A is for Architect

Location : Norwich, London, Surrey, Thetford, Cornwall

Growing Up in Norwich

I was born in 1940 at the start of the Second World War in Norwich, just near the railway station. That was bombed two years later, and then our home was bombed in 1942. Fortunately we weren’t there that particular night because I was with my grandfather at that time, but that meant we had to find a home.

There was a lady who used the same grocer as us, and she asked the grocer if they knew of anybody who had been bombed out in Norwich who needed a home. My mother and myself, we needed a home (my father was in India and Burma at the time), so we went to live with this lovely Scottish lady.

That’s where my home was for the next twenty odd years. When I was three years old, in fact, she took us up to her home in Scotland, near Kilmarnock, so I had my third birthday in a place called Mauchline. I also saw the sea for the first time at Troon because you couldn’t get to the coast in wartime around Norfolk – it was all partitioned off.

I  went to an Infant School in Norwich, called Larkman Lane,  and I remember you started school at the end of the corridor and you could look right the way along to where you finished up when you were 11, so I knew what my journey was going to be. One of my first memories was the Victory in Europe, V.E. Day: we had celebrations in the school and I can remember everyone dancing outside and singing “Rain, rain go away, come back again another day” – a very vivid memory.

Then my father came back in 1945 from the war, and at that time we went to see his mother who lived in Surrey. I remember him taking me to quite a high bit of ground to watch the V.J. celebrations (that’s the Victory over Japan) and there were bonfires everywhere, all in the countryside. Everyone was so happy; it was fantastic.

Then in 1946 I got meningitis just before I was six years old. I was very, very lucky though: I was with a very good family doctor who knew what it was straight away and got me into the isolation hospital in Norwich. At that time penicillin was just being used and it saved my life basically, and didn’t have any real effects, although it put me back a couple of years in mental and physical development.

I had a long time off school. I was in hospital for at least four weeks then a lot of recuperation time after that, so it set me back quite a bit really.

Just after that my brother Bev was born in 1946. I went into the Junior School at Larkman Lane, where I bumped along the AB line – that is, I went from 1B, then 2A, then to 3B; I was right on the border line. It was when I went into 3B that I met my first man teacher, who was an inspirational, wonderful teacher. He actually came in one Monday morning and he said ‘today I’m going to improve your vocabulary. I’m going to go through the alphabet’, and he started off with the letter A. He said A was for Architect and he told us what that meant. I thought ‘that sounds jolly interesting, you know, that’s one thing I would like to look into’ and that perhaps that would be a future career for me. I would be nine at that time and it fascinated me, and I had always been very aware of things around me.

When my father had come back from the war, he continued his job as an Insurance Inspector for the Cornhill and his territory was all west of Norwich, right up to Peterborough, and whenever he could he took me out in the car and into a village. He would be in to see his clients for about an hour sometimes, and I would just walk round the village looking at buildings, going into the church, and if he’d gone to a farm I’d go into the barn. It fascinated me, the space in a barn. I used to tell the farmer ‘Cor I could make this into a fabulous house’. He’d say ‘It’s only an old barn.’ That was well before anyone thought of converting barns.

The other thing I was interested in at the time was the story of Alexander Fleming who discovered penicillin, because I’d been saved by it, so the other idea for a career was medical research.

Anyway, I then failed the 11 plus – I eventually failed it twice – and so in 1951, when I was 11 years old, I had to go to a Secondary Modern School.

While I was 11 at the school at Larkman Lane, it was Festival of Britain Year and our class were quite good at singing. We went to a festival at St. Andrews Hall in Norwich where all the Norwich Schools were competing and we won that. We then went on to Cambridge, where all the East Anglian schools took part, and we won that. And then we went to London where we didn’t do quite so well with it (we came eighth out of 12), but that meant we could see the Festival of Britain, which was a fascinating thing.

