The Church Crescent Houses

Church Crescent houses are not only larger than most of the Fortismere Estate ones, taller, with large rooms and billiard rooms, but are in a heavier design, with echoes of Victorian Gothic and often in a darker brick. Porches have double-stepped roofs, not used elsewhere by Collins, so far as I know: there are decorative basket-weave airbricks, and many other interesting features. Houses have encaustic tiled halls, handsome wooden staircases and the rooms, as is usual in a Collins house, are built well into the roof space. Every inch of the house can be used.

The first tenants were offered gas or electricity, but not both. Thus some houses were fitted with concealed gas pipes, while others had concealed electric cables. When the second service was added later, it involved unsightly surface conduits and only more recently, as houses have been modernised, have both gas and electricity supplies been hidden. Houses had speaking tubes from the sitting room, dining room and two main bedrooms, to the kitchen. These were lead pipes with speaking trumpets at both ends and look most strange today, fossilized in the walls, waiting to summon non-existent servants. They sum up enormous social changes.

This was a prosperous development for substantial people, perhaps not so well off as the magnates in Edmondson's huge Queen's Avenue houses, but for managers of City firms and professional people. The houses differ too from the Rookfield ones, which are modelled on garden suburbs for those who wished to live in a country village, yet still be on the railway line. Queen's Avenue was for top hats and spats, Church Crescent was for bowlers, while Rookfield was for berets and sandals.

It is interesting to see the scale at which Collins worked. At one period he had the Fortismere, Upton Farm and Rookfield Estates all in hand at the same time, besides some smaller developments elsewhere. With this work well forward, he was able to leave Rookfield Estate in the hands of his sons and go to Southampton, where he was building yet more estates.

 

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