I recently came across an AJ from last year which featured a Building Study on Murray Mews (AJ 18.05.06), and I was reminded of my brief involvement with what I believe was the first post-war dwelling built in the mews.
Early in 1953 an old friend, Derek Linsey, asked if I would draw up plans and details that he had drafted for a at and play area over a garage/workshop. The project was to replace a derelict and abandoned artist's studio in Murray Mews - sited at the end of his parents' garden in St Augustine Road, where he was living in two rooms with his wife and expecting their first child.
I did this while still in my final years at the Northern Polytechnic School of Architecture - supported by a government ex-serviceman's grant (£109 per term) - having completed my first year before entering the RAF for war service.
The scheme received the necessary statutory approvals and, with the help of friends over many weekends, Derek demolished the studios and cleaned the old stock brick for reuse.
Details of the condition, position and depth of the sewer under the road in the mews were obtained by the use of mirrors and a naked electric lightbulb lowered down to the sewer on its lead, via the existing soil-drain connection!
Derek, who had received no formal training, was a natural and talented engineer and inventor. He built the entire new dwelling almost singlehandedly. A cement mixer was created from a 50-gallon airdrum on a timber stand, driven by an electrically powered marine winch. A similar winch powered a hoist to serve the first oor.
I provided details for steel reinforcement and concrete mixes for the various structural elements, including cantilevered concrete treads for the stairs and the cast oor over the garage and workshop. What Derek did not know, he asked others who did or researched it in the public library.
This little dwelling, although not as sophisticated or exciting as later works on the mews, fitted quietly into its surroundings at the time and was one man's determined response to the difficult conditions and general lack of housing accommodation after the war. I like to think that it may have been the germ for the later developments in Murray Mews.
R W Sale, Seaford, East Sussex