Thursday, 21 June 2012
Since Myakka was founded around 12 years ago we have been based in a large old factory in Wincanton. We knew the building used to be owned by Cow & Gate, but we didn't know much more than that. So we asked Andrea from O2i Design Consultants, who we met through the Somerset Business Awards, to do a little investigating…
On the edge of a small industrial estate in Wincanton, Somerset, you will find a surprisingly large glass and brick structure that is an excellent example of 20th century industrial architecture. This vast brick structure is built on 3 storeys, with long strips of Crittal windows interspersed with red brick pillars and cladding and topped off with a large factory clock . This architectural style emerged between the wars and was the start of modernist architecture as we know it. A pioneering style that used novel expressions of volume, balance and simple pared down decorations. In its heyday, this factory must have been a most inspiring, cutting edge and fashionable building.
If the previous ownership of the factory was in any doubt, the carved cow and gate relief that had been above the main door and the wrought iron gates would have given the game away. Surprisingly, very little information relating to the Cow & Gate factory building can be found, although many retired employees remember the plant well. Rumour has it that the lawn at the front of the factory used to be an elegant garden for the factory manager whose home was opposite the main gates. From his bedroom window he could easily spot and reprimand latecomers. A telephone call to Wincanton's History Society confirmed that the site was acquired by Cow & Gate in 1929 for the production of milk powders for babies. The existing building finally constructed in 1936.
Many impressive features and details still exist . Our visit to Myakka allowed us to tour the factory, and we were able to see the wrought iron staircases (probably cast from Victorian moulds) ], alongside cast concrete modernist stairwells. One of the most impressive sight was the stunning vast arched glass roof over the main industrial hall, with a supporting steel structure sandwiched between the inner and outer glazing
Frustratingly, the researchers and architectural experts I have spoken to have no information regarding the architect and we can only hazard a guess that it must have been Cow & Gate’s in-house architect who produced this wonderful bespoke building.
I have spoken or corresponded with
· Julian Orbach who is currently revising The Pevsner Architectural Guides (Somerset)
· Ian Constantinides Somerset Architectural Historian
· Diana Crighton who is a Somerset twentieth-century architecture researcher and Somerset’s representative of 20th Century Society http://www.c20society.org.uk/
· John Atkins Curator of the Wincanton History Society
Diana Crighton also very kindly spoke to
· University of Reading – Agricultural Research (who hold the Cow & Gate archives)
· Victoria County Museum http://www.victoriacountyhistory.ac.uk/
· Yeovil Heritage
All of which are aware of the building and confirmed that Cow & Gate took over the site in 1929 and built the factory in 1936 – and that the architect’s name is unknown.
Many thanks to Andrea for doing all that digging and investigating, trying to find out more about the interesting building we work in!