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Welwyn Garden City
Author: Martin S. Briggs, F.R.I.B.A.
First published: 1937 by The English Universities Press
Format: Hardback 8½" by 6¾"
with 210 pages
The text is illustrated with 16 plates on glossy paper containing 25 photographs altogether — some are two-per-page — and 42 line-drawings. The photographs are mostly of individual houses, a few of street scenes, and three are of house interiors. Photo credits given below are as they appear in the book. Half of the line drawings are plans of houses, some with a sketch of the finished building, the remainder being mostly drawings of architectural details, and one concerned with air-raid precautions. All the photographs and most of the line drawings are reproduced below.
Chapter I, reproduced below, includes a brief discussion
of Welwyn Garden City, and satellite towns in general. Chapter IV, also
reproduced below, includes 16 studies of house projects, one of which
is a house at Welwyn Garden City. Each study includes a short article
and floor plans, and either includes a sketch of the house by the author,
or relates to one of the black-and-white photographs.
By the same Author
(from the front of the book)
THIS book is the outcome of a request from my publishers for a simple guide explaining the mystery of house-building to those who contemplate such an adventure. It is in no sense a text-book, though it contains a good deal of practical information gained through personal experience; but, thanks to the courtesy of the National House-Builders' Registration Council, I am able to print in full (as Appendix No. II) the new "Model Specification" which that body has just issued. The establishment of some such organisation was long overdue, and the new Council should raise the standard of house-building to a higher level. Supported as it is by architects, builders, and building societies, its activities should promote greater public confidence in this important social work.
My thanks are also due to the numerous architects whose houses are illustrated in this book; to Messrs. John Laing & Son, Ltd., for Plates VIII and XVI (b); to the Electrical Development Association for Plate XVI (a) and Figs. 22 (c), (d), (e); to the National Council of Women of Great Britain for Fig. 22 (a) ; to the Architect and Building News for permission to reproduce their copyright photographs as Plates XI and XIV; to the Architects' Journal for similar permission in respect of Plate X; to the Gas Journal and Mr. H. W. Binns for permission to include Fig. 22 (b); and to Mr. J. C. S. Soutar, architect to the Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust, for Plate II.
All the line drawings and plans in the book are my own work, the plans of other architects' houses having been prepared from their working drawings by permission. Any enquiries as to cost and exact location should be made to the architects whose names and addresses appear opposite the various plans. (As I have included a few houses built from my own designs, it is necessary to state here that I am not now in ordinary practice.) It may be added that all plans in this book are reproduced to a uniform scale of 16 feet to an inch (except Figs. 22, 39, and 40), so that comparison between them is easy. On page 72 is a key to the uniform system of abbreviations used for the names of rooms on the plans. [See Chapter IV below for the key.]
The human side of house-building is well treated in the published novels of H. B. Creswell and Humphrey Pakington, both architects by profession; and in his recent story, Greengates, Mr. R. C. Sherriff has given an idyllic picture of life in a speculative builder's "Garden Suburb."
|M. S. B.|
WHERE SHALL WE BUILD ?
THE building of a house has often been described as an adventure, and an adventure it must be. It is generally an exciting business for those who embark upon it, a business that is inevitably beset with pitfalls for the unwary. The timid-hearted usually shrink from it, but mainly out of ignorance, and for those who possess the enterprise and confidence to carry it through there are compensations not to be found in any ready-made dwelling of standardised pattern. It is one of the most human adventures in life, for a house built of a man's free initiative can and should typify in material form his particular whims and ambitions; in fact, his personality. "It is grand to own our house, Son," says a proud father on the posters of a certain building society, but how much grander if you have obtained exactly the kind of house that suits your own idiosyncrasies and your way of life !
Yet though each of us has his own way of life, the habits of people in every stratum of society gradually change as a whole, and they have never changed more rapidly among the middle class than during the crowded years since the Great War. This particular change should be reflected in the new houses which people build for themselves, and it will be my endeavour in the following pages to question at every point the need for such modifications as have recently taken place in planning and design, as well as to keep an eye upon the future. Most of the pitfalls already mentioned can be avoided if the adventurer is properly advised from the outset, and even a book can provide many useful warnings which are of general application.
Nowadays a substantial part of the middle class is engaged in transferring itself (and such small part of its belongings as can be accommodated) into vast blocks of flats where the sense of loneliness can at any rate be avoided, and where a conflicting choice of wireless programmes besets you behind and before, above and below, through the windows and through the ceiling. But men do not build flats for themselves, and so flats have no place in this book. For the same reason, terrace-houses and semi-detached dwellings are excluded. Finally, houses in town streets, and large houses costing above £2,500 and requiring more than two servants to run, are ruled out on the ground that people requiring such houses are comparatively few. This leaves us with a programme restricted to detached private houses costing less than £2,500, and capable of being efficiently run with not more than two maids. Below that somewhat arbitrary but nevertheless reasonable limit there is ample scope for considering the building of a house, down to examples which provide accommodation for only two or three persons, without a maid.
Before building can begin, even before a site can be selected, it is necessary to choose the locality in which you wish to live. For most people, that is determined to some extent by their place of employment, but "leisured" folk with private means, or retired civil servants, are less hampered in their choice. "In the seating of ourselves (which is a kinde of Marriage to a Place)," wrote Sir Henry Wotton in 1624, "Builders should be as circumspect as Wooers," and by "builders" he meant those who were about to erect a house for their personal delectation. And whether your circumstances allow you to settle on the South Devon coast or whether they restrict you to a mile's walk from some suburban tube-station, there are some factors involved in the problem of this preliminary choice which jump to the eye and others which are by no means so obvious. Some people, for example, settle in a place because it is "a good neighbourhood," and then discover in the fullness of time that it has "deteriorated," by which they mean — presumably — that the original blue-blooded inhabitants have given place to immigrants of less exalted social standing. Others, again, are attracted by low rates, only to find that a considerable increase in the amount of the rate is inflicted on them a few years later. Both these phenomena have occurred in many suburbs of London and other large towns, and it is impossible to forecast them with any accuracy.
The former process, however, has taken place so often and so regularly that one can account for it to some extent. Especially round London, where the suburban inhabitants are less firmly anchored to the ground than elsewhere, there is a perpetual movement outwards to the periphery. The newly-married seek homes provided with the latest labour-saving "gadgets," they like to possess houses in the current fashion of the day, and the scarcity of servants forbids them to occupy the spacious, many-storeyed, and inconvenient dwellings built for their parents in easy-going Victorian days. All that is obvious enough, but the fact remains that many suburbs have been so badly planned that deterioration is almost inevitable. The Hampstead Garden Suburb, on the other hand, was admirably laid out from the beginning, and though its semi-rural houses are derided in certain quarters nowadays, the measures taken by the enlightened people who planned it to serve the amenities of the place are likely to maintain its status and its commercial value for many years to come. It is true that the absence of garages in the older houses has been found to be a drawback of late, only partially mitigated by the provision, here and there, of groups of lock-up garages for the hosts of cars which were unforeseen thirty years ago; but to people of any taste there is a consoling satisfaction in living in a place where hoardings never scream at you, where shops and petrol-pumps do not spring up opposite your front-door overnight, and where "noxious trades" are banned.
Carefully sited on the skirts of the Hampstead Heath extension, itself a by-product of the scheme, and including within its area two charming unspoiled woods ("Big Wood" and "Little Wood"), as well as a generous allowance of playing-fields, this suburb assures for its inhabitants perpetual access to greenery and seclusion — the two items which are generally eliminated most successfully in haphazard suburban growth. In the wide central space on the top of the hill are placed the Anglican Church and the Free Church, and between them — as a symbol of concerted culture for those of any or no creed — stands the Institute, while the attractive meeting-house of the Society of Friends characteristically nestles in a modest corner of one of the woods. But the most remarkable feature of the suburb, the feature which distinguishes it from all others and illustrates the inspired ideals of its founders, is the provision of houses for people of all classes, arranged — it is true — in separate roads, but none the less grouped in amity together. This arrangement cuts clean across the normal spirit of suburban snobbishness and exclusiveness, indeed cuts across the common theory of the "good" neighbourhood, and yet the whole enterprise has been an unqualified success, financial as well as social. Apart from the excusable lack of provision for garages in the older roads already mentioned, the only defect in the lay-out appears to be the lack of adequate shopping facilities in a convenient position. Yet though work began on the Hampstead Garden Suburb thirty years ago (1907), and though it had been preceded by industrial suburbs built by enlightened manufacturers at Bournville and Port Sunlight, it has never been surpassed and has hardly been imitated.
