Site Unseen: Knight fever, knight fever: A weekly look at London's hidden gems

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
From time to time most architects let their hair down. Fed up with the clients' demands or the tedium of building something for the hundredth time, they suddenly let themselves go.

Few architects have done so more spectacularly than Ernest Trobridge. Flushed with the success of the prefabricated house he displayed at the Ideal Home Exhibition of 1920,

Trobridge bought up 10 acres of rural land in Kingsbury on the northern outskirts of the capital. Here he built both houses and flats. The houses are in Slough Lane and look as if they had been commissioned by Anne Hathaway.

With their

timber frames, thatched roofs and leaded windows, one can imagine Will Shakespeare returning to this little piece of Tudor suburbia after a hard day at the Globe.

The timber-frame houses were built of green elm in order to get around the shortage of building materials after the war. Trobridge patented his own 'compressed greenwood construction to reap maximum commercial profit.

Unfortunately, he quickly ran into problems with the local housing authority, who complained that the thatched roofs were a fire hazard.

Worried too about over-burdening the timber frame, Trobridge had to make the

cottages relatively small and potential clients often went elsewhere. He decided to switch to flats.

Around the corner and up the hill in Buck Lane, Trobridge went to the other extreme and decided to build a handful of castles, complete with turrets, moats and arrow-slits. Each one is different, each one contains flats. The son of an Irish artist and a devout Sweden-borgian, Trobridge clearly let the medieval urge get the better of him. These 'castles in Kingsbury were built in the Thirties and offer a complete contrast to the austere modernist dwellings of Lubetkin and Maxwell Fry, which were being built in London at the same time. But whereas several of the latter now have structural defects and a nasty concrete-stained appearance, Trobridge's residences remain in good condition and are much sought-after by the unconventional.

Today, however, these flat-dwellers of NW9 sally forth over their drawbridges to uphold the ideals of Arthurian romance and chivalry, not in the old Forest of Middlesex, but along the North Circular.

(Photograph omitted)

Comments