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New Book – The History of W H Colt Son & Company Ltd

by Clive Kennett

This is compulsive reading for you if you live in a Colt house, or have a friend owning one. Clive Kennett has drawn together most of what is known about the century of evolution from chicken house to residence, and the design development of these comfortable and characterful timber houses.

Published in 2015 by Pitcairn-Knowles Publishing ISBN 978-0-9558591-5-1 86 Illustrations 104 pages Available at £12 plus £2.95 pp from:

W.H. Colt Son & Co Ltd.
Unit 4
Counter Buildings
Brook Street
TN26 3SP

Please call 01233 812919 or use the Contact us page to place an order or find out more.

Readers’ thoughts

“I have just finished reading the wonderful history – thank you so much for it and for getting the story told.

Our Colt was erected in 1961-2 and I have a full file of documents for its history as well as a number of catalogues from different periods. I have always loved it and the various extensions are proof of the flexibility to which the book refers.”

A satisfied Colt owner of 54 years

“The book is an interesting and very readable account of the development of a company which pioneered the use of modern-style timber-framed buildings, and as such is a useful source for the study of vernacular architecture in Britain and beyond.

As the museum, now responsible for the care of the Category A listed Colt House preserved within Auchindrain in Scotland, it was a particular delight to see the story of this building told in print.”

Bob Clark, The Auchindrain Trust, Scotland

“I enjoyed reading “The History of W H Colt Son & Co Ltd”. It is an engaging story of how one man learned carpentry as a Prisoner during WWI and through his own efforts built a thriving innovative business that constructed sixteen thousand homes in twenty countries. The book, by a historian of the company with many photos from the archives, reads easily and is not too long, but will remain long in the memory.

Thank you for your efforts in bringing it to publication!”

Peter Skipwith

“I thought the book was great. It’s very interesting to read about the history of the company. It was great to see all the different types of building you have built over the years. My favourite bit was finding out that the first houses you built were based on chicken sheds.”

Ian Burgess

“This is a book extremely worth reading and all Colt House owners, I’m sure, would find it fascinating.  It is eminently readable from start to finish, and well presented.

The colour illustrations come out well, the black and white, perhaps a little disappointing in quality, but never-the-less interesting. The author, Clive Kennett, has gone to a lot of effort in his researchwith regard to Colt’s history and conveys the firm as being one of high standing.  The figures and line drawings are superb throughout and with special reference to the Sandringham Project over 35 years, one has ones interest
held avidly.

The main thing about the book is the attention to detail that the Colt Builders have given over the years to their customers
and their continuing personal provision of service to them. Adaptabilty and versatility is the name of the game for Colts.

I have shared copies of this book to other users of Colts and they too have enjoyed this quality publication.”

Roger and Lucille Gee

“The book ‘Colt Houses’ by Clive Kennett is a ‘must-read’ for all Colt House owners.

Beautifully written and amply illustrated, it details well its humble beginnings, building poultry houses through to residential and commercial buildings, and to top it all, attaining the crown on the plaque for its royal project at Sandringham.

Finally, one has to live in a Colt House to experience the benefits of being comfortable in winter or summer.  On a personal note, we have lived in ours for 19 years and would not give it up so easily.”

Phil Connolly

“We moved in to our new house on 20th July 1969, the date of Man’s first landing on the moon. Publication of The History of W. H. Colt reminds us, in a most welcome and interesting way, of the remarkably versatile construction and attractive design principles which led us and thousands of others to Colt at Bethersden nearly 50 years ago.”

J.E. Hosking

“For those people who are fortunate to already be living in a Colt house, using a Colt property or studying the history of timber frame buildings in the UK, this book gives an interesting insight into the development of how these were, and are, constructed.

It is a fascinating account of the design evolution from a humble yet practical poultry house, in which the wellbeing of the hens and the “hen-man” was a design priority, to the construction of large and small homes and commercial buildings, which show equal consideration to the wellbeing of their human occupants and the practical requirements and available budget.

It highlights William Colt’s belief in the importance of involving the purchaser personally in the design of their property to suit their individual needs, and includes details of one of the early designs, a tiny miner’s cottage, to the larger more sophisticated and recent structures such as buildings on the Sandringham Estate which gained the company the Royal Seal of Approval.

We have lived in, and loved, our Colt house for nearly 20 years. This book is a fascinating read and a fitting tribute to William Colt, the originator of these innovative buildings, and to subsequent owners of the company and their employees.”

Colin and Katie Weaver

“As an owner of a Colt House, ours situated in Mundy Bois, Egerton, Kent just a couple of miles from Bethersden, it is a privilige to be writing a book review on the history of this World renowned, pioneering Cedar construction manufacturer, 38 years after it was built in 1977.