Its influence has doubtless contributed to the lay-out of other suburbs, which are often far more attractive than they used to be, but for the most part they continue to sprawl over the countryside, following the improvement of traffic facilities by road or rail. As the older houses of the "inner ring" are gradually emptied of the newly married younger generation, their elderly owners die and, after a period when the front garden is crowded with house-agents' boards advertising "This Desirable Family Residence for Sale or to Let," the large and often shabby dwelling is let off in tenements to people who cannot afford to rent a large house, but are yet compelled to pay extortionate rents for a group of rooms which were never designed for occupation by a single family. In large parts of London and other great cities, whole streets of spacious houses erected in the equally spacious days of Queen Victoria have become slums to all intents and purposes within fifty years, if by "slums" we mean dwellings which are not provided with the ordinary amenities of a civilised life. It is obvious to all thoughtful people that there will soon be a complete ring of such districts from one to three miles round Charing Cross: a ring of large houses which are either empty or "ripe for demolition" because of their unsuitability to modern needs. They are to be found in Kennington, Barnsbury, Pimlico, Hackney, Stamford Hill, Stoke Newington, and many other places. It is not inconceivable that, twenty years hence, the whole of this curious belt will be completely cleared and replanned: but whether the space so obtained will be laid out as a "green girdle" studded with enormous blocks of flats, as some think, or whether it will provide sites for small detached or grouped houses, remains to be seen. Meanwhile, it is curious that Hampstead and Chelsea break the continuity of this depressing girdle, for neither district was scientifically or attractively laid out, whereas some of the others already mentioned had at least an element of spaciousness in their planning. Nothing could be more haphazard, picturesque, and, in fact, "olde worlde" than the curious corners of Hampstead and Chelsea, where the cream of our modern intelligentsia choose to live, even in converted mews or modernised cottages in sunless culs-de-sac. Possibly they too will have their day and cease to be, or possibly the attractions of the Heath in one case and the river in the other may provide the lure which explains an apparently inexplicable fashion.
But, for most people proposing to build a new house anywhere near a large town, it is to the outer suburbs that their eyes will be directed, where sites are more readily obtainable, for though the unscientific planning of the inner zone has left innumerable sites vacant and occupied mainly by hoardings and refuse, they are not, as a rule, desirable, and the neighbourhood has probably deteriorated already. Besides all these incentives, perhaps surpassing them, is the ingrained desire of so many English people to escape to "the country," which now lies at least ten miles from the centre of London and five or more from the centre of Birmingham or Leeds. It is not clear what is the precise motive in this exodus: whether it is a love of gardening, whether it is considered good for such children as are still occasionally born, or whether the sight of trees and fields is the chief attraction. Probably this obscure process is a form of nostalgia, because many suburban people are country-born, and it may account for the love of "half-timber" gables, leaded lights, inglenooks, and all the supposed concomitants of the rustic cottage which make many cheap villas look so ridiculous, but it is certainly strong enough to compel the family breadwinners to travel long distances to work, strap-hanging in crowded trains and collecting influenza germs. Two hours so spent every day is a terrible waste of time and nervous energy !
And the sad part of it is, that these very country-seekers, with their noisy gramophones and wireless, their fleets of cars, their cinemas and beauty-parlours, are driving the country farther and farther away from the town. There are now many parts of England, especially round London, and most of all in Middlesex, where the only scraps of country likely to survive this spreading irruption are those which have been acquired at vast expense as public open spaces by the local authorities. Elsewhere, every trace of individuality, every scrap of rural beauty, almost every tree, is relentlessly swept away to make room for roaring arterial roads, streets of shoddy little houses, blatant shops and multiple stores, petrol stations and roadside shacks, until at the end of it all not a trace of "country" remains and the ten-years-arrived inhabitants are already preparing for the next trek farther outwards. There is no exaggeration in this statement: I have watched it happen in the parts of England which I know best, and have described the process — general and particular — in two previous books. [In Rusticus: or the Future of the Countryside (1927), and in Middlesex: Old and New (1934).] But it is so devastating and so inexorable that any reader of this chapter who may contemplate building in the neighbourhood of a large city should study the process, if he has not done so already, or he may bitterly rue his choice.
The modern cure for the evil is town-planning, a term which means much more than the planning of towns, and is now commonly described as "Town and Country Planning." If you decide to settle in a district which has adopted the Town Planning Acts, and has actually prepared a scheme, you have some assurance that public spaces have been reserved, the line of future roads determined, and the whole district "zoned" or earmarked into residential, shopping, and industrial quarters. If your chosen locality has progressed so far, you can see the town plan at the offices of the local council, and this will assist you considerably in your choice of a site. But if only the preliminary stages have been reached, there is always a risk that the "zones" may be altered, and a factory may ultimately appear opposite your gate or a main road be driven through your garden. If there is no town-planning scheme in preparation or in mind, you build on a suburban site at considerable risk, and only your native intelligence, sharpened by a study of normal development, or the advice of someone competent to give it, can help you. But more will be said of this risk when we come to consider the actual choice of a site.
Town-planners, who are now a recognised element in our social fabric, are divided into two definite and quite hostile groups on this question of suburban growth. On the one hand, there are those who argue that all the mad centrifugal rush is wrong, that its devotees fly from the town without ever reaching the country, and that they achieve all the drawbacks of an existence which is neither one thing nor the other. While spoiling the country with their cockneyism and their Americanism (which is really the secret of it all), they have lost the convenience and the social contacts of the town, and, above all, they waste perhaps a quarter of their working day in uncomfortable travel from home to business and back. This school of thought would revert to concentration, would pull down the "inner circle" of decaying suburbs, and would erect in their place compact blocks of dwellings surrounded by wide areas of green open space. There is much to be said for this view, which has been admirably expounded by Mr. Thomas Sharp. [Thomas Sharp, Town and Countryside (1932).]
On the other hand, there are not only those who would reform the planning of the outer belt, on the lines of the Hampstead Garden Suburb already described, but also those who believe in the Garden City or, as it is more correctly known, the Satellite Town. The late Ebenezer Howard initiated the idea, but recently Mr. C. B. Purdom has been the chief spokesman of this school. [ C. B. Purdom, The Building of Satellite Towns (1925).] In all England there are only two places [Wythenshawe, near Manchester, approximates to the ideal.] which approach the accepted definition of the "Satellite Town": viz. Letchworth Garden City, founded in 1903, and Welwyn Garden City, founded in 1920. Both are "satellites" to London, both are in Hertfordshire, and both are situated on the London and North Eastern Railway, at distances of twenty and thirty-two miles respectively from King's Cross Station. Both were established and are run by public utility companies on a commercial basis which does not conflict with the high ideals of their founders. In theory, a "satellite town" is a community which is self-contained for most of the ordinary needs of life and only dependent upon the "central city" for special purposes, such as higher education, cultural contacts, and the more ambitious forms of amusement. A satellite town contains its own factories, so that their employees have only a few minutes to walk to their work; a reasonable provision of shops; elementary and secondary schools; possibly a technical institute; a public hall for social and other gatherings; a library; churches of several denominations; perhaps a theatre, and certainly at least one cinema; in fact, "all the usual trimmings." Both Letchworth and Welwyn are now urban districts with council offices, though the Garden City Company in each case maintains an independent existence. The ultimate population of a satellite town is envisaged at about 35,000-40,000, which is considered to be the ideal size for development, allowing of adequate municipal services; and above this limit it is stated that the cost of municipal administration increases. But neither town has yet approached this ideal maximum, the population of Letchworth at the 1931 census being only 14,454, and of Welwyn only 8,585, though both continue to grow steadily. Moreover, both towns, but especially Welwyn, in view of its closer proximity to London, contain a number of inhabitants who use them as suburban dormitories. This is a testimonial to their amenities, but was no part of the original scheme of the promoters. Conversely, many factory-workers come into Letchworth and Welwyn daily from surrounding villages.
The prosperity and even the existence of a satellite town depend largely upon its ability to attract industry to establish factories within its borders. Letchworth, in its official handbook, claims to have sixty "industries," and Welwyn has nearly as many; but most of them are small establishments, and in the aggregate they do not provide sufficient work for the ultimate artisan population. By astute publicity, the provision of convenient factory sites, and every possible inducement, the two companies are making every effort to achieve this end. But even as they stand, these "satellite towns" are justifying their existence. They are admirably laid out in advance, zoned into residential and communal and industrial quarters, with central sites reserved for all public and communal buildings that may eventually be required, and with excellent recreation grounds and public spaces. Above all, each town is surrounded by a wide belt of agricultural land owned by the company, and this belt will always remain unspoiled country; thus preserving a "green girdle," such as Queen Elizabeth tried to create for London nearly four centuries ago and is now being created, with a vast expenditure of public funds, on a perimeter at least ten miles farther out. Finally, a high standard of architectural design is maintained for all buildings, both at Letchworth and at Welwyn: a fact which greatly enhances the value of property in these favoured localities without unduly restricting the expression of individual taste.
