Category Archives: London Buildings

New Deal For East London – Bermondsey To Rotherhithe

After last week’s post covering Bermondsey, I had a number of comments and feedback via e-mail and Twitter questioning why I had used the title “New Deal for East London” when I was writing about Bermondsey which is in south London, and the same will apply to today’s post continuing on to Rotherhithe.

A really interesting point and one that got me thinking about how we split London up into different areas.

These posts are based on the 1972 Architects’ Journal article which was titled “New Deal for East London”, so I turned to the article to read their definition which I reproduce below:

“London, like Gaul is divided into three parts. The City is based on its historic centre, first and still one of the great money markets of the world, into which about 1,000,000 office workers pour each morning. 

Then there is London to the west of the city, which has a widely mixed population of all classes doing all kinds of work, and contains centres of all major shopping and entertainment industries, the university and many colleges, art schools, theatres, concert halls, museums, libraries, the publishing and book selling industry, hotels, restaurants, all of which has become the centre of an immense tourist invasion every summer, held together by a good, if overcrowded road and rail network, and predominantly inhabited by a prospering, fully employed population, despite large areas of slum streets. Its comfortable suburbs stretch north, south and west to the motorways, lined with new industry, and the Green Belt beyond.

Finally, beyond the city from the Tower of London, there is the East End, largely cut off from the riverside by the docks where thousands of inhabitants have for long been employed and, despite middle class enclaves, such as Greenwich and Blackheath, this is predominantly working class London – a London of factories and warehouses, and vast council estates, replacing the meanly built streets of terrace houses that were largely shattered in the air raids of the Second World War. This is the poorest part of the capital, with the greatest need for all the social services provided (or permitted to be provided) by the local authorities, and – not surprisingly – with the highest rates. 

Today this is a going-downhill area in which neither the growing tourist industry, nor the entertainment industry, nor the new light industries show any interest. Such industries prefer to expand near the prosperous West End or in some part of the country, such as the new towns, where they will be eligible for an industrial development certificate and all the financial assistance that implies.”

So that is why the Architects’ Journal included Bermondsey, Rotherhithe and Greenwich in East London, a definition with which I can fully understand and agree. East London has traditionally been that part of London east of the City, but north of the river, however I stood on Tower Bridge looking east and the river curves south around the Isle of Dogs then north around the Greenwich Peninsula, taking in an area north and south of the river which had much the same general history, industries, extent of war-time damage and post war challenges.

There are many ways of looking at London and this is why I found this 45 year old article so interesting.

Back to the walk and in this post I am continuing on from Bermondsey to Rotherhithe to track down sites 76 to 79.

Rotherhithe

And an updated map showing the area today, with the four sites I will cover in this week’s post, sites 76 to 79.

Rotherhithe

At the end of last week’s post I was in Grange Walk and as I headed to the next location, I passed the following building on the corner of Grange Walk and Grigg’s Place:

Rotherhithe

The writing along the facade of the building facing Grange Walk announces that this was the “Bermondsey United Charity School For Girls – Erected A.D. 1830”.

I am not sure how long this lasted as a charity school as on the 1895 Ordnance Survey map, the building is labelled as a Mission Hall. It did suffer a serious upper floor fire in the year 2000, but is a listed building and at least externally, looks to have been restored to the building’s original state.

Adjacent to the school and running further along Grange Walk is this lovely row of terrace houses dated from 1890. The building in the centre of the terrace stands out due to the colour of the brickwork.

Rotherhithe

I did wonder if this was due to rebuilding after bomb damage, however the type of bricks, identical features to the other houses and that the individual brick courses run continuously along the terrace indicates that this is all original. I suspect that for some reason the brickwork on this single building has been cleaned. It does show what the terrace would have looked like when built, before being darkened by the city’s dirt.

Almost opposite this terrace of houses I found my next location:

Site 76 – Single House Of About 1700

The map shows this building slightly further on, at the junction with Fendall Street, however there is green space there now, with flats behind and this building is very close to the map location and fits the description.

The first thing I noticed about the building was the faded sign on the corner:

Rotherhithe

This reads “Spaull & Co Ltd” – who were a clay pipe manufacturing company in operation from 1880 to 1942.

Perhaps surprising that a company manufacturing clay pipes should have lasted to 1942, however the company started selling other products, and in later years in Kelly’s Directory they were listed as a Glass and Bottle Merchants.

The factory was located in nearby Westcott Street and later in Bermondsey Street and the building in Grange Walk was used as the company offices and also as a place for workers to stay in the attic rooms.

The front facade of the building which now looks to be a private house:

Rotherhithe

Continuing along Grange Walk and another terrace of 19th century houses:

Rotherhithe

My next location was almost at Bermondsey Underground Station, so I headed in that direction along Grange Road where I found “The Alaska Factory”:

Rotherhithe

The Alaska Factory was originally the firm of C.W. Martin & Sons Ltd, a company that had its roots in a business set up in 1823 by John Moritz Oppenheim to process seal fur.

The first factory was built on this site in 1869. a date confirmed above the original archway entrance to the factory which also includes a relief of a seal above the date with the words Alaska Factory on either side. The name Alaska refers to one of the main sources of seal fur which, along with Canada, and earlier the Antarctic kept the factory busy and 19th century and early 20th century fashion supplied with furs.

Over hunting of seals led to entirely predictable results, so the company expanded into general furs with the factory working on the processing and dying of new fur along with the reconditioning of fur that had already been used.

Whilst the gates onto Grange Road are from the original factory, the factory building we see today dates from a 1932 rebuild, which was designed by the firm of Wallis, Gilbert and Partners who also designed the magnificent Hoover building on the A40.

The factory has long since closed, and followed the inevitable route for most buildings in London, having been converted into flats.

From Grange Road, I turned into Spa Road, where opposite Bermondsey Spa Gardens I found the old public library:

Rotherhithe

This magnificent library building was constructed between 1890 and 1891 and opened as the first free public library in London. A large hall was added to the rear of the building in the 1930s.

