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BISF Building Foundation Images 1943

During our never ending search for B.I.S.F House related archive material, we came across a very rare photograph indeed .

At first glance, the image appeared to show nothing more than men, busily at work on a building site.

On the rear of the image was a handwritten note titled, ‘B.I.S.F Experimental House – Foundation Pad, Northolt 1943.

It soon became clear that we were actually looking at a photograph of one of the very first B.I.S.F House, concrete foundation pads ever built.

The image had actually been taken at the Ministry of Works experimental Building Research Station, located at Northolt, in Ealing, London.

The image shows 3 labourers working on the foundation pad. They appear to be laying coarse chippings near to the front step of the house upon which will sit a steel framed rain canopy.

Rows of steel frame anchorage bolts can be seen protruding from the edges of the plinth, ready to accept the the upright steel stanchion legs of the buildings frame. The stanchions each have a baseplate which fits over the raised bolt, before being secured with a large steel nut.

Despite the image not showing the full depth of the foundation itself, we can clearly see several inches of exposed concrete above ground. 

Not all of the prototype B.I.S.F houses at Northolt were built with a solid, one piece foundation base. A second image discovered in the archives clearly shows a complete B.I.S.F Houses steel frame, fitted onto an open grid or strip foundation, that appears to have been infilled with soil. Presumably, this is to show to the Post War Housing Committee that if required, the houses could be erected using less concrete due to limited resources at the time.

One of our B.I.S.F archive documents makes reference to the buildings engineer, Donovan Lee specifying the following in relation to prototype B house:

 “Concrete footings to External and party walls with concrete ground slab over hardcore and with waterproof membrane over whole surface”.

Amazingly, these experimental homes were constructed during the height of World War II and the Northolt Site itself fell victim to the German Luftwaffe.

During our research we uncovered a documentation from 1945 that described an account of a German V2 Rocket landing just 90-100 yards away from the experimental BISF type C house. The bomb landed at 5.50 pm on 08/02/1945 and caused significant damage to the house and parts of its supporting frame, walls and windows, all of which needed to be replaced.

The Northolt site housed 13 blocks of various types of experimental construction homes, several of which were unfortunately demolished by the German bomb. In general though, the BISF buildings stood up well to the impact, despite the fact that the blast had caused damage to factory roofs located further away from the blast and in one case the factory roof bolts had sheared off from roof supports!

The original BISF houses built at the experimental Northolt site are still standing and occupied today. They are of great historical importance, yet as yet, they have not been classed as Grade II but this may change in due course.


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