British design classic – the English Rose kitchen

Having made nose cones for Spitfires and parts for Lancaster bombers throughout WW2, the late 1940s found Constant Speed Airscrews (CSA) Industries Ltd of Warwick in something of a quandary. The company entered peace time with a large workforce, huge amounts of machinery and a stockpile of aircraft grade aluminium at their Avon Works on the town’s Wharf Street, but no demand for their products. Surprisingly, CSA decided to make British design history in 1948, by launching what was quite possibly the first modular ‘fitted’ kitchen range in Europe…

Advanced construction, pioneering design

Although obviously influenced by pre-war developments across the Atlantic, CSA’s evocatively-named English Rose range is a British design classic. Aeronautical technology was used to construct the English Rose cabinets, the frames of which are made of sturdy, aircraft grade aluminium, providing maximum interior space and flexible installation (they just bolt together). The aluminium, as opposed to wooden, construction also made possible the single defining feature of the English Rose range, namely the curved front drawer panel, which allows maximum work surface depth without taking up undue floor space.

Add in such forward-thinking features as capacious drawers that run smoothly on rubber wheels, double-drainer sinks, pull-out cocktail cabinets, and shiny aluminium end panels, and it’s no wonder that the over-engineered, beautifully-designed English Rose range caught the imagination of the public, was soon imitated across Western Europe, and begat an number of inferior imitators, thus paving the way for the MDF kitchen monsters of today.

However, the undoubted appeal of English Rose kitchens could only be made a reality by a prosperous few – check out the retail price list below, bearing in mind that the average weekly wage in the UK was only around £8 in the mid-1950s!

The English Rose revival

Over the decades, countless English Rose kitchens have been unceremoniously scrapped, despite their rugged construction, continuing practicality and timeless appeal. However, something of an English Rose revival has taken place over the last decade, prompted in part by Source Antiques, who have been stockpiling English Rose units, refurbishing and selling them from their Bath showroom since 1997, accruing quite a large amount of media interest along the way. Source can offer a fully refurbished, bespoke kitchen in a stripped’n’polished or fully repainted finish – at a price. The resurgence of interest in English Rose kitchens has even prompted the launch of a ‘look-a-like’ range from John Lewis of Hungerford, albeit (somewhat ironically) made out of MDF!

Living with an English Rose kitchen

Those who can’t afford to buy refurbished English Rose units but find the idea of a kitchen ‘made from Spitfires’ far more appealing than paying several thousand pounds for an ‘off the peg’ modern solution can always look on Ebay or Salvoweb. For instance, our English Rose kitchen was obtained from a tank commander near Aldershot for a reasonable sum.

Fitting was no problem – merely a matter of unbolting the units and panels, switching ’em round and doing ’em up again. A total of two bolts stripped during this process which, for a 60-year-old kitchen, isn’t bad at all. That’s excellence in design and construction! And, of course, if you want to get into the green credentials, it’s nice to be able to amass your recycling in a recycled kitchen… so, overall, living with a British design classic turns out to be a winner.


2 Responses

  1. May I ask if u know whether the cupboards will rust if stripped back to the metal? I have two large wall units painted cream and I wd rather like to strip them back, I am concerned that they will rust if exposed to steam?

    Many thanks,

  2. Hey Lucy, The units are aluminium so they shouldn’t rust! I believe that any commercial refinishing workshop should be able to strip and polish them for you, either through blasting or dipping… do remember to remove all of the handles and their mounting plates first, though!

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