having no curb; thus it becomes impossible to keep the grass margins in good condition.
Curbs and channels are usually unnecessary, though the former should be put at corners to discourage the tendency of drivers to cut across. The alternative to a curb for this purpose is heavy oak posts or large stones, which are, however, dangerous on a dark night even if whitened.
The grass margin is now usually accepted as the right treatment for new residential roads in a position between the carriageway and the path, but it cannot be said that in the majority of instances it is very successful. Its care seems to be no one's business, and consequently it is seldom cut or tended, and if the road or path is at all rough or stony it is very apt to develop into a footway. When the communal spirit is more developed, undoubtedly these grass margins will receive more care and attention, and in any case they are restful to the eyes, and are certainly better than the blue brick or granolithic paving whose place they take. They have, if placed next to the carriageway, another function as a buffer between it and the path, and so minimise the danger of thoughtlessly stepping off the path.
Roads which are of sufficient importance to have a carriageway 16 feet or more in width, normally have a 5 to 7 foot path on either side adjoining the boundary of building plots. These may be of gravel, which is about the cheapest form, or, if it can be afforded, natural or artificial stone. Tar paving is often used, but, while it makes a satisfactory path, it can hardly be said to be beautiful.
On a curved road a path may be put on the inside of the curve only, it being assumed that people even from the other side of the road will cross over and walk down the shortest side. Culs-de-sac and short connecting roads with little traffic require no footpath, the carriageway serving the double purpose. Where a grass margin separates carriageway and footpath, it is usual to join these up at intervals with short paths to minimise the wear on the grass.
It has been the common practice to plant a line of trees on either side of a road quite without thought as to their effect. Avenues of trees are certainly very beautiful, but are only really effective on straight roads. On curved roads the best effects will be obtained either by a line of trees on the outside of the curve or by clumps of trees at intervals, while on a hill groups of trees will often give the best result.
Trees are usually planted in the grass margins, and, in the case of double avenues, on the edges of building plots as well, but there seems no reason why they should not be planted nearer to the houses so that the latter can be seen from the path through the spaces between the trees. There are few more beautiful things than an old brick building seen through a row of pollarded limes or graceful poplars.
Hedges and Front and Division Fences
Every endeavour should be made at the outset of a scheme to persuade tenants that fences or hedges, separating them from one another and from the road, are not a necessity, and that if every front garden is open there is little tendency to trespass.
This may necessitate the society or authority owning the houses taking over the care of the front gardens, but the effect is worth the extra trouble involved. The value of simple grass plots as a link between houses cannot be exaggerated, and would often pull together a street of indifferently designed units in a way that nothing else could possibly do. It is enough to bring tears to the eyes of the designer of the houses to see what should be a simple lawn mutilated by constellations of flower beds. Small borders of simple English flowers against houses are very pleasant, and borders on either side of the pathway to the house may occasionally look well, though they are apt to have, in a minor degree, the effect of a cross fence.
The complete elimination of all hedges and fences brings us back almost to the ideal, namely, houses on to the street, as is usual in our old country towns, whose charm has to be recalled in the work of the future.
The absolute antithesis of this is the bye-law street of the speculative builder with its dwarf walls with blue Staffordshire coping and heavy, ugly, cast-iron railings enclosing a miserable plot of about 16 feet by 4 feet 6 inches of moss-grown mud, the cross divisions affording a dreary vista of spikes and ugly shapes as a fitting counterpart to the gables and bay windows above.
It is, however, necessary to know something about hedges, fences and gates, for it is unlikely that the practice of using these will be altogether dropped for some time to come. At the same time, it should be impressed upon tenants that front gardens are, in a sense, communal property, and it is certainly in their interests that there should be some sort of cohesion in treatment.
The cheapest division fence is undoubtedly a hedge, reinforced with wood or concrete posts about 3 feet high with two or three strands of wire. Similar posts with 1-inch galvanised iron tube at the top and wire mesh below form an effective protection to a growing hedge, and various large mesh wire fences are now made which are inexpensive and not unpleasant in appearance.
Hedges, when grown, make the least objectionable divisions, but it should, at least, be insisted that one variety only is used for all houses in the same road.
It is usual to link up houses and cut off the front gardens from the back, where spaces occur between blocks with simple trellis fencing to give privacy. There is no doubt, however, that a brick wall, either solid or honeycomb, is better for this purpose, and this is probably more economical in the long run, as the life of a creosoted deal trellis is unlikely to exceed fifteen years.
Sheds and outbuildings, skilfully contrived, form helpful links in a frontage line, but they should be designed with the buildings they are to serve and not afterwards inserted haphazard. Many otherwise well-considered communal schemes of development have been marred, if not completely spoiled, by the outcrop of sheds of all kinds, which occurs soon after the houses become tenanted.
UNTIL the end of the last century, and even, with a few notable exceptions, until the beginning of the War, the provision of the type of house required by people whose means necessitated their paying a small weekly rent was left to the activities of the speculating builder. So far as can be seen, it had not come home to any but the most enlightened that the provision of small houses was in the least degree a social necessity. Building costs were such as permitted houses to be let at a rental that the ordinary manual worker was able to pay, and house property of this kind was considered a good investment by thrifty working men and small tradespeople. The actual builder, of course, was not as a rule able to hold the houses he had erected, even if he wished to do so, without seriously curbing his further activities.
His usual method of procedure was to obtain a strip of frontage of what he considered about the correct depth. He would arrive at the utmost possible number of houses capable of being placed thereon, and would then proceed to reproduce a plan which would just comply with the local bye-laws until the limits of the site or bankruptcy "permanently vitiated his future career."
A few houses were built to let by large industrial firms, by Local Authorities and County Councils, by Public Utility Societies, by landowners for estate servants, etc. These, however, provided an almost negligible percentage of the total. The first and greatest source of supply, the speculative builder, has now dropped completely out of the running, and although his return may be possible, it will probably not take place for some years.
In the meantime Local Authorities have built more than ever before, buoyed up by the fact that, under the "Housing of the Working Classes Act" of 1919, their liability ended with the amount that a penny rate would produce in their particular rating area, the country paying the rest of the loss. This Act has now been repealed, and another has taken its place under which the country at large will at least know the extent of its liability per house, and the Local Authority will have every encouragement to build as economically as possible.