Today, the building is occupied by Kagyu Samye Dzong London as a Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Centre.

The plaque still on the wall of the library building records the names of the commissioners, architect and builder:

Rotherhithe

A short distance further along from the library are the Borough of Bermondsey Municipal Offices:

Rotherhithe

Built during the late 1920s on the site of Bermondsey Public Baths and Wash Houses, and adjacent to the original Bermondsey Town Hall which was badly damaged during the last war and later demolished, the building was the home of Bermondsey Borough Council, until Bermondsey was integrated into the London Borough of Souuthwark.

The building has since been converted into, yes you probably guessed this, in the region of 40 new apartments.

The original foundation stone on the side of the building:

Rotherhithe

A short distance along Spa Road is the old Queen Arms pub. Long closed, and in the past subject to planning applications for demolition, the building has survived, converted to flats, and retains original signage. Unfortunately it will not be possible to play pool and darts or listen to the jukebox whilst drinking chilled continental lagers – the 1980s equivalent of craft beers.

Rotherhithe

Walking along Spa Road, I passed again under the railway viaduct to the junction with Thurland Road where I found my next location:

Site 77 – Early 19th Century St. James Church By Savage

Rotherhithe

At the end of the 18th century and start of the 19th, the population of Bermondsey was expanding rapidly and the area needed a church to serve those moving into the area.

St. James’ is one of the so called Commissioners Churches as it was a result of the Church Building Act of 1818 when Parliament voted money for the construction of new churches.

A group of local churchman purchased the land for the church and were given a grant by the Commissioners of the fund provided by Parliament for the construction of the church.

Construction of the church was delayed whilst additional funds were raised to build both a tower and a spire. This was achieved by building a crypt under the church were space was sold for burials, thereby allowing the money to be raised for construction of the tower, topped by a spire which we see today.

John Savage was the architect, the first stone was laid in February 1827 and the church was consecrated one year later in May 1829.

The interior of the church has recently undergone a full restoration and the use of light colours and high windows brightened the church on an otherwise grey day.

Rotherhithe

Looking towards the entrance to the church with the organ above:

Rotherhithe

Roof of the church:

Rotherhithe

The font:

Rotherhithe

The font cover has an interesting plaque:

Rotherhithe

The plaque reads:

“To the Glory of God and in loving memory of Emma Elizabeth, the beloved wife of Albert Fuller and youngest daughter of John & Sarah Ann Porter of 155 Jamaica Road in this Parish who died at Johannesburg, South Africa, May 1st 1897. Aged 24 years. This Font Cover was placed here as a last tribute of love by her sorrowing parents.”

The loss that the parents felt for their daughter is clear from the inscription. Jamaica Road is just outside the church of St. James, and the plaque tells not just a story of the parents grief, but how in the 19th century, people from across London, including the local streets of Bermondsey, were travelling the world. It would be interesting to know what Emma Elizabeth was doing in Johannesburg in 1897.

Another plaque in St. James also tells a story of local Bermondsey people who died in a foreign country. This is the Bermondsey Boer War Memorial:

Rotherhithe

The memorial was unveiled in 1903 in the original Bermondsey Town Hall in Spa Road (next to the Municipal Offices that we met earlier). The Town Hall suffered badly from bomb damage during the Second World War and was finally demolished in the 1960s. The memorial was stored in a council yard, and when that yard was in turn closed, a suitable location for the memorial was looked for, with St. James being a logical home for a memorial to local Bermondsey solders.

Time to walk to the next location, but a final view across the churchyard to St. James:

Rotherhithe

Just outside the churchyard is the Gregorian pub. An interesting architectural style that would perhaps be more at home a bit further out in the south London suburbs, however really good to see a pub which is still open.

Rotherhithe

A short distance further along Jamaica Road, just before reaching Bermondsey Underground Station I found the next location:

Site 78 – 18th Century Terrace

The terrace consists of two houses with two floors and an attic floor, and two houses with three floors:

Rotherhithe

These survivors from the 18th century now look out onto a very busy Jamaica Road and have the Jubilee Line running underneath.

Walking to my next location, I found Jimmy’s & Sons Barber Shops also in Jamaica Road.

Rotherhithe

Traditional Barber Shops are another of my photographic themes whilst walking London – this started with the photos my father took, including these from the mid 1980s.

Unfortunately what with passing traffic and trees, i could not get a perfect photo of the shop front.

To reach the next location, I cut down from Jamaica Road to the river, and walked along to:

Site 79 – Rotherhithe Conservation Area Round 1714 St. Mary’s Church

Rather than a single, or terrace of buildings, site 79 in the Architects’ Journal referred to an area clustered around the church. The risks to these types of street and buildings are clear from the following text from the 1972 article:

“As with the north bank, it was riverside villages that first grew in size and expanded in a linear form along the river. Rotherhithe still retains its early 18th century church and school. The last substantially 18th century street – Mayflower Street – was demolished in the 1960s; and Rotherhithe Street has recently lost the remainder of its early 18th century riverside houses. These losses are made ironic by the recent decision to make Rotherhithe a conservation area.”

Statements like this really bring home the opportunities lost in the decades after the war to retain and restore so many historic streets and buildings.

I walked towards the church at Rotherhithe through the start of Rotherhithe Street from Elephant Lane where Rotherhithe Street is a walkway between old warehouse buildings.

Rotherhithe

The walkway opens out to the wider road where the church is located. The entrance to St. Mary’s Church from Rotherhithe Street:

Rotherhithe

With plaques recording work carried out around the churchyard in the 19th century:

Rotherhithe

St. Mary’s Church from St. Marychurch Street on a grey and overcast September day.

Rotherhithe

The St. Mary’s that we see today dates from around 1714 with the tower and spire being added a few years later. The spire was rebuilt again in 1861. According to Old and New London, the “church was built on the site of an older edifice, which had stood for four hundred years, but which had become at length so ruinous that Parliament was applied to for permission to pull it down. The present church has lately been thoroughly restored and the old unsightly pews of our grandfathers’ time have been superseded by open benches.”