When I left that school I went to a little Secondary Modern School in Norwich called Heigham House, which was a Roman Catholic School. I’m not a Roman Catholic though, I’m Church of England, but my father thought it was the right sort of school for me. At last I started to make some sort of progress, started to wake up.

In 1953, when I was 13, I was confirmed into the church, then at the same time I passed the 13 plus (which you could do in those days) and that was for the Norwich Junior Technical School, in the workshop block behind the Norwich Technical College. Normally you stayed there for three years but at the end of our third year, or coming up to the end of our third year, the headmaster came to about 20 of us and said ‘how many of you would like to stay on for another year to take GCEs?’ We all said, ‘what are GCEs?’ Anyway that meant that I stayed on for another year and got my GCE subjects. We were allowed to take seven and I’ve got seven, fortunately.

By that time I’d gone into the building side of things. At the Junior Tech you either took up an engineering interest or building interest. I liked laying bricks and doing joinery and all that sort of thing and so that’s where I went.

Starting in Architecture in the Cathedral Close

I found out how I could start in architecture. By that time I realised I didn’t have the qualifications – in other words I didn’t have the Latin – to be a medical researcher, so I took the architectural side and went to the Norwich School of Art. I could go there for three years, become a probationer of the RIBA, which was the Royal Institute of British Architects, and that would take me up to the intermediate level of architecture.

I  had a very good tutor there called Aubrey Stevens, although everyone knew him as Steve. He had been a medical student at one time but he then changed to architecture and he was very, very inspirational. He took us on very gently. I think if I’d been to a high-powered architectural school like the AA (Architectural Association) I wouldn’t have coped. I had a lot to learn, I was very naïve and not very mature at that time and so it was the right sort of thing for me.

Then, when I was 18, for my first summer holiday at the Art School I was offered a little holiday job with an architect in Pulls Ferry at the end of The Close in Norwich. His name was James Fletcher Watson and I went to see him and he said ‘If you work for me for seven weeks I’ll give you some pocket money.’

I went to work for him and the first thing we got to learn was to be able to use the print machine. That was quite a hairy thing because it was a carbon light type machine, and if it went out while it was printing, you had to push up the carbon rods, which was very dangerous actually but I survived that.

I was working on some of the details for the Bishop’s Palace – he was designing the Bishop’s Palace in Norwich at the time and I found that fascinating. Also I had to do a lot of errands. I had to take all the drawings to the Quantity Surveyor who also was in The Close, Pank & Partners. I never forgot them, because they were very kind to me and always asked me what I was doing and how my training was going, so many years later that was the Quantity Surveyor I used when I was doing my own jobs.

The Bishop’s Palace was an interesting building, very much neo-Georgian. It’s still there and whenever we have a new bishop I always say ‘I can remember what your site looked like before it was built’ because I had to help with the survey of the site.

Although James Fletcher Watson also did modern houses, he was best known for his neo-Georgian architecture, as well as for his beautiful watercolours. In those days, in a railway carriage you often had a painting behind the back seat and he did paint those for the local trains. Local scenes. He was a very clever man.

I had been there for about three weeks and you had to go in on Saturday mornings in those days, and I noticed everyone else getting a little brown paper envelope with their money in  each Saturday morning and I didn’t get anything. After three weeks I had a word with the secretary and I said ‘I haven’t been paid yet’ and she said ‘Well go and tell him’ and she pushed me up the stairs.

I went in to his studio, which was a fantastic barrel vaulted room overlooking the river at Pulls Ferry; the ceiling was beautiful. There he was at his drawing board and he said ‘What do you want?’ I said ‘Well I’ve been here for three weeks and I haven’t been paid yet,’ and he said ‘I thought you were going to do it for nothing’. I said ‘No, you said you’d give me some pocket money’. He said ‘Oh alright, I’ll give you £1 a week’ and that’s what I agreed to.