If this description of "satellite towns" appears to be disproportionately long in the present small book, it is included here because most intelligent people are convinced that London is already far too big. The tube railways are becoming daily more congested, and yet it is proposed to extend the Edgware line into Hertfordshire, although "standing-room only" is the rule at the rush-hours with its present terminus at Edgware. The huge and admirably planned industrial suburb recently dumped by the L.C.C. on the flat turnip-fields beyond Barking, and variously known as "Becontree" or "Dagenham," falls short of the "satellite-town" ideal because it includes no factories and is deficient in civic character. It is, indeed, only another great dormitory-suburb, whose hundred thousand residents are mainly dependent upon work in London, and therefore add further congestion to the railways. And railways of some sort seem to be the best means of transporting such vast numbers of people to the centre, where are concentrated, not only work, but also the more lavish forms of entertainment, among them the lure of the West End shops with its consequent traffic problem. The already clogged roads cannot easily carry more traffic: if one in every five of the population possessed a car, as is the case in America, London traffic would come to a standstill, and it would be quicker for all of us to walk. Some of the more hare-brained of our prophets foretell a solution by means of aeroplanes, but a little consideration will reveal the absurdity of this idea. Things are bad enough now in all conscience, but imagine what they would be if only a million of Greater London's workers adopted this means of transport. Or picture, if you like, the patronesses of Selfridge's or Harrods' arriving in their thousands each afternoon after concluding their morning's work in their suburban homes, each in her Baby Moth. That is certainly no solution.
No, the present state of suburban growth, especially round London, because of its enormous size, is all wrong; and not until some change of direction takes place, either towards the centre, as some wish, or farther out into satellite towns, as others advise, can the prospective house-builder feel sure of the future on any suburban site.
Turning now from this question of depreciation or deterioration of a locality, let us consider the matter of local rating, which so often influences a man about to select a building site. It is a financial aspect of life which he considers together with the cost of his season-ticket, and he is naturally drawn to a district where rates are low. But the fact that they are low at that moment does not imply that they will remain so. Apart from the fact that the cost of social services everywhere is steadily increasing, and seems likely to increase still further (whatever political party may be in power), lowness of rates in a suburban or rural district may be due simply to the incomplete provision for social services in that locality, and it is a normal tendency for the figure to rise as they are developed. In my own district, another contributory cause has been the increased cost of local services, due to the decanting into the district of some 20,000 people of the artisan class by the London County Council, who have laid out a large estate in this Middlesex borough, although it is outside their own jurisdiction. A similar process has taken place in other suburban districts just beyond the boundary of the County of London, and it seems to me entirely reasonable that the prosperous newly built districts of Greater London should share this burden. Otherwise there is a tendency for the poorer London boroughs in the "inner circle" to be deserted by the comfortably placed middle class, leaving the onus of bearing the cost of social services in the capital (on which we all depend) to the less fortunate inhabitants who are unable to join in the general exodus. The pitiable and well-known plight of Poplar is partly due to the drop in ratable value of that borough caused by the trek of industry elsewhere to escape high rates: a vicious circle !
When you consider the amount of the rates prevailing in the locality where you aspire to build a house, you will naturally take account of what educational and other facilities are provided for the money. The growth of population in some of the new mushroom suburbs of Middlesex, for instance, has been so rapid that public services have been unable to keep pace with it. The County Council is faced with an enormous expenditure on elementary schools as a first measure, and then with secondary and technical schools, which inevitably take a second place in the queue, their urgency being less acute. And one after another these urban districts are seeking and obtaining municipal charters, followed by a demand for an expensive town hall, municipal offices, public baths, and libraries. If you decide to build in a half-developed suburb of a great city, or on the edge of a smaller town, you may expect rates to go up in order to provide you with all these "blessings of civilisation," and until they do you must make what shift you can without them. Other factors to be borne in mind are the existence or absence of public open spaces and recreation grounds, because these, as I have already said, are the only scraps of "country" which you can rely upon to survive in the vicinity of a great city; and the possibility of industry descending upon your neighbourhood. This last hazard seems quite incalculable, for who could have foreseen that quiet Oxford would have become a great industrial town within a few years, and who could have prophesied that most of the hundred square miles or so of orchards and meadows in West Middlesex would have given place to huge factories as well as suburbs since the War ?
It is true that few of these risks occur in rural districts or on the outskirts of small country towns, but even there you are apt to be at the mercy of "bungaloid growths," ribbon development, and all the horrors of spoliation which are so frequently and energetically castigated in the columns of the more enlightened newspapers. Cycling about England and Wales, I have often travelled a whole day without seeing any of these unsightly monstrosities, but there are some districts — especially the south and east coasts, from Devonshire to the Humber at least — where you may almost assume that shoddy building will occur sooner or later. The only hope of preserving inviolate the surviving scraps of coast from Torquay to Hunstanton or beyond is that they be acquired by the National Trust, or covered by town-planning restrictions against building, but this is an admission that the actual cliff-edge should not be regarded in future as an eligible building site ! England is still so comparatively empty that ample space remains in every county for the erection of houses on rural sites, reasonably accessible to the great centres of population, without spoiling the precious fragments of sea-coast still remaining. How country homes should be designed to harmonise with their surroundings, and to produce that effect of "neighbourliness" which is now so often mentioned, will be discussed in Chapter III. This is important as a means of preserving the beauty of rural England, and is becoming annually more so as motor-cars extend the radius of sites for the "week-end" cottage to a distance of fifty miles or more from the large towns. And though I have expressed some doubt of the practicability of aeroplanes as a solution of the suburban traffic problem, there is no reason why they should not be utilised in the near future as a means of linking remote houses with urban amenities. Imagine a house in a fastness of the Lake District or at the inaccessible head of one of the Yorkshire dales, provided with a miniature landing-ground — probably a hard tennis court would suffice — and a very small aeroplane. The harassed chatelaine could fly over to Manchester to match her darning wools in the morning, return for lunch, attend a matinée at the Grand Theatre at Leeds in the afternoon, and get back home in time to take her husband's dinner off the electrically heated and thermostatically controlled cooker kindly provided by the "grid." Or she could attend a bridge party at Edinburgh any afternoon; fog permitting, of course. The possibilities seem unlimited, and as a consequence the aeroplane-owner will be able to build his home anywhere.
Returning to more prevalent conditions, there is the question of subsoil. The nature of the subsoil affects the house-builder in three or four ways: dryness or dampness of site, stability of foundations, water supply, and possibly sewage-disposal. (The last two factors only arise in the case of isolated dwellings in remote places.) Unless an architect is consulted before the site is bought, as is always desirable, the prospective buyer should enquire at the local town hall or council offices as to the nature of the subsoil, which may be rock, chalk, gravel, sand, alluvial clay, or thick clay. A subsoil of rock is usually healthy enough, and obviously provides an excellent foundation, but involves extra expense for building. Porous chalk, free from clay, is very dry and healthy, but "marly" (i.e. clayey) chalks are apt to be impermeable, and therefore damp and cold. Gravel is perhaps the healthiest of all subsoils, and provides a reasonably good foundation, but in low situations may be damp. Most of the older parts of London are built on gravel ; but, as the city grew, builders filled up the clay areas too, and even covered the marshy land now known as Lambeth and Pimlico with houses. Clay, especially the very thick clay which lies under most of London, Middlesex, Essex, and the Sussex Weald, is a really bad subsoil. Not only is it apt to be injurious to health, but its habit of shrinking in dry weather plays havoc with foundations and leads to the "settlements" and cracks that are so painfully familiar in the London suburbs. Sand is an ideal subsoil from the point of view of health, unless it is saturated with ground-water, but it complicates the construction of foundations. These aspects of practical construction, together with water supply and drainage, will be dealt with in Chapter VI.
