Bill Berrett joined the Department of Architecture and Planning of Coventry City Council on the same day in 1955 that Arthur Ling became City Architect and Planning Officer. Initially in the General Division worked on the design of Aldermans Lane Nursery using the ‘Punt’ timber system. Then on the design for Livingstone Road Swimming Pool rebuild and two speculative designs for a Café and an Indoor Bowls Pavilion in the Memorial Park. I worked with John Humby on the preliminary designs for the new offices for the Architecture and Planning Department in Earle Street.
Having passed the RIBA Professional Practice Exam and becoming an ARIBA and Registered Architect I was liable to two years National Service. From November 1956 to 1958 I was in the Royal Engineers Transportation Inspectorate at HQ BOAR, Rheindahlen, Deutches Bundesrepublik.
Returning to Coventry I worked on the finishing of the new Department particularly the decoration and furnishing including the show area for City projects on the ground floor. Then in the Central Area division with Douglas Beaton I began work on urban design of central areas at Hertford Street, Bull Yard, Union Street, Unity Way, St John’s and areas affected by the Ring Road then being planned. Also I worked on street furniture for the cross precinct and Shelton Square. I worked ‘across the board’ with Ray Spaxman.
Speculative projects included extension of Ford’s Hospital and the design for a ‘Jack – block’ of flats (in which construction took place at ground level and the completed storey and building raised)
I was a member of the Association of Building Technicians – an Architect’s Trade Union members included Graham Shankland, Walter Bor, David Gregory-Jones, Kenneth Campbell and Ted Hollamby. I was a member of the ABT Executive and editor of ‘Keystone’ their magazine. Also I was an early member of The Umbrella Club which was founded largely by the Architects department and was opened by ‘The Goons’, Secombe, Sellars and Milligan.
With Tony Penn I designed four houses at Harbury and started a degree in Town Planning at the Birmingham School of Planning under Leslie Ginsberg. I later continued this at Oxford Polytechnic but had to put it on hold as the North Bucks New City proposal grew.
Whilst at Birmingham School of Architecture I worked with Stanley Sellers at the Highbury Little Theatre on set design and while in the army designed sets for the HQ Dramatic Society.
We lived in an early and very pleasant ‘Radburn’ housing development designed by Mat Wallace using ‘No-Fines’ construction, Fred Roche was our neighbour. The Coventry office was a great place to be, lots of work, much discussion and good professional relationships. Friends like Michael Bench, David Embling, Bill Pearson, Bill Kretchmer, Doug Chalk and Ken King went on to greater responsibilities. The influence of the Coventry Office was considerable over the next decades.
In 1961 there was much debate about the European Triangle of development which set my mind considering development in central England. Tom Hancock published a project for Oxford’s expansion which I found very interesting. Two great innovators, John Morton and Tom Lupton working in Wallingford had the idea to sell well designed furniture to young people by mail order, LM Furniture.
Tom Hancock had joined them as Architect to form Townmaker. I joined in 1961 at the same time as Ivor Smith. Already present were Engineer Tony Hunt, Architect John Toovey and Designer John Bromham. I found John, Tom Lupton and Tom Hancock inspiring but Ivor impossible to work with.
We lived in a small development of Town Houses and Studio Apartments in the centre of Wallingford created by Townmaker, the community consisted of Tom Hancock, Tony Hunt, Ivor Smith, ourselves, John Bromham and David Saxon.
There I worked on a redevelopment of Gloucester Green, Oxford, with Ivor Smith, and decided to leave, soon after that the firm was taken over by Terence Conran to become Habitat.
I joined the Department of Architecture and Planning of Buckinghamshire County Council as an Assistant Architect.