5 AUGUST 1905, Page 18


THR writer of the preface to How to Build or Buy a Country Cottage, Mr. Henry Norman, is justified in claiming that in one or two respects this book is unlike any other in existence. Hitherto, books on country houses and country cottages have been written by professional architects, or by men who have made this or that style of building their peculiar study. This book is something different. It is written, in the first place, by a layman who does not pretend to the technical knowledge of either architect or builder. "He regards himself only as a rural resident interested in cottage-building, desirous of affording practical assistance to the would-be rural resident with less experience than his own." And regarded from that point of view, it is admirably successful. In the (1) Row to Build or Buy a Country Cottage and Fit. it Up. By "Rome Counties." With a largo number of Photographs, Plans, and Estimates of Cottages and Bungalows, from £130 to 21,300, and an Introduction by Henry Norman, M.P. London : William Heinemann. [6s. net.]—(2) Modern Hawing in Town and Country. Illustrated by Examples of Municipal and other Schemes of Block Dwellings. Tenement Houses, Model Cottages and Villages ; also Plans of the Cheap Cottages Exhibition. By James Cornea. London: B. T. Batsford. [7s. 6d. net.]—(3) The Book of the Cheap Cottages Exhibition. Published for the Committee by the County Gentleman and Land and Water, Ltd., 4 and 5 Dean Street, Holborn. Lls, net.]

first place, there need be no difficulty in accepting Mr. Norman's claim that "it contains more practical information on the subject of country cottages than has ever been gathered between two covers before " ; and in the second place, it succeeds because "Home Counties," being a layman, knows precisely what it is, in connection with the mysteries of building, architects' fees, plans, specifications, and all the rest, that a layman wants to find out, and what it is that puzzles and thwarts the man who wants to "get at" the business of building something for himself. In addition to that knowledge, "Home Counties" possesses a delightful faculty of being able to tell you precisely what be means, and what "they "—the architects, and builders, and plumbers, and so on—mean, in language which is perfectly plain and practical. His enthusiasm for his subject is infectious ; you realise that without enthusiasm the book could never have been written, for the work involved in the search among details, and the rejection of the impermanent and the unnecessary, must have been enormous ; and you are correspondingly encouraged to follow him into the intricacies of estimates and specifications which, looked at between the covers of another book, would attract only the expert. "Finish with a fair face, point with a flat joint, and twice lime-wash the walls of coals," for instance, reads a little like Mark Twain's "Punch, brothers, punch with care," to the beginner in cottage-planning. But it is the privilege of the reader of How to Build or Buy a Country Cottage to be educated into a deep desire to know the inner meaning of even finer abracadabras than that.

The book is divided, roughly speaking, into three parts, oi rather, it deals with three main subjects. First, it gives examples, illustrated with diagrams and plans and photo- graphs, of a number of cottages and small houses for permanent residents in the country, and for " week-enders " who live in a town. Particulars of cottages and bungalows, built in different styles and after different methods—brick, cement, rough-cast, concrete and timber, steel and plaster— are given, with estimates varying from a carriage-paid week- end cottage to be erected by " purchaser and labourer in three or four days" and to cost 2100, to "what can be got for 2900 upwards." Really, under the latter head the possibilities appear to be almost boundless. Here, for instance, opposite p. 146 is a picture of a 2950 house by Mr. P. Morley Horder, built at Milford-on-Sea. It is most attractive in design; it is surrounded by a charming garden, and a delightful square. trimmed yew hedge (that, surely, never came into the estimate of 2950, but it sets off the building capitally) ; and it contains the following accommodation:—" ground floor : drawing and dining rooms, study, hall, kitchen, verandah, conservatory, lavatory, closets, scullery, and coal-house ; first floor : six bedrooms, bathroom, linen-closet, water-closet, and loggia ; also attics." Or of cheaper dwellings, what could be more charming than Mr. R. A. Briggs's 2400 bungalow, illustrated opposite p. 150 P These two examples, typical of many most attractive buildings, must suffice, as evoking especially the cupido habitandi of the would-be country-dweller. But the second of "Home Counties' " main subjects opens up no less fascinating prospects ; indeed, in some ways perhaps the prospects are even more alluring, as involving oppor- tunities not only of construction, but of destruction also. These are the opportunities of the man who takes an old cottage in the country with the idea of "doing it up." On this subject "Home Counties" is admirable. He has done the thing himself ; he has taken an old cottage, knocked it to pieces in parts, and knocked it into parts from pieces ; he has had first-hand dealings with builders and plumbers and painters and working gardeners ; he has made his mistakes and paid for them (pretty dearly now and then); and he puts his experience at the reader's disposal with great good humour and an excellent openness of diction. The main point to keep in sight in "doing up" a cottage, it seems, is that whatever a thing looks as if it will cost, it will probably in the end cost double. "If you can see 250 worth of work to be done on an old cottage, reckon that you will spend 2100, or perhaps 2150, and you may come out about right." One of the drawbacks to indulging in building operations—it is, unfortunately, the author's experience—. is the character of the work done by the men themselves. In the country, just as in the town, "there was the same slap- dash reluctance to take trouble, and in the case of no single workman did I see any evidence of the pride or joy in his

