Lawrence Wright was an architect, who lived in Alresford in his latter years. He was certainly living here in the 1960s, because various detailed drawings of the houses and shops of West Street and on the East side of Broad Street were drawn and signed by him in 1965. A lot of the originals of these are held in the Alresford Museum, plus some coloured prints taken from these drawings are on display in the Community Centre, in the downstairs main hall.
Lawrence also wrote several text books describing the historical development of various architectural or domestic accessories. These included “Warm and Snug: The history of the bed” in 1962, “Home Fires Burning: The History of Domestic Heating and Cooking” in 1964, which included fireplaces. The description of Lawrence as Author of ‘Warm and Snug’ was:
Born in Bristol in 1906, he is a well-known architectural painter. He has designed many exhibitions, and it was from one of these, a history of the bath under the title ‘Clean and Decent’, that his first book evolved. Its reception encouraged him to write ‘Warm and Snug’.
His pièce de resistance was “Clean and Decent: The history of the bath and loo and of sundry habits, fashions & accessories of the toilet, principally in Great Britain, France & America”. My personal interest in such history was triggered when as a young man in an office on the Embankment in London, one of their facilities featured a classic blue and white china bowl, in a design more familiar on Victorian tureens and porcelain tableware, showing a country garden scene. This volume was first published in 1960, but has been re-printed many times since then.
I have no knowledge of any buildings or houses where Lawrence was employed as the architect, but there are unsigned drawings in the Alresford Museum collection of his papers showing a design for the re-build of the house and shop at 5a Broad Street, on paper marked as from Nightingale, Page and Bennett, Chartered Surveyors, of Kingston-on-Thames. These are dated 1961: the shop next door at number 5 Broad Street at that time was quoted as Broad Street Fruiterers, and next door at #7, in Livingstone House, was A. Livingstone and Sons. The work obviously went ahead as it showed the shop layout as used until 2015 by the D.Gedye electrical business.
Whether he was involved with Roy Robins in the design and construction of 38, 40a and 40 West Street is not certain, but it does appear that he might have lived opposite, in one of the dwellings off the South side of West Street, in what is now named “Lawrence Wright Passage”. Certainly, from there he could have looked out across the street at these very elegant buildings and roofs, captured in his 1965 drawing below.
What immediately becomes apparent to anyone keen on historical data, is that these pictures give a great snapshot and record of the businesses present in the town centre in 1965. Plus they also show that there were far more residential buildings, than shops or business premises: although some were presumably used as Doctor’s Surgeries and for other professional services. Some, such as #40 above (now Jaga Designs), have a business sign which cannot be read from Lawrence Wright’s front of building views. There are too many drawings in the collection to reproduce them all here, but in time they will be made available on the Alresford Museum website, museum.alresford.org.
West Street (North side)
The identifiable business premises are listed as:
- 6 (Shown as a shop window with no markings).
- 8 Eureka Fish Company
- 10 Electrical supplier (there is an advert for Murphy radios in the window)
- 12 The Bell Hotel
- 14 Tobacconists plus Walls ice cream sales
- 16 JS Stiles
- 18 Lex Leathers
- 20 Tobacconists (Note the ‘No Waiting’ sign, for vehicles, in the picture!)
- 22 Reg Cutting , Antiques and Bric-a-Brac
- 24 Ann Verity, Hair Stylist
- 40a ‘Mollys’: apparently a Restaurant or Cafe
- 42 Christian Bookshop
- 56 Chemist (named as H.C.*****)
- 58 Newsagent
West Street (South side)
- 1 (Unidentified shop front)
- 7 Lloyds Bank
- 11 The Swan Hotel
- 13 Cycle, Motorcycle and Pram services
- 17 Post Office
- 19-21 House’s Stores (Players cigarettes, Ariel washing powder)
- 23 The White House Florist, Fruiterer & Greengrocer
- 39 Southern Electricity Service
- 43 Co-operative Food Hall
- 47 Hankins Ltd: Garage and Petrol Pumps
- 49 Dedman’s Grocers, Tobacconist & Newsagent
Broad Street (East side)
- (1 East Street) Lawrence Stationer & Tobacconist
- 2 Horse & Groom pub
- 4 Cubitt & West House and Land Agent
- 6 Hobby Horse – Antiques & Bric-a-Brac
- 12 Joseph Atkins
- 14 Kelsall Food Markets
- 20 County Library
- 28 Westminster Bank
- 30 Chas Eddolls Ltd: Drapery, Clothing, Footwear & Carpets
- 32 Tylers Wine Stores
- 36 Broadway Motors (John Allen)
- 38 (Unidentified shopfront)
The T-Junction and Town Hall
Other pictures of interest are an unfinished sketch of the Wessex Pharmacy, the view down East Street, and a pen and ink picture created from one of Wright’s drawings of the Barclays Bank building.
Postscript – His earlier Career
Something I read once made me think that Lawrence Wright had held a significant role in the RIBA, or a similar body, which was reinforced by the comments made on the back cover of “Warm and Snug”, quoted in the above story. On the RIBA website, I found that the picture used to illustrate the design for the Lisboa Casino in Macao, dated 1966, is attributed to him as the artist, which confirms the book cover comment that he was a (very skilled) architectural painter. In the Author’s introduction to ‘Clean and Decent’, he explains that the book arose after he was invited by Molly Montgomery, who ran the Building Exhibition at Olympia in the late 1950s, to organise a ‘Feature’ display stand at the show, on the theme of The History of the Bathroom. The book inevitably followed: but was a side-line, writing books was just an offshoot from his main works.
Nevertheless, one sentence from his intro to ‘Warm and Snug’, which explains why his history does not cover the previous 50 years, is of relevance to all modern historians: “There is no future in writing the history of the present before it is past”
(c) Nick Denbow 2016