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ARCHITECT'S DEPARTMENT

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): MCC/AR
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/london-metropolitan-archives/Pages/ ›
Full title: ARCHITECT'S DEPARTMENT
Date(s): 1880-1964
Level of description: subfonds
View parent record
Extent: 9.57 linear metres
Name of creator(s): MCC | Middlesex County Council x Middlesex County Council

Context

Administrative/Biographical history:

The Middlesex County Council Architect's Department was created in 1903 and existed until the abolition of the County Council in 1965. The Department reported to the General Purposes Committee and the Chief Officer was the County Architect. The 1902 Education Act abolished School Boards and replaced them with Local Education Authorities. Middlesex became an education authority and therefore also had responsibilities for the building and design of schools. In 1903 Harry George Crothall was appointed Surveyor and set up a drawing office with five assistants in a four roomed stable in Parliament Square. There began an intensive programme of designing and building schools and other educational establishments which was to continue, almost without respite, until 1965.

In 1905 Harry George Crothall was appointed County Architect. The bulk of the Department's work was concerned with schools and polytechnics. Schools were generally built with their classrooms around a central hall (for example Spring Grove School, Isleworth) and later central corridor plans (Tottenham County School). The architectural characteristic of the period up to 1914 was what might be described as Edwardian Baroque and conformed to the image of what was expected of public buildings of the time. The standard of draughtmanship within the Department was high, the 1/8" scale drawings were drawn in pencil and then traced onto linen, 1/2" details were done in watercolours.

After the First World War the Department continued to expand. In 1923 it moved to offices in Tufton Street and was divided into two sections of schools and hospitals. The population in Middlesex rose at a rate of 30.8% between 1921 and 1931 (5 times above the normal rate of growth and more than in any other administrative county) and at a rate of 27.4% between 1931 and 1939 (7 times above the normal rate). This boom necessitated the building of new schools and by 1927 the Architect's Department was able to produce a new school every 6 weeks. In the years immediately following the First World War schools were constructed in timber hutting. Later large mansions were converted into use. A number of grammar schools which were built in this period reflected past styles, for example Tudor influence can be seen in Christ's College, Finchley and Tottenham Grammar School and a Georgian influence in Edmonton County School.

William Thomas Curtis became County Architect in 1930 and new social legislation in the 1930s brought other types of work to the Department, particularly after the passing of the Local Government Act 1929. The staff designed libraries, clinics and hospitals - most notably Shenley Hospital which was opened in 1934 and had a layout centred on a church. The Harefield Sanatorium was built in the "aeroplane" suntrap style. The rate of production was unsurpassed by any other local authority. In 1937 the Department moved to Millbank and Great George Street; in 1938 it moved again to Vauxhall Bridge Road. Most work in the Department was halted on the outbreak of war in 1939, but staff did do some designs for the new Schools Meals Service which involved building kitchens and dining rooms from pre-fabricated components.

The creation of the National Health Service took away the County Council's responsibilities for hospitals and the office was reorganised to cope with the new school building programme. Under the terms of the Education Act 1944 the County Council became the education authority for all forms of education for the whole county. The Architect's Department therefore had responsibility for many more buildings. Many schools had been destroyed by bombing during the war and this was coupled with the population boom of the late 1940s so it was imperative that a new building programme was initiated. There were problems in finding adequate building materials and a skilled workforce.

Cecil Stillman became County Architect in 1946. He had gained an international reputation before the war for his experimental schools in Sussex and believed in the concept of flexibility in his work. He approached the school building programme by making the best use of available resources rather than erecting prefabricated schools (although some early post-war schools were prefabs built by prisoners of war). The programme was run on military lines, the building materials were bought in bulk and the Department returned their output to its pre-war level of one school a fortnight. It should also be noted that that the County Council was also able to keep its costs low. The tenders for 1950-1952 for primary schools averaged 133 per place and 231 per place for secondary schools: costs which were well below the Ministry of Education's figures. The new schools were often filled to capacity on their first day.

A hundred schools were built between 1946 and 1953 which provided 42,000 school places and a total of 200 schools were built between 1943 and 1956. Middlesex County Council built more schools in this period than any other education authority in the country (including London). It is probable that Cecil Stillman, who had worked as a local authority architect for twenty nine years for various authorities, was responsible for the building of more schools in England in the twentieth century than any other architect.

