The blog and me

This blog will be erratic and seldom follow themes. It will make no claims to being structured or logical. It will, I hope, be fun and occasionally insightful. I do still publish more coherent work (though in economics, and in very strange places) but that may take some believing after reading these pages. I've a PhD in economics/economic history from Cambridge, I've taught in several universities (and still do, when I get the chance) but now focus energy and attention on commercialization for a large London university, and dealing with the daily commute.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

All about my office...

Model Farm House (built 1889) 

The Model Farm House at Church End, Hendon, is an example of late nineteenth century Queen Anne revival domestic architecture, and is sited at one of the most important and historic parts of Hendon. Together with the ‘Model Barn’1, it is a minor monument to Hendon’s agricultural past. Hendon was, until the nineteenth century, an agricultural community in which some 95% of farm and common land was used as pasture and meadow2Soil here consists for the most part of green and brown clay intermixed with coarse or yellow sand and fine gravel allowing free drainage, in which well nourished and manured pasturage grass grows well. Winter stall feeding for milk cows was well established in southern England so that barn storage for hay was an essential part of any farm. The buildings clustered around the church and the Church Farm House at the top of Greyhound Hill seem, on the basis of archaeological and historical evidence, to have consisted mainly of such storage structures well before the present buildings were conceived in the late nineteenth century. The Hendon & District Archaeological Society ‘Church End Farm Building Record’3 notes, 

Surviving mapping and a water-colour by Thomas Bailey of c.1800, (identified as ‘Church End Farm’, and almost certainly providing a view of the north side of the farm yard), gives some useful clues to the later eighteenth century aspect of the farmstead. They indicate both the early presence of the barn still standing in 1961 and the limited number of other buildings then erected on the yard frontages, with perhaps only a single structure extending the northern yard range to the west by the beginning of the nineteenth century. Buildings immediately abutting the barn to the east, however, shown on the 1789 Rankin and Johnson estate plan (and still apparently in evidence on the 1863 OS) seem to confirm the existence of two cottages depicted in the water-colour, constructed with brick stacks, and with the larger of the two presenting a two storey sash windowed bay to the yard front.  

Late Georgian pictures of the top of Greyhound Hill show most of these stall feeding and storage barn structures to be lathe and plaster buildings in a poor state of repair. While few such structures would have been improved, they were probably repaired and patched well into the middle of the century. Hay, of course, was more than just for local feeding; selling hay to London city stables was an essential part of the Hendon farm economy during the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. By the 1880s, then, the top of Greyhound Hill had several (probably dilapidated) structures and a largely undeveloped Church Farm House building with some smaller agricultural and residential buildings on the present site. When the architects Wimperis & Arber were engaged to produced the present buildings in 1889, the aim was not to produce simply an improvement in the current buildings but a whole remodelling of part of the site. 

Wimperis & Arber was a London architectural practice based at 25 Sackville Street, PiccadillyJohn Thomas Wimperis (1829-1904) commenced practice in London before 1866. From the 1870s Wimperis was involved in the development of the Grosvenor estate in London and, in 1887, became one of the Grosvenor Estate's approved architectsIn 1889 Wimperis took into partnership William Henry Arber, (b. 1847-1904)an assistant who had served articles with him from 18664. The partnership was formally dissolved in 18975 and Wimperis retired in 1898. Between 1889 and 1897, the partnership created some fine late Victorian buildings, such as Chartfield on Putney Heath (1893), St Dunstan’s House (1893) and the Grafton Galleries in Bond Street (1892), all of which were startlingly novel realisations of revival ideas. The practice had gained some experience in, and reputation for, urban ‘agricultural’ architecture (as witness the Stables in North Audley Street, Westminster and the Stables at No 3 Lees Place, London) and, when engaged for the Church End site, used it to offer a solution that was at once practical, durable and elegant. Working in Queen Anne revival style6, with an unequivocal reference to contemporary arts and crafts detail in the building materials used, Wimperis & Arber produced a simple farm house echoing the main elements of Queen Anne revival ‘grammar’ in a small space – the irregularity of the ground floor design, the mock boarding of the upper floor (at Model Farm House, in terracotta exterior tiles), the half-timbering at the road-side gable end, for example, all find echo in larger more imposing revival domestic buildings of the 1880s.

1 More properly, the ‘long milking parlour’ as described in various late nineteenth century sources. Stall feeding and milking were, in parts of the east of England, occasionally combined in longer barn-like structures from the sixteenth century so that this is not out of keeping with vernacular tradition in the region. 

2 Daniel Lysons ('Hendon' in The Environs of London: Volume 3 County of Middlesex (Cadell and Davies: London, 1795), p. 1) says that in 1794 Hendon had ‘…8204 acres of land, of which about 300 were arable, about 120 woodland, the remainder pasture and meadow’. 


4 Antonia Brodie (ed.), Directory of British Architects 1834-1914: A-K Volume 1 of Directory of British Architects 1834-1914, (Continuum International Publishing Group: London, 2001), qv. ‘Wimperis, J.T.’. 

5 London Gazette, 24 December 1897, col. 7768. 

6 Donald Bassett has argued that ‘[b]y the 1880s the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair was being shared out between the 'Queen Anne' and Loire-chateau modes. French motifs were common to both. Men like J. T. Wimperis, Chatfield Clarke and Ernest George proved equally adept at the two styles, if two by then they still were.’(Donald Bassett, 'Queen Anne' and France’, Architectural History, Vol. 24 (1981), p. 90), but only a few details of Loire-chateau style (possibly the renaissance styling to the chimney-piece?) feature in the Model Farm House building itself, while the barn with the vernacular apse makes no continental stylistic references at all.

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