Plaques on the church record the sailing of the Mayflower and also work to underpin the tower of the church:

Rotherhithe

The church, as does much of Rotherhithe, deserves a dedicated post, however for the purposes of this post, I will continue walking around the conservation area identified in 1972.

Across the road from the church is the old churchyard, which is now St. Mary’s Churchyard Gardens. To the left of the churchyard is this old watch house dating from 1821, used for watchmen to provide a lookout over the churchyard for any nefarious activity including any attempted body snatching.

Rotherhithe

To the left of the watch house is a building that once housed a charity school:

Rotherhithe

As recorded on the plaque on the front of the building, the school originally dates from 1613 and moved into the building we see today in 1797. The plaque also has the blue coated children, typical of a charity school on either side. See also this post of another charity school across the river in Wapping.

Rotherhithe

Early 19th century building that formed part of the Hope Sufferance Wharf:

Rotherhithe

Late 18th century Grice’s Granary warehouse on the corner of St. Marychurch Street and Tunnel Road:

Rotherhithe

The blue plaque records that the Rotherhithe Picture Research Library and Sands Film Studio has been established in the building since 1976.

Tunnel Road is a clue that we are close to the Rotherhithe end of the first tunnel under the River Thames. At the junction of Tunnel Road and Rotherhithe Street we can see the Brunel Museum building. My post on walking through the tunnel can be found here.

Rotherhithe

The tower and steeple of St. Mary’s Church can be seen in the background of this print showing the diving bell used in the construction of the Thames Tunnel:

Rotherhithe

Where St. Marychurch Street curves around the church and meets Rotherhithe Street is the Mayflower Pub.

Rotherhithe

A plaque on the wall claims that the pub was built in the 17th century, however whilst a pub may have been on the site since the 17th century, the current pub building is more recent with the latest rebuild being in the 1950s.

Embedded in the front of the pub is a milestone indicating that the pub is 2 miles from London Bridge:

Rotherhithe

I am not sure of the age of this milestone, however in the 1895 Ordnance Survey map (see below), the letter M.S. indicates that the milestone was in front of the pub and 2 miles from London Bridge at the end of the 19th century:

Rotherhithe

There are other old signs on the side wall of the pub, including two parish boundary markers for St. Mary, Rotherhithe and a rather nice Right of Way sign by the Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey:

Rotherhithe

And finally, before I walk back into central London, a view of one of the windows of the Rotherhithe Picture Research Library and Sands Film Studio on Rotherhithe Street:

Rotherhithe

And that concludes my two posts covering a walk from Bermondsey to Rotherhithe, the sites which the Architects’ Journal described as “Medieval village centres along the southern river bank and around London Bridge”.

In the same category, the article continued on from Rotherhithe to Greenwich, this walk will have to wait for another day when hopefully the weather will be better.

Apologies for the length of this post, however this is a fascinating area and there is much to discover. I have only lightly scratched the surface in these two posts, but it was a really enjoyable walk which I thoroughly recommend.

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New Deal For East London – Bermondsey

At the start of the year I commenced a project to track down all the locations listed in the Architects’ Journal of the 19th January 1972, as buildings that should be considered for preservation if comprehensive development of East London was undertaken.

By the early 1970s, East London had been through a period of almost continual decline since the end of the Second World War. The population of the area had decreased significantly, the docks were still working, however the potential impact on the London Docks of containerisation, much larger ships and different methods for handling cargoes was becoming clear. The growth of the docks at Tilbury and expansion of the container ports of Felixstowe and Southampton demonstrated that the London Docks had a very limited future.

This was also the time when a new Thames Estuary Airport at Maplin Sands was a serious option and work would soon begin on the new Thames Barrier.

New people were starting to move into East London and there was patchy development of buildings without any strategic plan for the area. Whole streets of historic buildings were at risk.

See my first post for more background on the Architects’ Journal article from January 1972.

In today’s post I start walking in Bermondsey to track down the locations in the Architects’ Journal category E – Medieval village centres along the southern river bank and around London Bridge.

Category E runs all the way to Greenwich, and in today’s post I am covering the sites around Bermondsey, in my next post it will be Bermondsey to Rotherhithe, with Greenwich being a future post.

Below is an extract from the 1972 map and today I am starting at site 68 and walking to site 75, tracking down the sites from the article and reporting on some of the other fascinating places in this historic part of London.

Bermondsey

And here is a map of the same area today with the sites identified:

Bermondsey

On the day that I managed to get off from work for this walk, the weather was typically overcast, but I was looking forward to tracking down these sites, just not the best weather for taking photos. I took the underground to London Bridge and walked down to the first location, which on the 1972 map looks to be on Long Lane at the junction with Kipling Street, but in reality is a short distance further east along Long Lane and here I found:

Site 68 – Early 18th Century Pair In Long Lane Bermondsey

Which unfortunately was undergoing some series renovation work. Under all the scaffolding and green netting are two 18th century town houses. The one on the right appears to have had some previous work, but the house on the left of the pair is Grade II listed. This building still has the original door surround, and the Grade II listing includes the railings in front of the building so I assume they are also original, but when I walked past none of this was visible due to the builders hoardings and the photo was at an angle due to lorries parked opposite.

Bermondsey

The four bedroom house has already been sold, but the three bedroom house is still on the market and is yours for £2.4 Million.

Good that these town houses are still on this busy road and their Grade II listing should hopefully ensure a sympathetic restoration.

My next site was a short distance further along Long Lane to:

Site 69 – 18th Century House

I was not so lucky with this building. The map shows this building at the junction of Weston Street and Long Lane. I did walk around the area to see if I could find a building that matched the Architects’ Journal description as working through this project I have found that occasionally the 1972 map is slightly inaccurate, but I could not find anything.

