18 February, 2012

Extrarordinary houses in an ordinary suburb - Kingsbury

I have always thought that strange things go on behind the twitching lace curtains of suburbia. And if you are going to do some strange things then you might as well have a strange house to do them in. I have been meaning to do the Ernest George Trobridge walk in Kingsbury for a long time since I saw the Trobridge exhibition in Brent Museum in 2010. Unfortunately I did the walk on a dull day but got two housing estates for the price of one.
Trobridge was a Swedenborgian, and whether this influenced his architecture or not I don't know, however his architecture is unsymetrical. The mail once had a seies of articles about houses that looked like Adolf Hitler, and the first block of flats I saw would have certainly have qualified. I'm sure that would not be a tenet of the Swedenborgian faith.

These pictures show some of the rather fun entrances to some other blocks of flats in the area. A definite play on the Englishman's house being his castle.

Immediately after the first world war both building materials such as brick and tile were in short supply. Worse, skilled labour was short too. Trobridge solved the problem by building thatched houses with compressed elm, a timber that was then plentiful in England. Elm has a tendency to twist when seasoned but compression overcame this as is witnessed by the houses still standing today. They are interesting and again, unsymetrical. although fireproofed with roof sprinklers.

Roe Green village was built during the first world war for workers in the nearby aircraft factory. Designed by Sir Frank Baines it lacks the variety that could be seen at the Well Hall Estate built for the workers at the Royal Arsenal. The garden suburb here has some brick houses and rendered houses with greenish slates hung down, slates being cheaper than brick for building. It still looks good after nearly 100 years. It was considered cheaper to build permanent houses for temporary war workers. After the first world war good quality housing was considered to be the preservative against armed revolution when the revolutionaries would be better trained than the police. A recruiting poster of the period asks 'Is your home worth fighting for?' The trouble was that in many cases the answer was a resounding NO! I think these homes would be worth fighting for...

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