Public Utility Societies, given reasonable legislation and help, may yet solve the problem of building the small house for those who cannot afford to buy. It may be well, therefore, to give here a brief definition of such a body.
A Public Utility Society is in many ways similar to a Limited Company, but is required to be registered by the Registrar of Friendly Societies under the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts and to comply with certain Regulations made by the Treasury. The objects for which a society is formed are various, but always include, inter alia, power to deal in land of any description, and usually powers to provide and manage houses. Normally, although not necessarily, the tenants are also shareholders.
No person, except another society or a local authority, may hold more than £200 worth of shares. Under the Acts referred to, a society is required to restrict the dividend payable on share capital to 5 per cent.; but for the purposes of the Housing Act of 1919 this rate was raised to 6 per cent. As this was found to be insufficient, the regulation, so far as this limited class of society is concerned, was varied by the Housing Act, 1921, to "a rate not exceeding that prescribed by the Treasury." This latter restriction also applies in the case of those societies which desire to build houses under the Housing Act of 1923. A society is required to provide in its rules for this limitation of dividend.
The rest of the capital consists of loan stock issued subject to such terms as to repayment and payment of interest, etc., as may be determined from time to time by the committee of the society, or of loans secured on the property of the society.
Before the war these societies were able to borrow from the Public Works Loan Board up to two-thirds of the cost of a house of a reasonable size. The interest on this loan, to include repayment of capital in fifty years, was about 3½ per cent. As these societies had thus only to borrow approximately one-third of the cost of the house at a rate of about 4 per cent., they were able to build more or less extensively and to pay their way while charging reasonable rents for their houses. Thus a cottage in the Hampstead Garden Suburb could be obtained quite as cheaply as infinitely inferior accommodation in Shadwell, while at Letchworth 4s. 6d. to 7s. 6d. (exclusive of rates) were normal rents.
Under the Housing Act of 1919, however, things became very different. The Government lent up to a maximum of 75 per cent. of the approved cost, but with considerable stipulations as to size and design, and the rate of interest, with repayment of capital in fifty years, varied from about 6½ per cent. to 4¾ per cent., according to the market condition at the time of taking up. Little outside money was forthcoming, so that the tenants or the promoters had to provide the bulk of the balance by investing in ordinary shares up to £200, any excess over this amount being taken up in Loan Stock. The necessity for the provision of this capital prevented the average labouring man from obtaining a house, with the result that these societies have recently been building almost entirely for the lower middle class, though on only slightly enlarged editions of the workers' type of plan.
Under the Act of 1923, a grant of a fixed sum per house per annum for a period of twenty years is provided, subject to certain conditions, and it is to be hoped that this will assist these societies to carry on the work which they were doing so effectually prior to the War, namely, to provide houses for manual workers in addition to those for the slightly better-off members of the community.
The time is now rapidly approaching when, with but slight assistance, carefully directed, from the public purse, it will be possible to build houses and to let them at a rental which, while being within reach of the worker's pocket, will also give a reasonable but not excessive return on the money invested.
The Rent Restriction Act, necessary though it seemed to be, has militated against house building to a great extent by preventing rents from rising approximately to the level of those which have to be asked for houses built since the war.
HOUSES of the type that are now being considered will, in the near future, need to be provided in very large numbers, so that, in addition to the planning of the house itself, the disposal of the various houses and community buildings on the site will need careful study. Nothing is more unsatisfactory than a large number of units of similar size dotted about without sufficient thought being given to positions for larger buildings and open spaces. However well they may be designed, a large number of small houses, without the relief afforded by buildings of a different nature, must be dull and uninteresting.
No group of more than fifty houses can be considered complete without at least a small institute with reading, meeting and recreation rooms; whilst larger schemes for complete villages, suburbs and towns will also require churches and schools, a picture theatre and shops, as well as a number of larger houses for doctors and others. A small hospital, or at least a First Aid centre, should be provided, and there seems no reason why inns, where food as well as drink may be obtained, should be excluded.
The institute as the common meeting ground of the community should, of course, occupy a central position. To place the churches satisfactorily, however, without offence to different denominations, is more difficult. Generally speaking they should occupy dominating positions, but to attempt to balance two churches of different sects does not seem to work out very well in practice. When more or less closely surrounded by buildings of a secular nature or by houses, churches usually look better, and their scale is likely to be more telling.
Except that schools should be in pleasant surroundings, their position is not of great importance, provided that they are within reasonable distance of the homes from which the scholars will come. They should not, of course, occupy island sites nor be nearly surrounded by expensive roads. The most general practice will be either to put them in large plots of back land that would normally be used as culs-de-sac, or on irregular plots difficult of ordinary development. In any case, they should not be put too near to houses whose occupants the shouting of the children is likely to disturb.
Shops should be placed where the maximum number of people will pass them; this is usually near the station or the routes of public vehicles. They have been found to be unsatisfactory in open squares, and, curiously enough, pay best when grouped together.
Picture theatres will find a place where an ordinary theatre would be a white elephant, and may be placed either in conjunction with shops or in the Square or Place, together with the Banks, Estate Office, Post Office and larger residences.
In Public Utility Society schemes, where the tenants in many cases possess small cars or motor-cycle combinations, a small block of lock-up garages with or without flats over them will be worth providing, both financially and as forming a break in the character of the buildings. Such provision would also help to restrain the outcrop of small wooden sheds that usually occurs.
Grounds for field games should, of course, be placed where the land is reasonably level, and for the selection of sites for these the same rules apply as those given for schools. For games requiring smaller areas, ample spaces will occur in any scheme of reasonably open development.
Road Junctions and Corners
In the foregoing considerations, the main object, namely, that of providing plots for houses, will not have been forgotten, but it may be well for a moment to dwell on the treatment of the junctions and corners of ordinary residential roads. Every possible endeavour should be made to see that roads cut into or across one another at right angles; otherwise endless difficulties, both with house plans and the division of plots, will occur.
There are many ways of treating a junction. The first, and probably the best, is to build it up completely with a specially designed block which produces an easy and natural corner. Such blocks are, however, difficult to design and somewhat more expensive to build than the normal rectangular type, and so have recently been almost impossible on financial grounds, being difficult to justify except from the aesthetic point of view. It should be added that the method outlined is most suitable when the two roads affected are of more or less equal importance.
