Beside every great architect... Felicity Morgan

Friday, 5 October 2012

Part 2

With David Branch now aboard and ex-submariner 'Shady' Lane as quantity surveyor, albeit briefly, the practice looks for new business...

 Harold Waterman was recommended by Sidney Corob to be the engineer on the two office buildings in Old Street. At the same time he recommended me to Mr. Shane, a developer cum solicitor who I first met on a site at Wray Park, Reigate which he wanted to develop for 18 houses. We produced a layout for the site and designed and built three of the houses, the remainder he sold off separately. He was a very difficult client to satisfy but somehow David Branch managed to deal with him. We won a tender competition for a shopping development on the outskirts of Cheltenham and then later another in Plymstock when Dick Ashendon was the director of Kirk & Kirk who were the builders. On a return trip by train from a site meeting at Plymstock I suggested to David that he might like to be a partner. We agreed there and then to a split of 60-40% on a hopeful profit. From that day onwards to the end of the partnership some twenty-five years later we never discussed finance or even a Partnership Agreement.

We had by now moved to a vacant floor in a new building in Great New Street behind Fleet Street occupied by Westminster Press. By this time we were not only employing a very glamorous secretary-cum-receptionist (who couldn't type very well!) but also a staff, which included David Roberts, who had recently joined us, two Polish architects, and a total staff of twelve. We were still cramped in our flat in Charterhouse Square with two rapidly growing young sons.

One evening, we were invited to dinner with a fellow KDG, Christopher Bostock, who had become my accountant and looked after the books. We were impressed by their house only to be told that they rented it from Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust at £130 per annum. I asked how we could get on the bandwagon and sure enough a few weeks later we were offered a house in Thornton Way which had been requisitioned during the war and was in a bad state of repair. However the Trust agreed at their own expense all the repairs to the 3-bedroomed house and we were given a cheque of £50 for the redecoration. We paid a princely sum of £120 per year. It was a joy to have a house designed by Lutyens with a drawing room, dining room and kitchen with attached garage and garden on all three sides. However there was little or no heating but it was magic after a year when we could finally afford to carpet it.

Harold Waterman who had been the structural engineer on the buildings in Old Street had met a senior member of Roussel Laboratories who had their offices in the Harrow Road. Unfortunately his acquaintance had been sacked and Harold was not welcome. However I was asked to attend a meeting with the pharmaceutical company and met Gordon Davidson who was their company secretary. Although the company desperately needed larger and better premises they were hampered by the Government's policy of moving factories to the North of England. I spent many weeks with their works manager travelling to the north of England in vain.

In the meantime a sister company, UCLAF, sent off a team led by an ex French submariner commander to find and build a factory for making silicon chips. However, because of the importance of this new venture to the Government, we received all the necessary permits on a bleak site in south London. Having got the brief, we met the clients only to find that our first solution was not what they wanted so we borrowed a drawing board and, and three hours later, we reconvened the meeting and design was approved by the clients. Somehow JT Luton had chosen to build the complicated factory with a mass of transformers to produce the high energy required to make the silicon chips. The work was completed in less than nine months, having started the work before we had received building approval.

One day Mr. Luton rang for an appointment although we had finished the UCLAF factory. He suggested he might help us by introducing us to the works manager of Yardley in Stratford East as they were proposing to build a soap-making department and thought we might be interested.

I met Mr. Keegan and, one day while I was in his office, the managing director Mr. Rodney Gardner came into the office and we were introduced. He then took us both in his Bentley to look at a site he had seen that might be suitable to build a new factory. Nothing came of this as they were unable to get the all-important Industrial Development Certificate and, once more, they were directed to the north of England. However, a few weeks later, when I was at the Inns of Court for a drill evening, I met a colleague who was a member of a family property company. He told me that his company owned a large site near Aylesbury, which had an IDC, which was not required. At my next meeting with Rodney Gardner I mentioned this piece of news. After consulting their company solicitor they bought the land for £500,000 and used it as a bargaining point to persuade the Ministry to swap it for an IDC in Basildon which had always been their preferred location for their East End workforce.

