Hollamby Ted

Ted Hollamby

Born Edward Hollamby in 1921 in Hammersmith, where his father was a police constable, Ted studied architecture at the Hammersmith School of Arts and Crafts in the 1930s. Influenced by one of his favourite lecturers, Arthur Ling, he joined the Communist Party and the MARS group of progressive modernist architects and planners. In 1941 he married Doris Parker, also a party member.

After his war service, Ted worked for two years for the Miners Welfare Commission, designing pithead baths. From 1949 to 1962 he was in the Architects Department of the London County Council, where there was a large and influential Communist group. They were especially keen to use their expertise to improve working class housing. Ted contributed to the design of several major public housing projects.    

Ted Hollamby was equally concerned about conserving worthy old buildings and his principal legacy to the British people was the heroic restoration of Red House at Bexleyheath, which Philip Webb had built for William Morris in 1859. Progressive architects revered Morris as both a communist and a designer. After being occupied by a government department during the war, the iconic house had fallen into disrepair. It had been empty for 18 months when in 1952 Ted discovered that it was on the market. Together with another Communist couple, Dick and Mary Toms, the Hollambys bought Red House and moved in. Over several years they turned it back into the sort of home that Morris had created.

The local branches of the CP and the British-Soviet Friendship Society met at Red House, and the Woodcraft Folk camped in the garden. In 1953 the inaugural meeting of the William Morris Society was held there.

Ted and Doris left the Communist Party in 1968.  From 1969 to 1981 Ted worked for Lambeth Borough Council, becoming Director of Architecture, Planning and Development, and continuing to design new forms of housing for the people. From 1981 to 1985 he was Chief Architect and Planner with the London Docklands Development Corporation, where he had to implement the very Thatcherite project for the transformation of this part of east London.          

After Ted's death in 1999 Red House was acquired by the National Trust, who still use the visitors' guide that Ted wrote.

David Grove

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