135 BALDOCK ROAD

The following is based on a 1st February 2009 interview and subsequent correspondence with the owners, Peter and Joan Jermy.

135 Baldock Road won 2nd prize jointly in the 1907 Exhibition Cottages competition with another Baldock Road house. Joan believes the property was originally sold for £350, including outbuildings.

Peter was a wireless engineer in the airforce during the war, and his work took him to India and Japan. He wanted to be part of an aircrew but his eyesight was not up to the task. Like many of his generation, Peter did his military service before going to university. Before moving to Letchworth, he worked for English Electric Leo Marconi Computers Ltd. At that time, government was encouraging amalgamation of computer companies with financial incentives, and Peter moved with his organisation to Letchworth in early 1969, during a series of mergers in which it became part of ICL. The company was the first- or second-largest employer in Letchworth. He initially worked on hardware design, then with software. Peter remembers that a computer in those days would half fill a room the size of his lounge.

For her part, Joan recounted "I went to work in the City during WWII and at times it was quite 'hairy'. I joined a firm of Lloyd's Insurance Brokers, where I stayed for 38 years! This was in various capacities including management, until I needed to reduce to two days a week. My employer and his wife became good friends of ours".

The Jermys purchased 135 Baldock Road for £8500, after a previous sale fell through. The owners (the Long family) had tried to sell the house to an elderly lady who had two sons still living at home, but she died the night before signing the final contract. The Longs wanted to sell quickly, and the Jermys were able to buy it on favourable terms. Peter and Joan moved house from Totteridge in the July.

They had looked at many houses before settling on this one, but had no idea of its historical significance, as it wasn't well known at that time (Joan observed that the Heritage Foundation have since helped considerably to raise awareness about the Exhibition Cottages).

The Longs had bought the house just after the war, in a derelict state, and done much renovation. Before the Longs it had been a dairy, comprising a modest milk round and smallholding. The old lady who lived there with her special-needs son had difficulty in coping (Joan thinks her surname was Wade). The smell of sour milk was so intense that a neighbour complained of having to breathe through a scented handkerchief when visiting.

Bill Long started a car rental (and probably a taxi business) from the premises. He had pre-paid several months of advertising before moving out, and Joan remembers receiving calls for months afterwards requesting a car, and on one occasion the phone rang at midnight.

Soon after arriving, Joan found an envelope while cleaning, in a hollow in one of the exposed beams in the lounge. It contained £42. When she phoned the Longs' son, he could tell her the exact amount and explained it had been set aside for car repairs, but had been forgotten about in the rush to move.

Everywhere the Jermy's stripped paint, they found bottle green, which was not to their taste!

It was immensely hard to make the house warm when the Jermy's arrived. Built with a single layer of bricks, as was common in 1907, they had to line all the exterior walls with plasterboard and insulation. There was no loft insulation, but large cast iron radiators throughout the house, which they gradually replaced.

Joan recalls that, despite considerable lorry traffic on the Baldock Road when they arrived, it looked like a country lane. The traffic has since reduced a lot, probably because of the Baldock bypass.

She found the garden quite daunting. A huge shed contained a Sunbeam Tourer, which was in working order, but had been left there for months by the previous owners. Eventually Joan had to threaten to dispose of the car before it was driven away!

The 35´ of garden furthest from the house was surfaced with a 9" layer of clinker, which the Jermys turned into an allotment. There was a soakaway in that area of the garden, so Joan thinks it was used by animals, and she learned from neighbours that horses and cows may have been kept there. Removing the clinker filled two or three large skips, and an additional 120 bags had to be taken to the tip. Joan recalls the task was dreadful, and doesn't know now how they managed to see it through. Their garden includes a flower and shrub area, and has produced fruit and vegetables - 40lb of blackcurrants one year - and many strawberries and rasberries. The Jermys used to grow all their own bedding plants, and Joan's greatest triumph was to produce four Ginko Biloba trees from seed.

Joan remembers one of her neighbours, a Mrs Smith, who lived on the corner of Lawrence Avenue in another cottage, which won 1st prize in the 1907 competition. The Smiths had a smallholding, probably a crop, which extended at least as far as what is now Whitethorn Lane. It was compulsorily purchased, probably to build houses on after the war. Mrs Smith always maintained that the compulsory purchase killed her husband, who had a major stroke shortly afterwards.

Joan recounted that she "served with Girl Covenanters [a Christian organisation] here in Letchworth, at the same time as Peter was involved with Boy Covenanters. I well remember a Sunday afternoon when there was an area rally and 70-plus teenagers and leaders invaded No. 135 for tea!