The style of schools changed from sprawling layouts to compact two storey buildings as land was in short supply. The Department established a reputation for progressive school architecture which was copied and admired world wide. The County Council tried whenever possible to choose sites with attractive rural settings even in the most urban of areas; Moss Hall School, Finchley is an example of this and Mount Grace School, Potters Bar shows how a school could be built on landscaped grounds without intrusion. Cavendish Primary School and Wilbury Way Primary School were particularly significant for their informal styles of windows and walls which attempted to put small children at their ease. Centre corridor classroom blocks were used in many secondary school buildings; exceptions to this include Mount Grace School. John Kelly School had only two staircases and no corridors; Woodfield School had classrooms grouped around a central hall.

Within this period the Department also built, converted and extended magistrates courthouses; clinics (for example Northcote Avenue Clinic, Southall; many old peoples homes; fire stations (including Twickenham, Harlesden and Feltham) and ambulance stations; colleges and institutes of higher education (such as Brunel and Harrow College); libraries (for example Eastcote); civil defence training centres; municipal buildings; children's homes; probation offices; youth and community centres; buildings on County Council estates. The work of the Department touched practically every area of work of the County Council.

In 1959 Cecil Stillman retired and was replaced by Herbert Whitfield Lewis who had previously worked for the London County Council (this move is typical of the interchange of architectural staff between the two authorities in this period). Lewis encouraged younger architects and expanded the use of bulk buying and prefabricated systems. There was less money to spend and this is reflected in the economically planned buildings of the 1960-1965 period, for example Manor Lane Primary School and Bourne Primary School. By the time of the abolition of the County Council in 1965 the Department felt that the future lay in prefabrication, bulk purchase and modular design for local authority architecture.

Content

Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Middlesex County Council Architect's Department, including administrative records, 1929-1963, such as correspondence, contract books, registers, departmental organisation and procedures, committee papers and minutes, memoranda, exhibitions, journal articles and press cuttings on the work of the department, papers relating to the issue of iron and steel for building purposes, schedules of prices for building works, papers relating to private architects and correspondence with teaching staff on school design.

Records relating to the construction of primary and secondary schools in Acton, Brentford, Chiswick, Ealing, Eastcote, Edmonton, Enfield, Feltham, Finchley, Friern Barnet, Hampstead, Hanworth, Harrow, Hayes, Hendon, Heston, Hornsey, Northwood, Pinner, Potters Bar, Southall, Southgate, Teddington, Tottenham, Twickenham, Uxbridge, Wembley, West Kenton, Willesden and Wood Green, 1946-1963; including bills, estimates, contracts, accounts, specifications and correspondence. Contracts, estimates, bills and specifications for Acton Technical College, Ealing Technical College, Maria Grey Training College, Southgate Technical College, Trent Park Teacher Training College and Willesden Technical College, 1947-1963.

Bills, specifications, accounts, and estimates for other buildings, 1949-1964, including offices, branch libraries, housing, civil defence control centres, clinics, community centres, court houses, ambulance garages, fire stations, sports facilities and the Central Middlesex Hospital, Willesden.

Drawings and plans, 1880-1961, for Middlesex Guildhall, Hanworth Grammar School, Feltham; Edmonton Technical Institute; Twickenham sewerage connection; Twickenham Fire Station and an old people's home in Tottenham.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English

System of arrangement:

The records were found in a haphazard collection so the decision was made to catalogue them within the framework of the last re-organisation of the department. MCC/AR/01: Group One (administration); MCC/AR/02: Group Two (educational work); MCC/AR/03: Group Three (educational work); MCC/AR/04: Group Four (educational work); MCC/AR/05: Group Five (further and higher education); MCC/AR/06: Group Six (libraries, special schools); MCC/AR/07: Group Seven (county buildings); MCC/AR/PL/01 Plans.

Conditions governing access:

Available for general access

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright: City of London

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at: http://search.lma.gov.uk/opac_lma/index.htm

Archival Information

Archival history:

Comparatively few records survived from the Architect's Department. A flood at the Tufton Street office in 1928 destroyed much valuable work and in 1965 most of the records were transferred to successor authorities - that is the Greater London Council, the London Boroughs and the County Councils of Surrey and Hertfordshire.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Acquired with the records of its parent authority, the Middlesex County Council, and with successor authorities.

Allied Materials

Related material:


Publication note:

For further information on the history of the Middlesex County Council please see Middlesex by Sir Clifford Radcliffe (2 editions, 1939 and 1953), LMA Library reference 97.09 MID; and The County Council of the Administrative County of Middlesex: 76 years of local government, 1 April 1889 to 31 March 1965, by Middlesex County Council (1965), LMA library reference S97.09 MID.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
April to June 2009

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