diamond geezer

 Monday, April 19, 2010

London excursion: Visionary of the Suburbs
Highfort CourtThere are, as you may remember, some quirky magical houses in northern Brent. They were designed by Ernest Trobridge, a Kingsbury architect whose design beliefs lay somewhat outside the 1920s mainstream. His penchant was for homely, slightly magical dwellings perhaps better suited to an enchanted forest than a suburban estate. Trobridge's inspiration lay partly in his family's Swedish background, and partly in a desire to provide cheap well-designed social housing for post-war families. He used elm and bricks and thatch, because they were affordable, and installed shorter than usual flights of stairs so that cottages could be lower and more compact. Some of his more ornate designs included crenellations and turrets, most notably Highfort Court to which Sir John Betjeman paid tribute in his Metro-land documentary. Now there's an exhibition to this forgotten architect at Brent Museum, which you'll find upstairs in Willesden Library behind the automatic doors. Display panels relate Ernest's life, from his devout upbringing to his untimely death. Several of his original architect's drawings are on show, depicting floor plans and elevations, and there are a couple of mocked-up models too. I was pleased to find recordings from the folk who are lucky enough to live in his houses today, relating how their rooms may be awkwardly-shaped but who wouldn't want to live anywhere else. It's not a huge exhibition and won't take up much of your time, but the museum part's only the start. Pick up a free map and you can ride the Jubilee line to Kingsbury and search out Trobridge's finest for yourself - the fairy-tale houses on Buck Lane; the tasteful flats on Highfield Avenue; the Tudor-style cottage on Stag Lane; and his thatched retirement home on Slough Lane. You'd never spot them all without assistance from the map. Not unless you wait a month and join one of the museum's free guided walks, that is, or pop along to one of their evening talks (starting this Thursday). It's good to see one of London's quirkier minor heroes getting due recognition.
by tube: Willesden Green, Kingsbury


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