William John (W J) Redhead, tax inspector and part-time architect, c. 1888-1941
Early life. He lived in Sheffield, and worked as an architect. After serving in the army during the First World War, he returned to Sheffield and became a Tax Inspector. He was then transferred to the tax office in Witham (information from his obituary in 1941, for which see below). The date of the transfer could be discerned from the electoral registers.
Date unknown, before 1930
He designed his own house, Nanteos, in the Avenue (later number 8) (information from his obituary of 1941 – below) (The best known place called Nanteos is an 18th-century mansion near Aberystwyth. There’s no indication that Mr Redhead was involved with it in any way.)
Mr Redhead is said to have designed the house “Gimsons” in Kings Chase for Dr Ted Gimson in 1929. This information comes from a letter from Dr Jim Denholm in 1995, and a conversation at a similar time. He wrote about W.J.Redhead “who designed the church in the Nine Taylors. I recall attending a patient by this name in the 1940s. He lived in the Avenue about number 8. He worked in the Income Tax Office but architecture was his hobby. He did in fact design this house – Gimsons – for Dr Ted Gimson in 1929”
1930 Electoral Register
105 Annie Mary Redhead of Nanteos, The Avenue
104 William John Redhead of Nanteos, The Avenue.
Nanteos was given number 8 in 1936-1937 (as shown by a comparison of electoral registers for those years. The whole of the road was renumbered then)
1932 Braintree and Witham Times, 15 December 1932, page 6
About the new Peculiars’ (Evangelical) chapel in Guithavon Valley (information from newspaper)
Long article about the opening of the new Peculiars’ (Evangelical) chapel in Guithavon Valley in Witham on 7 December. Photos of this and the previous chapel (Maldon Road). Scheme first thought up in 1921. Main hall will seat 175 people and schoolroom at back 80. Also vestry, kitchen and heating. Lighted by electricity and centrally heated. Cost £1,515. Sunday collections raised £710, and £25 was left by late Mr J Beadel. … Built by Messrs Richards and Sons of Witham. Architect W J Redhead of Witham. Practical assistance by members etc.
1933 ERO Acc A7280, Witham Building Plans, para 727.
He designed the schoolroom at the back of the Methodist church in Guithavon Street (information from building plan).
1934 He drew the Church (left) for Dorothy L Sayers’ novel, “The Nine Tailors”. She was also living in Witham
(information from the drawing). She wrote “My grateful thanks are due to Mr W J Redhead, who so kindly designed for me the noble parish church of Fenchurch St Paul and set it about with Cherabims”
1935 Public Health Committee of Witham Urban District Council, page 149, re. plan 809
About the site probably now 5A and 5B Newland Street (information from Committee minutes)
Referred back by Council because [the Council’s ?] consultants didn’t agree with the design and had sent a further sketch. Would result in economies. Mr W Chancellor of Essex Cambridgeshire and Herts Society of Architects, under the Council for the Preservation of Rural England and RIBA, also agree ‘that the type of building proposed by Mr Clarke would be antagonistic to the general atmosphere of Witham’. Mr Clarke and his architect Mr W J Redhead came. Prefers own plans. After long consideration, vote of 4 members for and 1 against. Recommend approve his plan 809. Consider that proposed elevations ‘would not injure the general atmosphere of the town at this spot and, in fact, other buildings of a similar appearance have been erected and others are proceeding nearby in Avenue Road’. [probably the owner of site was H G Cook, butcher, who lived nearby and is mentioned on the application.]
1939 Chelmsford Chronicle, Friday 28 July 1939 (from British Newspaper Archive)
LIGHTNING DAMAGE AT WITHAM, WOMAN’S NARROW ESCAPE. At Witham on July 21, Mrs. Redhead, of Nantoes, The Avenue, had a narrow escape when lightning struck her house. Considerable damage was caused, but Mrs. Redhead was unhurt except for shock. At the time, Mrs. Redhead, whose husband, Mr W. J. Redhead, is employed at the Inland Revenue Office, at Witham, was in the kitchen. The chimney on the roof immediately above her was split to pieces, parts being carried 30 yards away and pieces broken brick and tiles were thrown in all directions. A stove near where Mrs. Redhead was working was blown out, and fire broke out in the scullery. Apparently the lightning ran down the water pipes from the roof into the scullery, went round the water softener and on to the sink, where a gas pipe, which was just touching a water pipe, had two holes burnt in it. The leaking gas caught fire, but a serious situation was averted by a neighbour, Mr. Thurmer, who rushed in and turned off the gas supply, and then dealt with the boarded side of the sink which was blazing. The outbreak was soon quelled. Witham Fire Brigade attended very promptly under Capt. Shelley, but were not required. In addition to the shattered chimney, hundreds of tiles were smashed. In an upstair room an electric light switch was blown out of a wall and hurled into the bathroom. Mr. C. E. Richards, builder, said, after inspecting the damage, “I’ve never seen anything like it before. It must have been simply terrific, it was a nine-inch chimney—a bit larger than the average.” Mr. Redhead told an Essex Chronicle representative: “I had only just left home for the office and was near the Whitehall Cinema (250 yards away) when the crash came, but did not know it was my house that was struck until Mr. Manning fetched me from the office. My wife had a wonderfully lucky escape”
1941 Deaths in September, from free BMD online
1941 Chelmsford Chronicle, 25 July 1941 (from British Newspaper Archive)
“DEATH OF MR. W. J. REDHEAD —The funeral took place at All Saints’ Church on Tuesday of Mr William John Redhead, of ” Nanteos,” The Avenue, who died on Friday in Chelmsford Hospital, after a serious operation. Deceased, who was 53, practised as an architect in Sheffield before the war of 1914-18, and when he left the Army he joined the Inland Revenue, being eventually transferred to Witham as a tax officer. He designed a number of the modern houses in Witham. including the one in which he lived. He was a good all round sportsman, and played in the cricket match in War Weapons Week. Taken ill next day, Mr. Redhead was removed to Hospital, but all help was unavailing. The Rev B. E. Payne, vicar, officiated at the interment. The mourners were : Mrs. Redhead, widow; Mr. and Mrs. T. Evans, son-in-law and daughter (Kingsbury); Mr. and Mrs. W. Alcock. brother-in-law and sister (Bedworth); Mr. Robert Redhead, brother (Whittington); Mr. and Miss Fogg, brother-in-law and niece (Hounslow). The floral tributes included those from the deceased’s colleagues in the Inland Revenue Office, and the fire-watch organisation in The Avenue and Avenue Road.”
Note by JG: the buildings mentioned above that Mr Redhead designed, do not form a comprehensive list. They are just ones that I looked for specially for various reasons. If he designed any other buildings in addition to the ones mentioned here, there will be information about them in the building plans at the Essex Record Office (Witham is ERO D/UWi ) But I don’t think they are catalogued yet, so it would mean unfolding each individual plan to find the architect’s name.