When a locality has been selected, it remains to find a satisfactory site. Sites may be criticised from the point of view of size, cost, conditions of tenure, accessibility, position, availability of public services, restrictions, and risks of future depreciation. It is difficult to say anything useful here about size, because that depends entirely on the intending purchaser's views about his house and his garden. Modern town-planners regard twelve houses to the acre as a reasonable density for a housing-scheme, but this presupposes small "artisan" houses, semi-detached or built in groups. As an acre contains 4,840 square yards, a twelfth of an acre amounts to about 400 square yards. Assuming a frontage of 30 feet, a site of a twelfth of an acre would be only 120 feet deep. On estates planned for the well-to-do, it is frequently stipulated that not more than two or four houses shall be built to the acre. A half-acre site (2,420 square yards) may be laid out with a frontage of 120 feet and a depth of 180 feet, and a quarter-acre site, say 60 feet by 180 feet. As a tennis lawn, with a 10-foot margin as normally required, measures 98 feet by 56 feet, a half-acre site with a frontage of 120 feet allows it to be placed with its longer axis parallel with the frontage, if that position suits the points of the compass in regard to sun-glare. It is impossible to offer any advice about irregular sites, such as the one which I occupy, which on plan is shaped like a deformed starfish and lies on a steep slope. The plans illustrated in Chapter IV will give some idea of the area covered by houses of various sizes, and will thus assist the reader to crystallise his initial requirements for a site.
The cost of building land varies so enormously with the locality that nothing helpful can be said about it here. But it may be remembered that the cost is entirely artificial and often fictitious. Agricultural land on the fringes of large towns, near the sea-coast, or even, nowadays, along arterial roads, is bought up by speculators at very low prices, sold and resold till its value may have increased tenfold in a few years. Often it is bought simply for resale, and I have heard of a case of a man in my district who cleared a large sum in a few minutes one day by buying and reselling two or three fields, without ever leaving the telephone. Obviously the seeker for a building site should keep out of the way of these sharks if possible. Normally he will begin by consulting a reputable estate agent, but his best method for obtaining a bargain is to secure the site before it appears in the open market. It must be remembered that speculative builders speculate in land as well as in building. The tiny house which I first owned was sold to me at so low a price that the builder could have made no profit on it, and in fact he relied for his profit upon the sale of the site, or on a ground-rent, after subdividing the estate into small strips. As will appear in the next chapter, there is nothing novel about this procedure, but the obvious inference is that the cheapest way to buy a site is not through a builder who speculates in land.
When considering cost, the question of road-making and fencing charges should not be overlooked. The whole cost of constructing a private road or drive from the house to the nearest public highway naturally falls upon the house-owner, and depends entirely on its length, width, and mode of construction. If his site abuts on an existing public highway, however long his frontage may be, he is not always held liable for road charges for the repair or widening of that highway, as these are borne by the local authority; but recent legislation has made such charges legally recoverable from him. If, however, he has bought a site on a road made by a builder and not yet "taken over" by the local authority, his position usually is that, when all or nearly all the houses in the road have been completed, the local authority "takes over" the temporary road from the builder and charges the "frontagers" with the cost of remaking it permanently, after which they cease to be liable for any further expense. This charge may be considerable. It varies according to the width of the road, the quality of material used, and the treatment of the side-walks and the verges (which may be of grass, asphalt, or some hard paving material). Often there is a dispute between frontagers and local council as to the standard to be adopted, the council usually demanding a higher standard than the frontagers think necessary. In the district where I live, ten miles from the centre of London, the cost usually ranges from 19s. 6d. to 22s. 6d. a foot of frontage on each side of the road. Nowadays the larger speculative builders install well-made concrete roads before they begin building, and include the cost of road-making in the price of their houses or plots. This method, besides enabling the purchaser to estimate his liabilities at the out-set, has the additional advantage that he does not have to reach his home, for the first year or two of his married life, along a temporary road which has become a sea of mud, and he is also spared the inconvenience and mess of road-making when the council takes possession.
The boundary fence between the site and the public thoroughfare has to be paid for by the owner of the site. If he has to construct fences round the remaining sides of his plot, they remain his property; if a "party-fence" between his site and any adjoining plot has already been erected and paid for, it remains the property of the adjoining owner. Normally, a fence belongs to the person on whose side the posts and rails are fixed, not to the man who is faced with the boarded side. Many model estates, including all garden-cities and garden suburbs, prescribe the type and height of fence to be erected. On the large-scale Ordnance maps, the ownership of boundaries is indicated by a conventional sign on sites of any size. Where a hedge and ditch constitute the boundary, the centre of the ditch usually forms the exact line of ownership. Fencing may constitute a considerable item in the cost of laying out a building site (see page 162).
Normally, the tenure of a site is either freehold or leasehold. Although it may be a temptation to anyone with limited resources to avoid the heavy capital cost of freehold purchase by paying an annual ground-rent, there is at least a sentimental satisfaction in being able to call a little bit of England your very own. Otherwise there may be nothing in it, provided that the ground-rent is proportionate to the cost of the land. Some large corporate landowners, such as endowed schools or public utility companies, are prohibited from selling their land freehold ; but they protect the amenities of their estates by insisting that the owners of leasehold property shall maintain it in a proper state of repair (e.g. by painting the outside woodwork and ironwork at prescribed periods) and by controlling to some extent the design and type of buildings erected. The ground-rent may also be calculated to include the cost of maintenance of communal gardens, etc.
Some sites are liable to tithe, a medieval imposition on agricultural land which many people consider intolerable, or even iniquitous. This is not the place to argue its merits and defects, but it may be noted that the ecclesiastical authorities are usually only too pleased to accept a capital sum in lieu of tithe, which is thus commuted on a reasonably equitable basis. The prospective house-builder should always employ a solicitor to draw up the agreement for his site, whether leasehold or freehold, for, besides the "snags" already recounted, there are others — possibly even more insidious — which will be mentioned shortly.
The exact location of the site is another matter that must be taken on its merits. Francis Bacon, writing more than three centuries ago, observed that "He that builds a fair house upon an ill seat, committeth himself to prison . . ." "Neither is it ill air only that maketh an ill seat; but ill ways, ill markets, and . . . ill neighbours." No sane person would choose a site liable to flooding, but there appear to be unlimited thousands of people who actually enjoy life on a noisy arterial road. To others, such a position represents the height of misery; and where tastes differ so fundamentally, no common rule can be prescribed. Yet even those who revel in the racket of modern traffic may have too much of a good thing, and even they must be somewhat disconcerted when a local official arrives with a surveyor's chain to mark out the line of a new highway across their tennis-lawn, or when they receive a blue notice informing them that it has been decided to widen the road in front of their house by twenty feet, thus eliminating the whole of their front garden and allowing passers-by to flatten their noses against the dining-room windows. It is an additional reason for employing expert legal help in buying a site when you remember that such things can and do occur. In this democratic age, a local authority may invoke the aid of "compulsory purchase" to acquire any private property which may be needed in order to allow some work of public importance to be carried out. You have an opportunity of protest, but in the last resort the City Fathers will win if their case is reasonably sound, and they can pull down your house if they wish, provided that they pay you adequate compensation. At the present time, in view of all the road-making and road-widening that is going on, the risk of disturbance and even of eviction is by no means negligible on certain sites. Nor is the risk confined to road-making: your garden may be needed to enlarge the area of a school playground, or your house may have to be sacrificed to make a site for a town hall. In any district where a town plan has been prepared and approved, this risk is reduced to a minimum. The local surveyor will also be able to tell you whether a "building-line" has been prescribed on your site; that is, an imaginary line drawn parallel with the front boundary, and inside your fence, beyond which no part of your building, except perhaps a porch, may project.
Your solicitor will ascertain whether there are any further "easements" or restrictions on your site, such as a right of way for pedestrians, a line of telephone wires, a prohibition of windows facing in one direction, a requirement that the cost of your house shall be not less than a certain figure, and so on. Of such restrictions, the most tortuous and baffling is often to be seen in the mysterious words "Ancient Lights" painted on the side of a house overlooking an adjoining property. A fine specimen frowns over a corner of my own garden, and informs me, by implication, that if I choose to erect a cottage or garage near that spot, in such a way as to obscure the light of any of the windows of that house facing my way, the owner thereof will take legal proceedings against me to have the obstruction removed or (much more probably) to extort an enormous sum by way of compensation for loss of valuable light. In skilful hands, the law of ancient lights had come to be so notorious a form of blackmail many years ago that an enterprising judge succeeded in putting an end to it, as a real scandal, by ruling that "to constitute an actionable obstruction of ancient lights, it is not enough that the light is less than before. There must be a substantial privation of light, enough to render the occupation of the house uncomfortable according to the ordinary notions of mankind and (in the case of business premises) to prevent the plaintiff from carrying on his business beneficially as before." [The case of Colls v. Home & Colonial Stores, 1904.] In practice this is usually taken to mean that a slight obstruction of "ancient lights" is permissible, but that if the obstruction is a really serious matter, it must either be prevented, removed, or paid for.
