Architect: Phippen, Randall & Parkes

The Ryde
Hatfield, Hertfordshire

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This rare three / four-bedroom house with off-street parking forms part of the renowned Grade II-listed Cockaigne Housing Group development in Hatfield, Hertfordshire. Designed by architects Peter Phippen, Peter Randall and David Parkes, these exceptional houses were built in the mid-1960s. This is the first time that this particular house has come to the market, having been bought off-plan by the current owners in 1963.

Celebrated as one of the finest post-war private housing schemes in Britain, the Cockaigne Housing Group has been described by English Heritage as “the leading English manifestation of the courtyard house”.

Accommodation is arranged over a single storey, and includes three / four bedrooms, a living room with full-height glazing, separate kitchen, dining room, conservatory, two bathrooms and a utility / store room. The houses were traditionally designed around an internal courtyard, which in this instance has been covered with a glass roof. The space is versatile and can be configured in various ways with the use of original bi-fold doors. There are private gardens at both the front and rear and an integrated garage.

Owners of Cockaigne houses have a share of extensive communal gardens (the site is 2.8 acres in total), a tennis court, a secure children’s play area and a community house with a self-contained guest flat.

The house is close to the historic site of Hatfield House and Gardens and residents of this area are entitled to apply for a pass that allows free access to Hatfield Park throughout the year. The shops of Welwyn Garden City are a short drive away and the supermarkets of Hatfield are within walking distance. The area also has a number of good schools.

Hatfield railway station can be reached on foot in approximately ten minutes and trains run direct to London King’s Cross (approximately 19 minutes) and London Moorgate (30 minutes).

Tenure: Leasehold
Lease length: approx. 999 years from 1961
Service charge: approx. £550 per annum

Please note that all areas, measurements and distances given in these particulars are approximate and rounded. The text, photographs and floor plans are for general guidance only. The Modern House has not tested any services, appliances or specific fittings — prospective purchasers are advised to inspect the property themselves. All fixtures, fittings and furniture not specifically itemised within these particulars are deemed removable by the vendor.


History

The Cockaigne Housing Group was originally the idea of Michael Baily, a journalist at The Times. Inspired by the communal housing projects created in Scandinavia, which he had learnt about from his Danish wife, Baily decided to create a similar set-up of his own. In 1962 he placed an advert in The Times seeking support for his project and the response was positive enough for him to put his plan into action.

Later that year, Baily visited the Ideal Home Exhibition in London where he met the architects Peter Randall and David Parkes, both of whom had worked on an ‘adaptable house’ that had gained a lot of attention at the show. Baily soon decided that these were the men that he wanted working on his project. At around about the same time, he also managed to persuade the Hatfield Development Corporation to give over a parcel of land on a long-term lease.

In 1963, the project was underway with Peter Phippen now also on the design team (the Cockaigne houses were the first commission of the firm Phippen, Randall and Parkes, which exists to this day). A staggered terrace of 28 houses was constructed over the course of the next three years, with plenty of space given over to communal gardens. All houses have a deep plan, built with narrow frontage party walls. Accommodation is arranged around a series of enclosed courtyards oriented to allow sunlight and natural ventilation into the interior. Between the fair-faced block-work party walls the structure is timber-framed with Colombian Pine joinery and cladding, with full-height windows and doors opening onto the courtyards and gardens. The designs were thoroughly researched from every angle – studies were undertaken of the local light, construction techniques and even the behaviour of the potential users.

Various architectural precedents have been cited, including Chermayeff and Alexander’s work at Newhaven, Connecticut, as well as Meyer and Hilberseimer’s studies for courtyard houses completed at the Bauhaus. Le Corbusier’s ideas for communal living also provided inspiration. Peter Randall himself has described the rigorous construction of the houses as “earthy and pragmatic”.

When deciding on a name for his housing scheme, Baily chose the word ‘Cockaigne’. Deriving from Middle English word ‘cokaygne’, its meaning relates to a mythical medieval land of plenty.

On completion, the development was awarded an Architectural Design Project Award in 1964 and also a Housing Design Award in 1967. In 2006, the scheme was also named as the ‘Historic Winner’ of a further Housing Design Award. The judges described the houses as having “enduring appeal” and said: “to move through [a Cockaigne house] is to encounter a perfectly judged series of interlinked spaces which flow naturally one into another”.


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