Another, and perhaps the commonest, way of treating a corner, is with a wall joining the back angles of two pairs fronting normally their respective roads. This treatment is quite pleasant on level sites, but is apt to lead to serious complications on a corner where the fall is considerable. It interferes rather more than the last with the shape of the back garden plots.
A third way, and one which gives less trouble with the gardens, is similar to the last, but the houses are placed further apart, and, instead of being joined by a wall across the corner, are joined by one which continues the back or front wall of each house, meeting in a summer-house or garden shed which may either be the property of one house or be divided between the two.
A fourth way, and one that should be reconsidered and not condemned without trial, is the ordinary way in which the speculative builder treated a corner. That he usually did it abominably must be admitted, but it is capable of excellent results and is very suitable where the junction is of a main road with a cul-de-sac or other of secondary importance. It is the method of bringing the houses on the main road almost up to the junction, beginning again on the secondary road with a house at a reasonable distance away, and joining the two with a pleasant brick wall having a well-designed gate therein. This is the common practice in Holland, where bricks are cheap, and it is hoped will often be done again in England. It has the great advantage of giving rectangular gardens to all houses, though possibly they may be slightly curtailed in the case of the three or four nearest the corner.
Of course, this last method is almost impossible unless a really good and high wall or close fence of good design can be afforded at the side of the garden of the end house. Otherwise there is no privacy for any of the gardens and no screen for the inevitable untidiness round about the back door.
Another method, which, however, does not seem to be very satisfactory, is to put pairs or single houses diagonally across the corner.
An ingenious treatment has been suggested, namely, that of building up the angles completely with two or three storey flats, having no gardens whatever, but just a small court at the back, sufficient to comply with the bye-laws. As the upper flats would get no gardens in any case, the tenants of the ground floor flats could hardly grumble at getting none, and plenty of light and air would be obtained over the gardens of the ordinary houses on either side.
Many of the methods of treatment given apply equally to angles other than right angles; obtuse angles are fairly easy to deal with, but their complementary acute angles are very difficult, serious complications arising owing to very limited gardens and the fact that the backs of houses will come too close together. If these troubles are avoided, considerable waste of valuable road frontage occurs.
Another drawback to irregular junctions is the increased difficulty and expense of building the corner completely up, owing to complicated cutting, especially in the roof, if the angles used are other than 45 degrees and 90 degrees.
For using up deep plots of land abutting a main road or for the treatment of culs-de-sac, quadrangles of houses are very pleasant. They can either be designed as separate groups arranged in the form of a square or oblong, or, if the land is sufficiently level, as one complete unit. If the latter and more pleasant method be adopted, it is probable that the houses will cost a little more, for it is almost impossible to reduce corner houses to the same cubic capacity as that of the ordinary houses on the straight, and their planning presents considerable difficulty. Nevertheless, they well repay the extra time and thought required. Quadrangles should on no account have separate front gardens, otherwise the whole effect will be spoiled.
Care should be taken to terminate vistas; nothing is more depressing than a street straggling on with no defined end. It is not necessary to have a gable or special feature for such purpose, but the picture should be completed in some way; if, however, a special feature is used, it must be on the axis.
In some Continental schemes the breaking up of street frontages for access to side roads is avoided by making a great archway over the junction through which the narrower secondary road goes. This affords pleasant pictures, and is probably the most satisfactory way possible, though it is bound to be more expensive than other forms of treatment.
The Size and Placing of' Groups
In laying out a site for houses under the new methods of ten to twelve to the acre, parallel roads should be kept at least 300 feet apart centre to centre, while 340 feet is much better. Three hundred feet gives, with a 40-foot road, 15 feet front garden and a house 20 feet thick, a back garden depth of 95 feet or 190 feet between backs of houses, and a total plot of 130 feet by 33.5 feet at ten to the net acre or 130 feet by 28 feet at twelve to the net acre.
Three hundred and forty feet centre to centre gives, of course, more space between backs, but, if twelve to the acre is rigidly adhered to, reduces the available frontage to 24 feet per house or, at ten to the acre, 29 feet.
Now an average frontage of 30 feet will be found to be the minimum required for parlour houses facing either due North or due South, because in both these instances the two sitting-rooms should be on the sunny side, though often the end houses of a block may be of shorter frontage and different plan, as some light can be admitted at the sides. Great care must, however, be exercised in this case to prevent the windows looking directly into those of the next house.
Houses facing East and West may have their frontages considerably curtailed, as one sitting-room may be at the front and one at the back, but, generally speaking, the long frontage house is more satisfactory to live in, looks better, and is as cheap as the same accommodation provided on a deeper narrower plan, owing to the saving in roof, height and gable wall, which counterbalances the increased wall area of the longer frontage type.
Almost all Public Utility Society schemes, with the class of tenant now being attracted to them, will require long frontage houses, as otherwise it is well nigh impossible to give access from kitchen to front door without going through the living-room, and such access is nearly always asked for by prospective tenants.
Too often in the past have blocks of four or six houses of exactly similar type been built, for the reason, one supposes, that it is slightly more difficult to work in an end house of a different type, but if this can be done, it will be found to add considerably to the interest of the elevation as well as being the logical solution of the problem, the end house having three external walls for windows and entrance door.
The general adoption of a wide frontage type of house will be found to close up frontages and to produce built-up street effects impossible with narrow-fronted houses unless the latter are given inordinately long and narrow back gardens, assuming, of course, that one is not exceeding the maximum of twelve houses to the acre.
As to size of groups, it may be well to run through the advantages and disadvantages of each type.
Single houses are to be avoided, except in very exceptional circumstances. They cost more than the same accommodation provided in one of a pair or more. They usually look very small and are too tall for their width or depth, and difficult to treat symmetrically unless the front door is central in the front or end. If exceptional circumstances arise demanding their use, as on very steep roads or sharp corners, care must be taken to tie them on to their neighbours by connecting walls or sheds.
Pairs suffer from some of the disadvantages of single houses, namely, they are still small to stand alone as units, unless they are of the "two sitting-room, four bedroom" type, and the spaces between them make gaps which are unpleasant unless treated as before suggested. They must usually be used, however, on curved roads, and on roads having a gradient steeper than one in twenty. Next to single houses, pairs are most popular with tenants, as they think that thereby they gain additional privacy. It is true that they only have one party wall, but the "back" door and the untidiness surrounding it being usually at the side is more on view from the road and from the adjoining house than if it were at the back.