"We had some excitement here on the 25th March 1995. A number of bullocks escaped from a field in Willian and one turned up in our garden. On arriving home from shopping I found we had been sealed off by the police. They called for help from the people at Standalone farm, who came with a lasso. The animal was very lively and enjoying its freedom, and made off through next door's garden after creating havoc in ours, where a newly laid grass path had to be returfed. I think it was eventually caught in Such Close.

"We have greatly enjoyed our home for the past forty years, especially the many interesting visitors we have been able to entertain not only from the UK but also from South Africa, Australia and even a couple who were memnbers of a choir from Romania.

"We are so pleased our home has been well used".

2 CROSS STREET

Called The Nook, the cottage was built of 7 inch thick breeze concrete and consisted of living room, with range, scullery with copper and bath, 3 bedrooms, pantry, dresser, sink, plate rack, covered yard, coalhouse and W.C.

Built on one floor to simplify the construction and avoid costly scaffolding, the building was designed to be durable and fireproof. There were no spaces below the ceiling which vermin could inhabit and mouldings were avoided as they collect dust. A recessed inglenook for sitting around the fire (hence the cottage name) was provided, thereby leaving the major part of the room clear for furniture. A large range straddled both kitchen and living room providing a stove for cooking in the former and heat for the latter. The stove also provided hot water for a bath concealed in the kitchen by a fold down table when not in use.

The cottage was to be suitable for a Labourer or Gamekeeper but, like many of the others, it has changed over the years.

The first alteration is thought to have been in 1914, when the panelled living room was added, increasing the floor area by half as much again. The panelling is thought to be American Oak.

By the time the second world war broke out a considerable number of Jewish people had settled in Letchworth. Since the Exhibition, Nook Cottage had changed hands four times before being bought in May 1941 by Raphael Hanstater, Wholesale Provision Merchant. On 29th April 1942 licence was granted to five Trustees (one of whom was a Sassoon, a nephew of the poet) to "enlarge and adapt the dwelling house...to be used as a Ritual Bath. This to be used solely in connection with Jewish religious ceremonies or observances...of the Hebrew Community of Letchworth for the period of the present emergency".

Although the terms of the Licence stipulated that the use should cease six months after "the emergency" ended, the arrangement continued until the sixties, when it fell into dis-use. The then owners of the cottage, Mr and Mrs Bray, who had cared for the bath-house, applied to have the agreement with the Trustees terminated.

The bath-house was demolished and subsequently planning permission was granted for an extension containing a kitchen and a bathroom replacing the coalhouse and W.C. This in turn was demolished in the late 1990s when the cottage was yet again extended, whilst still remaining a three bedroomed property.

The living room nook had at some time become part of the open hall and the room became a bedroom. The fireplace had been removed and boarded over and the benches removed. In the 1990s alterations, the nook area was converted into an en-suite shower room.

108 PIXMORE WAY

(The following text is reproduced with thanks to David Davis )

The cottage was originally known as Plot 217 in Pixmore Way and was designed by the local Architects Bennett & Bidwell who at that time had offices in Leys Avenue, the house itself was owned by Mr Robert Bennett and it is not known whether the house was rented out from the time it was completed until 1954 when it was sold to Mr & Mrs Parfitt, it is likely as the address shown for Mr Bennett was Hall Barn in The Glade.

Mrs Parfitt continued to live at 108 until June 1960, Mr Parfitt having died the previous year, she then sold the house to Mr & Mrs David Ness who up until that that time had been living at 100 Pixmore Way and they continued to enjoy the property making changes internally and improvements to the house generally, but very little had been done to alter the external appearance, thankfully, of this unique pair of dwellings. The cottage was sold again on the 25th May 1977 to the current owners.

The structure is very typical of the period with local white bricks, probably fired in Arlesey, then rendered in a pebble dash under a plain hand made clay tile roof. In the last 20 years the roof has been removed and new felt and battens installed and the majority of the original tiles put back, where necessary replacement second hand tiles where bought and used on the rear elevation, it is now virtually impossible to tell that the roof has ever been disturbed. Quite naturally since 1977 further improvements have been made as required but always sympathetically and the cottage even now does not look very much different from the original sketches, the only obvious sign being the larger bay windows on the front and side and these where done at a time when home improvement grants were available.

On a general note it is a pleasure to live in this 1907 cottage which has always had a very welcoming and pleasant atmosphere, I suppose the only downside now is the sheer volume and speed of traffic in the road now, very different from 1977. It has always intrigued us that in its 101 years the house seems to have had very few owners, it clearly does endear itself to all who live in it, we certainly have no intention of leaving just yet.

3 THE QUADRANT

The following history of alterations was provided by Bonita and Arthur Thomson as part of a centenary display for the 1905 cottages, and is reproduced here with thanks.

At sometime early in the first half of the 20th century:

- Back bedroom was divided to allow an upstairs bathroom. The entrance had to be made lower because of sloping ceilings. Most people have to mind their head!

