Drayton St Leonard land purchase 1961
During my visits to London for the Get Ahead competition I began to realise the present site at Drayton-st Leonard was not large enough for the growing business and I desperately required more land. W C Emmett a very large market gardener in the village owned the small field adjacent to the concrete works, after discussions with Emmett I agreed to erect the external walls of a recently erected packing plant. There was no guarantee to sell the land but Mr Emmett would think about selling if the contract was carried out to his satisfaction. I agreed to all the conditions knowing I had never built a concrete block wall before and certainly not a building requiring 4000 very heavy concrete blocks. Mr Emmett was known to be a fair man so I believed if the work was carried out to his satisfaction, I was certain he would honour his side of the bargain, at the time I only had lots of enthusiasm but no real understanding just how physically demanding and difficult the process would be.
One very late evening in early April 1961 I found myself driving towards Drayton-St Leonard, it was getting dusk and the fields on the approach to the village were covered in Spring mist, arriving at the farm this skeletal structure emerged out of the gloom looking surreal where Bob a local builder had set car headlights on to the area where he was about to give me my first bricklaying lesson. The reason for late working was I did not want Emmett to realise they had just employed a contractor with absolutely no building experience. My friend Bob had agreed to show me how to bond and lay concrete blocks also how to create the right consistency of mortar to keep the bonding at the right depth. The building consisted of very large concrete staunchions spaced 15ft apart, the roof and drop sides were fabricated using asbestos sheets and the overall building consisted of 20 bays measuring 15ftx12ft and six 18ftx15ft concrete door pillars overall a very
55 years later we stood looking at the building still intact with not a crack anywhere, as Michael Emmett reminded me the identical building constructed by professionals had developed serious cracking problems at their Marlow farm. I completed the overall building in 12 weeks working 7 days a week 12 hours per day and by August 1961 Emmetts had agreed to sell the plot of land for £1000, now all I required was the final length of frontage owned by the cottage on church corner to complete the site.