Lastly, there is the question of "title," defined by my dictionary as the "right to ownership of property with or without possession, the facts constituting this"; hence a title-deed is a "legal instrument as evidence of right." When you contemplate the purchase of property, you have to assure yourself that the vendor is, in fact, the legal owner. At first sight, it seems a superfluous precaution, but, unfortunately, there are so many crooks and sharks in this business of land transfer, that it is absolutely necessary to take precautions. Near my home lies a small estate formerly owned by a financial corporation which went into bankruptcy. Thirty years or so ago, when the crash occurred, a few houses had been erected upon the estate. Yet though the remaining sites have since become very valuable, it is only within the last few years that they have been built upon, owing to long-drawn legal squabbles about the "title." Even if you are buying a ready-made house "including legal charges" from a reputable builder, you should consult your own solicitor before you take the final plunge. The deed of conveyance which forms your title will contain a small plan on which the area of the site is stated and its boundaries clearly indicated with dimensions in feet and inches. There may be a small fee to pay to a surveyor for preparing or checking this.
A solicitor's fees for negotiating the sale of a house or site are based upon a percentage scale, and are authorised by the Solicitors' Remuneration Act of 1881. The current charges are to be found under the heading "Professional Fees" in Whitaker's Almanack; where particulars of the stamp duty imposed by the Inland Revenue authorities on conveyance of property are also stated. The foregoing pages, which are cautionary rather than alarmist in intent, show the need for invoking impartial, expert, and reliable legal aid before embarking on the purchase of a site: an adventure which has great compensations.
ARRANGEMENT OF THE ROOMS
IN this chapter we reach the most difficult process in building the house; that is, the actual planning. Here it is that you score by enlisting the services of an architect who has been trained to reconcile the wishes and financial means of his client with the particular exigencies of the site. An architect is often almost ashamed to admit that he is an artist, so much has art been ridiculed by the hard-headed and the thick-headed. But however much he may be concerned with the efficiency of your drains, with the perfection of your hot-water service, and the stability of your foundations, he is a poor sort of architect if he does not aspire to produce from all your innumerable instructions, and in face of a host of obstacles, a house which shall be a pleasure to behold, inside and out — in fact, however much you may regret the term, "a work of art." Conversely, he is a poor artist if he can only achieve that result by sacrificing some essential requirement of structure, convenience, or amenity. Somehow, he has to create a satisfactory synthesis.
His first problem consists in the placing of the house on the site in such a way as to secure the best aspect for all the various rooms. To effect this, he may have to place it askew with the frontage, perhaps in a corner of the site. For choice, the larder should face north; the kitchen and bathroom east or south-east; the bedrooms south-east, south, or south-west; the dining-room south-east ; the "sitting-room" south or south-west. This is a counsel of perfection, liable to modification according to the number of rooms required or according to special circumstances, such as a prescribed position for a front entrance or a back door, or the need to consider a view or a slope as well as an aspect. The architect now begins to juggle with his rooms as described on a previous page (see page 39), balancing internal convenience against external effect, until order emerges out of chaos. He will unconsciously endeavour to concentrate sanitary fittings with their attendant waste-pipes in an inconspicuous position, often inevitably on the north side. The irrepressible women who taunt architects with "putting all the pipes on the coldest side of the house, so that they get frozen," are the same women who, quite properly, expect the architect to allot the whole of the south front to sitting-rooms and the best bedrooms. It is very seldom that the architect's synthesis can provide his client's wife with all her desiderata, because some of them are mutually contradictory. For example, every square foot added to cupboard space is a foot deducted from floor space, assuming that a limit has been set to the cost (and therefore the size) of the house. Every increase or decrease of space upstairs involves a similar increase or decrease downstairs.
The position of internal doors is primarily determined by the need for avoiding draughts in each room and for creating a comfortable sitting-space round a fireplace or table, but outside the room their relation to the staircase and landing is important. Windows, too, should be conveniently placed for inmates in the various rooms (see page 112), but they must also be considered as a part of the external design or façade. Some famous architects have become notorious for their insistence on mere "façade" ; others do not take sufficient trouble to produce a harmonious exterior. Nobody can realise the difficulty of reconciling all these contradictory factors until he has tried it himself. No textbook gives a cut-and-dried solution: each problem has to be approached de novo and treated on its merits.
It is true that the very simplest type of plan evolves itself naturally from the conditions imposed, and does not necessarily imply plagiarism. For example, the plan on Fig. I is a product of my own brain, and represents the most economical arrangement possible of four bedrooms, plus "the usual trimmings," on the first floor of a semi-detached house, and occurred in a Surrey housing scheme, built soon after the War. Yet, since that time, I have discovered an identical plan, published in a book on small-house design, and have no reason to suspect that the author copied mine. He may merely have thought on parallel lines. But nearly every detached house, except the smallest of all, differs in some minor respect from others, and the possibilities of minor variation are endless.
The introduction of the flat roof has greatly simplified the task of those architects who decide, and are allowed, to use it on dwelling-houses. Whether you employ, as an alternative, a gabled-roof or a "hipped" roof (i.e. a roof with slopes on all four sides), you have to arrange your chimney stacks to come centrally on the roof-ridge if possible, and certain windows to come centrally under gables. If your garage is a one-storey "lean-to," you will try to continue the roof over it so that it forms a whole with the house. With a flat roof, all those troubles vanish: you puncture it for chimneys wherever you like, and probably some of them are little stumpy gas-fire flues which are invisible from below.
A prime question in general design arises when the architect has to decide between the bungalow-type and the two-storey type of small house. (There is a third type — two storeys plus attic — of which examples are illustrated in Figs. 15 and 16, and a fourth — the semi-bungalow, one storey plus attics, Fig. 4; but more commonly the choice is between the bungalow and the two-storey variety.) It is curious how a mere mention of the word "bungalow" makes excitable people nearly as furious as a whisper of the shameful word "drawing-room" does among the Chelsea high-brows. There is a bungalow facing my study window as I write, quite a nice, inoffensive little bungalow inhabited by a school-master. In the winter its roof is just visible in the distance; in the summer it is completely hidden by surrounding shrubs and trees. If it were two storeys high, it might annoy me inexpressibly ! Yet we are told, by people foaming at the mouth, that "bungaloid growths" are destroying the beauty of rural England. Nothing could be more ridiculous and illogical. If designed with equal skill, a bungalow is less obtrusive than a two-storey house, because it interrupts the landscape less aggressively and is soon submerged in greenery. Another popular delusion is the cheapness of the bungalow: to obtain comparable accommodation it is more expensive than a two-storey house. But a skilfully designed semi-bungalow, such as that illustrated on Fig. 4, possesses none of the bungalow's drawbacks, and may be the cheapest type of all.
No: the facts about the bungalow-dwelling are perfectly clear. It is not particularly cheap, it does not offend the landscape more than any other building, it attracts people who do not like running up and down stairs, and it repels those who like privacy or object to sleeping in ground-floor rooms. That is the whole story. The hideous shacks that have sprouted up all over the countryside since the War are not offensive because they are bungalows, but because they are badly sited, badly designed by ignorant people, and badly built of bad materials. Many of the worst of these "growths" are two storeys high, and they are more noticeable than decrepit tram-cars lurking behind hedges — another common form of post-War dwelling.
Even more nauseating and childish rubbish is talked about "drawing-rooms." The number of sitting-rooms required is a factor that obviously influences the plan, and the architect will require a decision at the outset. At the present time there is a fashion for a single large sitting-room in the smaller type of dwelling-house. In the great "Homes for Heroes" crusade after the War, certain architects tried to eliminate the front parlour from the artisan cottage, ostensibly because it was a waste of room, but actually because it enshrined aspidistras, antimacassars, china dogs, "Presents from Blackpool," and all the other insignia of a hated Victorianism. But the articulate representatives of the proletariat replied (i) that they liked to have a parlour, if only to display their most treasured possessions; (ii) that they entertained visitors there; and (iii) that it was the only available refuge for "courting." (Incidentally, it often served as a profitable source of income from a lodger.) To-day, the middle class is asked to accept a single room in which people will listen to the wireless (whether they want to or not), play bridge, eat fried onions and bask in the afterglow that onions leave, talk against the gramophone, and read anything up to the standard of the Daily —. But no allowance is made for eccentrics who may object to the continual reek of fried onions, the aroma of peppermint, or the endless bleat of the crooners, who may wish to read grown-up books or be afflicted with headaches. The single "lounge" — or whatever you may choose to call it — makes no provision for young children playing games of strength and skill on the carpet, for older children slaving at their "prep" in the evening, for young people who prefer to do their love-making in private, for father composing a letter to The Times, or for grandfather snoozing by the fire. It is an apartment suited only for a cocktail-cabinet and a radiogram as its sole equipment. And it is illustrated every week in magazines devoted to "The Home" !