Blocks of four make a unit of reasonable size, and lend themselves to good architectural treatment. Normally they are slightly cheaper than pairs, but the saving of one external wall is almost nullified by the extra cost of the 4-foot passage-way that is usually provided for access to the backs of the middle houses. The space over this, however, adds considerably to the bedroom floor area and often makes it possible to provide four bedrooms to one or both of the inner houses, or in any case, larger bedrooms than could otherwise be obtained.
Blocks of six, even of the most simple design without a break in the front, can look charming and give a feeling of restfulness seldom obtained in housing schemes.
Beyond this number we should speak of "terraces" or "quadrangles," of which far too few have been done recently. They may be found at the Duchy of Cornwall estate, but on very few other modern schemes, but England is full of suggestions for any one who cares to look for them.
Lastly, if it should be necessary to make many repeats of one type, that type must be of the simplest description; the repetition of a gable or bay window several times in a street is most restless. Gables at right angles to the street should be avoided except as closing features at ends. A much more restful effect is produced if the bulk of the lines run parallel to the frontage.
DESIGN AND MATERIALS
THE subject of the actual design of the houses is one on which it is unsafe to generalise. A type of house suitable for one locality may be totally out of place in another, but local tradition and definite requirements of cost and accommodation will form a solid basis on which to work.
The chief point to be remembered is that individuality must give place to unity. The merely picturesque, possibly permissible in a single house, becomes an incoherent jumble if often repeated.
There is one type of house which never seems to be out of place, and that is the simple and unaffected "Georgian" cottage, consisting of a doorway in the centre with a window on either side and three windows above. It may be seen looking equally at home in Cornwall, Yorkshire, the Cotswold Hills or the Home Counties. In fact, such a cottage might be standardised and used with excellent results in any part of the British Isles, provided only that suitable materials are used for walls and roof.
It should not be inferred from the above remarks that this is the only good type, but merely that it is the type most suitable to every locality and under all conditions.
Design has been described as "The arrangement of the details which are to go to make the whole, not only with regard to their artistic completeness, but also with regard to their appropriateness and general utility in the position which they are designed to occupy and the materials from which they are to be constructed." The same authority adds a remark, the truth of which is too seldom realised, namely, that "Design does not necessarily mean originality or newness; far more frequently it is merely the development of old ideas to suit new conditions."
It cannot, therefore, be said that a certain type of roof or wall, door or window is bad or good, but that it is inappropriate or the reverse. There is, however, one thing, abstract and difficult of definition, but which is inherent in all good buildings, and that is character, which may be described as the impress left by the knowledge, skill and especially the care of the designer.
Bearing these points in mind, it will be possible to discuss from an unbiased standpoint the various kinds of walling, and roofing materials, of windows and doors, and of eaves and chimney stacks.
Most people given the choice would prefer to live in houses built of stone. The reasons are probably that it is so solid and everlasting in appearance, and that, generally speaking, it is pleasant in colour and texture. It is, however, expensive, even when the quarries are close at hand and the stone can be had for the getting. The labour of working, laying and fitting blocks or pieces of varying size, makes the work slow and the cost prohibitive where economy is one of the prime factors. Stone walls, too, must be 18 inches thick as a minimum, and this entails extra roof, possibly more foundation, and, if the stone is very porous, a lining of brick will be needed in addition.
Stone walls may either be left in their natural state or may be covered with lime wash or distemper. There are few pleasanter wall surfaces than rubble stone which has had a few coats of colour wash.
The commonest walling material and that which gives the most general satisfaction, when cost, speed of erection and general utility are considered, is brick. Bricks vary a great deal in size, colour and texture in various parts of the kingdom. In London and the Home Counties, they are 2 and 5/8th inches thick, and the bulk of them are of excellent appearance and have good weathering qualities. In the Midlands, West and North, however, the bricks are usually 3 inches thick, which is unpleasantly large, and, generally speaking, they are either of an ugly red colour, or are what is known as "brindled, that is to say, semi-vitrified.
Most of those from the South Country are of a porous nature, and so will require to be built with a cavity to stop water penetrating to the inside of the building. This is more expensive than solid walling and probably less strong, but is likely to bear all the strain put upon it in an ordinary domestic building.
A wall of brick, where colour, texture and size are right, is a continual pleasure, and improves with age and weather if built in good mortar and properly pointed.
Where facings of good appearance are unobtainable and brick walls are still desired, there are two alternatives - to cover them with cement rendering or with colour wash.
Cement rendering if left to the ordinary plasterer, is likely to be finished with a perfectly smooth, hard and even surface. To avoid this, it should be specified to be finished with a wooden float, with which tool a pleasant uneven texture is obtained, or else it may be pricked over or scratched with a hard brush. Interesting patterns may be obtained by the scratching if the plasterer enters into the spirit of the work.
Rough cast is the application of a third coat to the above. This is done by flicking sand and cement on to the wall by means of a bunch of twigs or a brush. Horrible results are often obtained by using gravel in lieu of sand.
Both cement rendering and rough cast will need, for the sake of appearance, no less than to assist in making them waterproof, two coats of colour wash. This may be either lime wash, an admixture of Russian tallow and the necessary pigment or a proprietary distemper (external variety). The great advantage of the last-named, is that the desired colour can be seen beforehand. Results vastly different from those anticipated are frequently obtained with lime wash and powder colour.
Concrete blocks have been used with great success in many places. They are especially useful where bricks are either almost unobtainable or in stone districts, where their use would be out of harmony with the surroundings. At the present time and in most places, they are quite as expensive as brick, and often give trouble with condensation on the inner side of the wall. It is usually necessary to colour wash externally, as in the case of rendering or rough cast, and for similar reasons.
A great engineering firm in the north of England, seeking to overcome the shortage of bricks and bricklayers during and immediately after the war, evolved a system of concrete and steel construction which served a very useful purpose. Now that other materials and more workmen are available, however, their system will probably die a natural death. The different coefficients of expansion of steel and concrete cause cracks to appear in the external walls which is the greatest drawback to this system, while it is more expensive than ordinary methods at the present time.
Weather boarding on wooden framing is not now generally approved by Local Authorities. When painted white its appearance is all that can be desired, but the expense of proper upkeep is considerable.
