Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Chalgrove in Harrow on Hill, HA1

Some of our work relates to Victorian terraced housing, and in it’s standard form of generous bay sash window and panelled door approached by a simple path, these very unremarkable, yet agreeable and decent family houses have come to typify many swathes of London’s suburbia, from Hackney in the north to Balham in the south and Kensal in the west. At the time of construction some builders or developers embellished or romanticised what has since become very standardised London housing stock with the notion of more picturesque settings – distinctively English and rural as you could achieve a day of two’s train journey from 19th Century London: “Clovelly” (Devon), “Sherborne” (Dorset), “Chalgrove” (Oxon) inscribed over the porch entrance.

So when we received an enquiry from a client with regard to a project named “Chalgrove” in Harrow there was little expectation beyond the norm.

Chalgrove, many moons ago

Far from a being a standard 19th Century house “Chalgrove”, at the lower slopes of Grove Hill and Peterborough Road is a lovely 2-storey Arts & Craft house constructed in red brick English bond with rendered elevation at 1st Floor level. The roof is a plain tile roof. It was built by Arnold Mitchell, architect in 1893 for Adolf Hildesheim and the entrance door, windows and elevations are described in The Builder of 1893 & The Architect 1895:

'Front elevation: The door of small-pane glazing over 3 panels in reveal, round archway, and bracketed, bowels, canopy. Small window to right with apron panel, and canted bay window of 1, 3, 1 lights and with dentilled eaves to left. High wooden cornice broken by tall central stair window of 2 x 3 lights and with 2 cross-windows to either side. Modillioned eaves cornice. Two segmental-arched 2-light dormers. Raised verges with coping. Corniced end stacks.

Rear elevation: canted bay window with central double door, small window to right, 3-light window to left; eaves lower than at front, rising above the lst-floor windows of 3 and 4 lights. Interior not inspected.'

Chalgrove in 2010, view from the road at the most south-eastern corner of
the Roxborough Park and The Grove Conservation Area

Note the perimeter wall and the fence. The fence was erected without Listed Building Consent (LBC) and when our Client bought the house at auction he was unaware that they would need to be removed and a new fence designed in accordance to the sensitivities of grade II listing. Studio Idealyc have been successful in achieving LBC for our Client.

Chalgrove in context

We like the juncture of timber and brick, each crafted with sensibility and balance to create a very agreeable form.

Chalgrove Porch designed to a beautiful curve

We also like the majestic chimney stacks of English Bond, stretching tall into the sky. Once a former village, Harrow is typical of other former London villages that have since become engulfed in the metropolitan sprawl. The fence and need for greater privacy is simply a product of the times, and the original context is no more.

Chalgrove; view of chimney elevation showing English Bond

Reposessed by a bank, Chalgrove was later sold at auction to our Client who was unaware of its listed status which also encompasses the 18th Century brick wall that curtails the property. The wall will need to be preserved or restored using sensitive materials and processes, notably lime mortar. Any new features like fencing or gates will require sensitive design before Listed Building Consent is granted.

Chalgrove in 2009, boarded up and awaiting a new occupier

As much as we wanted to work on the house, it was outside the house however that our client requested our services, and he didn’t mean digging over the garden! The issue instead concerned two perimeter walls of redbrick construction supported by buttresses dating from the 18th Century. With some of the brickwork at risk of falling apart it was a matter of urgency that work commenced to prevent further subsidence and decay. Furthermore, Chalgrove falls within the Roxborough Park and The Grove Conservation Area of special architectural and historic interest, and is considered one of a few most architecturally important, elegant and distinctive Arts & Crafts houses in Harrow, and as such the house and garden walls are listed grade II.

Indicative Plan of the Roxborough Park and The Grove Conservation Area

Landed with the role of submitting a planning application for new gates sensitive to a 19th Century style and a design of fence to sit on top of the bow- profiled wall so as not to not distract too heavily from the picturesque form of the wall - yet allow the occupier a little privacy - our thoughts reverted to the poetic nature of the individual bricks and their collective form as they withstand the urban trajectory of pollution, noise and visual intrusion encroaching this corner of London.

Studio Idealyc's earlier study of the fence on the front facade

As we surveyed and measured, examined and sketched the wall and her many variable textures, hues and formations, we considered the beauty that lies within the construction process of bricks from yesteryear:

Bricks were made from clay that had been puddled (squeezed and blended) until it was smooth and impurities had been removed. Other materials were mixed in, such as chalk or ash, and once moulded could be placed in sand when still damp. Shaping could be done with a mould, by extrusion through a wire mesh, or by carving.

The bricks were then baked in a clamp or kiln. A clamp is a stack of dried bricks, with faggots of brushwood inside, and coated with clay. The Hoffman kiln was introduced in 1858; this made continuous production possible and the bricks were uniform in shape and strength.

The inclusion of a wire mesh and other geometric means of moulding bricks gave way to more abstract thinking. We were reminded of John Hejduk, Architect who played with the process of square grids and other geometric devices within diagonal containers. He set these geometries against with an occasional curving wall.

Chalgrove, now

Letter received by our Client in acknowledgment of our work on Chalgrove


With thanks to Ms. Lucy Haile, Conservation Officer from London Borough of Harrow who we are indebted to for her continuous help and advice during and after the LBC was granted. Her knowledge and kindness is much appreciated.

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