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The architect G L Sutcliffe died one hundred years ago: on 12th September 1915. He was employed by Co-partnership Tenants Ltd of London. On the 1911 Census form he had described his occupation as "Architect - design and construction of garden suburbs". Among his works were sections of Brentham and Hampstead Garden Suburbs in London, Wrexham Garden Village in Wales, and Wavertree Garden Suburb in Liverpool.

In Wavertree, we know that he was responsible for Fieldway Green (1913) - and indeed all of the other housing east of Wavertree Nook Road - and that he had assisted Raymond Unwin in the design of the earlier section west of Wavertree Nook Road. He had also, in 1912, drawn up plans for expanding the garden suburb towards Childwall Road. His cottage-style house designs were of the highest quality, and his premature death is probably the main reason why his name is not better known today.

Photo, right: G L Sutcliffe
(Courtesy of the Brentham Society)

George Lister Sutcliffe was born in Heptonstall, Yorkshire, in 1864. His parents, William and Rachel Sutcliffe, ran a grocers' and drapers' shop at No.1 Main Street, Heptonstall - nowadays numbered 66 Towngate - or 'Top of Town' on the early Census records. Lister was his mother's maiden name, her father George Lister being a Hebden Bridge timber merchant. The 1881 Census lists young George (aged 16) as an "Architect (Apprentice)". He worked for Sutcliffe & Sutcliffe of Todmorden and Hebden Bridge - not relatives of his, apparently - and after qualifying as ARIBA he became a partner in the firm. He was responsible for designing a number of nonconformist chapels in the surrounding area (he himself being a Baptist). He also wrote or edited books on house design, construction and 'sanitary' matters, including The Principles and Practice of Modern House-construction (1898) and The Modern Carpenter, Joiner, and Cabinet-maker: a Complete Guide to Current Practice (1902).

In 1897 G L Sutcliffe had married Alice Johnson of London, and the couple moved to a house called Stone Slack just west of Heptonstall. At some point he got to know the architect/planner Raymond Unwin - who was responsible for the layout of Letchworth Garden City in 1904 - and the carpenter/trade unionist Henry Vivian, who was an advocate of the co-partnership system of housing development. Both of these men were keen to improve the living conditions of ordinary working people, and saw garden suburbs on the edge of existing cities as a more practical solution than free-standing Garden Cities on the Letchworth model.

Although Sutcliffe had grown up in the Pennines, where millstone grit was the traditional building material, he quickly adapted his style to suit the south of England. Before taking up the post as Chief Architect of Co-partnership Tenants Ltd, he had designed several large houses in the Surrey and Buckinghamshire commuter belt, in an attractive 'arts and crafts' style with gables and steeply-pitched clay-tiled roofs. These features also characterised the cottages he designed within the various garden suburbs. Even when commissioned to plan a garden suburb for a northern city like Liverpool, he kept to the same style and the same building materials - rather than, for example, using slate for the roofs which was the norm in Liverpool at that time.

Continued . . .

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