British Listed Buildings

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Sunspan, Grays

Description: Sunspan

Grade: II
Date Listed: 14 August 2012
Building ID: 1408508

OS Grid Reference: TQ6510578072
OS Grid Coordinates: 565103, 178073
Latitude/Longitude: 51.4775, 0.3761

Locality: Grays
County: Thurrock
Postcode: RM16 4AT

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Listing Text


A Sunspan house, built to the designs of Wells Coates and David Pleydell-Bouverie between 1934-8.

Reason for Listing

Sunspan, Chadwell St Mary, by Wells Coates and David Pleydell-Bouverie and built in the period 1934-8, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: an early example of a pre-fabricated house, Sunspan had an innovative steel-frame and steel-clad construction method, developed by Coates, and is characterised by the purity of its Modernist form both externally and internally. The spacious, well-proportioned and well-lit rooms represent the free planning associated with the Modernist movement;
* Architect: Wells Coates was an architect and designer of national and international renown, with many buildings on the List, including the Lawn Road Flats, built 1934-6 and listed at Grade I;
* Alterations: with the exception of the original metal casement windows, the building is little altered externally and internally; the interior plan is unchanged;
* Interior: notable fixtures and fittings are retained including built-in cupboards, sliding plywood partitions, doors with Art Deco furniture, the embellished brick fireplace and the main stairs;
* Rarity: only 15 Sunspan Houses were thought to be built in Britain, only one of which (at Havant) is listed at Grade II.


The prefabricated Sunspan house was first exhibited at the Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition in 1934. Commissioned by Jack Pritchard of Venesta Plyboard, the house was designed in the Moderne style by Wells Coates and David Pleydell-Bouverie. Variations for cottages, and three, four and five-bedroomed houses were exhibited, each to be positioned to maximise the amount of light into the habitable space and provide simple, stylish and economic dwellings. Sunspan was the only house on show which was fully furnished and equipped to the architects' specification.

Wells Coates (1895-1958) was an architect and designer considered to be one of the pioneers of the modern movement in Britain who developed innovative approaches to housing design as well as broadcasting studios (for the BBC in 1931), electrical products (the ECKO radio in 1934), boats and aircraft. He was also a co-founder of the Moderne Architecture Research Group (MARS) in 1933 as the British wing of the influential Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM), attended by Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius. Perhaps Coates' best known achievement are the Lawn Road flats for Jack and Molly Pritchard (1929-34) listed at Grade I.

Approximately 15 Sunspan houses were built in Britain, including a three-storey example at Havant (Grade II). Sunspan, Sandy Lane was erected in the period 1934-8. It is little altered but the windows have been replaced with aluminium framed units and the exterior plaster has been weather-coated. Internally, the plan-form remains largely intact, except that on the first floor a cupboard has been converted into a shower room.


MATERIALS: a steel-frame structure on a concrete base with floors, walls and roofs constructed with dove-tailed, steel sheeting fixed to either side of the frame and plastered internally and externally. The central chimney stack is built of brick.

PLAN: square, with a curved canopy to the north-west and a curving south-east corner. The living room and bedrooms are arranged around a central chimney.

EXTERIOR: a two-storey house with a flat roof, possibly used as a terrace. At the north-west corner, a single-storey, projecting, curved, flat-roofed canopy extends over the north and west elevations, sheltering the pedestrian access to the house; to the garage on the north elevation and the kitchen on the west. Brick steps approach the curved, timber entrance door, which has a stained-glass window, and to the left (east) there is a built-in garage with folding doors to the front and rear and a long window on the north elevation. To the right of the door is one of the original metal-framed casement windows with a deeply splayed cill. Above the entrance door, at the first floor, is a tri-light, curved casement window. On the west side, the kitchen has a single and double window, and a secondary entrance on the south elevation, from the service yard delineated by a walled terrace. The south and east elevations have continuous horizontal, curved windows wrapping around the south-east corner at ground and first floor. On the south elevation, an additional door leads from the dining room to the garden. Elsewhere the fenestration comprises single or double casements.

INTERIOR: the plan-form remains intact. The main entrance hall is lit by glass bricks on the north elevation and has a range of contemporary plyboard cupboards with the original door furniture. To the right is the W.C, inner hall, kitchen and boiler room with many original cupboards, doors and their fittings. To the left is the study, which leads to the living room and dining/day room at the south-east; each space divided by contemporary folding timber partitions to allow flexible use. The living room has an elaborate curved, brick, fire surround with corbelled and herring-bone brick detailing. The original timber floor boards and joinery remain. The central staircase encircles and incorporates the chimney stack and reflects the curving profiles of the house; the original steel banisters and carpet runners remain. On the first floor, most of the bedrooms have contemporary built in doors, cupboards and door furniture and, from the presence of contemporary pipework, were probably centrally heated. The bathroom has its original tiling and fittings. Permanently attached metal loft stairs lead to the roof terrace.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the house is approached by a long drive, accessed through a pair of gate piers with metal railings attached.

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.