Building a home in Ham – by VG

Then my husband had a friend who was the architect for the London County Council and he said why don’t you look for some land and have it built.  It won’t cost anymore and it would be appropriate and so my husband wrote to every London borough.  The only two replies he got were from Wandsworth where there was a bomb site, one small space in a terrace of houses that was £1000 and Richmond, it had the whole one side of a road, Sandy Lane, where the plots were £500 each.  So we thought it would be lovely to live there.  We didn’t know Ham and Petersham. We vaguely knew Richmond because I think we’d sometimes, much earlier on we’d come, got a boat on the river and so on, we’d come by train and got a boat so we came to look with our three young children and we drove and drove and it was very rural and then we came here and there was this big field with houses on one side, 1930’s houses  on one side, but this was a big rough field divided with just ropes  and we thought, yes, this is and then we drove round by Ham House  and we thought oh this is wonderful, we’d love to live here and so my husband told the council, it was being sold by Richmond Council.

The point was, how it came about they had this land to sell was that they’d bought, they wanted to establish a council estate so they’d bought a large area between that side, the other side of Sandy Lane and the Copse.  Obviously they couldn’t build on the Copse and they wanted to put the council estate and the school on that land but the residents on the existing 1930’s houses complained that they didn’t want a council estate.  They couldn’t have that view of a council estate opposite them, we’ve got to have private houses.  So there it was and the land was available so my husband said yes, we’d very much like…  Oh, there were two things, and of course the back fence of these new houses would be on the back fence of the council houses.  so we said yes, we’d certainly like to have that.  We had a choice because only about four had gone so we chose this one and then we were told well you’ll have to wait to see if there are any left because it’s only available for Richmond residents at the moment so only if there’s any left will you be able to actually buy one and we’ll let you know at the end of the year so we thought well that’s it obviously this is  going to go, we’re not going to get it  definitely, very disheartened by that and no hope and then at the end of the year we found that none had been sold and  the reason was because people didn’t want to have a council estate at the back. We were quite happy to have that and our lovely little school that had been built.

Well, I think we actually took two years to build so it would have been 1954 wouldn’t it? Yes 1954 when we first saw it.  It took two years because the builders kept going off for a few months at a time but it was eventually built and that was fine.  It was my husband’s friend, Kenneth Campbell, who was the architect for the LCC and he had designed it which he was constrained by the shape of the plot and the fact that I’ve got to house a family of five on the ground floor and an elderly woman on the upper floor.