‘Sopwith Court’ & MG Garage

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Originally called Country Life Building, this block dates from about 1910 but has almost all been rebuilt and only the southernmost section still survives. It seems there were always shops at ground level on either side of a tall entrance arch in the centre. There are current planning proposals for further alterations to the shops and offices and for its renaming as Sopwith Court.

It was built as Country Life Club at the height of Datchet’s popularity as a summer riverside resort, when the village swarmed with visitors arriving by train from London to take part in regattas. It was originally a ‘club’ in the sense of a gentleman’s club where members could book rooms as well as eat and relax, but before 1920 was updated to incorporate the Hotel Regina.

However, in the 1920s the establishment was raided for allowing after hours drinking, and it was closed down.  The upper floors were converted into flats and it was probably from then that the ground floor units were first let as shops.

The block’s whole facade, with its many gables and applied timber patterns was an echo of of the Mock-Tudor style of the Manor Houses which had become the standard for Datchet and for the period, and is still popular for modern developments.

John Dickinson’s shop, seen at the southern end of Country Life Club in the two 1915 photos above, was listed as a plumbers’ in Kelly’s Street Directories by 1907, but by 1924 had become ‘Dickinson & Flexman, Premier motor garage’. This was on the same site as the shop (which can be seen in the photos to have an adjacent plot of empty land) and was listed in 1932 as Sydney Dickinson, motor engineer, 1 Club Buildings.

The present building probably dates from 1935 when it became Frank Jarrett Ltd, motor garage,  and is a remarkable survival of a typical garage of the time. From the 1947 photo it can be seen that almost nothing has changed since; even the typical 1930s octagonal clock still survives.