So I saved up my pounds and when I left I had £7 and I bought myself a blazer; that was my first working experience. I also met a lovely guy there called Mike Brooks who was sort of a mentor in a way, not particularly in architecture but in life really. He took me under his wing because I was very nervous and very unsure of myself and didn’t talk a lot and he helped me very much in that.

We had tea and coffee and a lunch break. I used to take my own packed lunch and that sort of thing but it was lovely because I could do that, go out of the building, and go on to a seat outside overlooking the river. This was summertime and it was lovely to see the boats all moored there, and of course there were very pretty girls on top of the boats, sunning themselves I suppose. For an eighteen year old it was quite nice and I enjoyed that; it was a lovely summer.

Then I went back to the Art School for another two years, but each summer holiday I’d go back to Fletcher Watson’s and still only earn £1 a week. The third time I went I was there for a bit longer and a new partner had arrived called Christopher Lambert, who I got to know very well. He eventually formed a new firm called Lambert Scott and Innes, known as LSI, and they are still in business and doing very well. He was also a very influential architect you know; I loved his work, and it had quite an effect on my own designs really.

This is 1960, when I was 20. I was still working for Fletcher Watson’s but basically under Christopher Lambert. I had to work on another neo-Georgian building called Intwood Rectory, which is still there and I have actually been back to see that. When I eventually became a Lay Reader for the Church of England, one of my interviews was with the Arch Deacon who actually lived in that building so he was able to take me round and show me how it had been built and its final appearance, which was lovely to see. It was basically designed by Chris Lambert in the old neo-Georgian style but it was quite difficult really. I had to design the staircase, and Chris had cheated a bit and so it took me a long time to make it work.

I then left there to take my Intermediate. I got most of the subjects, but failed one of them so that meant I had to come back in about a year’s time to take the same subjects. So in the meantime I worked for another firm of architects where Mike Brooks had moved to called Wearing & Hastings and they were in Cathedral Street in Norwich. I was working on all kinds of things, including quite a lot of Roman Catholic churches, new ones, and enjoyed doing that.

Moving to London

Then on my twenty-first birthday I went up to London for interviews for various colleges where I could finish my training. I went to the Regent Street Polytechnic and also the Northern Polytechnic, but I rather liked the set up at the Northern where I eventually went.

But in the meantime, as I’d missed the call up (that is, the National Service) by about six months, I felt I needed to get away. I had lovely parents, they couldn’t have been better and more supportive, they were wonderful, but I needed to grow up. So although I couldn’t start at the college just yet, I wanted a year working in London. So I got a job with a chap called H.H. Clark, and that was 3-4 Clements Inn, just off the Strand in London.

Quite a frightening place, London. I was quite lonely. This particular office I should think was about a 1920s building and very dark and everything was all brown paint everywhere, but I did have a wonderful view over the Law Courts. I don’t know exactly what they’re called but they are the main Law Courts in London, and as I was so homesick for Norwich I remember working out which spire of the Law Courts would lead my eye on to Norwich, 100 miles away.

Also I had a calendar on my wall there and I used to highlight the fourth Friday of every month because I knew that was when I was going home. I used to walk down Kingsway to Holborn Station and instead of going westwards to where I was living in Bayswater, I used to turn right, that is eastwards towards Liverpool Street Station. I was going home. I was always met at the station in Norwich by my father and so that was what I lived for all that time.

Life in London was very different. I eventually got to know a lot of friends – in fact I began to meet other Norfolk people in London. We used to have a party most Saturday nights. It was okay; I eventually got used to it.

I worked on all kinds of buildings when I was working for Mr Clark. He designed a Baptist church at Sundon Park near Luton but I had to be there on site to talk to the builder. I remember Mr Clark saying to me ‘Now you are training to be a professional man so you don’t become too friendly with the builders.’ I said, ‘That’s a pity, at the last site meeting we had with the builders I actually had fish and chips with them in their hut.’ Which he thought was disgraceful. I hate this class system that you get in professions and whenever I can break it down I will.

