Crown Lane Children's Centre

Cob Oven initiated by The Point

The Brief

To build a community oven, including, foundations and plinth over a period of three days. To engage local residents, centre users and their children, staff and volunteers in the process.
The project was initiated by The Point in partnership with Crown Lane Children’s Centre. (The Point is a newly-formed residents’ organisation for Crown Point, seeking to engage adults, children and young people in positive activities and skills-sharing). 50% of costs were covered by a small grant from Lambeth Living, with the Children’s Centre contributing the remainder.


Crown Lane Children’s Centre

The Outputs

A full weekend of community engagement- 30-40 adults and a similar number of children attended each day. In addition to learning about cob, children and adults had 2 days of unlimited and undirected access to the outdoor play space, which provided very stimulating and free play and creative opportunities with trees and ropes, logs and other loose-part play and gardening as well as the abundance of clay available.

Participants learned:

  • The wide-ranging uses of clay and properties of London clay (that lies in great abundance under their feet and which their homes are built upon.)
  • How to make clay mortars – instead of using cement
  • How to make natural renders – instead of using harmful gypsum
  • Best practice on making cob for different construction purposes
  • How to harness and maximise the heat storing properties of clay by using natural and recycled insulants such as recycled bottles, straw and sawdust
  • Many areas of adult and children’s curriculum– see ‘outcomes’ opposite
  • Adults and children alike thoroughly enjoyed the weekend, made new friends and connections and went away happy and inspired wanting to work and create more with London’s clay, asking when the next activity would be and wishing to engage further with community projects in the area.

The Outcomes

Many new visitors to The Lodge were given tours and introduced to family support services and community learning opportunities, increasing membership and volunteer registration and resulting in an increased awareness of and local support for the work of each organisation involved. A safer and tidier site – we did a thorough garden clear up to collect all broken bricks, pavers and stones and used these to infill the plinth.


New skills and increased self esteem for parents and children – the foundations and plinth were made entirely by children aged 2-13 years. Many participants across both days had started with no building skills. Working in this way created a safe, playful learning experience for all ages and instigated new community partnerships.


Participants were representative of many different countries in the African and South American Diaspora, Europe and Asia. One said: “I haven’t done earth building since I left my village over 30 years ago. This is the first time I have felt connected to London.”

The Technical

Aspects of the course were conducted in both English and Spanish and the weekend enabled us to further develop our teaching and facilitation skills by making links with National Curriculum and Adult Functional Skills. We embedded these and incorporated key learning points into each stage of the build.

Science and technology skills gained by participants included measuring and using spirit levels, understanding thermal mass and insulation, engineering and utilising the molecular and physical properties of different materials.
Through discussion and practical demonstration, we shared information, answered questions and encouraged experimentation. IT facilities on-site also meant that further self-directed learning was possible for participants, and many had their own skills and knowledge to contribute, so between us we covered topics such as the geological formation of land masses in the earth’s pre-history, properties of different substrates, the history and culture of human habitation, technical construction and engineering, the science and natural properties of clay, wood, stone, brick, glass etc, environmental concerns, nature conservation and creative ideas for recycling.

We also created an art-space for sculpting and encouraged observation of, and experimentation with clay in different states of liquidity. In this way, between the CIC team, Centre staff and all the volunteers and participants, we shared skills and knowledge covering just about every area of the curriculum Language and Literacy, Numeracy, Science and Technology, History, Geography. The activities and social aspect of the weekend also provided significant gains for participants in their physical development, health and wellbeing, personal, social and emotional skills and development, self esteem, and sense of community and belonging.

The build and site clear-up took place over three days. We used recycled bottles and sawdust for insulation, glacial clay from the Cross Rail extension, one tonne of sand and straw, recycled bricks and unwanted school urbanite.

“It couldn’t have been better, so much shared learning, so many new people, and all excited to be involved and eager for the next project.

This is community engagement at its most creative and energetic! Thank you Linda and Louis – you have helped us on our path towards a greater sense of community and inspired everyone involved to seek and create more opportunities like this. We can’t wait to get together again to break freshly-baked bread together…”

– Centre Manager

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