Tom Copeland was my Squadron Leader in the Inns of Court and also Secretary to Joseph Sandle Builders Merchants. He asked me to prepare drawings to improve his office and yard in Waterloo Road adjacent to the Station. Unfortunately, nothing came of it as the whole site was sold to the Union Jack Services Club. Joseph Sandle was amalgamated with Perkins to become Sandle Perkins and we were employed to build their offices in Aylesford in Kent. My fees for this work were paid in kind i.e. timber and doors, which went on to build my own house, Durlston Wall in Dorset! The company is now Travis Perkins, a large public company.

Although I did not meet Charles Williams again he kindly passed on my name to Mr. George White who rang me one day when we were in our tiny office in Charterhouse Square with David and one assistant and part-time secretary, he stated that he did not like working with small firms. Luckily he asked me to visit him at his motor showrooms and offices in Finchley, as he was the chairman of W Harold Perry, the main Ford dealers. He wanted to build new motor showrooms and workshop at Edgware. David and I designed the building, which included a freestanding lift and staircase in the middle of the showrooms, as he did not want to walk upstairs to his new offices. Later on we built another showroom in Whitchurch Lane and a tractor workshop at Potters Bar. As we were now working for Ford main dealer I felt that I had to dispose of my old Hillman which I had bought for £75 and invested in a Ford Consol and a few years later in a Zephyr.

David Duckworth who was also a fellow officer in the IOC had inherited an old cinema in the centre of Derby. He had returned from the USA with ideas of building a Motel having demolished the cinema. We persuaded him it was not suitable but could possibly be developed as a hotel. He found it difficult to get financial backing for the idea but managed to get a large firm of developers, Town & City, to underwrite a small shopping centre. I still remember being at the meeting on the day of the Russian convoy of ships carrying missiles to Cube being turned back by the Americans and the world breathed a sigh of relief. The development was not a great success as although it was only some fifty yards from the main shopping street it was still too far for Jo Public to walk.

We also built steel & bolt warehouse for Charles Crossland in Brockley next to the railway line, which caused some problems as the exact position of the boundary with the permanent way was not well defined as it was important for us to have a straight line so that the gantry crane could travel correctly.

Eileen Andrews once again contacted us as she was being pressed to sell her building in Audley Square and had employed John Stebbing, her solicitor, to advise her as it appeared that Conrad Hilton was endeavouring to acquire all the adjoining buildings in the Square to build his hotel as the corner site had already been badly damaged. This site eventually became a multi-storey car park. Luckily all this came to nothing as they found a larger site to build the hotel in Park Lane overlooking Hyde Park and also Buckingham Palace where the Queen was not amused.

However, soon after this, Eileen sold the damaged building to Warwick Films and we were asked to meet 'Cubby' Broccoli and Irving Allen who had recently arrived in the UK to make films. Typical Americans, they wanted the work of alterations to include a preview theatre in the rest of the gardens not already occupied by the Mews house, which we had already built. Considering the complexity of the work, somehow it was completed in record time and they moved in. From time to time we were asked for additional refinements including the first sauna bath in England. Sometime later we also converted the ground floor and basement in Soho Square into offices and a dubbing studio using the old cellars under the pavement as an echo chamber. By this time, Cubby Broccoli had started making the Bond films and all the rushes and dubbing were shown in the Audley Square preview theatre and dubbing studio, and many other films directed by his partner, Irving Allen.

Although we had not heard any more from Yardley, one day we were visited by a Mr. Campbell Horsefell, a retired director of Johnson & Johnson who had been instructed by Yardley to recommend a suitable firm of architects for their new proposed development in Basildon. Although I gather later that he inspected a number of leading firms at the time he chose Morgan & Branch of Great New Street to undertake this £1,000,000 development. We once again met Mike Keegan the works manager and were also introduced to John Cannell, a quantity surveyor from Gardiner & Theobold. John Bunce was appointed engineer and Taylor Woodrow the main contractor. Tony Palmer was their site agent who, many years later, became managing director of TW. This development went according to plan with happy clients. A few years later we were asked to double the size of the factory and warehouse and later still build their rectangular office block. A few years later the family firm was acquired by BAT. The tobacco company had little idea how to run a scent factory and they did not prosper for long. I gather that they had been particularly impressed with the design of the building.

To be continued...

No comments:

Post a Comment