A new building was in the process of construction on the site. I doubt that an 18th Century House has recently been demolished for this new construction so I assume that as was the concern of the 1972 Architects’ Journal, the building was at risk and was demolished.

The site that was originally occupied by an 18th century house:

Bermondsey

I continued walking along Lone Lane towards Bermondsey Street and passed a couple of interesting buildings. The first is the pub Simon the Tanner. The rate at which pubs disappear in London is such that for the last few years I have taken a photo of every pub I have passed, however hopefully this lovely pub is not at risk. The name references an Egyptian Saint as well as the leather working industry that once occupied large areas of Bermondsey.

Bermondsey

A short distance along from Simon the Tanner is this large building:

Bermondsey

These were once the premises of Hepburn and Gale Ltd, once one of the largest tanners and leather manufacturers in Bermondsey. The current building dates from soon after 1898 when a large fire destroyed the previous buildings on the site.

The company had difficulty in competing with the growth of low-cost imports in the 1950s and 1960s and the Bermondsey operations closed in the 1970s.

The name of Hepburn and Gale is still displayed above one of the doors to the building:

Bermondsey

Leather working was once a sizable industry in Bermondsey and the scale of the Hepburn and Gale building provides a reminder of the size of these operations.

From Long Lane, I turned into Bermondsey Street and walked along Bermondsey Street to just past the junction with Tyers Gate to find:

Site 70 – 17th Century Group

This is a fascinating group of buildings of very different styles. There are all Grade II listed, however where the Architects Journal in 1972 classed this as a 17th century group, the listing puts the buildings as early to mid 18th century. No matter their actual age, they form a group of buildings that do not appear to have been much “renovated” and are also of different architectural styles.

Bermondsey

The 1972 article included a photo of part of the building with the timber clad top floor:

Bermondsey

At the end of the group is this building that includes an arched entrance to Carmarthen Place, a corner door and an early shop front.

Bermondsey

The entrance to Carmarthen Place includes what looks to be an imitation Banksy artwork and a carved keystone at the top of the arch.

Bermondsey

The group of buildings have the house in the above photo at one end and the building with the timber-framed top floor at the other end, framing a terrace of three more traditional 18th century buildings.

Bermondsey

There is so much to explore in Bermondsey, each side street offers views of buildings that help to tell the story of the trades and businesses that once operated in the area.

Looking down Morocco Street to the Morocco Store – an 18th century spice warehouse:

Bermondsey

A short distance down Morocco Street is R.W. Auto’s – a local garage with horse heads on the edge of the facade that indicate the previous use of the building as a farriers.

Bermondsey

Walking back along Bermondsey Street towards Long Lane and there are plenty of 19th century buildings, including this terrace of three, with the white plaque on the central building dating them to 1828 and with the initials PD who must have been the builder, architect or original owner of the buildings.

Bermondsey

Al’s Cafe was attracting a steady stream of hi-vis jackets. With the amount of building work I passed in the area I am sure that Al is not short of trade.

Further along Bermondsey Street is this fascinating building with “Time and Talents Settlement” across the facade of the building above the ground floor:

Bermondsey

The Time and Talents Settlement was an Anglican organisation set up in 1887 in the West End by women with the aim of supporting young working girls and women. The organisation is still going, and from their website the founders “deplored the waste and futility of the protected lives of the majority of young girls who were only expected to be decorative and obedient.” 

They wanted girls of leisure and education to use their time and talents (hence the name) to help others less fortunate.

The building in Bermondsey Street was built in 1907 and the architect was Sir Reginald Blomfield. It is now Grade II listed. The Time and Talents Settlement operated out of the building until 1980 when they moved to a new location in Rotherhithe.

Set back between the Time and Talents building and the church of St. Mary Magdalene is the lovely Old Rectory building. For once, there were no parked cars or lorries and I was able to get a photo from directly opposite, just a shame about the lamp-post.

Bermondsey

The Old Rectory dates from 1828 and was the rectory to my next Architects’ Journal location:

Site 72 – 17th Century And Early 19th Century Gothic St. Mary Magdalen

This is the church of St. Mary Magdalen at the Abbey Street / Long Lane end of Bermondsey Street.

Bermondsey

The church is a 17th century rebuild of an original church on the site from the 13th century. Whilst the church dates from the 17th century with various additions, changes, and modifications during the 18th and 19th centuries, there is a small part of the original 13th century church remaining in the form of the lower part of the interior of the tower.

The church survived undamaged during the Second World War.

The following print from 1840 shows the exterior of the church in Bermondsey Street identical to the view we see today, apart from the loss of the railings.

Bermondsey

The original church is shown in the following print:

Bermondsey

The dates and times for ceremonies at the church are written in stone on the front facade of the church. Baptisms and Churchings are solemnized at 12 o’clock. The problem of putting all this in stone is highlighted by just under half way down, someone has had to add “at half past 11 o’clock” in smaller letting. An omission or change after the main plaque was finished.

Bermondsey

And with this plaque, the time for Divine Service on Wednesday evenings must have changed at some point as the number 7 is on a new square of stone inserted to replace the original stone.

Bermondsey

Although the church is now surrounded by the busy streets of Bermondsey, it was once in open countryside and part of the Abbey of Bermondsey.

There may have been a monastery of some form on the site in the 8th century, however development of the large estate that would form the Abbey at its peak started in the last decades of the 11th century when a Priory was established. In 1399 the Priory became Bermondsey Abbey and lasted until the dissolution of the monasteries and abbeys by Henry VIII, when the estate was handed to Sir Thomas Pope.

Some of the Abbey buildings were still in existence in 1805 when the following print was made showing the remains of Bermondsey Abbey, drawn from the steeple of the church.

Bermondsey

I am not sure the direction of view, however I suspect it is looking towards the south-east. What looks like a small patch of water in the left of the horizon could be the River Thames at the southern end of the Isle of Dogs with the higher ground of Greenwich to the right.

The churchyard is still here with a small number of remaining monuments.

