Archive of Leonard Keir Hett of Ardingly, architect

Leonard Keir Hett was born on 9 September 1887 in Ewell, Surrey. He studied at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London from 1905 to 1907, becoming a member of RIBA in 1910. He was admitted ARIBA in 1911 and FRIBA in 1920.

All of the papers from Hett’s working life were deposited at West Sussex Record Office and have recently been catalogued thanks to the dedicated efforts of one of our volunteers, Keith Lawson. Keith has been working on this collection for almost two years and has shown a great deal of skill in dealing with some complex records, as well as enormous commitment to the task.

Billiard room and servants’ hall, High Coombe, Balcombe (AM 818/2/4/68)

The extensive catalogue contains hundreds of items, primarily building plans, architectural drawings and sketches. The collection also includes photographs, as well as a number of Hett’s working files and student notebooks. Dating from the early 20th century to the 1970s and largely relating to Mid Sussex, the collection is a wonderful example of an architect’s working output which will prove invaluable to house and building historians, and family historians.

Perspective sketch of the interior of Southwick church (AM 818/2/4/377)

In practice from 1911, Hett was working for the firm of Searle & Searle, London EC4 from at least the mid-1920s and was a partner in the 1930s and 1940s. Much, although not all, of his work was on properties in Sussex, particularly the area around Ardingly, where he and his family lived. He designed a number of churches in Sussex, his first being St Andrew’s, Moulsecoomb in 1932, followed by other locations through to the 1960s including Peacehaven, Camber, South Patcham, St Richard’s Haywards Heath, and St Peter’s Southwick.

From the late 1920s to the early 1950s, Hett was heavily involved in designs for buildings on the Chailey Heritage site. Originally known as ‘The Heritage Craft Schools and Hospitals for Crippled Children’, this was founded in 1903. The site developed over the years and among other building work Hett was responsible for the Llangattock School of Arts and Crafts for Crippled Girls, Chailey Girls’ Heritage Chapel (St Helen’s), extension of Heritage War Work for blitzed babes, Heritage Craft Schools and Hospitals, and future development plans for the site.

Chailey Heritage War Work for Blitzed Babes (AM 818/2/4/433)

Alongside these significant areas of work, Hett was also extensively involved in designs for the conversion of existing properties and the construction of new build houses. Among the more unusual of the conversions was that of dog kennels into a bungalow (for Mrs Goldspink at Stonehurst, Ardingly) and a fire station in Lindfield into a bungalow. New buildings included High Coombe in Balcombe where Hett designed a billiards room and servants’ hall for Mr J Spedan Lewis in 1920.

Conversion of dog kennels into bungalow, Stonehurst, Ardingly (AM 818/2/3/187)

Hett died at 11 College Road, Ardingly on 27 November 1978 leaving behind this impressive body of work which can now be accessed at the Record Office.

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