The Bungalow Grows in Stature

It all started in India when the British moved into the province of Bengal and discovered a local hut referred to as either a bunglas or bunggalos. A typical hut was made of bamboo with a huge thatch on top. The ridge was curved and hung down at the corners and looked a bit like a giant tea cosy.

Soon the British started to evolve their own version of the Bengali hut. Brick replaced the bamboo and corrugated iron or slate replaced the thatch. A veranda was added to provide shade and an airy place to work.

In Britain those returning home from India built their interpretation of the buildings. One such person was Captain Bragg who built a lodge with Indian features In Norwood, south London in the 1860s and called it “The Bungalow”.

It was by the sea at Westgate in Kent, England that the first true bungalows were built by architect John Taylor in 1869. The bungalows were long, low pitched rooved buildings with gables at either end and wide eves. Each building had its own tower so that residents could view the sea. The brick walls were decorated with polychromic bricks in a strange Monghul style.

The success of the first buildings encouraged Taylor to build more bungalows at Birchington further east along the coast. A tower bungalow still survives in Spencer Road and is a grade II listed building.

Next Tayor experimented with prefabrication and soon his bungalows were being adopted around the world. Bungalows were made in the UK using the latest production methods and exported to the colonies where they could be assembled on site using low cost labour. Prefabs, as they became known, were sent in large numbers to Canada, Australia, South Africa and even India. Middle class America adopted the bungalow for its own house style and versions can still be seen today.

Because the bungalow could be built out of almost anything at a very low cost it began to archive a low social status. Holiday bungalows built along the coastline of Britain were poorly constructed affairs, with some built of matchboard, and were rapidly bringing the name of the bungalow into disrepute. Even Queen Alexandra aided the tatty image in 1908 by having a bungalow built on the beach at Snettisham, near Sandringham, her country home in Norfolk, where her bungalow was built of rubble with an upturned boat as a porch.

The real low came when a cliff-top settlement known as “Peacehaven” was built in East Sussex. Plots of land were sold to people who built every imaginable style and type of dwelling. The ensuing row over “Peacehaven” led to the introduction of planning regulations.

The second world war then had the next input into the evolution of the bungalow. With the return of thousands of men and women from war duties in 1945 a huge need for housing was created. The problem was dealt with by manufacturing bungalows in factories that only a few months before had been involved with products for the war effort. So the quick erection, flat rooved prefabs, with aluminium or asbestos sheet walls covering a timber frame, came into being. The interior design was standard with two bedrooms, hall, sitting room, bathroom and kitchen. A fire with a back boiler supplied hot water. The dwellings were luxurious compared with what had gone before. Built only to last a few years because of the initial lack of bricks for traditional housing, prefabs covered almost every available piece of land right up to the 1970s. Many of these prefabs have passed into the 21st century.

The 1960s and 1970s brought a demand for affordable housing and many smaller one and two bedroom detached and semi-detached bungalows were built to a money determined specification. Unfortunately, many of these dwellings lacked character and were built on small plots of land.

However, during this period people started to realise the advantage of single storey dwellings and more elegant buildings were starting to be erected on large plots of land in select areas. The evolution of the executive bungalow crammed with extras such as two or more bathrooms, dressing rooms, double garages and swimming pools raised the status of the modest Indian hut to one of luxury. The bungalow is here to stay.

To return to an index click its button below or the hat at the top of the page.