Fringe Box



Plans for Former Basket Factory Include Planting Grass on the Roof

Published on: 18 Jun, 2012
Updated on: 31 Aug, 2012

A Guildford building in which baskets and hampers were once made may get a new lease of life if its owner gets the go-ahead for his plans that include planting grass on its sloping roofs.

The factory building in Sydenham Road that was formerly used for the manufacture of wicker baskets and hampers. There are plans to renovate it with some unusual features.

The building in Sydenham Road, on the corner with Bright Hill, was once the premises of F. Cobbett & Sons. The making of baskets ceased many years ago.In recent times it is believed the building has been used for storage.

Now plans have been drawn up for the building to be renovated, with the ground floor to be used as retail premises, and with a second floor added.

The Holy Trinity Amenity Group (HTAG) has been informed by the owner of the building, Jim Coombes, of his plans. In a letter replying to the developer acting for him, the group state: “The scheme is a reasonable compromise between increasing the value of the site, and preserving most of the old building. However, there are some details of the design that could be changed without significantly affecting the floor space or compromising the viability of the scheme, and which would better preserve the iconic identity of the building.”

HTAG would prefer to see the building’s lantern ventilators retained, and believe the proposal of coloured glass in the upper windows would be a distraction from the basic historic appearance of the frontage.

The name of F. Cobbett & Sons can still be made out on the sign on the front of the building – although very aded now. The windows were presumbly there to let in as much natural light as possible for the workforce making the wicker baskets and hampers.

The plans also include the space between the two ridges of the building being infilled to create a second floor and the roofs would be planted up with greenery. Of this proposal HTAG state: “These would be conspicuous in views from Bright Hill over the slate roofs of the historic area around Holy Trinity Church. A green roof would be an alien feature. A restored slate roof is needed for the old building, with a similar roof for the extension. These could provide additional rainwater harvesting, which would be a more valuable ‘sustainability feature’ than a sloping green roof.”

HTAC has suggested that the building could be used to host an indoor market. The plans have yet to be formally lodged with Guildford Borough Council.

An advertisement dating back to 1911 when Cobbett’s basket works were in the High Street, before the firm moved to Sydenham Road.

The history of Cobbett’s basket making in Guildford is a little sketchy. Local historian David Rose said: “A directory of the town and its businesses issued by Guildford Chamber of Trade in 1911 contains an advertisement for ‘F. Cobbett Guildford Basket Manufactory, 92a High Street, Guildford’. This premises was at the bottom of the High Street near the Town Bridge.

“It is believed that Cobbetts moved to purpose-built premises in Sydenham Road in the 1920s. The business is listed there in the 1935 edition of Lasham’s Directory of Greater Guildford, a copy of which I have in my collection.

“Other useful town directories included those issued by Kelly’s. I think its final edition for Guildford was in 1974, and Cobbett’s is listed in that one, in Sydenham Road. It appears that the business closed a few years later.

“Honorary alderman Gordon Bridger tells me that he heard that Cobbett’s also made wicker baskets for hot-air balloons and one such balloon, with a Cobbett-made basket, disappeared while crossing the Atlantic never to be seen again!

“I also heard, some years ago, that the Guildford Cobbetts may have been related to the Cobbetts of Horsell near Woking who, in the 19th century, were well known nurserymen. Carmi Cobbett supplied many of the shrubs and other plants for the Castle Grounds when it was landscaped and opened to the public in 1888.

“I have not seen any photos of the Cobbett factory in Sydenham Road when it was in use. I would be interested in seeing if anyone has one, or any further details about the business. Call me on 01483 838960.”

If you look closely at the front of the building today you can just make out the words ‘F. Cobbett & Sons, Basket and Hamper Manufacturers’.

HTAC would also be interested in hearing from anyone who has views on the proposed renovation of the building and its intended use. Leave a reply in the box below.

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