Bermondsey

Bermondsey Abbey deserves a much fuller description, however for the aims of this post, it was good to see that St. Mary Magdalen is the same as when the Architects’ Journal listed the building in 1972.

To reach my next location, I walked out the churchyard into Tower Bridge Road and headed in the direction of the river, passing under the brick railway viaduct to look for:

Site 71 – Bombed St. John, Horsleydown And Derelict 1730 Rectory

The rectory and church of St. John, Horsleydown were still damaged and derelict in 1972, and the article was concerned about their long-term future.

The rectory has been rebuilt in much the same style as the original building:

Bermondsey

However with the church it is a very different matter.

The church had been badly damaged by bombing and had not been rebuilt after the war. There was a scheme proposed in 1956 to rebuild the church, but this was never followed through and the church remained in its post war condition before being eventually sold to the London City Mission in 1974.

The London City Mission built the building that now sits in place of the old church. The construction is interesting as the lower part of the external walls of the original church have been left in place, including the original flight of steps up to the door of the church, with a new brick office building sitting in the footprint of the original church.

Bermondsey

The original church was completed in 1733 to a design by Nicholas Hawksmoor and John James.

The following print from 1818 shows the original church of St. John, Horsleydown.

Bermondsey

Despite the demolition of the church down to the lower walls and plinth, the remains of the church are Grade II listed. There are a number of gravestones and plaques remaining in the churchyard, including this plaque mounted on the lower wall of the church and in memory of Mr Griffith Griffiths who died on the 30th April 1829, aged 37. The text is in Welsh.

Bermondsey

I walked under the brick viaduct running from London Bridge Station towards Greenwich to get to the church. I will pass under the viaduct a number of times to get to the sites in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe. The arches adjacent to the churchyard are occupied by the types of business that have always made good use of these facilities.

BermondseyJust outside the churchyard, at the junction of Tower Bridge Road and Druid Street is the wonderfully named Cat and Cucumber Cafe – a typical “greasy spoon” cafe (with excellent breakfasts).

Bermondsey

To get to the next location, it was a walk back along Tower Bridge Road, past the junction with Abbey Street to find the remains of Bermondsey Square:

Site 73 – Remains Of Late 18th Century Square

What was once an 18th century square, retains the name, but only a small section of the original buildings.

Bermondsey

Much of the rest of the square is now occupied by recent developments, including a hotel, Sainsburys Local, and open space. These buildings, with their individually coloured doors did look slightly out-of-place in their new surroundings, but I am pleased that they have survived to give relevance to the name of Bermondsey Square.

Bermondsey

The next location was a short distance further along Tower Bridge Road to the junction with Grange Road to find:

Site 74 – Late 18th Century Group

This is a short terrace of 18th century houses which now face onto a busy road junction:

Bermondsey

Above the entrance on the right of the houses there is a sign of a type that I have not seen before. Black background with white lettering stating “Greater London Council Private Access Do Not Obstruct”. I have seen plenty of do not obstruct signs, but not one prefixed with Greater London Council.

My final location for today’s post was opposite Bermondsey Square where a short walk down Grange Walk revealed a fascinating terrace of houses of architecturally different styles:

Site 75 – Late 17th Century Terrace

The first two houses:

Bermondsey

The rest of the terrace:

Bermondsey

Within the structure of these buildings are apparently parts of the medieval stone gatehouse of Bermondsey Abbey as Grange Walk formed the southern extent of the Abbey’s grounds.

There are so many different features on these houses, evidence of building work over the years, there is a fire insurance mark on one of the houses – however I always feel rather strange examining in detail the facade of what is someone’s home. They are though a remarkable set of interesting buildings which contrast with the opposite side of the street which is all modern buildings

Looking back on the terrace of buildings in Grange Walk.

Bermondsey

Bermondsey is a fascinating area, I have only scratched the surface in this post, but the 1972 Architects’ Journal was a good guide to find some interesting buildings.

Off the eight locations, one (location 69) has disappeared since 1972, and the church of St. John, Horsleydown has all but disappeared leaving only the plinth and lower walls remaining. Six sites have survived the intervening 45 years.

In my next post I will continue through Bermondsey and end up in Rotherhithe,

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Limehouse Town Hall And St Anne’s Church

My next Open House location was reached after a short walk along the Thames Path, up Three Colt Street and left along Commercial Road to just before where the Commercial Road crosses the Limehouse Cut to find Limehouse Town Hall:

Limehouse Town Hall

Limehouse Town Hall from across the Commercial Road:Limehouse Town Hall

On the 12th June 1875, a small advert appeared on page 4 of the East London Advertiser:

“The Churchwardens and Overseers of the Parish of St. Anne, Limehouse, being desirous of erecting a new Town Hall and Parochial Offices, require a suitable site for the same in the Parish. Proposals for the Sale of Properties for this purpose may be addressed to the Churchwardens and Overseers at the temporary offices, 713 Commercial-road.”

The proposal for a new town hall was not universally popular in Limehouse. the letters page of the East London Observer reflect the views of some of the more vocal of the opponents including a Mr. Richardson who “did not like the expense of the Town Hall, or that it would be let for entertainments.”

A plot of land was purchased directly on the Commercial Road and next to St. Anne’s church however the letters of complaint kept coming. In June 1878, “T.M.” wrote to the editor of the East London Observer that, “having seen on the plot of ground, formerly Mr. Walter’s house, a board placed with the inscription ‘Site for Limehouse Town Hall’, it occurred that if you would kindly allow me through the medium of your paper to draw the attention of the authorities and inhabitants to the advantage of allowing the site to remain open, and in due course taking down the ugly coffee-shop adjoining, thereby prominently showing up one of Sir Christopher Wren’s noblest churches, and at the same time giving the authorities the means of widening the thoroughfare and facilitating public traffic in that busy part, it would be a great boon.”