work that distinguishes the true craftsman. The men were

treated well, but seven times rows of tiles had to be taken up at my instance owing to a red one having been put down

instead of a blue one." Incidentally, you learn that moss- grown roofs may be picturesque, but that moss plays ruin among the tiles; the roots hold the damp in the pores, then the frost comes and the thaw, and the tile is split. In "doing up" a cottage the conflict between utility and picturesqueness is, in fact, perpetual :—

"Lately," the author writes, "I noticed my field-gate was turning a beautiful green in parts. That is very pleasing to the eye, but it means the eventual destruction of the wood by the weather. Last year, therefore, I waited for dry weather thoroughly to dry the gate—it is a good heavy one—and then hot-tarred it. Neighbouring gates are untarred and picturesque, but those who have the use of them will not have to replace them when they rot!"

It is the same with such matters as water-butts. Nothing looks prettier than a green water-butt against the side of a country cottage, but is it a really good substitute for a hundred-gallon iron tank ?— " Water-butts are very picturesque, but unless they are well tarred twice by a man with a conscience, and well scraped before tarring, their bands rust in no time and snap, and you have a flood. Also, tar is sticky in hot weather. Further, the wooden

spigots fitted to the butts soon rot. Finally the oil merchants are now asking 5s. 6d. apiece for them, before fixing, and without spigots or lids."

Clearly an extravagant price ; but only experience hardens the heart to the adoption of the clean, ugly, long-lived iron tank. Last among the three main divisions into which this book falls comes the consideration of details and the summing up of scores of those often unregarded trifles which in the mass amount to so much. Under this head are included sanitary appliances ; pumps, wells, stoves, heating and lighting; the

best way to begin with a bad garden and to go on with a good one ; the bent way of dealing with a house so as to make it look well both from inside and outside.

Finally, there is a good deal of detailed criticism of the working of the -building by-laws in rural districts. Here, and throughout the book, the author shows himself neither bigoted nor inclined to rush to extremes, but hard-beaded, practical, full of common-sense, and above all, capable of telling his reader what his reader wants to know. It is not the least valuable part of a deeply interesting book.

Mr. James Cornea's handsome volume, Modern. Housing in Town and Country, is a book written on rather different lines, a large number of its pages being filled with diagrams and illustrations, excellently reproduced, of model tenements and municipal dwelling-houses. Mr. Cornea, who is a member

of the Leek Town Council, has for years made a study of the question of housing the working classes, and has carried out some striking experiments in Leek itself. One specially interesting point which he mentions in regard to his model dwellings at Leek is that, regarding a bath supplied with hot and cold water as an absolute necessity for every home, he has included one in each of his houses, and that be has found that there are localities in which the water authorities, to encourage cleanliness, make no charge for water used in this way. Mr. Conies does not regard the building by-laws applicable to urban districts as over-perfect, and suggests, among other modifications, that (1) concrete need not be insisted upon to cover the whole site of a house when there is a good gravel subsoil, and that the depth required might well be reduced from six to four inches ; (2) that the height for nine-inch walls not exceeding thirty feet in length . could very well be increased to thirty feet, as this would allow for building three stories ; (3) that cross walls made of special materials might safely be reduced in thickness by one-half. As Mr. Comes points out, these modifications would greatly lessen the cost of construction. The book furnishes some suggestive contrasts between the opportuni- ' ties for building in town and country by the inclusion of some admirably executed plans and pictures of the cottages now on view at the Cheap Cottages Exhibition at Letchworth.

, We would draw attention, in this connection, to the guide to the Letchworth Exhibition which, under the title The Book of the Cheap Cottages Exhibition, has been issued by the .County Gentleman and Land and Water. The book contains a complete catalogue, illustrated by plans and specifications, of the cottages which have been already erected, or are in course of erection, on the Garden City ground. The informa.

tion provided is indispensable to the visitor to the Exhibition who wants to find out what this or that cottage costs or comprises. But it is also an exceedingly interesting book to pick up and dip into, and it would be perfectly possible, by studying its pages, to get a cottage of any design chosen built anywhere, merely by ordering it by post as one orders a box of cigars or a hundred cartridges. Again, this catalogue will prove invaluable to landowners and their agents who contemplate cottage-building. It is, indeed, not too much to say that no estate office will be complete without it.