Sawn elm weather boarding left without treatment of any kind looks well, but warps and twists so badly that it must have a weatherproof wall behind. Two thicknesses of clinker concrete held together with galvanised iron ties serve his purpose, as well as affording a backing that can be nailed to without the addition of wooden battens. Weather boarding with the wany edges left on seems unjustifiable affectation.
Mass concrete as a walling material is not very satisfactory. Other systems, such as cob, pise and chalk have been adequately dealt with elsewhere, and while they are no doubt very satisfactory under certain circumstances and for isolated cottages and farm buildings, they do not appear to offer a serious contribution to the solution of the problem with which this book is concerned.
Of equal importance with the wall of a building is undoubtedly its roof, for upon these two falls the bulk of the work of keeping the inmates dry and warm. One of the most beautiful materials for this purpose is the stone slate used in the Cotswolds and parts of Northamptonshire. It does not, however, greatly affect the present problem, as the cost is quite prohibitive, but there is no adequate substitute for roofing in these neighbourhoods.
Stone slates should be fixed with oak pins and laid in diminishing course from eaves to ridge.
Plain tiles are the most generally useful material for roofs whose pitch exceeds 45 degrees. They are waterproof at or above that pitch, laid to a 3-inch lap, except in very exposed positions, without the assistance of torching or of felt. They look right in most neighbourhoods, especially all round London. Next to stone slates and the more beautiful varieties of Cornish and Welsh slate, they are the most expensive form of roof if a good quality tile is used. Machine-made cheap tiles are ugly and unsatisfactory in every way.
Pantiles with their wavy surface and vertical channels are most satisfactory from the point of view of design, they cost less when laid than plain tiles, but are not waterproof in themselves, and need either bedding and pointing in cement mortar or a lining of impervious felt beneath. In Belgium and Holland they appear to be used on steep pitches of 50 degrees or more without any pointing or felt. However, without interrogating the inhabitants, it is difficult to find out whether or not the rain or snow gets through.
There are now on the market many makes of more waterproof tiles of somewhat similar appearance, albeit not nearly so beautiful. Some have special interlocking qualities which make their use possible on pitches as flat as 30 degrees, and where price is a prime factor they are one of the best forms of roof obtainable. Neither the surface nor the colour is all that could be desired, but they are certainly superior in appearance to cheap machine-made plain tiles or to the ordinary variety of blue or purple slate, with which materials they are comparable in price.
It is unfortunate that an otherwise good roofing material, such as slate undoubtedly is, has been spoiled by the discovery of mechanical means of splitting and dressing, as it is chiefly owing to its smooth texture and thin appearance that it has come to be so despised. In Wales and Cornwall this roofing material is inevitable; it therefore only remains to be seen that a thicker, rougher type of slate is used. Blue slate roofs with red brick walls make one of the worst possible colour combinations, and should be avoided at whatever cost, but these slates may be used successfully with London stocks or gaults, or, of course, with colour-washed walls of any material. Isolated attempts made from time to time to introduce flat roofs, either of concrete or joists and boards covered with a water-proof material, seem to have been abortive.
The appearance and character of a building can be more altered by the shape and pitch of its roof than by any other means. A house designed for a steep roof cannot suddenly be altered to take one of a flat pitch, but from the outset the designer must bear in mind the roofing material and the pitch desired. It will be obvious that a cottage 24 feet thick cannot have a roof of 45 degrees or over without considerable waste of space therein and an appearance of top-heaviness, unless the roof be brought down at least to first floor window-cill level and dormers introduced. Similarly, a roof of 30 degrees or over on a span of 18 to 20 feet will be insignificant, and, indeed, almost invisible to any one standing in its vicinity. In view of this, in places where plain tiles are the natural roofing materials, houses of small span and long frontage will be required, and only where the reverse is the case can flatter roofs of slate or interlocking tile be introduced with success.
Roofs of the Mansard type may be very successful, if the subtle relation of the two slopes is understood; they cannot, however, be said to be as cheap as the more usual variety.
Much cutting in roofs is undesirable, especially where pantiles or the like are used, as no special hips and valleys made to bond are obtainable as is the case with plain tiles. It is, perhaps, unnecessary to add that red hips and ridges are unsuitable for use with slate roofs.
External Doors and Doorways
The front doorway of the average inexpensive cottage is almost the only feature on which it is possible to use ornament, so that however many economies may have to be effected elsewhere, the expenditure of an extra pound or two on this item should not be impossible. It is only by this means that the monotony of really cheap houses, however carefully designed, can be relieved.
Where a fanlight may usefully be inserted, it offers much scope for economical decoration, and in any case, a well-designed architrave frieze and cornice may be used. Composition enrichments are not expensive, and are easy to obtain and to apply, while simple pilasters, either plain or fluted, can often be used.
The door itself may have fielded or moulded panels, and if these are kept small so that specially picked timber has not, of necessity, to be used, the cost will not be excessive. "Half-glass" doors are frequently necessary, but should be avoided if at all possible. When used they look better either with the glass occupying at least three-quarters, if not the whole, of the available panel space, or else confined to the small upper panel or panels of the door.
Artificial stone doorways ought not to be outside the realms of possibility, if they can be ordered in lots of six or more at a time.
Simple brass furniture and paint of good colour will always amply repay their exceedingly small cost.
Next to the roof, the windows probably have the greatest effect in determining the ultimate appearance of a small house. It is wise, therefore, to expend some time and thought upon them, not only in order to decide which type of window is most appropriate, but also to arrive at a happy shape and size for the panes, and a good proportion of frame and bar to glass and of windows one to another.
The double hung sash window seems to be experiencing a great revival of popularity at the present time, and not without reason, for it undoubtedly has many merits. The chief of these are the ease with which a little ventilation can be obtained, the simplicity of cleaning and the good appearance. Its drawbacks are that sash cords break, sashes shrink and rattle in the wind, and the cost may be anything up to 25 per cent. more than ordinary wooden casements.
The last-named are thought to be more picturesque and were made popular by early housing reformers, for the probable reason that the sash window was the one in general use by the speculating builder of that time. The position is now reversed.
Wooden casements, like sashes, have a tendency to shrink, and with more noticeable results, for a serious shrinkage will allow rain and wind to penetrate. Ventilation is difficult in wet or stormy weather unless opening top lights are provided, and bedroom curtains are liable to be sucked outside and deposited in the eaves gutter, often a far from clean place.
