"One of the joys of life - is building a house into a home"
When Irene and I married in June 1944, we bought a house in Lodge Avenue, Gidea Park, Romford, and lived there until mid 1949.
Sunneybrae, Bures
When we moved the company to Sudbury, Suffolk, we bought a house Sunnybrae in Bures, Essex. A pleasant detached, Mansard roofed with 3 bedrooms, on the Essex side of the village, (the village is divided by the River Stour, with the other half in Suffolk) We had great views of the river and down the valley. One of the useful things about a village in two counties, the pub closing times varied. Some of the villagers took advantage of this, to take a short stroll over the bridge, and continue drinking. We stayed at Bures for five years, and then decided to have a bungalow built in Colchester (more of this later). We were there for ten years, where I made the daily trip to the business in Sudbury.
Thatched Cottage , Middleton
Having built at Colchester in the 'old world style' with oak beams etc., I had a fancy for a genuine old thatched cottage. We found one, in the village of Middleton, Essex, this being very close to Sudbury and the company. We had a very enjoyable time there for eighteen years, converting it into four bedrooms and doubling the size of the lounge. In 1984, we sold the company and I decided to retire, so we moved to Long Melford, to be close to shops and facilities in anticipation of being unable to drive. This proved to be a good move as, although we are off the main road, and found it very quiet, we are very close to all the shops and pubs etc. We are still here!
The Spinney Colchester
In 1953 we decided to find some building land, to erect a bungalow. An estate agent friend told me of some building land at Welshwood Park on the northern outskirts of Colchester. I was put in touch with Mr.Thorogood, who owned restaurants in Colchester, Sudbury and Braintree. He owned Welshwood Park, which was a wood of oak trees, and had built himself a property in the centre, with a track leading from the main Harwich Road. He had decided to sell off plots, for people to build individual styled properties, with his approval. I bought a plot of land 90ft frontage x 230ft. deep, fanning out to 120ft across the rear boundary. There were already ten houses built closest to the main road, and as each buyer had to pay for the road charges on his frontage, the road had been developed up to my property. On inspection of the plot, I realised a lot of work was required. The entire site was covered with oak trees, small saplings and mature trees up to 36" girth. The undergrowth was impregnable, a positive jungle of brambles, and it was obvious that a quantity of trees would have to be demolished, just to make way for the bungalow. We spent six months clearing the front half of the site, leaving the back half still as a wood, hence the name "The Spinney". We got very proficient in removing trees. By using chain pulley blocks (made by Farlow's), anchoring onto a larger tree, digging around the base and removing the top layer of roots, and slowly pulling out the tree and tap root. We spent all our spare time, evenings and weekends, clearing the ground.
The Spinney, Colchester
I drew up the design for the bungalow including layout of floor plan, elevations and roof area. It was a chalet style, with clipped end gables with windows each end in the gables which allowed light into the roof area. This would be floored covering the whole site area, allowing for future development of three further bedrooms. For the moment, I would install a loft-ladder. I also employed an architect to finalize the plans for the planning authority. I found a very good builder, H. W. Bone of Colne Engaine. As some of the work would be specialized they proved to be excellent. One of the main features, was to be the stack chimney, which was built on the style from the Berg House which was exhibited at the Ideal Homes many years ago. The chimney was made of stone quarried at Ancaster, Lincolnshire. The same stone was used to build Lincoln Cathedral. I collected the rough stone, as blasted, straight from the quarry on a 7ton truck, traveling up from Sudbury, at weekends, and returning to unload. The corner stones for the chimney had to be dressed (shaped and smoothed) and I found that the foreman builder knew something about stone masonry, so he built the whole chimney. The total weight of the chimney was twelve tons, which was probably half the weight of the total weight collected. With the waste pieces, I built the cavity boundary wall and under the bay windows. In 1954, central heating was unheard of for small domestic properties, in this country. I was very interested in the American idea of using hot air, which was usually supplied by a boiler in the basement, (most American homes had basements) Ducts placed around the perimeter of the bungalow forced warm air through vents in the floor. As we were not having a basement, I decided to make up electrical elements 2kw. with fans in a metal box fitted into the wall at floor level. I then fitted sheet metal ducts in the wall cavity 2"x 8"x 8ft. high to vents at ceiling height. All ducting was insulated, to retain heat. The principle was to draw air in at ceiling level, pass over the electric elements and blow out at floor level, the theory being, that warm air rises, and would circulate very quickly (room size-2400 cubic feet x 10 deg.x Per 10mins) All eight units were controlled by separate thermo-stats, and the system worked very well, it being able to heat any rooms as required. A feature of the bungalow, was the amount of oak beams and posts both inside and outside, as I wanted to give an 'old world' appearance, this was further enhanced by fitting leaded light windows. I wanted a lounge-hall, with all rooms going off, so the size enabled me to fit a red-briquette fireplace. Over this, instead of a picture, I got the builder to put a hole through the wall, into the lounge. I made a tropical fish tank to fit this so that it could be seen from both sides. With detachable oak picture frames and hidden lighting, it made quite a feature. To provide borrowed daylight, I had a glass block partition wall between the hall and the kitchen and to the side of the larder. In the bathroom, I made a dais on which to stand the bath, which was paneled on all sides. The bathroom suite was in pink, and all panelling, in black glass. During the building, we had sold Sunnybrae, at Bures, and as the building work had just started, and was to take nine months, we had to find alternative accommodation
The Leys, Sudbury
My estate agent friend, came to my rescue again. He introduced me to one of the owners of one of Sudbury's silk weaving companies, who had just built a bungalow along the Melford Road. He was still selling his old house and did not wish to move until it was sold, but he wanted the new home occupied in the meantime. He had approached the agent to find a tenant, prepared to go in under a months notice. This suited us very well, so we moved into The Leys, in early December and stayed until the following May. The Leys was a superb place with gardens running down to the River Stour, complete with boathouse. Unfortunately, when it was time to leave, we still had four months to go before our home would be finished. So we split up, I stayed with my parents at Acton, with Roy, and Irene went to her parents with Clive. Thankfully, we were able to move into The Spinney in September. The boys spent their younger days at Welshwood, and as there were nine other boys living in the same road, they had plenty of friends. Happy Days. The following year, we started building the garage. I had decided on a double garage with fuel stores, workshop and outside toilet, 18ft wide x 32ft long, with a single width shutter door, electrically operated. We did all the work ourselves, bricklaying, roof tiling and plumbing. I remember sitting on the roof doing the tiling, with Irene climbing up the ladder, handing me the tiles. After developing the garden, we left the back end as a wood, mainly oak trees with an occasional silver birch. We planted three thousand daffodils amongst the trees, and with the wood anemones and blue bells, it was a picture.
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Ronald. H. Rawden 1920-2011