A UNIQUE bid is being launched to restore historic concrete cottages which were seen as ground-breaking when they were built almost 150 years ago.

Woodfield Cottages, in Heybridge, are a pioneering example of mass concrete construction.

The 41 single-storey cottages were built in 1873 as homes for employees of Bentall’s Agricultural Works.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

The cottages originally had flat roofs when they were built in 1873

The cottages and outhouses had flat roofs until 1918 and were known as the ‘Flat Tops’.

Maldon District Council says the buildings were grade II listed in 1971, but several have been altered in ways which detract from their traditional character and some are in a poor state of repair.

The council is now launching a public consultation in a bid to improve the appearance of Woodfield Cottages.

The first move is to turn the cottages into a conservation area which would pave the way for Historic England grants so owners can carry out work to enhance the historic area.

Historic England regional director Tony Calladine said: “Woodfield Cottages represent an important part of our social history showing how generations of workers experienced life in this small community.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

Some of the cottages today

"The cottages, built using innovative techniques and with the wellbeing of workers in mind, represent an important moment in our industrial heritage."

The council also wants to cut through listed buildings red tape to make it easier for owners to carry out sympathetic restorations.

Woodfield Cottages are an important example of a Victorian industrial housing community and we want to work with residents to help restore the area’s character

A special consent order – the first in East Anglia – would give an automatic green light for certain types of alteration if they are carried out to an approved specification.

Woodfield Cottages resident Jackie Graham said, “I think this project is a great idea. The cottages are quite special and many of the residents take pride in living here.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

An artist's impression of what the cottages could look like

"It would be lovely to see the character of the area improved."Personally, I’d like to reinstate the original style of sash windows in my cottage and the proposed initiatives would make it much easier for me to do this, particularly if grants become available.”

Council leader Wendy Stamp said “Woodfield Cottages are an important example of a Victorian industrial housing community and we want to work with residents to help restore the area’s character.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

A cutaway reconstruction of one of the cottages 

"2023 will be the 150th anniversary since the cottages were built. It is hoped that with the proposed initiatives in place, this anniversary can be celebrated with the cottages facing brighter prospects.”

The deadline to comment on the proposals is November 11. Visit maldon.gov.uk/consultations.