Steel casements are very costly if of special size and when used in conjunction with wooden frames. They are, however, made in standard sizes and with steel frames, hinges, stays and fasteners complete, when they become comparable in price with those made of wood. It should be said that with all types of casement window special hinges should be used to enable the outside to be cleaned from inside the room.
There may be occasions when leaded glazing is appropriate, but ordinarily its use does not appear to be justified.
Yorkshire sliding sashes are now seldom used, but they are the cheapest of all forms of window.
Setting windows near the face of the wall obviates the use of any cill other than that which forms part of the window itself.
Dormer windows should be so arranged that the eaves gutter will pass across or just below them; this saves additional down pipes and incidentally improves the appearance. They should have adequate angle posts to stop the studding and plaster on the cheeks and to avoid any appearance of meanness.
* * * * * *
Little things tell very much in simple houses, and nothing can be allowed to go unconsidered. The greatest care must be exercised in the design and placing of chimney stacks, which should always be simple and with projections, if any, not exceeding three-quarters of an inch. The flatter the pitch of the roof the shorter the chimneys may be. Horizontal lines of window and door heads should be carefully followed out round a building. Eaves should be proportionate in projection to the pitch of the roof, the steeper the pitch the narrower the soffit. Fascia boards must be stopped by kneelers or else returned at ends, and should not exceed 4 inches in depth unless definitely required to give the effect of a cornice, when the assistance of a bed mould will also be required.
The design of small houses is work that requires much care and patience, but as nearly one-half of the community appears to need rehousing it is to be hoped that this work will be taken in hand by many people of imagination and sympathy, who care no less for the outside appearance than for the inside amenities of the houses upon which they may be engaged.
CONSTRUCTION AND INTERNAL ARRANGEMENT
IT is proposed in this chapter briefly to outline the usual forms of construction and finish employed in the type of inexpensive building now under consideration. Many of the economies, made necessary by high costs, lack of materials and the shortage of men in some trades, have been proved and found quite satisfactory, and those which cannot be so described have been omitted.
Concrete under walls 9 inches thick and about three times the width of the wall itself will suffice on ordinary soils, and the top of this foundation concrete should be at least a foot below ground. Brick footings are now usually omitted, and the spread of concrete above described renders their use unnecessary.
Roll bituminous felt is the damp course commonly used in and around London, and is probably the most inexpensive. Tar pitch and sand boiled together and spread on the wall whilst hot, is often specified in the West and North. The damp course should be below the joists in wooden floors, but where the flooring material is laid direct on the surface concrete it should be level with the floor itself.
The construction of external walls depends on the material of which they are built, and was discussed in the previous chapter. Party walls may be economically built semi-hollow, i.e., with bricks laid on edge, the stretchers forming the outer skins and the headers acting as ties. Above the bedroom ceiling line 4½-inch party walls are generally approved.
Wall plates may be dispensed with both to ground and first-floor joists, the ends of the joists being thoroughly coated with tar or other wood preservative and built direct into the wall.
Half-brick walls form the bulk of the ground floor partitions, and are carried up to the first-floor ceiling where possible to give support to the roof and stability to the whole structure.
First-floor partitions of 2 to 3-inch coke breeze slabs have come into general use, and these should be supported on two common joists, spiked or bolted together if running in the same direction as the joists, but are less likely to crack and settle if running at right angles to them. Care must be taken not to overload floors, and, in doubtful cases, wooden partitions should be substituted, especially if the partition is required to afford support to the roof timbers. Sides of cupboards are also most inexpensively constructed with coke breeze blocks. Fixing bricks of similar composition should be built in where required in preference to wood slips.
If no floor spans exceed 11 feet, 7-inch by 2-inch joists will suffice. This should be borne in mind when planning, as that size of timber is the least expensive per cube foot and one of the most easily obtainable.
Ceiling joists and rafters are normally spaced at 15-inch centres, but this may be increased up to 20 inches with tiles of large size, such as the "Double Roman" and corrugated variety. Ordinarily it will be impossible to afford any other cover for the roof than the tiles or slates themselves, therefore the pitch is dictated by the weatherproof qualities of the particular material used.
The majority of bye-laws insist on air bricks in all bedrooms without fire-places or with gas fires and in all W.C.'s. An air brick in larders and unventilated cupboards or coal places is also an advantage.
It is usual to give access to roof spaces, and to floor a certain portion for the storage of boxes, which otherwise have no home in the economically planned cottage, and this space may be lighted by means of three or four glass tiles.
It is possible to ventilate gas fires without a chimney stack being built, by taking a 9-inch by 3-inch flue to an air brick under the eaves or into the roof space.
As a covering for door heads and dormer windows, lead is preferable to any other material, even if the minimum weight of 4 lb. is used; heavier weights are, needless to say, better.
Beam filling and wrot rafter feet become unnecessary if soffits of eaves are boarded or plastered, and this has now become the general practice.
Internal Arrangement, Finish and Fittings
The fitting and finish of the living-room depends almost entirely on locality and the probable type of tenant. Some still prefer to have a small cooking-range and use the scullery for washing and for washing up; especially is this the case in the north of England. In the south it is, however, more usual to put a grate which may be used as an auxiliary to the gas cooker in the scullery or to put in an ordinary sitting-room grate and definitely to confine all cooking operations to the scullery. Whether used for this purpose or not, the living-room is the real centre of the house, it should therefore be given most careful thought. There should be no doorways adjacent to the fireplace, neither must doors be so placed as to make a passage of the room. The dresser will find a place here, unless all cooking is done in the scullery, and in any case a cupboard should, if possible, be contrived. South or East and West is the best aspect.
The scullery may have a cement or, if it can be afforded, a tile floor, and will need to be fitted with a wash-copper to burn coal or gas, a sink with, if possible, two draining-boards, and often a gas cooker. A few white glazed tiles around sink and copper and for the window cill will be much appreciated. The walls will normally be left unplastered.
As much shelf as possible should be provided at an accessible height, and when this room is intended to be used for cooking, a place should also be found for a dresser or cupboard.
The larder is best entered from the scullery and not from the living-room, as, if adequately ventilated and on the north side of the house, it is likely to be very cold and draughty.
Whenever possible the W.C. should either be upstairs or entered from the hall or staircase.