- The outside local, porous brick was rendered for protection and, at a later stage, painted. We are not sure if it has always been in white.

In the mid 20th century:

- Owners ripped out fireplaces, picture rails and so on, leaving very few original features. Two fireplaces, some picture rails and pine internal doors were untouched.

- Central heating was installed during this time.

In the early 80s:

- Large extension added. This included a rear sitting room, a lobby and downstairs toilet, a large but not quite double garage and, upstairs, a large bedroom, 'dressing room' and additional bathroom. The kitchen was also 'modernised'. The front elevation of the extension was subject to strict planning laws of the, then, Garden City Corporation. What a pity these laws did not extend to rest of the design and the quality of the work!

The present owners took up residence in June 1983 and have tried to make alterations in keeping and sympathetic with the original house:

1. Opening up spaces that had been enclosed by the new extension:

- A useful storage cupboard accessed where the original WC had been.

- A recess in the front room, below the stairs, to accommodate our TV.

- A small door from the new bedroom into the eaves above the new rear sitting room, giving a very large 'crawl-in' storage area.

2. Adding a plate rack in the dining room where once there was a picture rail

3. The gaping corner recess, where there was originally a range, has bee rebuilt similar to ideas gleaned from photos of early Garden City interiors, and a traditional smokeless fuel stove installed.

4. It became extremely difficult to continue maintaining the Georgian style wooden windows, so these were all replace with UPVC in 2003. This was a difficult decision, but Georgian bars were put on the outside of the windows to retain as much as possible of the original look.

5. The most recent change has been to rebuild the kitchen this year to celebrate the 100 years. This has been done using terracotta floor tiles and units with an Edwardian look: cream panel doors with large dark wooden knobs.

8 THE QUADRANT

Anne Muir & 8 The Quadrant

Anne Brown was born in Dundee in 1884. She married Andrew Muir, a son of Edinburgh, in 1910. They had a family of five boys. Anne was pregnant with their fifth son when, in 1917, Andrew died. She came to live in Letchworth after Andrew's death, bringing up her family alone at 8 The Quadrant and later her eldest grand-daughter too. Andrew had been a consultant architect for the Garden City in 1907. The house in The Quadrant, then number 19, was his home during that time. It was one of the early exhibition houses, Exhibition No. 19. The main ones were built in Nevills Road, then Exhibition Road. There were also one or two in Cross Street. Anne live in The Quadrant until her death in 1976.

Now, in the year 2000, Andrew and Anne have nearly 50 descendants, spread across four generations. Some still live locally but others have made their homes in Canada, America, Spain, New Zealand and Australia. Of their five sons, Maurice, Malcolm and Merlin emigrated to New Zealand, Reo brought up his family in Reading and Michael remained in Hertfordshire, living in Hitchin. He had a photographic shop in Hermitage Road and was a member of Hitchin Urban District Council during the 1960's and 70's, being Chairman for part of that time.

After Anne's death in 1976, another grand-daughter, the oldest living in Britain, moved into the house. She brought up her son there and it continued to be her home after he left to go to university. In 1996 the house was sold out of the family. Muirs had lived at 19/8 The Quadrant, from its earliest days, over a span of nearly 90 years.

160 WILBURY ROAD

The following is from a panel created for the 1905 cottages centenary by Derek and Fiona Oldham, and reproduced here with thanks.

Clough Cottage

Our house (along with 150-156 Wilbury Road) was built by AH Clough of Ringwood Hampshire. The building work was supervised by his nephew Clough Williams-Ellis who later became famous as the architect who created the village of Portmeirion in North Wales (the setting for the 1960s BBC television series The Prisoner).

Onslow Whiting (a sculptor) acquired the lease on the house for £125, with a ground rent of £1:19:10. He lived in the house until 1921, by which time it was already known as Clough Cottage.

The house has been extended many times, so that it no longer looks as it did. We think that the front upstairs window and downstairs bay window with balcony above are likely to have been added when a 2 storey extension (with new front door) was built on the western aspect of the house. There are no records of this work in the district council planning records which suggests the work was carried out before 1947. The internal wooden panelling and roof timbers on both sides of the house were damaged in a fire before 1958. In 1973 a lean-to at the rear of the house was replaced by a single storey extension, and a second storey was added in 1983. The house is now about 3 times its original size.

Parker and Unwin's signatures are on the original plan showing our plot and on a document stating their conditions for the approval of the specification for the house. Our garden remains the generous size marked on the plan, although we are pleased to say that it no longer contains a cesspool! In 1921 the new owner of the house (Winifred Phoebe West) acquired the leasehold on land to the rear of the plot which doubled the size of the garden. The ground rent for the new land was £3:0:2. The acquired land was surrendered for £500 in 1968 when Letchworth Urban District Council built the flats in Stonnells Close.