The Foremans House in a watercolour by Ruth A Child. 1872 (Hackney Archives)
The foreman’s house was designed by renowned Arts and Crafts architect George Devey to act as the gatehouse to the waterworks when the Essex No. 1 Beds were developed.
Devey developed an innovatory 'cottage' style of domestic architecture based on timber-framed structures, featuring distinctive gables, often with a jettied upper storey, high-pitched roofs and tall chimney stacks, and using traditional materials of timber, brick and tile. The style was applied to a range of buildings from cottages and lodges to substantial houses.
Many of Devey's clients were prominent Liberal politicians or their relatives, including the Rothschild family. David and Herman Stern were successful merchant bankers and related to the Rothschilds: They were also directors of the East London Waterworks Company and this may possibly be the connection to Devey.
His new style influenced younger architects such as Norman Shaw and Charles Voysey (who both studied under him) and William Eden Nesfield and Philip Webb.
The Engineers House of 1895, built on the site of the Foreman's House, evokes the domestic revival style of Norman Shaw, Devey's pupil.
The vernacular architecture of Devey's lodge considered alongside extensive tree planting around the lodge and the filter beds (indicated on plans) may point to a planned, picturesque landscape.
The lodge conveyed a clear political message that the East London Waterworks Company drew its water supply from a rural idyl; a long way from the filth and grime of the rapidly expanding Victorian City.
The Foreman's house was constructed at approximately the same time as St James' Schoolhouse opposite, across the Lea. There are common themes in the work of Devey and Arthur Ashpital, architect of the schoolhouse, including tudor influences; the use of kentish vernacular architectural styles; and the use of Kentish ragstone.
Drawings and photographs relating to the work of the architect George Devey (1820-1886) 1856-1886. University of Sheffield Library.(http://www.shef.ac.uk/library/special/devey)