The coal house should be accessible under cover, and its floor must always be down a step. When entered directly from the scullery, a hatch in the external wall is an advantage.
The parlour, if provided, will be used by some tenants, merely as the temple of the household gods, but others are quite likely to turn it into a dining-room. It is, therefore, necessary to know beforehand to what use it is going to be put and to make arrangements accordingly. It should get sun at some time during the day, and a western aspect is considered the most desirable. Many tenants will, however, prefer to face the road whether sun is able to enter or not. A gas fire in this room is very convenient.
It is generally agreed that the staircase should start from the entrance hall, and not from a room, as, in the latter case, it is likely to act as a flue up which the warm air is taken every time the door is opened.
If, as is frequently desired, the scullery, as well as the two sitting-rooms, has to be accessible from the hall, many of the plans usually used in housing schemes become inapplicable, and the hall itself, and, in fact, the whole house, will need to be slightly larger.
Thirteen stairs to rise the usual 8 feet 9 inches are as steep as should be allowed, and if fourteen can be contrived it will be a great gain. The minimum width desirable is 3 feet, and winders, if they cannot be avoided altogether, should be near the bottom.
One of the bedrooms should be of an area of at least 150 feet super. This is considered to be adequate for two adults and a child. Exigencies of space will decide the size of the other rooms, but none should be less than 70 feet super; Wherever possible all these rooms should have cupboards 2 feet deep and stretching from floor to ceiling.
A bathroom on the first floor is much preferable where circumstances allow. When this is impossible, it may either be entered from the hall or the scullery. In the latter case it may conveniently be used as a washhouse. A bathroom on the ground floor effects considerable saving, as hot water may then be taken direct from the copper with one short length of pipe, the copper being raised to allow of this.
All the mouldings and joinery throughout should be of the simplest possible character. Doors divided by a lock rail into two panels, and with the panels themselves in ply wood are as inexpensive as any except the ledged and braced kind which are not popular with tenants. The architrave and picture rail may very well be 1½ inches by ½ inch square or splayed, and the skirting of the same thickness, and 3 to 4 inches deep.
Flooring tiles make excellent window "boards" and take a good wax polish. They are obtainable in buff, black and other shades, as well as the more usual red. They may also be used for fireplace surrounds.
It is often necessary, for economy's sake, to treat joinery with stain, though usually, the quality of the timber is such as to render this process far from satisfactory in appearance, but it is much more lasting than paint and marks less easily, and for these reasons is often preferred.
External woodwork should, however, always be painted, and it is well for this purpose to specify a well-known brand and to see that it is used. Cheap paint effects no real saving, whilst stain used externally imparts a dingy look to a house from the first. From the point of view of general effect, no colour is so suitable for windows as cream or white, but as previously stated, any good bright colour that does not clash with the walling materials may be used for doors.
Internal door furniture of wood or dull black iron is least expensive, and is now obtainable in reasonably good and simple designs.
* * * * * *
Every endeavour should be made to reduce upkeep to the minimum, and economies made at the expense of reasonable permanence are not justifiable. Nothing that does not partake of this quality can ever be considered a work of art, and it ought to be possible so to describe every group of cottages, however simple.
PLATES AND PLANS
There are 132 plates and plans of which 25 relate to Welwyn Garden City.
Subject: Dover Municipal Scheme
Architects: Professor S. D. Adshead, F.R.I.B.A., Stanley C. Ramsey, F.R.I.B.A., with Percy B. Houfton.
Plates I to VI. 6 photographs of groups of houses. The first photograph shows the road name Knight's Way. There are no captions or descriptions with the pictures.
Subject: The Durlocks, Folkestone
Architects: Ewart G. Culpin and R. S. Bowers.
Plates VII to XII. 4 photographs of groups of houses, 1 plan, 1 elevation drawing. Caption for plate VII: The Durlocks, Folkestone, for Sir Philip Sassoon, Bart., M.P. A scheme in which great difficulties of contour have been overcome with eminently satisfactory results. Caption for plate X: Entrance to Inner Quadrangle. Caption for plate XII: Completion of Front block. Otherwise no descriptions.
Shepherd's Bush, London
Subject: Hammersmith Borough Council Scheme
Architects: Matthew J. Dawson, F.R.I.B.A. (4 plates). J. Ernest Franck, F.R.I.B.A. (2 plates)
Plates XIII to XVIII. 6 photographs of groups of houses or housing details. Caption for plate XIII (Dawson): The materials are London stock bricks with red dressings. Caption for plate XIV (Dawson): Detail of Central Feature of Group on previous page. The bay has a reinforced concrete roof. Caption for plate XVII (Franck): View in a Quadrangle. Otherwise no descriptions.
Ruislip - Northwood
Subject: Municipal Scheme
Architect: A. S. Soutar.
Plates XIX to XXVII. 9 photographs of groups of houses. Caption for plate XIX: In this Municipal Scheme full advantage has been taken by the Architect of the natural amenities of the site. Caption for plate XXII: Overlooking the Reservoir. Otherwise no descriptions.
Welwyn Garden City
Subject: Wembley Hill Garden Suburb
Architect: Oliver Hill
Plates LIII to LV. 3 photographs of groups of houses. Caption for the plates: Houses at Wembley Hill Garden Suburb, designed for erection by builders for sale. Otherwise no descriptions.
Subject: Dormanstown Village, Redcar
Architects: Professor S. D. Adshead, F.R.I.B.A., Stanley C. Ramsey, F.R.I.B.A., and Professor Patrick Abercrombie, M.A., A.R.I.B.A.
Plates LVI to LXV. Village plan and 9 photographs of houses or housing details. Caption for plate LVI: Dormanstown, Redcar, for Messrs Dorman Long & Co. Plan of Village. General Lay-out Plan. Caption for plate LVII: Brick houses at Dormanstown, built during the war, and before the scarcity of this material became acute. Caption for plate LVIII: Ten Cottages in an Unbroken Line. Coupled doorways and two bay windows prevent a feeling of monotony. Caption for plate LIX: Steel Frame Houses, built when bricks and bricklayers were difficult to obtain. Caption for plate LX: A single House set back from the road, and linked to its neighbours. Captions for plates LXI and LXII: Dormanstown, Redcar, Two views in a curved road. Caption for plate LXIV: White-painted Doors and Windows on pink-coloured roughcast. Otherwise no descriptions.
