The buildings that shape us

‘We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.”
Winston Churchill.

Cedar House, affectionately known as The Offices, the headquarters for Shepherd Hill & Co that Grandpa restored with Peter Bond (architect) and worked in, and the venue for big family occasions and parties.

Not since has there been such a prominent building in my life with as much depth and beauty. This was a place that filled me up with energy, inspired respect and sent me on flights of imagination. This is what offices must inspire for the greatness of the people to shine; for their greatness to go in to the business.

Mum and dad had their wedding here. (Mum fell backwards in to the beautifully tiled 6ft fire place when she went to cut their wedding cake). And then lived here for 3 months before they bought their first home.

Mum once suggested I was conceived here, which Dad denied. He claims it was when they were living a few houses down the road at 20 Vine Lane, Grandma and Grandpa’s House. Mum now agrees but I like to think I would have chosen this place of beauty to begin. It doesn’t really matter because 20 Vine Lane was equally great.

The Offices 1972

Here are the big iron gates. The lawn that was so bouncy to run and cartwheel on apparently because it was an old cricket pitch. And the cedar tree which always lifted your face up to the sky in awe. The lawn led off to walled gardens with twisting vines, sundials and a pond. There was a fig tree, mulberry tree, cobnut tree, a garden rich with fruit to pick and eat when you needed a break from running around.

The Offices 1972

There is the Elizabethan well with black railings around it to stop you falling in. We used to throw stones down it to see if we could hear them drop in to water at the bottom. As I imagine walking in through the big front doors that you had to push really hard to open I can still smell the place. I’d walk in as though I owned it and run up the stairs to Grandpa’s office where the exposed floor boards creaked.

Grandpa's Office 1972

This is how you do an office. Look no computers back then. That huge telephone on the desk. His desk at work was always so tidy and in his study at home a complete mess. I used to spin that date marker above the radiator and change the date around.

Grandpa's Office 1972

I loved the design of those office lights. The windows looked out over the lawn and cedar tree. I used to feel really important sitting in one of those big chairs. Probably because my feet didn’t touch the ground.

The Offices 1972

This was the technical drawing room in the roof rafters. It was twice the size shown here and it was great to touch the beams. The plug sockets in the floor had gold spring loaded covers that I’d love to flip open and watch spring back. I remember feeling respect for this place. That this was where the important work got done.

To the right you can see a little corridor leading to some stairs down to the ground floor. It was a fire exit. Grandpa told us it was a secret staircase. We believed him. You couldn’t see the door the other side because it was designed flush to the wall without a door handle. So sometimes we couldn’t find it, which felt like it had moved, or like it was hiding from view. This confirmed that yes it was indeed secret. Oh it’s not there today we would say. And run around the corridors again to see if it would appear the next go around.

That compulsory week of work experience you had to do at school when you’re about 16. I came and hung out here for the week. They had a telex and fax machine by then. And I delivered the post, made the tea and called Grandpa, Mr Dunster. Thank you Mr Dunster.

The black and white prints above are date stamped 3 August 1972. That is one month after I was born. I was privileged to enjoy the run around of this place until my late teens, early twenties.  And my baseline office expectations were set.

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5 thoughts on “The buildings that shape us

  1. I love this article Kat, it is so you, I can see how this building has shaped you in the woman that you are today, you have heritage built on beauty and good old fashioned values and I experience this in your writing. It’s a richness and luxuriousness that is so lacking in the world today. Keep on sharing, its so inspiring. x

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