For inhabitants of a certain type, it may fill the bill; for a family it is inadequate. The "dining-recess" frequently provided with it meets none of the objections cited above: in a "no-servant" household it would be more comfortable to have meals in the kitchen. Folding or sliding partitions are better than no separation at all, but for nearly all families the desirable minimum is one large sitting-room and a small dining-room. A combined "dining-room-hall" in a small house is generally unsatisfactory: draughts are almost unavoidable, and space sufficient for a table, sideboard, and chairs difficult to contrive. Where the so-called "head of the house" is a parson or a man doing literary work at home, as in two examples of houses illustrated in this book (Figs. 14 and 16), a third room is required for a study: anything less is impossible since wireless was invented.
Then there is the "servant problem," certainly no nearer solution now than it was ten years ago. Undoubtedly it is the lack of domestic help that has driven so many people into flats of late, for it is as cheap to run a fair-sized detached house with one or even two maids as to rent a much smaller flat without any help whatever. But during the last decade or so, since some of the houses illustrated in this book were built, the domestic servant has come to expect either a small sitting-room for herself, or at any rate a cheerful kitchen from which the sink and — if possible — the heating boiler are excluded, a room not surrounded by doors and fittings. Various arrangements of kitchen quarters appear in the series of plans described and illustrated in this chapter (see also Fig. 22), and matters of detail are discussed in Chapter V. But the question of staffing is now so paramount that these plans may be roughly classified as no-servant houses (Figs. 2-8), one-servant houses (Figs. 9-12), and (even at this day) two-servant houses (Figs. 13-17). This is, of course, a very arbitrary distinction. Much depends upon the age, energy, income, and tastes of the housewife herself, and some of the largest houses illustrated are, in fact, run with a single maid; while others of the middle size are, or could be, run with the aid of a "daily help," thus saving a bedroom.
Classified according to cost, the houses illustrated on Figs. 2-8 could all be built at present-day prices [Prices prevailing in May 1937.] for less than £1,000; the examples shown on Figs. 9-12 would cost between £1,000 and £1,750 ; and those on Figs. 13-16 between £1,750 and £2,500.
All the following plans are reproduced to a scale of approximately 16 feet to 1 inch; that is, half the scale of an architect's working drawings. The following abbreviations are used to denote the various rooms:
A HOUSE IN SUSSEX (a)
This small house was built to suit the special requirements of two sisters who did not employ a resident maid. They therefore asked for two bedrooms for themselves upstairs, and a very small bedroom downstairs for occasional guests. Local Sussex sand-faced bricks are used, and sand-faced roofing tiles. The external walls are 11 inches thick with a cavity. The house stands on the edge of an old village, on a slope, and a brook runs through the garden. Its style does not conflict with the older buildings adjoining it, and its cost was low.
Architect: Martin S. Briggs, F.R.I.B.A.
A TIMBER HOUSE IN MIDDLESEX
This charming cottage accommodates the groundsman employed by a large public school, and adjoins an equally attractive pavilion, also of timber, designed by the same architect. It is included here as an example of the skilful use of timber framing and weather-boarding, in the traditional style indigenous to Middlesex and the neighbouring counties. My sketch hardly does justice to the colouring, which is cream with bright-green shutters and door, against a background of trees and grass. The wooden window-frames and casements are painted white.
The external and internal "walls" are formed of braced deal studding. Externally this is covered with lapped deal weather-boarding in narrow widths and internally with Beaver board, the joints being covered with deal fillets. The cottage has a low brick plinth, and there is a concrete raft beneath the whole building. On the south-east side are two small verandahs, over which the roof is carried down to supports, each formed of three 4-inch by 4-inch posts.
The roof has a pitch of 53 degrees, enabling rooms to be built partly in the roof, while complying with the local by-laws.
The planning throughout is very economical. The position of the bathroom on the ground floor saves plumbing and is no draw-back in a servantless house. All the six flues are brought together into a single central stack: thus the whole house is warmed when the kitchen fire is burning. The compact planning of the upper floor is specially noteworthy, nearly all the space being occupied by bedrooms.
S. BALGARNIE WYLD, A.R.I.B.A.
A SEMI-BUNGALOW IN SURREY
This is an example of a type of house which, as already noted in this book, combines many of the advantages of a bungalow with those of a two-storeyed house. Its architect has erected numerous buildings of this type in Surrey, and the one illustrated opposite is now being built on a new estate some 20 miles from London. The external cavity walls are 11 inches thick, of rustic Fletton bricks distempered, and with a tarred plinth. The roofs are covered with Swallow tiles and are of "Mansard" type, i.e. with a double slope, known in America as a "gambrel" roof. This form of roof allows nearly all the roof-space to be utilised for bedrooms, and at the same time effects a large saving on brick walls. All the windows are steel casements with the fashionable horizontal bars. Radiators are provided in the hall, lounge, and dining-room downstairs and on the landing upstairs. The two smaller bedrooms are heated by means of electric fires. Lavatory basins are fixed in bedrooms 1 and 2. There is a serving-hatch between the dining-room and kitchen; and sliding doors between the dining-room and the lounge. Two low bunkers are provided for fuel, outside the back door. The front door is recessed to form a porch. Altogether, this is a roomy and well-planned house, giving ample accommodation for its cost.
H. ROSE, A.R.I.B.A.
A BUNGALOW IN NORFOLK
This bungalow contains two sitting-rooms and two bedrooms, a kitchen, and the usual offices. The exterior is rendered in cement, finished with wood float, and the roof is covered with pantiles.
J. WEARING, F.R.I.B.A.
A BUNGALOW IN SURREY
This bungalow contains one sitting-room, two bedrooms, a kitchen, and the usual offices. It is built with 11-inch cavity walls in Fletton bricks rendered in stucco, and roofed with hand-made sand-faced tiles. The front gable is in oak feather-edged boarding. The door is of oak, and the casements are metal in wood frames. The floors are of pine blocks.
A HOUSE IN MIDDLESEX (a)
This is one of the types of house designed by architects as a result of a competition for one of the estates in Middlesex owned by Messrs. John Laing & Sons. The brick walls are 11 inches thick with a cavity, and the roofs are covered with pantiles. There are two sitting-rooms, a kitchen, the usual offices, and a garage. The estate is attractively laid out.
W. KENYON, F.R.I.B.A.
A HOUSE IN MIDDLESEX (b)
This house, like that illustrated on Fig. 6, is one of the types successful in the architectural competition organised by Messrs. John Laing & Sons for one of their estates in Middlesex. The brick external walls are 11 inches thick with a cavity, and the roof is covered with pantiles. The accommodation consists of two sitting-rooms, four bedrooms, a kitchen, the usual offices, and a garage. The planning is ingenious and compact, providing a good hall on the ground floor, and three bedrooms in a row at the back.
A HOUSE IN SUSSEX (b)
This is one of a group of small houses, ultra-modern in design, built as a speculation on a site overlooking the sea. The walls are of 4-inch reinforced concrete, lined inside with wall board, which was placed inside the shuttering and left for insulation. The roof and floors are also of reinforced concrete, the former being covered with asphalt and the latter with composition flooring. The first floor is carried on beams running across the long axis and picking up the bottom of the external concrete stairs to the shelter on the roof. Quarry tiles form a coping to the parapet of the flat roof. The external walls are painted with a special concrete paint and the internal walls are distempered on a skim coat of Keene's cement. Central heating is installed. The windows are standard steel casements and the doors are flush doors. The accommodation includes a large living-room with recess for meals, a kitchen, three bedrooms, the usual offices, and a garage (not shown on plan).
WARD & LUCAS
A HOUSE IN MIDDLESEX (c)
This house was erected some years ago in the same road as the groundsman's cottage illustrated on Fig. 3, and stands at the entrance to the estate of a large public school. It therefore occupies the position of a lodge, adjoining the massive brick gate-piers built at the same time, but connected on the other side by means of ornamental screen-walls with a formal group of houses (sixteen in all) designed as a complete scheme. But the accommodation stipulated was far in excess of a lodge-keeper's requirements, and consisted of five bedrooms, two sitting-rooms, and the usual offices, including a small scullery as well as a kitchen. The two sitting-rooms and four of the bedrooms face south across the garden. The prominence of the situation suggested a formal and somewhat picturesque treatment of the north front to the road, and the back entrance to the scullery is concealed by an arched porch balancing the entrance porch but with this difference: that the back porch had a "blind" archway towards the road, whereas the archway by the front door is open.
