The Cockaigne Housing Group formed as a Friendly Society, obtained a site of 2.75 acres from the Hatfield Development Corporation in 1962. In an area set aside for development the Corporation intended 12 detached family houses to be built. Cockaigne, however, had other ideas and our brief was to create a small community centred on a multi-purpose clubroom.
Fronting an estate road to the east with a gentle slope along its length to the north the site had no natural features or interesting views. The Hatfield Rural District Council provided assistance with finance as well as mortgages for the members of the Group.
All houses were planned between storey-height party walls at 23 foot centres which run the depth of the site and with planting at front and rear establish a private area for each house and garden. Within this enclosure, two-bay single-storey plans were developed from a similar idea to that used for two- and three-storey houses in the MoHLG R&D project at West Ham. The single-storey plan used at The Ryde and based on a 13 foot bay for the living spaces and 10 foot bay for bedrooms had a number of advantages.
The larger houses, nominally with three bedrooms and four bedrooms have two bathrooms, each immediately adjacent to or between bedrooms. Single garages were generally on-plot with a parking space in front and used to create an entrance courtyard leading to the front door. A footpath at the rear of the site provided a safe link for all houses to the clubroom which provided residents with meeting facilities and a nursery school.
Planning permission was originally refused as the houses were considered unsuitable for an area intended for high quality private dwellings. However, permission was subsequently granted and the site comfortably accommodated the 28 houses, nominally ten four bedroom, ten three bedroom, five two bedroom and three one bedroom, the clubroom with adjoining play space and a tennis court, as planned.
The construction utilised Lignacite blocks for the party walls and apron walls at front and rear. These were built fairfaced externally and internally, left natural externally and painted white internally.
External walls within the party wall subdivisions were of storey-height timber frames made in Douglas Fir with fixed single glazing, full-height vertical sliding aluminium casements or glazed doors. Internal partitions were of boarding on timber studs. All timber was stained black externally and clear finished internally.
Roofs were of timber joists covered with Stramit insulation board waterproofed with asphalt and a protective layer of gravel. Electric underfloor heating was provided throughout, supplemented by storage heaters where necessary. Floor and ceiling finishes were from a range of options selected by individual purchasers.
40 years on a strong sense of community exists, helped no doubt by the social focus provided by the clubroom, but also generated by the unique qualities of the houses attracting like minded people which together engender a strong attachment from past and present owners.
The original intention behind the design and construction to accommodate the changing needs of families and households of different sizes has been put to good use.
The ever present demand for more space has been met in many instances by roofing over either the entrance or internal courtyards or both, utilising a wide range of technical solutions from basic DIY to more sophisticated technology, thereby clearly demonstrating the inherent possibilities of the approach to planning and design adopted.