50th Anniversary

50th Anniversary Celebration aboard the S.L.Streatley


It was with an overwhelming sense of pride that Robert Davies John West Ltd director and chartered architect Kevin Davies addressed staff and valued clients on the River Thames aboard the S.L.Streatley, a luxury 100 year old genuine coal fired steam boat, to celebrate the practice's 50th anniversary. The nostalgic cruise passed through Old Windsor Lock, the pretty village of Datchet and past many of the practice’s riverside developments in Runnymede and Staines as a reminder of our history and its role in shaping some of the sites on our way.


Speaking at the event, Kevin explained the 50-year journey of the practice from the original partnership between Bob Davies and John West in 1973. It is a tribute to all members of the team, past and present, working alongside our long standing clients, that the practice has continued to flourish delivering a wide range and scale of projects in the area and further afield.  


Bob had studied architecture at Kingston School of Art & Architecture. He then worked in London where John West was his immediate boss.


From working from home in 1971 and then an office above KFC, to Kingston Road, Debmark House, and  Leacroft and now to Church Street, Staines has continued to be the base for the practice, although with modern technology we are able to have satellite offices in the South West and in France.


Founder Bob Davies, who has led the practice for 50 years and is experienced in all aspects of work from inception, through procurement to completion, thanked everyone and stressed how important it is to enjoy working with clients and staff. He appreciated the skills they offered, the complexity of the projects being delivered and expressed his gratitude to everyone present, thanking them all for their significant contribution to the success of the practice.


Today, Robert Davies John West Ltd remains focused on our commitment to shaping a high quality built environment no matter the project scale or typology. We are as happy working on a modest listed building in a conservation area to a large scale business park or strategic development site. We have always embraced new technologies and software to help streamline our work and keep costs in check. Sustainability is at the heart of our design processes and it has been a real pleasure to deliver a number of ‘off-grid’ projects in recent years as well as numerous eco-homes.


We are passionate about architecture and the practice remains well positioned to assist new and existing clients through all the RIBA work stages – from an initial chat up to completion and monitoring. A wealth of experience is on hand to guide you…


Please visit ,email us on or call 01784 459211 for a chat.


Below a few photos aboard along with two very early projects - Glenrosa dated 1975 (Bob's home & first office), houses & flats at Colnebridge Close dated 1971 (adjacent to the now demolished old cinema) which pre-dates the formation of the partnership, and bringing us up to date the recently completed Staines Boat Club by the railway bridge. 

Chapter I


I had been working in Bloomsbury London for a small practice, John West was the associate partner to whom I was immediately responsible. My workload was as always very mixed, the drastic upgrading of a major chain of Public Houses, shopfitting a new chain of retail units throughout the UK, several new garage showrooms, up -market flats and industrial developments. Design and Build had not yet been invented and we as Architects would deal with the projects from beginning to completion.


All this was pre computers and photo copiers. I could dictate complete specifications that would then be transferred to a Roneo machine that could provide up to about 8 copies.


I had worked well with John but the senior partner JD was a little man, full of himself, and new staff were being paid more than me and were not very good at the job. Having only recently moved to our Thameside new house Project I was unaware of how restless and grumpy I had become.


Without reference to Cathy or anyone else, it must have been at the beginning of May that I informed JD and John that I would leave at the end of July. This I told them would give me time to complete a major block of flats in Ealing and a large industrial development in Acton as well as the several other smaller projects I was working on. It would also give them time to find someone to replace me. Not once did I think that they would have been perfectly within their rights to sack me on one month’s notice!!


When I went home and told Cathy what I had done she said “Good It’s about time you did something you’ve been like a bear with a sore head for weeks”.


I had no plans for what was ahead, find another job, set up with another college from Uni, or have a go on my own.

Chapter 2


A couple of friends had previously indicated that they might put some work my way, so I went on the attack. Success!! . . . With a couple of days holiday I was due and some hard work at weekends, I had already earnt my next month’s salary before I left my job in London. The two friends, Don, who I did quite a bit for until he went off to America and Graham, who became a partner at the Frost Partnership.  Yes I worked with Bernard, Allan and now John and lots of their staff.


I was busy from day one and soon needed help.  Sheila came in three mornings and we worked so well.  She could type straight from my dictation, next was Phil who came in at weekends until I was able to convince him to come full time, then another lad who was a bit of a disaster. Then the local authority got wise to the fact that I was employing people in my riverside home so I rented the offices over the Kentucky Fried Chicken shop in Staines, took on Audrey, a full time secretary, and another couple of staff. Yes we were very busy.


Then quite out of the blue I had a call from a very irate John West. I can’t remember what JD had inferred that I had done (some two or three years before) but whatever it was,  when John asked me if I had, my answer was NO JOHN, then the second question NO JOHN. . . .  I didn’t think so said John. End of conversation!