Interesting that T.M. refers to the church as by Wren. It was designed by Wren’s assistant Nicholas Hawksmoor,

Despite these protests, Limehouse Town Hall was built with construction starting in 1879 and the hall being completed in 1881 at a cost of £10,000 plus £2,920 for the land.

A foundation stone on the front of the building records the name of the builder and the architect.

Limehouse Town Hall

The East London Observer on Saturday 2nd April 1881 reported on the opening of the new Limehouse Town Hall:

“LIMEHOUSE AND ITS NEW TOWN HALL – The parish of Limehouse has entered into possession of its new town hall, and the opening of the building has been the occasion of a considerable amount of celebration. The parish officials evidently felt that the event was one akin in importance to the transformation which takes place when the chrysalis is resolved into a beautiful winged butterfly, and they may accordingly be pardoned for displaying more or less ecstasy on the occasion. Hope of having a proper parochial habitation has with them been so deferred, that we have jocularly referred to the anticipated building for some years past as ‘the millennial town hall’. First of all there was the financial difficulty, and when this was conquered or arranged, there were tedious and trying legal delays which seemed to perpetually bar the way to the achievement of the object upon which the Vestry of Limehouse had set its mind. Delays, anticipations and doubts are now all dismissed, and the long-looked-for day of possession has arrived and has been jubilantly greeted.

The event of opening the new building was accompanied by much eclait, for the church wardens had the support and presence of both the members for Tower Hamlets, of Mr Samuda, the late representative of the borough – who, by the way, met with quite as warm a reception as either Mr. Bryee or Mr. Ritchie – of several of the county magistrates, and other gentlemen of local position and influence.

Naturally the entree into a building such as that erected at Limehouse is not an ordinary occurrence, and it will be admitted by those who witnessed the proceedings that all that could be done to vest the affair with extraordinary significance was done. This, of course, is quite a matter of taste, which it is not our intention to dispute.  Still, as cool critics of facts, we must not overlook the circumstance that the possession of a town hall does not confer any addition of practical power. Limehouse for administrative purposes remains, as it was, part of the Limehouse District for sanitary purposes, and a part of the Stepney Union for poor-law purposes.”

The article then goes on to ask whether the new town hall may be part of a plan for Limehouse to gain more self-governing powers, but the article also challenges the expense of the new town hall if it was only to be used for “the self-glorification of the members of the Vestry and the exclusively for parochial purpose”, then there would be a challenge to the costs incurred.

They were confident that the Vestry would allow the free use of the new town hall by the rate payers of Limehouse, and that opportunities should be explored for letting the hall for public meetings, concerts etc. along with a reading room, free library and classes offering instruction in technical or higher education to help the people of Limehouse “might be cultivated morally and socially, and become better prepared to exercise their due influence upon the world of which they form part”.

The new Limehouse Town Hall did not therefore have an easy start and high expectations were set for how the building would be used.

The building has not functioned as a town hall for many years and has served many different uses over the years, including as the National Museum of Labour History which was opened in 1975 by Harold Wilson and lasted until the mid-1980s when financial troubles resulted in the closure of the museum with the collections being rescued by Manchester City council which formed the basis for the People’s History Museum.

Time to see the interior of the building.

On entering through the front doors, there is a short hall way to the bottom of the grand staircase which runs up to the first floor.

Limehouse Town Hall

View from the staircase up to the first and second floors. The ornate balusters on the staircase and the second floor walkway are original, produced in Glasgow by the MacFarlane foundry.

Limehouse Town Hall

Detail of the balusters – very ornate but they were not created specially for Limehouse Town Hall, they were a catalogue item of the foundry. I doubt those who criticised the costs of the town hall would have been happy with specially designed ornamentation for the building.

Limehouse Town Hall

Looking down from the first floor landing.

Limehouse Town Hall

Detail of the original tiles which have survived remarkably well.

Limehouse Town Hall

The church of St. Anne Limehouse is just to the east of Limehouse Town Hall and there is a wonderful view of the church looking rather ethereal through the window half way up the staircase.

Limehouse Town Hall

On the landing.

Limehouse Town Hall

Limehouse Town Hall is now well over 100 years old and has been through a succession of owners over the years. The age of the building and impact on the fabric is clear at a number of locations within the building, including this view of the ceiling.

Limehouse Town Hall

On the first floor is the large assembly room. It is this room that has served both the original Vestry and the people of Limehouse over the years. The hall has hosted numerous Vestry meetings, concerts, political meetings, dances, an infant welfare centre and exhibitions.

Limehouse Town Hall

From 1881 the building was licensed for music and dancing and again in the pages of the East London Observer there is a report and a number of letters regarding the purchase of a piano for the hall, the cost of the piano and who was actually funding the purchase.

View of the other end of the assembly room. Until around 1950 there was a raised platform at this end of the hall which was used for speeches and performances.

Limehouse Town Hall

Balcony over the main door leading from the landing. The glitter ball hints at one of the uses of the room.

Limehouse Town Hall

A sign on the balcony provides a clue as to one of the previous uses of the hall.

Limehouse Town Hall

Limehouse Town Hall was built with high expectations for its contribution to the lives of those living in Limehouse. Whilst Limehouse did not achieve the level of local governance to which the founders of the hall had aspired, the range of events held within the hall meant that it must have featured in the day-to-day lives of the people of Limehouse.

My next Open House visit was adjacent to Limehouse Town Hall and a very short walk to:

St. Anne’s Limehouse

The view of St. Anne’s Limehouse along St. Anne’s Passage.

Limehouse Town Hall

St. Anne’s church was one of the twelve churches built as a result of a 1711 Act of Parliament to build churches in locations across London where populations had grown but were not well served by a local church.

A tax on coal was used to fund the building work, which resulted in a number of large and architecturally impressive churches across the city.

St. Anne’s was designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor and built between 1714 and 1727.

The church was badly damaged by fire in 1850 and also by bombing in 1941. It has been through a number of restorations, the latest having been completed in 2009.