I also met a very interesting lady there. She was the other architect working with me in this room and her name was Alena Skorobohaty. She was a Polish lady and she worked in the Polish resistance and so she told me many stories about her life, particularly around Warsaw, and she described to me the Warsaw Uprising. She was there, then she was part of the resistance. She said they rose up against the Germans. It was just coming to the end of the war but they could see the Russian army on the other side of the river, who waited until the Germans had crushed the rebellion before they moved in, and so you can just imagine what she thought of Russians – she was very, very anti.

But she was an interesting lady and she invited me to a New Year’s Party in her house that particular year, which was the 1961/62 New Year, and it was lovely. She had a house in Belsize Park, which is near  Hampstead, and I went there in the evening and it snowed and it was just like fairyland. It was wonderful. The whole atmosphere was wonderful. The only trouble was all her guests were Polish so I didn’t know what they were saying.

The other thing I worked on when I was there was St. Andrews Convent Hospital in Dollis Hill in North London. I was asked to go there by Mr Clark, who said ‘They’ve got trouble with their dome and their cupola right on the top of the building. It seems to move in the wind. I haven’t got a head for heights so I’m going to send you.’

So I went to the building. I didn’t have a problem with heights. I don’t know if I could do it now mind you, but I went up these rickety ladders the builder had supplied and went right up to the top of this cupola. It was a round base with a dome on top and these columns were supporting the dome, and I touched one of the columns and it moved. The problem was the columns were cast iron and they were surrounded or enclosed by copper sheeting, and what happens is you get electrolytic action between the two – rather like an old fashioned battery – and the copper erodes the iron. In fact at the base of these supports, which started off about 6 inches in diameter and went down to about an inch, it had been eaten right away, so the whole thing needed to be drastically repaired.

The one thing I remember about that, it was my 22nd birthday and I got a fantastic view of London from up there. I could see the whole of London around that tower and so it felt very memorable and I got down safely. I told Mr Clark all about it and he said thank you very much.

Another thing I worked on was Clifton Theological College near Bristol. I had to go down by train to supervise some of the building work there. They were building a new residential wing to the college and I remember meeting the building surveyor, or building inspector rather, and I said, ‘we are building this onto old red sandstone; there is only about a few inches of soil then you got this beautiful old red sandstone. What sort of foundations do you want? Can we build straight onto the rock?’ He said, ‘Oh no, you’ve got to make a trench in this rock’ which was absolutely ridiculous. The old red sandstone would have been a much better foundation. Anyway, that taught me something.

We’re back to 1962 and I then went to Wearing & Hastings again, for a particular job. We were working on a facelift scheme in Market Harborough in Leicestershire and we had to do a scheme of how we could sort of spruce up the shops and I enjoyed that. We had to go to Market Harborough to present it and we had an exhibition in the library there, which was also a museum. Market Harborough is very close to two big battle sites: one is Bosworth Field, where Richard III was killed, and the other one was Naseby, which was probably about the final battle of the Civil War. So when we didn’t have people looking at the exhibition (they didn’t seem to come in too often), I used to go and have a look at all these exhibits in the museum which was very, very interesting.

In the autumn of that year I started my final two years of study at the Northern Polytechnic in London, which was just off  Holloway Road. Surprise surprise, my first day there, in came an old mate that I knew from Norwich Art School called Ernie Holland. He had a Triumph TR sports car and so nearly every weekend we would battle back to Norfolk in it and that meant we had to take in the 1963 winter, which was terrible – from January 1963 was one of the worst winters I’ve ever known – but it was like doing the Monte Carlo rally every weekend.

Then in that summer of 1963 I went back to work with Christopher Lambert. He had taken over the firm from Fletcher Watson, and it was a wonderful summer. We went sailing every Wednesday evening on Barton Broad with two very influential friends, Simon and Greg, who were great influences on my professional career after that.