Subject: Duchy of Cornwall Estate
Architects: Professor S. D. Adshead, F.R.I.B.A., Stanley C. Ramsey, F.R.I.B.A.
Plates LXVI to LXX. 5 photographs of houses of housing details. Caption for plate LXVI: Old People's Flats. Caption for plate LXVII: Old People's Flats. The entrance from inside the quadrangle. Caption for plate LXIX: Rebuilding of an out-of-date area. Caption for plate LXX: Duchy of Cornwall Estate, Kennington. Detail. The porches and railings are in cast iron and the walls of London stock bricks. Otherwise no descriptions.
Subject: Winchester Municipal Scheme
Joint architects: W. Dunn, F.R.I.B.A., and W. Curtis Green, A.R.A., F.R.I.B.A.
Plates LXXI to LXXVI. 4 photographs of groups of houses and 2 pages of plans and elevation drawings. Caption for plate LXXI: Cottages with Shops. Caption for plate LXXV: City of Winchester - Housing Scheme - Cottages No. 6 Type AN. Caption for plate LXXVI: City of Winchester - Housing Scheme - Cottages (Revised) No. 3 Type BN. Otherwise no descriptions.
Subject: Joseph Rowntree Village Trust
Architect: Barry Parker, F.R.I.B.A., M.T.P.I.
Plates LXXVII to LXXXII. 2 pages of plan and elevation drawings and 4 photographs of housing. Caption for plate LXXVII (drawings): Type C10 non-parlour South-aspect cottage. Caption for plate LXXX (drawings): Bungalow at Earswick, near York. Caption for plates LXXXI and LXXXII: Bungalows for the Joseph Rowntree Village Trust. Otherwise no descriptions.
Subjects: Hook Norton, Adderbury, Milcomb, South Newington, and Mollington Schemes
Architect: T. Lawrence Dale, F.R.I.B.A.
Plates LXXXIII to LXXXIX. 7 photographs of groups of houses. Caption for plate LXXXIII: A Pair of Non-parlour Cottages. Caption for plate LXXXIV: Hook Norton Scheme. For the Rural District Council. Caption for plate LXXXV: Adderbury Scheme. For the Rural District Council. Caption for plate LXXXVI: Hook Norton Scheme. Plate LXXXVII: Milcomb Scheme. For the Rural District Council. Caption for plate LXXXVIII: South Newington Scheme. Caption for plate LXXXIX: Mollington Scheme. For the Rural District Council. Otherwise no descriptions.
Subject: Swanpool Estate
Architects: A. J. Thompson, F.R.I.B.A., C. Murray Hennell, F.S.I., and C. H. James, A.R.I.B.A.
Plates XC to CII. Estate plan and 12 photographs of groups of houses or house details. Caption for plate XC: General Lay-out Plan of the Estate. Part of the S.W. end of the site only has been developed. Caption for plate XCI: A Public Utility Society Scheme. View on the main road. Caption for plate XCII: The Main Entrance to the Estate. Caption for plate XCIII: A Street View. Caption for plate XCIV: Group at Main Entrance to Estate. Caption for plate XCV and XCVI: Two Similar Corner Treatments. Caption for plate XCIX: A Group of Six. Caption for plate CI: A Quadrangle of Sixteen Cottages under One Roof. Caption for plate CII: A Doorway. Otherwise no descriptions.
Subject: Estate Cottages for Sir John Ramsden
Architects: H. G. Cherry.
Plates CIII to CV. 3 photographs of group of houses or detail. Caption for plate CIII: Doorway of Cottages Opposite. Caption for plates CIV and CV: Estate Cottages for Sir John Ramsden. Otherwise no descriptions.
Subject: Estate, Prestatyn
Architects: J. M. Easton, A.R.I.B.A., and Howard M. Robertson, S.A.D.G.
Plates CVI and CVII. 2 photographs of a cottage. Caption for plates CVI and CVII: An Estate Cottage, Prestatyn. Otherwise no descriptions.
Subject: Ministry of Agriculture Small Holdings, Sutton Bridge
Chief Architect: Hugh P. G. Maule, F.R.I.B.A.
Plates CVIII to CVIX. 2 photographs of small holdings. No descriptions.
Rawcliffe, West Riding
Subject: Ministry of Agriculture Small Holdings, Rawcliffe, West Riding
Chief Architect: Hugh P. G. Maule, F.R.I.B.A.
Plate CX. Photograph of group of small holdings. No description.
Subject: Garden Suburbs at Hilversum and Rotterdam
Architects: W. Dudok (Hilversum). Grandpré, Moliere and Kok (Rotterdam)
Plates CXI to CXVIII. 8 photographs of housing at Hilversum (6) and Rotterdam (2). Caption for plate CXI: Garden Suburb at Hilversum. Caption for plate CXIV: Hilversum. A quadrangle giving access to court shown on previous plate. Caption for plate CXV: Hilversum. Flat-roofed Houses. Caption for plates CXVII and CXVIII: First Garden Suburb, Rotterdam. Otherwise no descriptions.
Subject: Housing schemes in and around Stockholm
Architects: Cust E. Pettersson. G. Wetterling. E. G. Asplund. G Larsson.
Plates CXIX to CXXV. 7 photographs of single houses or groups of houses. Caption for plate CXIX: A Small House in timber covered with plaster. From a Garden Suburb, near Stockholm. Caption for plate CXXI: Scheme near Stockholm. Timber covered with plaster of various tints. Caption for plates CXXIII and CXXIV: Municipal Housing, Stockholm. Caption for plate CXXV: Small Timber House, in Development Scheme, near Stockholm. Otherwise no descriptions.
Subject: Garden Suburb, Copenhagen
Architects: not named.
Plates CXXVI to CXXXII. 7 photographs of housing. No descriptions.
There are 8 full-page plates of detail drawings of which 3 relate to Welwyn Garden City.
Plates CXXXIII and CXXXIV. Doorways on various housing schemes by Messrs Adshead & Ramsay, Architects.
Plate CXXXV. A pair of cattages at Thorpe Bay. Detail of the front doorways.
Plate CXXXIX. A pair of cottages at Swanpool Garden Suburb. Detail of front entrance.
Plate CXL. Details of simple mantels to coal fires.
A GROUP OF FOURTEEN COTTAGES
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