I have walked past St. Anne’s many times, but have never seen inside. The last time I walked past was when I was exploring the sites at risk as identified by the Architects Journal in 1972 when the church was one of the sites of concern, although it was Grade I listed in 1950.

Walking into the church reveals a large and impressive interior.

Limehouse Town Hall

With a very ornate roof.

Limehouse Town Hall

Looking back towards the main entrance to the church. The organ was built by John Gray and Frederick Davison who had a factory in Euston Road.

Limehouse Town Hall

The church was permitted by Queen Anne to fly the White Ensign and the location of the church, so close to the River Thames, together with the height of the church tower meant that St. Anne’s was a prominent landmark for those navigating the river and the church was marked by trinity House on navigation charts.

Many prints of the river around Limehouse show the church in the background. For example, the following print from 1827 shows the church as a very visible landmark just to the left of the ship on the right.

Limehouse Town Hall

The White Ensign was originally the flag of the second most senior Admiral in the Navy. In 1864 the White Ensign became the ensign of the Royal Navy.

Display boxes in the church display naval flags including the flag of HMS Ark Royal and the White Ensign flown on the church:

Limehouse Town Hall

The font which dates from the restoration carried out between 1851 and 1857 by John Morris and Philip Hardwick after the fire in 1850.

Limehouse Town Hall

This fire appears to have almost destroyed the church. There was a report on the fire in the London Evening Standard on the 30th March 1850, titled “Total Destruction Of Limehouse Church By Fire”:

“We had the lamentable task yesterday of announcing the total destruction by fire of the beautiful parish church of St. Anne, Limehouse. We now append some further particulars:-

It appears that at seven o’clock yesterday morning a man named Wm. Rumbold, who lights the stove fires, and attending to the heating of the church, entered the edifice and proceeded with his duties. He ignited both the furnaces, and at a quarter past eight o’clock was about to satisfy himself of the degree of temperature in the interior of the church, when he perceived a strong smell of burning wood, and shortly afterwards saw a quantity of smoke issue from the roof. Impressed with a fear that something serious had happened, Rumbold ran off to the residence of Mr. George Coningham, the beadle and engine keeper of the parish, who resides about 150 yards distant from the church.

Coningham instantly returned with Rumbold to the church, on reaching which, Coningham ascended through the belfry and immediately opened a door over the organ loft leading to a vast chamber extending over the whole body of the church. As soon as the door was opened, Coningham and Rumbold were both driven back and nearly suffocated by a rush of smoke and rarefied air which issued out of this chamber, and clearly indicated where the seat of the mischief really was. 

Coningham and Rumbold, with a view to rousing the neighbourhood, rang the two bells. An immense congregation of the inhabitants very speedily assembled. The fire had by this time begun to make its way through the roof. As yet there was no engine on the spot, and but a very scanty supply of water flowed from the street plugs.

The Rev. George Roberts, curate of the parish, who had by this time arrived. headed a large party of gentlemen, and by their exertions all the registers and other valuable parochial documents have been fortunately saved. 

The progress of the flames was so rapid that not a little risk was incurred in this good work.

Several engines had arrived before the roof fell, and a very good supply of water was at length obtained, but from the great difficulty of getting at the spot where the fire raged, all the efforts of the firemen were comparatively fruitless, and Mr Braidwood, the leader of the force, at once pronounced that any hope of saving the interior of the church was quite out of the question. 

The church was one of the most perfect interiors of the period in which it was built – Queen Anne’s time. It possessed a magnificent organ, built by Richard Bridge, in 1741, and a superb altar window of painted glass.”

It must have been devastating to the people of Limehouse to see their church in ruins.

Displayed in one of the side rooms is one of the hands from what may have been the original clock on the church. If I read the writing along the clock hand correctly it reads “This —– was taken from the face of the clock by R. Linton 1826”. The naval association of the church is shown in the clock hand by the anchor shape on the right of the hand.

Limehouse Town Hall

There is also a memorial to those who I assume were parishioners who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars.

Limehouse Town Hall

It is always depressing to read these lists of names of those who had been killed during the wars, even more so when you find surnames repeated as you can imagine the impact it must have had on the families concerned.

One surname stood out on the St. Anne’s memorial – Peterken. There was an H.C. Peterken killed in the First World War and an A. Peterken killed in the Second World War.

I was able to find some background on H.C. Peterken.

Horace Peterken was a Private in the London regiment of the 2nd (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers). He was killed in action on the 26th October 1917. This was the first day of the Second Battle of Passchendale which ran until the 10th November 1917, so I assume he was killed on the first day of this battle.

In the 1911 Census he was living at 63 Three Colt Street in Limehouse (a street I walked up from the river to Commercial Street) along with his parents and six brothers and sisters.

His father, Henry George Peterken was 47 at the time of the census and is recorded as being born in Poplar. His father was a Letterpress Printer and Stationer. His mother, Sarah Ann Peterken was 46 and was born in Ratcliffe.

Sarah is recorded as having had 9 children, with 8 living and 1 died. Given that 7 children were living at the house in 1911 I assume the eighth may have been the oldest and had left home.

Horace was 15 at the time and his brothers and sisters living in Three Colt Street were; Ada, aged 23, Edith, aged 19, Winifred aged 17, Leonard aged 11, Mabel aged 9 and Cyril aged 4.

Ada was a Stationers Assistant so presumably worked for her father, Edith was a Dressmaker.

Henry George Peterken was a councillor and his printing shop was in Poplar High Street. The family may have been of Irish descent as on the 29th May 1909, the East London Observer  reports that his daughter Winnie (Winifred) led the Irish detachment in a Pageant to celebrate Empire Day.

Horace was born in the last quarter of 1895, so was around 22 when he died at Passchendale.

In one corner of the church there are steps leading down to the crypt:

Limehouse Town Hall

Walking down the stairs brings you to a smaller room before the main crypt which I suspect has the original flagstones across the floor.

Limehouse Town Hall

The large crypt has been through a major restoration with some superb brickwork across the walls and roof.

