From the Vaults: December 2016
‘Garth’ Bungalow, Darsham (DAR 020)
This abandoned bungalow hides a fascinating secret inside its walls, discovered when the bungalow was surveyed and recorded before being demolished in 2007. The construction of ‘Garth’ bungalow looks normal from the outside – however it has walls made of Victorian railway carriages rather than bricks and mortar.
Above: Photograph showing the exterior and interior of 'Garth' bungalow - copyright Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service
The cottage was constructed by first placing two railway carriages parallel to each other, spaced approximately 4 meters apart, as labelled on the plan below as 1 & 2. A third carriage (3) was placed in the garden as a sort of outbuilding or shed. The carriages were raised of the ground with the use of blocks.
Once carriages 1 & 2 were in place, a raised floor was built in the space between them at the same level as the carriage floors. Walls were then built to enclose the space, the windowed edges of the carriages were kept exposed, and made unique features. It is thought at some time in the past the carriages were clad in plastered walls inside the house even though they are now exposed. A roof was placed over the whole building. The house had a fine looking fireplace and a bathroom.
Left: Plan showing the location of the railway carriages (red) and Right: Section through the bungalow showing construction method. Drawings copyright Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service
The sections of the carriages on the inside of the bungalow are very well preserved and their original painted details were still visible. Including the carriage numbers, service marks and decommissioning marks.
The carriages were numbered GE 1528 and GE 1578, and act as identifiers which can be researched in rail archives. They were built in 1895 and ran on the Great Eastern Railway as indicated by the GE marker. They were last serviced on the 30 October 1922 and were decommissioned on 11th February 1926 as indicated by marks left on the carriages themselves. It is likely that the bungalow was built soon after.
Due to the good condition of the carriages the owner of the property sent them to Kelsale in 2007 for restoration after the bungalow was demolished.
Top: Photographs showing the carriage numbers, Bottom: Photographs showing the rail line, service and decommision marks - photographs copyright Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service.
Social History of Railway Carriage Cottages
Despite their unconventional design railway carriage cottages would have functioned as any brick house would have done. Their attraction – apart from their unique features is that they were a very affordable and fast method of providing housing in the 1920s after the First World War.
Although this bungalow was demolished some are still in use, providing a home for families today and many people have fond memories of their parents, aunts and uncles living in these houses.
BBC Suffolk. 2007. End of the line for railway houses? Web article address:
Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service Archives
Compiled by Julie Kennard (Archives Assistant)