I also had to start preparing for my final thesis. That’s something you had to do at the end of your training: you had to choose your own project. We’d done a lot of worthy projects up to then, things like nursery schools and hostels for unmarried mothers and all that sort of thing, and I felt I wanted to do something totally different, so I chose a new casino for Great Yarmouth. That meant I had to get some research. The 1960 Gaming Act, which was to change gaming totally in this country, meant that casinos could be built, but the only one really running at that time was on the Isle of Man, Douglas, and so for the first time in my life I flew from Liverpool Airport – sorry, Manchester Airport, and tried to get some research on casinos.

It was the first time I’d ever been in a plane and it was a Vickers Viscount I remember, and you know when you see pictures of planes they’re very sleek, technological miracles really, but when you look out your window you see all the lumps and bumps, all the rivets. I thought ‘Is that really going to take me to Douglas?” And anyway I was very impressed on the whole.

Anyway I then booked into a hotel and went to see the casino, where I met six Americans who were the directors of this casino. All came from Las Vegas and one of them said he would give me a brief for my casino and that’s what I needed. I needed to know what sort of accommodation I had to provide. He was very helpful and gave me lots of tips and that big brief and I went back to the Poly when the term started with all this information. I wrote it all out with lots of sketches and photographs of Great Yarmouth and my tutor was very impressed with that.

The only trouble was that two weeks later I read in the newspaper that all six of these Americans had been arrested for embezzlement, the whole lot of them, so I had to change my client. I then went to Fred Pontin, whose offices were in Bournemouth then, and he went through the brief I’d been given and agreed to it and so I carried on with the same brief but with a different client.

In 1964 I passed my final thesis and most of my exams. I still had one more to do and my very last day in London I went to go and see some friends of my father’s near Guildford, Surrey, and that’s when I met my future wife: on the very last day in London.

I went back to Wearing & Hastings for a few weeks and worked again on Market Harborough on a different street, still doing facelifts, and then I joined Simon and Greg, who had moved to the office of Alan Cooke on Thorpe Road in Norwich. I worked there for about 18 months working on all kinds of things: a housing scheme in Woodbridge, lovely site, and also one at Hoveton. I worked on the Magdalen Street scheme there where Her Majesty’s Stationery Office (HMSO) was eventually built.

But virtually none of the things I designed were ever built, and I would have particularly loved the one at Woodbridge. I went back to the site a few years later and was very disappointed with what they built there. I had actually met the builder and we had actually dug the foundations for this. Harold Wilson was Prime Minister – by then he brought in what he called the credit squeeze. Now they call it something slightly different, something else, but then it was the credit squeeze and there wasn’t enough money to build.

Credit crunch they call it; in those days they called it credit squeeze.

Associate in Surrey

Then J. and I decided to get married, and that meant moving to be near her family in Guildford. I got a job in a place called Leatherhead in Surrey and worked for a firm called Stiles, Cree and Partners. At the same time in 1966 I passed my final exam and got my letters, so I was then a fully qualified Architect.

We got married in October 1966 and I was made an associate of the firm and I worked on all kinds of things: old convents, chapels, and also on a very, very expensive house in a place called Worplesdon Hill, which was near Woking, which backed on to Worplesdon Hill golf course. It’s the sort of place where you go down the road and you don’t see any houses at all, all you see are rhododendrons, and you go in the front gate and you eventually go along this very winding drive and eventually come to a house.

This particular project was owned by a Lloyds Underwriter and his wife, obviously very wealthy. They wanted to knock down their original house, which was an Edwardian Mansion, quite a large house, and build a new house – which I thought was incredible. Anyway, they had peculiar taste. They’d had a weekend in a friend’s house, which was the sort of style they wanted. They wanted it in a Spanish style, in Cotswold stone with delphinium blue pantiles, would you believe! They lived in a temporary mobile home while they built this new house. They wanted it around a patio, a 40 foot square patio – I could have got my house into that – with all the rooms around. There was also a loggia, which the builder always called a ‘loggy-a’, which looked out into their south garden and over the golf course. A beautiful place.

