Cowbridge House

Cowbridge House Malmesbury

Cowbridge House Malmesbury

The Final Viewing

Lashing rain and gale force winds were sweeping the country as I set out from my street with its old EKCO reserved housing stock. I was going to see Cowbridge House on the other side of town, a building which once hid secret radar production from the Luftwaffe during the Second World War. This historic building was soon to be demolished having been home to several manufacturing companies on the forefront of the electronic revolution.

Due to the terrible weather conditions I assumed there would be next to no one paying a visit to the factory, which held so many fond memories for those who once worked there. Fighting my way to the building at an angle of 60 degrees into the wind, inside I was able to stand up straight once more and to my surprise there in front of me I found a very crowded entrance hall. Charles Vernon the Mayor was there with his wife, and many old employees of the site from all eras. There were also many folk who had never even been in the building before and two gentlemen who had travelled afar from just next door to the site’ where they live in the tiny cottages once occupied by workers prior to 1939, when it was still just a large country house.

Whilst wandering through the rabbit warren that is this building, with all its alterations and additions to the original large house, I saw many recognisable faces from the town, many of whom had worked here at some time or other. I stopped and listened in to conversations between old work colleagues reminiscing over the glory days. They would each confirm which part they had worked in and agreed with each other, the use of each room in their day as it was passed by. The amalgamation of rooms on different levels and floors, tacked on in strange fashion over the years by the many different companies, ranged from the fairly modern looking, to the original rooms of the old house dating back to 1910.

There seemed to be at least 100 people wandering around with an abundance of digital cameras, recording all the interesting bits such as old fire places, ornamental woodwork, plaster work, old safes and the many different stair cases of all sizes and description. The building would probably the ultimate location for children playing the game of hide and seek. It took me about an hour to go around several times in many different directions, to get a feel that I had been on every level, and to every room that was open to public access.

When looking out of the windows, it was quite a surprise to see I had completely lost all sense of direction, and was looking out of a different side of the building than I had expected. I can imagine how being a new employee here, it would have been a nightmare getting used to where everything and everybody was in this labyrinth, not taking into account the many other buildings on the site, and those no longer standing from the war years.

I had expected a remarkable building that would be worthy of returning to its original form and saving for posterity. What I found was nothing too spectacular at all. The pieces worth saving such as the house safe, fire places, wooden panelling and stained glass windows, will probably look much better when restored and incorporated into other suitable buildings elsewhere. With the inevitable decline in the structure and fabric of the building over the years, along with its horrendous potential hazards in the event of a fire, I think it probably is the best decision to demolish everything on site, and make way for something more modern and more suitable to the present day.

Cowbridge House Demolition © David Forward

Cowbridge House Demolition © David Forward

9 September, 2017
All images and written works by David Forward are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License