Like the examples described in the book, ours arrived on the back of a lorry and amazingly erected in a matter of days. The groundwork and foundations were already prepared and the structure of our two storey, Mansard roof design, was at the weatherproofed stage very quickly so progress could continue in spite of the English inclement weather.

Living as close as we do to Colts we thought we knew as much about the company as we thought there was to know, that is until ‘The History of WH Colt Son & Co Ltd’ was produced!
The detailed historical information and wealth of supporting photographs contained in the book was a very pleasant surprise and makes an extremely enjoyable and easy read, yet at the same time passes on to the reader such an amazing story in what is a superb publication to keep with the house for the future.

The production of the book and substantial content therein represents excellent value for money and is highly recommended, a must-have item for all Colt House owners throughout the World!”

Les Bidewell

“I was impressed with the your book.  As a Colt home owner who is very happy with our bungalow, it has been a pleasure to read about the history of the company that manufactured it. I would recommend that any Colt house owner buys a copy.”
Eric Saunders
“I was fascinated by the book.  My husband first saw a Colt house on his rounds in the mid fifties and was so impressed by it and the enthusiasm of the owners, that he did his research. This resulted in he and his father building our present Colt bungalow (Dacre), here in Tilehurst, Reading, for his mother in 1960. Sadly, she died a month before they moved in.

My husband extended Dacre (an anagram of cedar and also the name of a village in the Lake District where my husband’s father originated) in 1975 when we married. We eventually had to replace most of the outside Crittall windows only a few years ago because the double glazing had blown. But I am still living here and hope to continue to do so, though developers keep looking at the land. Maybe it should become a listed building? I love hearing the wood move with the changes in temperature and, although the book says they were not insulated, it is a warm house in winter and our heating bills seem to be less than those of friends with smaller traditionally built houses, although they could be far too hot in the summer. But then, we had big gardens because of the 60’s planning laws, so we could spend more time eating and entertaining outside when the sun shone.So, I loved reading the book – which I did at one sitting. It was a very well documented and interesting social history of how the first timber framed homes came to be constructed, initially for poorer people such as the Miners’ houses. We could do with more of those now.

I was impressed but not surprised that they went as far afield as the Falkland Islands and that the company eventually became so successful at Sandringham and achieved “By Royal Appointment” status. I am only sorry that Colts could not keep its stake in the growing market and compete with those in some of the European countries, such as Huf houses, which use the same pre-fabricated, all included principles which started all those years ago in Kent.

My only criticism is that so many of the photographs were very grainy and didn’t do justice to the quality of the workmanship involved. Colts can be proud to be the first in the pre-fabricated timber framed house market and I, as one of those who appreciate this niche market am proud to still be living in a Colt home. In fact, I am considering building another smaller one for myself on some of the land and letting our son move into the original one. We have our original “Colt” on the side of the Front door – facing to the right. Long may it stay there.”

 Carol Edgar
“As the proud owner of a Colt house, I very much enjoyed this book. It is very informative about the history of the company: I would recommend it to any Colt owner.”
Robert Wright
“The History of W H Colt Son & Co Ltd is an excellent book, covering the development of the houses and their construction changes up to the present date.  It is an informative read, whilst keeping the subject matter to the point. I can now pinpoint the era that my Colt Bungalow was built.  A definite buy for those lucky enough to live in these brilliant buildings, and those that have an interest in buildings and architecture!”
Roger Parton

“I enjoyed this enormously; it’s a fascinating little book and, I would say, a must-read for any Colt house owner. The background to the company is intriguing and I was mightily impressed by just how widespread Colt houses are. My wife and I have come across examples when out hiking, both locally and further afield – their character is so unique that they’re easy to spot – but I was still amazed to learn of their world-wide distribution. I bought my Colt bungalow in 2005 (it was built in 1972) and extended it in 2006, and it was really pleasing to come across the names I’d got to know so well then (and to whom the book is dedicated) and the names I know now as I make further modifications to it; and to see how they all fit into the story. It’s a gripping story, well told. Hopefully we can all look forward to a celebration in three years time . . .”

Colin Barber
“Just to say that not only did we enjoy the read, but were entertained to find my parent’s house featured in the book – albeit indirectly. Three pages (42 – 44) talk of the “Do as much as you can” house and reprinted an extract from the June 1967 “Practical Decorating & Building” magazine – which covered and photographed the building of my parent’s house. I have subsequently managed to track down a copy of that magazine on Ebay – and all thanks to your book and site!”
Tim Xenophontos-Hellen