A loggia is an open conservatory, no glass, just open arches. Very much Spanish style, the sort of thing they do there. Anyway I worked on that, it was a very interesting build. It wasn’t the style I liked – I am very much a modern architect, I loved modern design – but it was something I had to do. That was my job and I learned a lot from it.

There was some funny things happening because the name of the family was van Zwanenberg and they had about three dogs and they had to live with them in this temporary home. When we’d finished the house, in the middle of this patio was a pond, a goldfish pond. All set out in Italian tiles, all round, beautifully done, and when the job was finished Mrs van Zwanenberg came in with her dogs, through the loggia, opened the doors, the dogs saw this wonderful space and they rushed in and they didn’t see the pond until it was too late. They all ended up in the pond, the whole lot of them, which was wonderful.

Also, they had some problems with the heating system. It was under floor ducted and went right the way around the building under the floor level. They wanted some pipes checked and I was the smallest of anyone involved in the job so they put me in a boiler suit. I had to crawl all the way under this building and I had to actually come out backwards. I couldn’t turn round, it was quite frightening really. It was very claustrophobic.

Back to Norfolk

I then was offered a job by Simon back in Norwich and I persuaded my wife that we could have a good life in Norfolk. Her father had just died and I had her mother to look after; also her brother, who had Down’s Syndrome. I said ‘I’m quite happy to look after the family but I want to do it on my own patch.’

So I moved back to Norwich and worked for Feilden and Mawson in Norwich. Their office was in Riverside Road in Norwich, and I worked on some lovely things. Three colleagues and myself worked on a Glasgow competition. We didn’t get anywhere with it but it gave us lots of ideas and one evening I was working at my drawing board and one of the partners came in and he said ‘Do you want the good news or the bad news?

‘Well the good news is that I want you to come with me to Cornwall tomorrow, to Newquay in Cornwall; the bad news is I want a scheme for 70 houses for a site before we get on the train.’

So that night I had to work on a scheme and I actually used some of the houses I’d designed for the Glasgow scheme and so it worked out okay.

They were two and three bedroom council housing, and I had to present this to the council meeting of the housing department at Newquay, and they seemed to like what we did. We then went to see the planners. We were told the planners were very difficult and they didn’t like anything, but in fact they liked what we had done, so the Scheme was eventually built and it eventually got a DOE, Department of Environment Award, several years later, and it’s still there.

I worked on several other things while I was there.

Then in 1975 I worked for Breckland District Council for about 18 months, working on all kinds of things: lots of council housing and also an idea for their headquarters, which they were at that time going to put into Dereham, and also doing conservation sketches for the Planning Department there.

These council houses were much more Norfolk vernacular. In Cornwall I tried to use the Cornish vernacular and in fact I created a Cornish street. Right at the end of the street you had a view of the local church with a lovely tower. I like to have what I call a ‘vista stopper’ at the end, a view, and that’s what I was able to achieve there.

And then while I was still at Breckland the local doctors came to me and asked me if I could design their new surgery in Dereham, and I couldn’t do that part time so I decided to set up my own practice. So from 1976 to 1987 I had my own practice and I started off using one of the bedrooms in our house. We lived in a village called Mattishall near Dereham, my wife and I; by that time we had adopted our son, James, who incidentally is an interior designer working for a big firm of architects in London.

We started off in a bedroom of the house then in 1980, which was the same year as my mum died, we acquired a signal box. It came all the way from Dereham, five miles, on a low loader, and became our office. By that time I had been joined by another architect called Tony Maufe who only died a few months ago – lovely fellow – who helped to renovate the signal box. It made a wonderful office and we worked on all kinds of things – several surgeries, also East Tuddenham Village Hall which also got an award – and I had a wonderful time.

