Thursday, 10 April 2008

Concrete Evidence







Company dwellings have always held a particular fascination for me. It started with Gillian Darley's seminal work Villages of Vision, with the cover of my edition being by the afore-blogged Tony Meeuwissen. It has sent me on a trail that has included the vast but altruistic endeavours of industrialists at Port Sunlight and Bournville, new villages built away from the sightlines of Dukes like Edensor at Chatsworth, and the more informal estate cottages with identical paintwork as seen in Buckminster, Leicestershire. Here in Rutland are a row of bungalows built in 1930 for the families of workers employed at the Ketton Cement Works next door. Although row is not quite right. They are in fact built on a gentle curve, and called The Crescent. Each one differs slightly from its neighbour, and they are constructed with concrete blocks made at the works. "Cool in summer, cold in the winter" a lady occupant told me, her bulldog straining at its leash. Time appears to have stood still here, but they don't get the attention they deserve when Ketton itself is stuffed-full of classic limestone buildings. The cement works still sends out billows of white cloud, (at one time this was, and probably still is, the only industrial chimney in Rutland), but instead of the once ubiquitous lemon yellow Ketton tankers they are now Castle Cement juggernauts.

15 comments:

Gardagami said...
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Philip Wilkinson said...

Betjemaniacs will recall that in that fine book First and Last Loves, Betjeman has an essay called 'Antiquarian Prejudice', part of which concerns the fictional Lincolnshire village of Tickleby Tomcat. One of the prominent features of the village is, 'a line of fancy bungalows, connected with the sugar beet industry' – another bungaloid bonus brought by benevolent bosses.

Ron Combo said...

So are you saying that the cement is now lorried (?) out instead of going by train? There used to be a railway spur that you pointed out to me once as we sailed past, young, drunk and in love, in your maroon Riley 1.5 with a black vinyl roof.

Toby Savage said...

Whenever I see houses of this era, I imagine they are inhabited by Middle England couples, still together and now in their mid seventies, but what interests me most is what's lurking in that garage. Maybe something as prosaic as a 1961 Ford Prefect, but it just might be a pre war Riley Elf that Harry did the odd hill climb in as a twenty something tearaway, cloth cap worn at a jaunty angle and pipe gripped firmly between teeth. You didn't happen to sneak a look behind the green door by any chance?

Peter Ashley said...

Cement's been lorried out ever since I can remember, but you're right Ron, there was, and I think there still is, a spur off the Leicester-Stamford Line.

Toby, I did mention the little green-doored asbestos garage to the old lady I accosted, but she gave me a funny look. But then people do these days.

Fred Fibonacci said...

More infiltration? Haven't looked to see where 'Jason' is earning $900 a month but he doesn't look like an Unmitigated devotee to me.

Back to concrete bungalows. I found a very useful Peugeot 404 saloon next to a house just like this about twenty years ago. In fact, the car was rotten as a pear but I seem to remember we rescued the poor thing, if only for its perfect centre-bolt hub caps. The house was in Coulsden.

I discovered another 404 in Kilburn. That car lives on in France with Matt Savage (Jeeprebuild)'s best mate. That was a cracker. It was parked outside a completely ordinary late-Victorian terraced house of only passing architectural merit. Not a concrete bungalow in sight.

Jon Dudley said...

Ooh, don't get me onto things hidden in garages - makes me go all unnecessary. The promise conjured up by those rotten doors with not quite enough gap to effect a peep and certainly not enough light inside, and yet you just know there's something there. If you strike lucky and the owner allows you in there's that heady aroma of Castrol, hessian, leather and a hint of petrol vapour. If you're unlucky it's a bunch of past-their-sell-by-date-Flymos and a knackered leather sofa; but if it goes the other way - 'Is that a Frazer- Nash nestling under all those sacks?' Dream on.

Fred Fibonacci said...

Jon, for real barn-find envy tap in 'Barnfind Portugal' and follow the links. You may already have seen it; well worth a look. There's a little concrete to look at for you as well Peter.

Peter Ashley said...

I once had a lovely old man as a neighbour in Rutland who asked me if I could guess what was underneath a tarpaulin in his barn. After fruitless wild guesses he lifted the cover like a magician and there was a 1930's Chrysler taxi. What I could never have guessed was that he had ferried Goring and von Ribbentrop to local hunts and golf clubs in it. I wonder if they made guttural Third Reich-type comments about these bungalows as they sped by.

Toby Savage said...

Just for the record Fred, Andy still has the 404 and it is still in France, though sadly in need of a lot of work. I hang on to a windscreen in my roof for one, just in case.

Jon Dudley said...

Fred, I had seen it but you reminded me to go and take another look - luscious - and allegedly the bloke only bought the concrete hangar...contents FOC. On company housing Peter, one of these days take a drive down the road from Steyning to Shoreham...there's a terrace of company houses very much in the 'town' style with the foreman's property detached and at the Southern end on a slightly elevated piece of land. Symbolism was everything in the cement company who built them and one is tempted to say set in stone, but that would be a pun too far. The enormous derelict factory, all asbestos and concrete stands idle but magnificent a few yards down the road.

Peter Ashley said...

I'm off there now. And to find out if the life-size pirate is still walking the plank outside a pub in Shoreham?

Diplomat said...

Peter - next time you're in Ketton check out Hibbins' house on the cross roads. I know of many mason's, quarryman's and builder's houses that have been very keenly constructed to demonstrate, advertise, show off and generally make a fuss of their respective trades - can't think of a snappy title.

Paul said...
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Paul said...

8 years on...
All boarded up and condemned now I'm afraid. Damp and rot. Maybe they should have used limestone after all!