The cavity walls are 11 inches thick, faced with sand-faced multicolour bricks, and the roofs are of dark-red sand-faced tiles. The wooden casements are filled with leaded glazing.
Architect: Martin S. Briggs, F.R.I.B.A.
A HOUSE IN HERTFORDSHIRE
This is one of many houses at Welwyn Garden City designed by the same architect (some being illustrated on Plate III). The accommodation comprises two sitting-rooms, a kitchen, and the usual offices on the ground floor; three bedrooms on the first floor; a maid's room and a large workroom in the attic. The garage is detached, and placed obliquely to the front of the house, but is arranged with a corresponding line of trellis on the other side in such a way as to produce an architectural group. The external walls are of brown Buckinghamshire bricks, and are 11 inches thick with a cavity. The roof is covered with machine- made pantiles. The wood casement windows are painted cream, and the front door is of oak. The bathroom and kitchen are tiled. The window and door furniture is of bronze and anodium respectively. The interior doors are of flush plywood (Venesta), walnut-faced on the ground floor. The built-in sideboards are walnut-veneered. The fireplace in the living-room has an Ancaster stone surround. There are three radiators in the middle of the house.
H. JAMES, F.R.I.B.A.
A HOUSE IN SUSSEX (c)
This was planned as a week-end house for a Brighton doctor and his family. The site is on the top of a hill, with a view over open country in all directions. The house is designed in such a way that full advantage is taken of the surroundings. The living-room has an unusual angular projecting window, so that it commands the whole view of the horizon on the south side, and the low level of the bedroom sills makes it possible to see out of the windows while lying in bed. Built-in cupboards and dressing- tables are provided, so furniture does not interfere with the window-area. Central heating is installed in the form of radiators under the windows. These are served by a small boiler in the kitchen, which also provides hot water for general purposes. The staircase-well is heated by a single radiator at ground-floor level; hot air from this, rising and passing between the half-landings and the window, heats the whole staircase-well. There is a coal-fire in the living-room, and cookers are fitted in the kitchen. The construction is 4-inch monolithic concrete throughout. There are three stanchions: one 8 inches by 8 inches in the centre of the house, supporting two 17-inch by 4-inch beams which carry the floors; and two others 24 inches by 4 inches where shown on the plans. Partitions are of breeze block. Walls are finished in 3/8-inch plaster on 5/8-inch wallboard. Externally the house is finished in a special oil paint direct on the surface of the concrete.
WARD & LUCAS
A HOUSE IN ESSEX
This house stands on a narrow sloping plot near Epping Forest. On the ground floor are three sitting-rooms, a kitchen, the usual offices, and a detached garage connected with the house by a screen-wall. On the first floor are four bedrooms, and on the flat roof is a studio or study-room. The garage is balanced across the forecourt by a service wing, with access through the trade-door into a small yard. The external walls are of 9-inch brickwork rendered with waterproof cement. Reinforced concrete has been used for the construction of the floors, and the roof is covered with large insulating tiles. The walls around the garden are built hollow, so as to form troughs for rock plants.
D. HEPWORTH, F.R.I.B.A.
A HOUSE IN MIDDLESEX (d)
This house is typical of many designed recently by the same firm of architects for Messrs. Haymills, Ltd. (Plate IV shows another type for the same builders, in brick; and Plates V and VI illustrate Messrs. Welch & Lander's work on a smaller scale for Messrs. Roger Malcolm, Ltd., and Basil Gordon, Ltd., respectively). On the ground floor are two sitting-rooms, a kitchen, a maid's room, the usual offices, and a garage. On the first floor are five bedrooms, and on the flat roof is a "sun-room" 13 feet square. The external walls are of rustic Fletton bricks 11 inches thick with a cavity, up to the first floor; above that level they are 9 inches thick and covered with "Snowcrete." The lower part of the walls is flush-pointed and lime-whited. The flat roof is of concrete and has tile copings. There are electric fires in the dining-room, and in bedroom No. 2. This house possesses several features which are now coming to be expected in the more prosperous suburbs, e.g. the maid's sitting-room, the second bathroom, the garage forming part of the main building, and the excellent hall. The two balconies and the flat roof with its "sun- room" are also concessions to prevalent taste.
A. WELCH & F. J. LANDER, FF.R.I.B.A.
A HOUSE IN CAMBRIDGESHIRE
It is significant that this remarkable house should stand on the outskirts of a university town, for it was built so early as 1931, and is thus one of the earlier experiments in a style that has since become more familiar. Its stark form and its admirable proportions imply an intellectual client and an intellectual architect: it is, in fact, an example of the scientific and enquiring spirit that has made Cambridge famous. The client's requirements in the way of accommodation have been solved on strictly rational lines, and economy has been studied both in planning and in construction. The rectangular block measures approximately 60 feet by 21 feet. A reinforced-concrete frame is employed on the front and back only, with 9-inch external walls, breeze and brick partitions, wood joists for the first floor, wood joists and cross-firring joists for the flat roof, and jointless flooring on screened concrete for the ground floor. Standard metal casements and standard flush doors are used wherever possible. There are lavatory basins and fixed cupboards in all the six bedrooms, and two bathrooms are provided. French windows lead from the study and the hall to the garden and from bedroom No. 5 to the flat roof. The garage, which does not appear on the plan opposite owing to limitations of space, stands on the right-hand side of the entrance forecourt, some 15 feet from the house, and forms part of the whole composition.
CHECKLEY, M.A., A.R.I.B.A.
A HOUSE IN SURREY
The site slopes sharply to the west and a terrace has been formed on the garden front. This terrace is turfed, and from it a flight of brick steps leads down to the garden. Originally it was intended to have a verandah on the south side, to balance the garage wing. On the ground floor are two sitting-rooms, a kitchen, the usual offices, and a garage for two cars; on the first floor are four bedrooms; and there is a large and well-lighted room in the roof-space. The 11-inch cavity walls are faced with multi-coloured sand-faced bricks, and the roof is covered with dark-red hand-cut tiles. The metal casements are painted white.
P. MILNE, F.R.I.B.A.
A HOUSE IN KENT
This house stands on the south side of a spur of the North Downs, between a main road and a railway-cutting. Fig. 37 shows the lay-out of the site. Designed as a vicarage, it contains the usual generous allowance of three sitting-rooms and six bedrooms, which is considered appropriate for buildings of that type. An unusual requirement of the incumbent was the provision of folding-doors between the living-room and his study. This arrangement certainly provided ample facilities for parochial and social gatherings, but detracted from the privacy usually demanded in a parson's study. A French window leading from the terrace also tended to increase his distractions. Otherwise the accommodation was strictly orthodox for a household which included children and two maids. At the time the house was built, a garage was not desired.
The external walls are 11 inches thick with a cavity, built of local sand-faced bricks, and the roof is covered with sand-faced tiles. The plans were approved by the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty.
Architect: Martin S. Briggs, F.R.I.B.A.
The remaining plates
STRUCTURAL PRECAUTIONS AGAINST AIR-RAIDS
AT the time of writing this little book, there is such frequent talk of the risk of air-raids, and such serious preparations are being made in official quarters to afford protection against that threat, that it seems necessary to offer here a few practical hints on the possibilities of protection for the ordinary householder. The imminence of the risk depends mainly, of course, upon political considerations — matters of international politics — in which he has no say; but also upon the locality of his home. It increases in proportion to his nearness to "legitimate" targets — such as aerodromes, docks, barracks, power-stations, and gas-works — and even to towns of any size. Seeing that we are largely town-dwellers, it therefore affects most of us; and as we are told that bombs dropped from an aeroplane moving at 200 miles an hour at a height of 5 miles will normally explode on a target 3 miles (horizontally) from the point of release, a considerable "margin of error" is to be expected, even in clear weather. The plain fact is that, if an aerial war does begin, the risks are appalling for nearly everybody in populous districts, and there is comparatively little that can be done in the way of protection, without an expenditure which is quite prohibitive for Mr. and Mrs. Everyman.