Then in 1987 things were getting tough and I was finding it very difficult to get my money. I did a lot of work but I had one or two clients that did the dirty on me, wouldn’t pay, and so I came back to Feilden and Mawson and said ‘can I bring my work in?’ and they said ‘yes’ and they made me an associate and so I was doing my own work with them in their practice. They had a very good office manager who was able to get all the money in which was great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Anglican Community Church, Cavendish Park, Felixstowe. (Photo Tim Marchant. CC BY-SA 2.0 Geograph)

While I was working there I designed a new church at Felixstowe which was a lovely thing to work on. Also I worked on Breckland House in Thetford here for Breckland District Council. We won that in a competition, and it was my design that won that. That was opened by the Queen, so I met the Queen. She came along the line and she came to me and she said ‘What was on this site before you built this building?’ And I said it was a car park, and she said, “A car park?” (A handbag!) Incredible. She looked very nervous. I felt very sorry for her because she has to do these duties whether she likes it or not.

But anyway, so I have met the Queen.

Then a few years later in 1996 I was actually made redundant because work had fallen off tremendously. Most people were made redundant. Before that I was put on a three day week and so I was made redundant at the age of 56 and I then did a lot of freelance work. I worked for all kinds of architects around, including a Great Yarmouth study which I enjoyed.

Also in 1996, with great sadness, my brother died very suddenly and tragically so it was a very difficult year.

Retirement and Lecturing

Then in 2000 we moved from Mattishall to Diss. That’s where I am now with my wife, and in 2005 I retired, although I still do a lot of lecturing and church work and I still have dreams about building all kinds of buildings. The one thing I would love to do, to be involved in, in any way, would be a new concert hall for Norwich, which it desperately needs. I’ve got some ideas and I’m going to draw them up and show them to people and see. If they don’t laugh me out of court I can then try to find out someone who would help to fund it. But it’s a very ambitious thing, and it’s a probably a crazy idea but sometimes crazy ideas can be made into something sensible.

I also still have lots of ideas about housing. Housing is something I am desperately involved with still because I am very sad when I hear of young people who have to move out of their village because there’s no housing for them. They can’t afford what gets built there, in their village, and I think that’s a great sadness. I’m a great believer in affordable housing for people in their own community and I’m always trying to come up with economical ways of doing that.

I still do a lot of lecturing. I’m very keen on various local architects. Over 100 years ago there was one particular architect called George Skipper who designed the Royal Arcade in Norwich and the Surrey House for the Norwich Union, the Marble Hall and all that, and also some lovely hotels in Cromer. Some wonderful buildings. He was actually born in Dereham so when I was in Mattishall I got to know of his work and I still do lectures on him. I also do lectures on a firm called Edward Boardman and Son, and I’ve just done one on the Cockrills of Great Yarmouth, who were a family who built some lovely buildings including the Hippodrome and the Gorleston Pavilion. The father of that family was the Borough Surveyor for 40 years in Great Yarmouth just at the time it was expanding.

I did one about two weeks ago and so until I can’t do it, until my projector packs up, I still like to continue doing those sort of things.

As a postscript to what I’ve already said, in the terms of the brief for the building I designed in Thetford, now known as Breckland House, we had to make provision for the display of Duleep Singh’s collection of paintings, so that was very much part of the building. We had to make sure that they could be on display safely and in appropriate conditions, so when I was looking across the table in the library here there was a door with the name Duleep Singh’s Room. And that reminded me of what we had to do in the design of that building in Thetford.

And another thing that I didn’t mention was that after I’d been made redundant in 1996 I was asked by Norfolk County Council to do all the illustrations for the Housing Design Guide they were publishing at that time. And that I worked on for several months and as far as I know it’s still in circulation. It advised people on the styles and the design and the layouts of housing developments. I found that very interesting and on my CV there is a picture on the back of one of those illustrations, showing the sort of continuity that I like to achieve in housing development designs.

David Summers interviewed in Diss for WISEArchive on 22nd October 2012

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(Revised November 2018)

 

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