A little later John popped in to see me and it was obvious that he was not happy in London. One thing led to another with the outcome that John joined me as an equal partner at the beginning of October 1973 and the firm became Robert Davies John West Associates. RDJWA


John and I worked in the same office, this way we were both aware of what was going on and could help each other if needed. Only twice did I feel I needed to leave John on his own when he was about to lose his rag with a client! We would always go to the local Pub for lunch and just generally chat over the day’s happenings. The only thing I remember losing my rag with John about was the choice of coffee cups and door handles, otherwise it was quite uncanny how we both knew what the other was thinking. It must have been strange for prospective employees when being interviewed.


Not long after John had joined me we were employing over ten people in the main office space and needed more space so we agreed to purchase three out of five little tatty shops in Kingston Road. We needed a tenant to be re-housed, to swap one shop with another, demolish the slaughterhouse at the rear and generally rebuild what we were left with AND it was all subject to planning approval for a change of use to offices!


The Council re-housed old Miss W and Phoenix agreed to swap units. Planning was going through without a hitch, at the last minute the normally obstructive councillor stood up to speak but this time only to congratulate us as we were now going to refurbish the parade of shops.


Slowly we had been expanding and with our move from over the KFC complete, we were able to take on more staff. We tried to employ one part 1 student one part 2 and a junior each year. This gave us the flexibility to keep or lose staff depending on the current workload. More importantly it encouraged improvement and promotion within the office.


Up until now each person required a drawing board, a plan chest and a layout space with somewhere to write. We had our own printing machine and a post room to make sure that everything went out as soon as possible.  


Computers and word processors at last started to come into use. The first computer took up one air-conditioned room and the workstation another. Fortunately, by this time we had purchased the two remaining shops and extended and incorporated all into one unit.

Chapter 3


We were now looking to expand by opening other offices. Although Brighton appealed we decided Crawley was much more sensible and there was not another practice there. This gave us the chance to promote staff to their new roles. First, we rented offices over the local estate agent, then we bought a very nice shop and offices. Then Graham decided to leave and set up on his own in Horsham. What to do now? By now we had six associates, Phil, Peter, Adrian, Rob, Paul and Mark. All very different in character and abilities but together what a combination! Paul took over the Crawley office.


We still needed more office space and John was coming up to retirement age and wanted to step down. Whether he knew he had early stages of cancer I don’t know. At this point the associates all bought their way into the practice which enabled John to step aside. He still came into the office to check drawings on the major schemes, but this was a very casual arrangement. The extra space came along when I was offered Debmark House adjacent to the Crooked Billet. This gave us the space we needed plus about 20 serviced offices and a couple of workshops. Business was still booming and our expansion plans continued.   


Peter was to establish an office in the Reading area, we had selected Theale. Adrian wanted to move back to Manchester and Mark back to South Wales. Rob and Phil would stay in Staines and were ideal to maintain and build up the office. Perfect locations to cover the whole country.


It couldn’t last! The government had just introduced a new ‘use class order’ which meant that industrial sites had become much more valuable as office sites, so nobody wanted to build industrial units. There had been a massive programme of office building which was now at saturation point. Council houses had been sold throughout the country, but the government froze the cash accumulated by the councils and put a stop on all social house building! The economy was in freefall and interest rates went up to 17%. Private house building stopped completely. Any businesses that had expansion ideas stopped and concentrated on survival.


Our clients were going bankrupt, as their tenants were also failing. Funding for major projects was no longer available and the whole industry collapsed. This is when we lost most of the county sized and large construction companies. Mr Major was sitting under the cabbage leaves doing nothing to help the situation. Eventually he was so pleased that overseas investment in the British economy returned. This is when so many of our businesses were bought up for peanuts by foreign companies.


What an achievement!!


Naturally our firm also collapsed but was held together by the loyal support of Rob, Kevin, Gareth and secretary, Audrey. We were scraping the barrel but managed to keep a few jobs going and rebuild the practice. Having been quite a large practice with around 60 employees we felt more comfortable now to work as a much smaller team. We seem to keep at about 10 -12 in total, which is a nice family size.


Computers and modern communications have changed the way we work beyond recognition. COVID has also had an enormous effect. We can now work from different locations yet still be in close contact with one another. Internal meetings and meetings with clients are now arranged virtually. No longer does everyone need a vast space to work in, so we now have a much smaller office requirement. We also have several people working from home.


Once we get through the current financial mess, aggravated by Liz Truss’ short reign, it is our intention that Staines will continue to be the hub office but with satellite offices in Bristol, Chulmleigh and me in France.


Let’s hope all goes to plan!