Trobridge, Ernest

Ernest George Trobridge was an architect known for his imaginative and quirky buildings. His designs often appeared grand but were in reality very practical, making the best use of available space. He built a number of houses and flats in Kingsbury, northwest London, many of which can still be seen today.

Trobridge’s first work was in 1908, for the Camden Road New Church in Islington. By 1914, he had completed his first small housing estate in Golders Green.

During the First World War, Trobridge developed a timber-framed construction system, which he patented in 1919. The “Compressed Greenwood” method used elm wood, which was plentiful and cheap. Common features of Trobridge houses included chimneys, supporting columns and fireplaces made of brick and thatched roofs (which included water sprinklers in case of fire).

In February 1920, Trobridge exhibited his patented house at the Daily Mail Ideal Home Show in Olympia. It was well received and resulted in several commissions for individual clients. Despite this success, Trobridge chose to confine his work mainly to Housing Associations and ex-servicemen who urgently needed new homes.

The publicity and support from the Ideal Home Exhibition enabled Trobridge to purchase 10 acres of land at the junction of Kingsbury Road and Slough Lane in Kingsbury a month later. Under a Ministry of Labour scheme, he trained 10 disabled ex-servicemen in the use of the patented construction system. Houses from the resulting Elmwood Estate can still be seen in Kingsbury.

Trobridge was a Swedenborgian – a type of Christian socialist. His designs were an extension of his beliefs, as they provided good quality, affordable housing for people who needed it most. Trobridge believed that his construction system would go a long way towards helping the post-war housing shortage, as they were around 20% cheaper to build than the popular “Metroland”-style homes. Unfortunately for Trobridge, the Government did not share his enthusiasm for the new method. 

By the 1930’s raw materials were becoming more plentiful and Trobridge changed his style accordingly, using less timber framing and building more flats than houses. Some are remarkable for the quality of the brickwork of the chimneys while others -such as those on Wakeman’s Hill in Kingsbury - resemble castles, with turrets and concrete battlements.

Trobridge stopped building after the outbreak of the Second World War. He died in 1942, suffering from diabetes. As a life-long vegetarian, he had refused to take insulin.

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