IAN PROCTOR investigates a new exhibition about architect Ernest Trobridge, showing at Brent Museum
A VISIONARY architect, whose work (including homes that look like castles) can be found throughout north-west London, is the subject of a new exhibition at Brent Museum.
Ernest Trobridge was profoundly influenced by philosopher and scientist Swedenborg's theories of balance between nature and architecture and his houses reflect this through features such as sheltering roofs, the focal hearth, stylised entrances and asymmetry, including haphazard window arrangements and spiralling chimneys.
Early examples from just after the First World War used unseasoned elm, while chimneys, supporting columns and fireplaces were built in brick and tile, and roofs were thatched, with a water sprinkler system in case of fire.
Curator Joe Carr said: "It was his solution to the post-war housing shortage. The beauty of the system was using elm wood, which was plentiful and cheap.
"He was a man of strong convictions who believed that not only the rich but ordinary people should have a nice house to live in.
"His designs provided good-quality, affordable housing for the people who needed it most."
In February 1920, he exhibited his patented house at the Ideal Home Exhibition, held at Olympia, in west London. It was received favourably and resulted in several commissions for individual houses.
He later bought 10 acres of land at the junction of Kingsbury Road and Slough Lane and, under a Ministry of Labour scheme, employed 10 men, who had been disabled serving in the war, to build the houses.
The Ferndene Estate was finished in 1922 and its cottages cost £600, which at the time was about 20 per cent cheaper than brick-built equivalents.
Many of the Northern Irishman's properties can still be seen in Kingsbury, including Hayland in Kingsbury Road, where he lived for 20 years until his death in 1942 from diabetes, for which the lifelong vegetarian refused to take insulin because it was derived from cattle.
Mr Carr said: "The buildings are remarkable for the fine quality of the brickwork of the chimneys and columns, such as the flats in Old Church Lane, Kingsbury.
"Others have turrets and battlements such as those in Wakemans Hill Avenue and Buck Lane. His designs incorporated historical types, illusion, humour and even insecure-looking structures." **The exhibition, entitled EG Trobridge: Visionary of The Suburbs, runs at Brent Museum, Willesden Green Library Centre, High Road, Willesden Green, until September 24.
It features designs by Trobridge that have come to light only recently, with photographs and recorded memories of residents and family members who have lived in his houses.
To complement the exhibition, there will be talks on Trobridge by Graham Paul Smith on March 25, and by Gavin Stamp on April 22, while local historian Philip Grant is leading a walking tour of the Kingsbury area on May 15 and 19, and again on September 19.
Family workshops, including storytelling, drawing, and printing inspired by Trobridge's architecture, will take place at the museum between February and September.