The practice is founded upon the legacy of the distinguished architect and scholar John Alfred Gotch (1852-1942). Gotch was born into a respected Kettering family, long established in shoe manufacturing and banking. In 1879 he set up a private architectural practice in the Northamptonshire town.
In 1880 the architect Charles Saunders (1858-1944) moved to Kettering to assist R.W. Johnson, to whom Gotch had previously been articled. Saunders took over the goodwill of Johnson’s practice on the latter’s demise in 1884. On 1st March 1887, Gotch entered into partnership with Saunders. The foundation of this joint enterprise then led to fifty years of prosperity and productivity. Their association was to last until their joint retirement on 31st December 1937.
During the entire period of their association, Gotch and Saunders invited only three other architects to join them as partners. The first was Arthur George Leighton (1867-1943); the second was John Alfred’s nephew Laurence M. Gotch (1881-1964); and the last but most significant was Henry Ralph Surridge (1885-1954). Surridge joined the firm as an office junior in 1899 and was made a partner in 1930. It was at that time that the partnership took on the name for which it has now been known for over 70 years: Gotch, Saunders and Surridge.
The well-known reference to Kettering as “the town that Gotch built” is no exaggeration; rather it encapsulates the huge contribution Gotch made to his place of birth. He designed and supervised the construction of shoe factories and warehouses, shops, offices, banks, hospitals, schools, public houses, a coffee tavern and a temperance hall. He could turn his hand to almost any building type, from churches and chapels to working men’s clubs and a party political club. His firm was responsible for a variety of sport and entertainment venues in Kettering: golf and cricket pavilions, the Kettering Town Football Club stand, the leisure facilities at Wicksteed Park, the Alfred East Art Gallery and the Victoria Hall. He built a wide range of housing, from simple terraces to detached middle-class homes, and a handful of grand properties for local tycoons. Further afield, the firm was responsible for the design of several WWI memorials, and the alteration and enlargement of numerous historic country houses.
In an extraordinary 9-year period following World War I, Gotch and Saunders designed and built over 140 branches for the Midland Bank. Their crowning achievement was the construction of the Bank’s headquarters in Poultry, London, in association with Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Gotch had a special interest in Elizabethan and Jacobean architecture and became a national authority on the subject through his writings. He was the author of nine books in this field (two of which were reissued) as well as editor of a tenth book on the history of the RIBA. Apart from his renown as an architectural historian, he also achieved eminence as a public figure and representative of the architectural profession. He was President of the Architectural Association in 1886-7, Vice-President of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1914-9, and President of that Institute in 1923-5: the first provincial architect to be appointed President since the formation of the Institute in 1834.
In addition, he was Vice-President of the Society of Antiquaries, a founder member of the Royal Fine Arts Commission, a Trustee of the Soane Museum, and President of the Northamptonshire Association of Architects in 1911-22. In 1924 he received an honorary M.A. degree from the University of Oxford.
John Alfred Gotch was appointed the first Charter Mayor of Kettering in 1938.
[Information by Dr R K Hargrave from his PhD. thesis, “The Life and Works of John Alfred Gotch”, Royal Holloway, University of London].