Cricket’s a long game; but Reed Watts’ sleek reinvention of the Nissen hut for Teddington CC gives it some Humpty
I’ll be clear at the opening; I don’t know the first thing about cricket. That quintessential summer clack of leather on willow that seems to send English pulses racing doesn’t register even a blip in my continental heart. As a child, cricket coverage on TV was responded to with blank bafflement and as a teenager at school PE classes, I was so Long Off I was in the local shopping parade. And as I write, only yesterday reports of the latest test against whoever had me mentally reaching for that Polish citizenship form again – and I barely speak a word of that.
If these experiences have afforded me any insights, it’s an awareness of the deeply temporal aspects of the game and how, unlike any other sport, it seems to carve out Time; insinuating itself into the everyday lives of a 2.5 billion strong global fan base, with its ‘lunch’ and ‘tea’, ‘refreshments’ and ‘drinks’. And there’s a synchronicity with that notion at Reed Watts’ Teddington Cricket Club in London’s Bushy Park, sat within the 6.5 mile brick perimeter wall of Henry VIII’s Hampton Court hunting ground, where a languid pitch invasion by a herd of deer is just one more reason to stop play and retire to the bar.
Established in 1867, TCC played out of little more than a shed until the end of the sequestration of Bushy Park for the US Air Force’s Camp Griffiss, when it inherited a couple of their decommissioned Nissen Huts in 1945, left over from D-Day. It set these up on the northern perimeter of the park to serve as its clubhouse; and while somewhat basic and dark, it served this purpose perfectly well until Jim Reed, whose son was a member of TCC’s junior team, was appointed along with his firm in 2014 to create a permanent home for the TCC for its summer seasons well into the future, as well acting as the base for the local Teddington Athletic FC.
In a move of satisfying continuity, they decided not to fix something that wasn’t broken, retaining the idea of two buildings, but unifying them with a large bar/social space offering enviable views of the TCC’s two cricket pitches. All built in a mere eight months, those Nissen huts have been reified, now expressed as MMC timber SIPS panels clad in dignified black-stained larch, allowing the pavilion structure to camouflage itself among the trees of the SSSI between it and a site of literally scientific interest – the National Physical Laboratory campus – to the east.
Since the firm was building next to this, in a Royal Park and a conservation area, the £2.2 million pavilion generated considerable public interest. Reed thinks that most objections were headed off by the support of the Royal Parks, which bought into the BREEAM Excellent project from the get-go. Not only did it recommend moving the site to have better proximity to the pitches but, in a design meeting that pavilion manager Matt Rees recalls ‘had us picking our jaws off the floor’, suggested knocking an opening through the 16th century wall to allow for access to a dedicated perimeter parking area. This worked for the Royal Parks, which is actively seeking to remove vehicles from Bushy; and the TCC, whose after-match drinking with visitors had always been curtailed by the closing time of the park’s gates. Historic England, once it had been assured by the architect’s remediation details for the grade II listed wall, rolled over.
‘It was a godsend,’ says Rees, the new Clapperstile Gate at last allowing the TCC to function independently of the park itself.
In line with the utilitarian nature of the original huts, the plan is simple. Team and staff changing rooms, fronting a sizeable garage space for tractors and rollers for pitch maintenance, are now joined to an office/ admin/scoreboard block by a large clubroom/bar area. Clad in white larch treated with SiOO:X, its monochromatic nature will only increase over time. But orientation is what this turns on, the huge glazed frontage addressing the main pitch, with a cheeky glazed side return giving views askance to see what’s afoot on pitch No2. A booze-induced offer by a club member with a double-glazing firm to supply all the ball-resistant, laminated glass – before the true scale of the task was apparent – was honoured: Ultralux, I salute you, even if you have got your name on every pane. And opening out completely to the park, this aspect is bettered only by the first floor open terrace, raising the eye level to offer a rare view over Bushy’s general flatness. The proximity of spectators eked out some crisp detailing of the tiled roof to gutter line, which survived D&B procurement.
Exposure of the semi-intensive green roof to light, meanwhile, coupled with its built-in irrigation, has resulted in impressive growth of shrubs and grasses, which looked healthy and vivid even on the tombstone-grey day that I visited.
Of course, what’s missing now is the players – and the visitors – but signs are encouraging. For the nine weeks of 2020 that TCC was able to play, takings were more than a typical 20-week season. It might have been down to a perfect storm of hot summer, post-lockdown bliss and domestic holidaying but TCC regularly saw more than 200 people out on the grass watching a Saturday match, says Rees, with social membership soaring by 400% –suggesting that the new pavilion is becoming more of a community asset than just a cricket club. As for the latter, Rees thinks it’s the best local club facility out there, bar none.
Of those new visitors, someone’s doing a lone workout on the paved area in front of the changing rooms. And Reed says that, being a public park that’s still open to people at night, it’s become a draw for local kids, who congregate beneath its pavilion clock. They boot footballs against its walls, smoke, drink and break bottles out front. ‘Lockdown’s probably got something to do with it – they need a release,’ he surmises. But it’s notable that not a window is cracked and that none of the metal letters of the pavilion has been prized off. Like any good civic building, it has to take a kicking.
Telling the time for the park, the clock just ticks away above them regardless. Perhaps that assurance was a draw for the National Physical Lab demographic too, when it chose TCC for its pre-pandemic Christmas party. A bunch of boffins working out the minutiae of Metrology, whose predecessors built the first Caesium-133 atomic clock in 1955. I mean, stumps or no stumps, they know a thing or two about time, right?
£1.7m total cost
£2883 cost /m²
Client Teddington CC
Architect & planning advisor Reed Watts Architects
Project manager/CA/QS Peter Lawrence, Stallworthy
Landscape architect Colvin & Moggeridge
Structural engineer Evolve
M&E consultant Baystar
BREEAM consultant JAW
Arboriculture Canopy Consultancy
Main contractor GPF Lewis