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201 & 203, York Avenue

A Grade II Listed Building in East Cowes, Isle of Wight

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Latitude: 50.7499 / 50°44'59"N

Longitude: -1.2773 / 1°16'38"W

OS Eastings: 451082

OS Northings: 94731

OS Grid: SZ510947

Mapcode National: GBR 89S.V74

Mapcode Global: FRA 8763.B7B

Plus Code: 9C2WPPXF+X3

Entry Name: 201 & 203, York Avenue

Listing Date: 6 June 2008

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1392610

English Heritage Legacy ID: 504366

Location: East Cowes, Isle of Wight, PO32

County: Isle of Wight

Civil Parish: East Cowes

Built-Up Area: East Cowes

Traditional County: Hampshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Isle of Wight

Church of England Parish: East Cowest St James

Church of England Diocese: Portsmouth

Tagged with: Building

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947/1/10041 YORK AVENUE
06-JUN-08 201 & 203

A semi-detached pair of concrete houses of 1852, architect unknown, but probably designed by their builder Richard Langley; shuttered concrete wall construction using cement from the local Medina, Francis and Son's, Cement Works. The construction was reported in July 1852 as being one part Francis' Medina Cement mixed with six parts coarse gravel and grit, poured 12-14 inches thick. C20 modifications, particularly internally.
EXTERIOR: This is a pair of concrete semi-detached houses with projecting wings to the sides and later brick extensions. Two storeys with a plain tile roof and square concrete chimney, which may not be original as reportedly the original was replaced in the 1980s. There are three moulded columns to the front elevation, one at each corner, and one central, with moulded cornice above. Each entrance has a moulded arch above, with side pilasters. Each house has a ground-floor sash-style bay window to the front with two windows above at first floor level, also sash-style, but modern replacements in uPVC. The side wings have been altered by extension and renovation. The special interest of 201 and 203 York Avenue lies principally in the exterior shell of the 1852 build.

INTERIOR: Concrete may have been intended for the internal walls, but this was not carried out. There has been much alteration to the interior of both houses; all original fireplaces have been removed and there are few features of special interest.

No. 203 has a light above the inner hall door and an interesting arch in the hall which appear to be original features, but no other indications of C19 fixtures or fittings. The floor plan of both ground and first floor have been altered to accommodate new rooms.

The staircase in No. 201 appears to be original, but apart from this there are no original fixtures or fittings. The floor plan of this house is near to the original apart from the side wing extension.

HISTORY: As the properties' deeds confirm, Nos. 201 and 203 York Avenue were built in 1852 when the construction of concrete 'cottage villas' near Osborne House was noted in articles in the Civil Engineer and Architects Journal. Richard Langley, the builder cited in the articles, had leased the plot earlier in the year, and it seems highly likely that the use of concrete was a device by Langley to promote the wider East Cowes Park development. The houses were built using cement from the local Medina, Francis and Son's, Cement Works which was founded in 1840. The technique employed for the construction was a relatively new one of pouring cement into a mould formed by shuttering. Medina cement is a cement stone/septaria used structurally and for stucco. In 1852 it was successfully used in the construction of the sea groyne in Sandown Bay, on the Isle of Wight, which still survives, and it was also used at Dover Harbour. By the mid C19 Portland cement was coming to the fore, and mixtures of the Medina and Portland cement were tried. Between 1848 and 1853 the main breakwater at Cherbourg harbour was built with a mixture of Medina for its speed in drying and Portland for its strength. There were once many Medina cement rendered brick houses on the Isle of Wight; it is not clear how many survive.

Concrete, in various forms, has been used for house construction since the 1830s. The first pre-formed concrete blocks, known as Rangers blocks, were used in houses, notably in Brighton. The first known concrete house, designed to look like any other Victorian house, appears to have been built for John White at Swanscombe, Kent in 1835, with concrete walls, concrete roof tiles and concrete window frames. This was demolished in the 1970s. A second Swanscombe example was Grove House, built of concrete by William Aspdin in 1846 and demolished in 1973. Another early use of concrete for building was at a schoolroom at Chigwell in Essex, built by Jonathan Savill, a local architect, and dated 1836. Here the walls were rendered and coloured in imitation of stone, but it is not known if this building still survives. In 1856 huts of shuttered concrete were built at Shorncliff Barracks, also using Medina cement, which were approved by the Office of the Inspector-General of Fortifications, and in the same year Joseph Tall built a concrete cottage at Bexleyheath, Kent, using concrete over a frame, which was perhaps the earliest use of reinforced concrete.

SOURCES: J Jones, Castles to Cottages: The story of Isle of Wight House (2000); J Strike, Construction into Design: The Influence of New Methods of Construction on Architectural Design 1690-1990 (1991); A J Francis, The Cement Industry: A History (1977), pp 57-8. Civil Engineer and Architects' Journal, June 1852 and July 1852.

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: 201 and 203 York Avenue, Cowes, are designated at grade II, for the following principal reasons:
* As a pair of rare surviving examples of a pair of early shuttered concrete houses;
* As a very early (1852) example of the use of shuttered concrete, certainly for house building; heralding the wider use of concrete later in the C19 and in the C20;
* As a tangible reminder of the innovative Medina, Francis and Son's Cement Works, founded in 1840.


Reasons for Listing

201 and 203 York Avenue, East Cowes, are recommended for designation, for the following principal reasons:

* As a rare, very early (1852) example of the use of shuttered concrete, certainly for house building; heralding the wider use of concrete later in the C19 and in the C20.
* As a tangible reminder of the innovative Medina, Francis and Son's, Cement Works, founded in 1840.

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