Bridge End House

Overview

Heritage Category:
Listed Building
Grade:
II
List Entry Number:
1469569
Date first listed:
05-May-2020
Statutory Address:
2 High Street, Dorchester-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, OX10 7JT

Map

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Location

Statutory Address:
2 High Street, Dorchester-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, OX10 7JT

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County:
Oxfordshire
District:
South Oxfordshire (District Authority)
Parish:
Dorchester
National Grid Reference:
SU5793194117

Summary

House. Built in 1965 by the architects Donald Morrison and Julia Fielding as their family home.

Reasons for Designation

Bridge End House, Dorchester-on-Thames, a steel-framed house built for and designed by Donald Morrison and Julia Fielding in 1965, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* as an early example of a welded steel-frame house in England;

* for its use of a diverse palate of innovative or non-conventional materials;

* as a practical and well-designed solution to a steeply-sloping riverbank site, sympathetic to its setting;

* as well-surviving example of a house designed by architects for themselves.

Historic interest:

* as an example of the influence of contemporary American design in the construction of private domestic architecture in England in the 1960s.

Group value:

* with the nearby Grade II-listed Toll House and 4 High Street and Grade I-listed Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul.

History

Bridge End House was built in 1965 by the architects Donald Morrison (1929 - 2012) and his wife, Julia Fielding (1933 - 2018), as their family home. Donald Morrison was a lecturer at the Oxford School of Architecture and both he and his wife had spent a lot of time in America and were influenced by American modernist house design. The inspiration for Bridge End House is cited as the Ben Rose House in Highland Park, a suburb of Chicago, built in 1953 to designs by A James Speyer, a student of Mies van der Rohe.

The house was designed on a limited budget and utilises a steeply-sloping riverbank site. Its form is a direct consequence of the particular setting, being raised on stilts over the flood plain and, with its raised walkway, bearing an appropriate resemblance to a pier or jetty. Although the house does not appear to have been written up in the architectural press it did, however, provide a practical teaching aid for Morrison and was well-known in local academic circles.

Domestic design of the post-war period tends to be dominated by the use of more traditional materials, typically brick and timber. However, in the 1960s and 1970s a small number of British architects, inspired by the work of American and émigré architects in America, began to explore the possibilities of welded steel-frame construction in one-off pieces of modern domestic architecture. One of the most obvious influences on the architects working in this genre, was the work of Mies van der Rohe, whose extraordinarily pared-down steel and glass houses reached perhaps their ultimate conceptual and aesthetic state of development in the Farnsworth House, Illinois, completed in 1951.

Details

House. Built in 1965 by the architects Donald Morrison and Julia Fielding as their family home.

MATERIALS: steel-frame with expanded polystyrene-backed zinc panels in timber frames. Roof of felt-covered stramit-board with metal and timber framed windows.

PLAN: the house is rectangular in plan, oriented east-west, and reached via a raised walkway at the western end. Internally a central space, opening out to a living space at the eastern end (originally divided into dining and living areas by a lightweight partition which has been removed), is flanked by a row of four bedrooms along the northern side and study, kitchen and utility room on the south side. The two central bedrooms could be partitioned to create six bedrooms in total (each with their own door onto the central space) and the eastern bedroom has a walk-in closet and en-suite bathroom. At the western end an entrance lobby with built-in coat cupboard is flanked to the north by a bathroom/WC. At the eastern end of the building is a deck looking out over the river.

EXTERIOR: the house takes the form of a steel-framed, single-storey, flat-roofed, rectangular box raised above the flood plain of the River Thame on eight grey-green painted steel I-beam stilts, creating four bays to the north and south elevations. The beams continue up to form the vertical members of the steel frame. The horizontal members, forming the plinth and fascia, consist of broad grey-green painted steel plates. Between the I-beams are zinc panels to dado height with continuous fenestration above of alternating fixed glass panes and aluminium-framed one-over-one sash windows, all set within dark-stained soft-wood framing (a small part of the framing at the eastern end of the south elevation was replaced following a fire in 2019).

The entrance on the western elevation is reached by a narrow 12m-long, steel-framed walkway, also supported on I-beams with replacement timber decking and plank balustrade on square-section steel supports (services run under the walkway). The entrance has a two-section glazed door in a timber frame with aluminium door furniture. The eastern elevation has full height glazing with a pair of aluminium–framed, sliding patio doors giving onto an open deck with replacement timber decking with a balustrade with glazed panel handrails to the front, plank handrails to the sides and steel supports as on the walkway.

The flat roof has two glazed skylights and is supported on steel beams with intermediate timber joists and expanded polystyrene panel insulation below the stramit-board covering. The timber planking to the underside of the house was replaced in the 2010s.

INTERIOR: the room partitioning is of full-height pine matchboard panelling with flush, double thickness matchboard panelled doors with aluminium fittings. The inner doors of the entrance lobby match the external doors. The zinc dado panels are lined with expanded polystyrene sheets and backed by hessian fabric, with a stained softwood apron below the pine window ledge. In the bedrooms (except in the westernmost) and on the south wall of the main living space, the original panels have been covered by matchboard panelling. The floor is of birch planking, currently (2020) covered in carpet, and the ceilings have rectangular suspended panels of a pale-brown flexible plastic sheet with white-painted framing. The two central bedrooms retain the pine dividers on the ceiling for the removable partitions, although these were not present at the time of the site visit and it is unclear the form they took.

The main bathroom has tiling to the walls which is probably a later addition. Kitchen fittings are all later replacements with the exception of a hidden serving hatch in the pine panelling giving through to the main living space. Set into the floor beneath the larger of the two skylights is a pebble-filled decorative feature with its original timber frame and aluminium tray.

Original cupboards have shelving of chipboard or pine, those in the entrance lobby having hessian-covered sliding doors. A number of electrical fittings including light switches are original. Modern radiators have been introduced in some of the bedrooms and the main living space, replacing the original under-floor heating which has failed.

Sources

Books and journals
Jackson, N, The Modern Steel House, (1996)
Websites
Daily Mail - The house built on stilts: Flood-proof riverside home designed by husband and wife architects in 1965 , accessed 18 February 2020 from https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6082719/Thames-flood-proof-home-built-stilts-1965-goes-market-time.html
The Modern House - House of the Day: Ben Rose House by James Speyer, accessed 18 February 2020 from https://www.themodernhouse.com/journal/house-of-the-day-ben-rose-house-by-james-speyer/
WowHaus - 1960s Fielding and Morrison Modernist Property in Dorchester on Thames, Oxfordshire, accessed 18 February 2020 from wowhaus.co.uk/2018/07/06/1960s-fielding-and-morrison-modernist-property-in-dorchester-on-thames-oxfordshire/

Legal

This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The listed building(s) is/are shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building but not coloured blue on the map, are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act. However, any works to these structures which have the potential to affect the character of the listed building as a building of special architectural or historic interest may still require Listed Building Consent (LBC) and this is a matter for the Local Planning Authority (LPA) to determine.

End of official listing

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