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.
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.