Bedfordshire Sketch-book CLXII – Everton
THE OLD EVERTON began to disappear in the mid’60s and when working for Francis Pym I played a part in the changes. We tried to save as many of the old thatched cottages as possible, adding the necessary bathrooms and kitchens, but economics and the attitude of the local authority precluded the sort of general conservation which would have been attempted today. For Biggleswade RDC at that time the very thought of earth floors was a starting pistol for the bulldozer. Then the developer moved in, and typical estate architecture with all ‘mod con’, but nothing to do with the old village which expired between 1960 and 1970. in fairness, some corners survive and are reasonably well supported by their frame of infilling; to the north of the way to the church one finds a delightful; group for example, where old thatch and what so easily be suburban anonymity actually compliment each other.
The church had the same dreadful visitation as Eyeworth in 1974 and the storm swept through the fabric to an equally devastating degree, the tower being inevitably the major victim. Its replacement by Marshall Sisson is a triumph. It has the same ‘festive’ air, to use Pevsner’s phrase, as the 1683 replacement of the spire at Deddington in Oxfordshire and I am sure the architects must have seen this. There we have eight pinnacles with gilt vanes but four do well at Everton and in an inspired detail the stepped up central battlement in each face adds to the excellence of the silhouette.
Manor Farm to the right of the picture once had a very different identity, Mrs Gurney tells me; moated isolation, but now with its brick neighbour to the north it forms the pivot of the village with the Thornton Arms on the corner a perfect stop to the north east. Whoever did the chimney stacks to the pub was either a manic bricklayer or had a son or nephew proving himself to his master; they are quite magnificent.
The great feature of Everton is its position on the edge of the plateau; the view to the north is immense but one does regret the passing of the elms which used to punctuate the plain. Something my generation will never see again, but which once raised what is still a magnificent prospect into truly romantic landscape.
Bernard B. West RIBA
Bernard West, born and schooled in Bedford, qualified in London as an architect after five years in the army. He worked in London and in the Bedfordshire County Architect’s Department before setting up in private practice in 1960, from which he has just retired to become a full time artist.
Bedfordshire Magazine Winter 1991