Nevertheless, it is incumbent upon every intelligent householder to know what that little is, so that everything possible shall be done for the safety of his family and his home. We are told that if an aerial war should unhappily take place, it will begin suddenly — perhaps without any warning whatever — so that most structural precautions must be taken in advance. Let us consider one by one the various forms of destruction which may be launched upon us from the skies, and then the means which may be utilised to minimise their effects. First of all, there are heavy high-explosive bombs, weighing from 500 to 3,000 lb. each. The largest of these will be reserved for places of great military importance, so-called "legitimate targets"; and as only one or two of them can be carried by an aeroplane, it is not likely that they would be sprayed indiscriminately over residential districts. Their power is so enormous that they will penetrate 70 feet or more into the earth before exploding, and will then open a huge crater, while there is nothing in ordinary construction that will afford protection from flying fragments close to the point of impact. Even bombs of 500 lb. weight will penetrate about 40 feet into the earth, or through 7 feet of solid concrete, so that no house can be built to withstand a direct hit from such a missile; and no refuge can be dug deep enough in a small garden to afford protection. As we come down the scale to what are euphemistically described as "light bombs" of, say, 56 lb. weight, the experts tell us that these will penetrate 10 feet into the earth, 30 inches into brickwork, 16 inches into solid concrete, and 10 inches into reinforced concrete. Hence it would appear that the inhabitants of a flat-roofed two-storey house built of rein- forced concrete might be safe from a direct hit from a very light bomb, provided that they were all downstairs at the time; but as much heavier bombs are likely to be in common use, we are driven reluctantly to the conclusion that the inhabitants of an ordinary modern dwelling-house, however soundly constructed, have no protection against a direct hit from the ordinary type of high-explosive bomb likely to be used in an air-raid.
Fortunately, however, the chance of sustaining a direct hit is bound to be relatively small, especially in rural and even in suburban districts, where the open spaces greatly exceed the built-up areas. It is quite worth while to consider means of protection from flying fragments or splinters of steel from high-explosive bombs, which have a radius of destruction far beyond the crater caused by the explosion. The following particulars, taken from a recent official publication, [Air-raid Precautions Handbook, No. 6 (1936), pages 41-42.] show the thicknesses of material which "will afford protection against splinters from bombs up to 500 lb. weight, which explode not less than 50 feet away."
This table is not particularly exhilarating in its implications; on the other hand, provided that the enemy abstains from using bombs over 500 lb. weight, has the decency to avoid a direct hit, and drops his messages at least 50 feet away from our houses, it contains a glimmer of hope. The outer walls of the modern small dwelling-house are seldom as thick as the sizes given above, but a revetment of sandbags or of boxes of earth or even lumps of coal can be piled up outside it to reinforce its own strength. (In Madrid, the books from a famous library have been utilised to form street barricades, but our own official pamphlet gives no particulars of the protective value of, say, the Encyclopaedia Britannica for revetment purposes.)
The diagrammatic sketch (Fig. 42) illustrates the value of such revetment. A bomb explodes 50 feet away from a small two-storey house, penetrates 40 feet into the earth, and opens a crater 80 feet in diameter. The fragments of steel casing fly upwards and outwards in all directions. They might easily penetrate the upper storey, but there is obviously less risk in the room on the lower storey, and a revetment such as is illustrated protects the windows of rooms on the ground floor, where the family would naturally take refuge. The art of revetment is, alas ! only too familiar to middle-aged men who served in the Great War. Details of the process are given on pages 50-51 of the official handbook already quoted. Army sandbags measure 33 inches by 14 inches, and contain about 5 cubic foot of earth each when filled. A revetment wall of sandbags 8 feet high to give full resistance to splinters should be 4 feet thick at its base and 2 feet at the top.
Of machine-gun fire from aeroplanes, the official handbook writes with rosy optimism that "this danger is not likely to arise frequently, but the measures taken to secure protection from high-explosive bombs would be equally effective against this form of attack." In the case of the ordinary householder, it would be kinder to tell him that it is slightly less dangerous indoors than out-of-doors, and to leave it at that !
Next we have to consider the effect of gas-bombs, of which the official Jeremiahs say that their weight varies "and may be anything up to 250 lb., or even larger .... In providing protective measures against air attack, one of the objects is to prevent the gas, in liquid or vapour form, from penetrating into the building or shelter which it is desired to protect; and this is usually achieved by making the shelter airtight." The man who proposes to build himself a new house at the present time thus has to take a choice between the following alternatives: (a) ignoring altogether the risk of air-raids, thus saving his money, and yet being as well off in the event of a direct hit as the man who takes precautions; (b) relying on the improvisation of one gastight room when the emergency occurs, in which case he should "assemble" in advance the numerous requisites involved in this highly complicated operation, which usually implies also protection against flying splinters; and (c) the provision in advance of a room at the outset which can readily be made gasproof and splinterproof. (It should be remembered that open revetted trenches in the garden may provide protection against upward- flying splinters, but none at all against gas, and that the construction of a gasproof trench or shelter in the garden is a very costly business, while it is prohibitively expensive to make such a shelter — for a single dwelling-house — proof against a direct hit.)
Unless he adopts the first of my three alternatives, the householder therefore has a choice between the improvised gasproof room and the specially constructed gasproof room. In either case, the following particulars should be helpful. It may be assumed that the provision of a mechanical system of ventilation or filtration of air is impracticable for a small house: so that the room will have to be hermetically sealed for a period which may be assumed to be twelve hours. An allowance of 100 square feet of surface of floor, walls, and ceiling per head is stated to be reasonable in such circumstances. Thus, suppose that you select your "living-room" (I nearly wrote "drawing-room" by mistake) as your fortress, and that it measures 20 feet by 15 feet and is 8 feet high. The superficial area of the floor, walls, and ceiling is 1,195 square feet, and it will therefore accommodate twelve persons safely for the prescribed period of twelve hours. In that room you and your household have to live, eat, sleep, and inevitably perform some of the less public functions of your existence, for a protracted period which is bound to involve a considerable nervous strain on you all. You must collect in the room a sufficient provision of food, water, rugs, lights, "sanitary appliances" behind a screen, comfortable chairs in which you can sleep, books, and the wireless apparatus which will presumably notify you of the end of a raid or of the imminence of the next.
All crevices in the flooring and round its edges must be pasted up with adhesive paper. Alternatively, a "mush"of damp paper, soaked in water and squeezed to pulp, may be used for stopping large cracks round the edge of the floor, or any knot-holes in the boards. The chimney-flue must be sealed up; this may be done by closing the fireplace opening with a sheet of plywood, a blanket, or stout paper, care being taken to cover the outer edge. The door should be protected with a blanket, fastened tightly at the top and on the hinge side by a slip of wood nailed to the door-frame or architrave, the handle edge and the bottom being left free. The windows not only need to have all open edges closed, but must also be protected against the risk of cracking and breaking either by flying fragments or by the concussion of the explosion. They should therefore be strongly boarded over on the outside, and pasted over with stout paper over all the panes inside; or a specially prepared airtight wooden frame may be fixed inside.
But the whole of this gruesome tale has not yet been told. We have still to deal with a form of attack which is expected to occur everywhere if an aerial war begins, and which is particularly harmful to the ordinary dwelling-house, viz. the incendiary bomb. The official handbook [Air-raid Precautions Handbook, No. 6 (1936), page 9.] states that "this type of bomb is usually small and light, weighing anything from 2 lb. to 50 or 60 lb. It is filled with an incendiary compound, which is ignited when the bomb strikes a hard surface. The case of the bomb may be itself composed of inflammable material, such as magnesium. Since these bombs contain within themselves the necessary elements for combustion, they cannot readily be smothered. A small incendiary bomb will normally pierce the ordinary type of roof, and will ignite on the top storey. Reinforced concrete, 5 inches thick, may be expected to keep out incendiary bombs of 2 lb. weight." The same handbook proceeds to describe, in a later paragraph [Ibid., page 31.] the somewhat heroic measures required if the householder is bold enough to attempt to handle the object himself, but that is hardly a matter for consideration here. If your house has a flat reinforced roof and floors, it seems clear that the smaller type of incendiary bomb, deadly as it is, would not reach you in your fortified room on the ground floor or in the basement. But a house with the ordinary roofing of tiles or slates on timber rafters, and with a ceiling of plaster on joists above the bedrooms, is evidently very open to attack — especially as so many born "hoarders" (see pages 117-118) fill their attics with inflammable junk. If such an attic and roof were to be set on fire, as could so easily happen, they would fall in a blazing mass on to the floors beneath, and might seriously disturb the cocktail party or wireless concert that you had arranged to keep up the spirits of your family, in the gasproof room below. In building a new house, the householder might consider it worth while — if he prefers a tiled sloping roof to a flat concrete roof — to have a flat concrete "lid" placed over (at least) the part of his house which he intended to serve as a refuge, and even to have a similar concrete floor under his bedrooms. At that stage, the cost would not be great; but the insertion of concrete floors into an existing house, except at ground-level, is a very expensive matter.
This brief statement of present knowledge of the possibilities of structural precautions against air-raids is hardly comforting to the ordinary man, but it is perhaps better than nothing in the anxious times in which we are living.