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The Bookbinders' Charitable Society


3, Bookbinders' Cottages, Bawtry Road, Whetstone, London N20 OSS


Historical Inheritance

In relation to Almshouses in general, relevant trustees, must consider the importance of the inherited history or, if they are lucky, a group of buildings of historical importance. This places extra responsibilities in the care of documents and buildings, with their own importance above and beyond caring for almshouses and alms people.


The Bookbinders Cottages

In 1830 a group of Bookbinders' formed a Friendly Society, being The Bookbinders' Pension Society, and followed this with the construction of The Bookbinders' Provident Asylum, in 1843, at Balls Pond Road, Islington. Extra wings were built as the charity grew, up until 1882. As with so many other charities in London, The Bookbinders' purchased land on the outskirts of London. The land was at sometime used as a vinery and is shown on the OS map of 1898 as an open field parcel off the end of a very short leg of Bawtry Road, still the same in 1908. This was in an area near Europe's largest and most modern Lunatic Asylum of 1851 at Colney Hatch. Parish almshouses were outside of the area, save for one at Arnos Grove, The Clock and Watchmakers' Asylum of 1858. This was a growing region of development, which had a natural appeal for those wishing to offer sanctuary. In 1926 the land was described as Lot 3 of Freehold property of Cefn Bangor and Woodbine Villa, with the uppermost area as allotment gardens. The Bookbinders' Society built their new garden village cottages in the centre section of the site at Whetstone, completed September 1927. Land to the north was sold off in 1932 to Batemen Building Company and land to the south was sold to the local council, in 1959, with some adjustments to the line of the lower boundary of the almshouse site.


Work History

Half of the site and cottages were sold off to The Scottish Hospital of The Foundation of King Charles II, in 1976, which assisted in the building of the eight new flats at the lower portion of the remaining site. The older cottages were due for additions and improvements, most of this was carried out over the period 1984-8. The final phase of work was carried out to cottage 1-4, to provide 6 modern flats in 1995-6.  There are now three blocks of four, one block of six and the block of eight flats, making a total of 26 flats.


Construction of The Cottages

The cottages were completed in 1927 of brick walls in two leaves with a cavity, of mixed colour, with feature quoins and soldiers over openings. Sills are of brick on edge. Over each front door, there is a canopy of concrete, with classical moulded profiles, covered and flashed with lead, on reinforced concrete cantilevers. All but the 1-4 block still have the circular windows on their fronts; the 1-4 block has been converted and takes advantage of the motif and has circular windows and squinch windows on the rear elevations. The roofs are finished with concrete plain red tiling on cut timber trusses. Each of the gable ends features a large iron scrolled "A" around the original roof gable vent. The roof continues down over an extended slope, to cover the rear store rooms, where they remain. The original cottages have a pair of feature gables on their faces; block 1-4 has only one, but the gable end includes a stone plaque commemorating the founding of the charity and of the opening of these cottages. Flues terminate in large brick chimneys, with a feature band at ridge height. Windows are of metal of the Crittal type; block 1-4 has been fitted with double glazed uPVC windows, with imitation glazing bars for effect. Front doors are of solid timber construction with a top glazed area of 3 x 2 panes, with three vertical panels in the lower part of the door; block 1-4 has been fitted with uPVC doors and frames with imitation glazing bars. Floors are of timber construction. Between the upper three of the buildings there are two brick walls, each with an arched opening, leading to the inner garden, adding to the seclusion of the site. Cottage unit 9-12 has been adapted so that the first floor flats are accessed via steel external staircases, with roofs, and an extension was formed on the front face, echoing the existing features. Besides or near to each of the red-painted brick steps to the front doors of each of the flats are low brick fuel stores, set on the wall of the cottages.


Construction of The New Flats

The lower new  flats are formed in a long terrace completed c1981, which continues on to enjoin the newer almshouses of the Royal Scottish Corporation, which were completed in 1978. This arrangement gives some seclusion to the rear of these cottages. The cottages are of lightweight concrete blockwork, with a brick outer leaf, the mix is more red than the mix of the original cottages, and feature vertical panels of doors in plain tile hanging on a solid lightweight block wall. The floors are of solid concrete construction and the edges of the first floor slab extend to the outside air in the feature panels. Roofs are of interlocking concrete tiles on plated trusses. Windows are timber casements, doors are of timber with a large upper glazed panel, with access to each flat under a canopied porch of interlocking tiled roof and steel tube columned support, which has a store of brick construction outside, for the first floor flats. These cottages are built on trench-fill footings, which should assist in situations of clay movement.


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