Lott’s Bricks

From: Brenda and Robert Vale: Architecture on the Carpet: The Curious Tale of Construction Toys and the Genesis of Modern Buildings (2013): Chapter Four:

“…Lott’s Bricks were manufactured in Bushey, Hertfordshire…sets…first appeared at the 1917 British Industries Fair, where Queen Mary bought a set…their creator, Ernest Lott…called on the services of the Arts and Crafts architect Arnold Mitchell (1863 – 1944) to design the sets of bricks and the buildings that could be made from them…

Although he only worked on Lott’s at the start, the delightful simplicity of the toy was the work of Arnold Mitchell. Mitchell is what might be described as a “bread-and-butter” Arts and Crafts architect, rather than the roast dinner of Richard Norman Shaw (of the previous generation) or the delicately flavoured poached salmon of C.F.A. Voysey (a near contemporary). He is mentioned once in Margaret Richardson’s book on Arts and Crafts architects as passing through the office of the firm Ernest George and Peto…He was particularly fond of houses with a series of gables, such as those he did in Hampstead Garden Suburb, north London, at Temple Fortune Lane (in 1908) and Meadway Close (in 1910).

It is no surprise, therefore, that gabled houses are a feature of the plans in the larger sets of Lott’s Bricks…They were based on Mitchell’s prize-winning entry for the first ever Ideal Home Exhibition in 1908; this was a design for an inexpensive cottage in the £500 class…

For Mitchell, as for many architects of his generation, the cheap cottage, built in a stripped Arts and Crafts manner and sparely furnished to give dignity to the lives of its inhabitants, had become a holy grail…

The editor of The Spectator at that time, John Strachey, believed that one route to the cheap cottage was through improved forms of construction, provided these were fit for their purpose. He instigated a competition for cottages to cost no more than £150 and secured some land in the new garden city of Letchworth for building, exhibiting and selling the entries…

Mitchell built his own ideal cottage at a cost of £110, looking exactly like one of the designs for Lott’s…

The interior of the Arts and Crafts house was spare…allowing the light from the windows to flood over the whole floor. The simplicity united with the plain architectural elements to make a visual whole. This was recognised by Arts and Crafts architects, with Raymond Unwin describing his Hampstead Garden Suburb houses as “Plain Jane” and “Mary Anne”…

…The beauty of Lott’s Bricks is that they could make very realistic modern buildings, as in the flat-roofed School, but they were also capable of making so very much more.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s