Limehouse Town Hall

Limehouse Town Hall and St. Anne’s Limehouse – two more fascinating buildings and each played their part in the rich history of East London.

Two more locations to visit which I will cover in my final post on Open House 2017 in the next couple of days.

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111 Strand – A Street Map In Portland Stone

So much modern architecture is bland, built to a cost, and does not have any features that associate the building with its location or the activities carried out by the occupants of the building.

The same style and designs can be found across the country and indeed globally, whilst a trend towards relatively short-term occupation has driven design of buildings to provide a flexible shell and interior which can support many different occupiers over the life of the building.

I have previously written about buildings such as 262 High Holborn, Imperial Chemicals House and the Faraday Building, all of which were designed with decoration to illustrate something about the occupier of the building, or the activities carried out within.

I found another building recently, one which I have walked past many times and had not noticed the decoration covering one part of the building. across five floors of the facade.

This is 111 Strand.

111 Strand

The building dates from 2002 and the architect was Squire and Partners.

At first glance it looks like another standard office design with no redeeming features, however if you look at the right hand edge of the building, above the large street number 111, there is an intriguing design running from the first floor to the fifth.

111 Strand

Study the design and it clearly appears to be a street map, carved in Portland stone panels.  It was created by the artists Langlands & Bell following a competition to work with the architects on the design of the building.

The street map represents a vertical segment of the local streets running north from Savoy Hill at the bottom of the map to the junction of Catherine Street and Tavistock Street. I have tried to align the map on the building to the actual street map from Google. This is shown below.

111 Strand

I have outlined 111 Strand in blue. The scaling of the two maps is slightly different, so they do not exactly align at the same level, however the area covered by the Portland stone map is very clear in the Google map.

From Savoy Place at the bottom of the map, it crosses Savoy Hill and Savoy Row to the location of 111 Strand. Then across the Strand to the location of the Lyceum Theatre and the junction of Wellington Street and Exeter Street, then across a diamond shape plot of land bounded by Exeter Street, Catherine Street, Tavistock Street and Wellington Street leading to where the top of the map is reached.

I really like the idea of having a street map carved on the facade of a building. It acknowledges the surrounding landscape and that the building is part of this landscape, however I do wonder why 111 Strand was not marked on the map to place the building within the surrounding streets. Interesting also the scope of the map. The River Thames is only slightly further to the bottom of the map and would have placed 111 Strand in relation to the river, which would also help explain why the Strand is named as it is.

I do like the attention to detail. If you look at the diamond-shaped plot of land at the top, the number and shape of the buildings along Tavistock Street at the top of the diamond are the same as in the Google map. Also within the diamond, the large block of the Duchess Theatre can be clearly seen.

I have no idea how I have missed this stone map in the fifteen years since 111 Strand was completed – I must be looking at new buildings with an inbuilt assumption that there is nothing of interest to see – I will have to pay more attention to more recent buildings in the future.

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Regents Park Basin, Cumberland Market Estate And Wartime Bombing

For this week’s post, I am in for me, a rather special place. This is the Peabody Cumberland Market Estate, a large estate of flats, mainly completed by 1937 and built around the old Regents Park Basin, also known as the Cumberland Market Basin, built to facilitate delivery of hay, vegetables, ice and loads of other goods to Cumberland Market, which was located at the end of the basin.

It is a special place for me as my father moved into Bagshot House as a child in 1939, lived here throughout the war (apart from about 2 weeks of evacuation), and continued living here until the early 1950s.

Regents Park Basin

Construction of the flats was started in the mid 1920s on land owned by the Crown Estate. The flats were built on land once occupied by warehouses, workshops and houses, all surrounding the Regents Park Basin. The basin was connected to the Regents Canal by a short run of canal that passed through Regents Park, then alongside the Regents Park Barracks. Cumberland Market was at the end of the basin. This extension of the canal was built in 1830.

The architect of the estate was C. E. Varndell and there is a street named after him running from Cumberland Market to the Hampstead Road.

The following map from the 1940 Bartholomew Atlas for Greater London shows the basin to the left of centre. In the above Peabody map you can see Redhill Street and Augustus Street with allotments now running through the centre of the estate on the area once occupied by the basin.

Regents Park Basin

It was from these flats that for a child the rest of London was a playground, where the impact of war would be seen both in the distance and in his own block of flats and where a 14 year old would see the horrendous human consequences of the bombing of a civilian population.

It was also from the flats that immediately after the war he would set out walking and cycling to photograph London and a few of these photos include views of the estate.

If you return to the Peabody estate map at the top of the post, you will see Redhill Street, then Bagshot House, then Swinley House.

Swinley House was a long row of flats that faced onto the Regents Park Basin. When built, the basin was still full of water, however this was the post war view across what was the Regents Park Basin looking towards Swinley House.

Regents Park Basin

I could not get to the exact same location, however this is roughly the same view today – I will explain why the views are so different after the photo below.

Regents Park Basin

Firstly, if you look along the top of Swinley House, the roof level flats are missing along the left of the building in the post war photo. This was as a result of incendiary bombing in 1940 which I will describe later in this post.

Also in the post war photo all the land in front of Swinley House is full of rubble. This had once been the Regents Park Basin, however, during the war the basin and canal extension was gradually filled with the considerable volumes of rubble caused by bombing across the city.

As Cumberland Market had closed, the basin served no purpose, and therefore provided a convenient dumping ground.

The following extract is from my father’s account of his experiences in London during the war, written in the summer of 1945, and mentions the in filling of the basin. This was the year 1943.

London’s bomb sites continued to be cleared and building repairs carried out. The number of static water tanks increased as sites and basements became available, and huge piles of brick and masonry rubble appeared where buildings had once stood. 

That section of the Regents Canal from its Camden Town branch to the Regents Park Basin had been filed in over a period of many weeks. The water had not been drained but remained beneath the layer of rubble which had been dropped from a continuous fleet of lorries reversing towards the basin and tipping the contents into the water until one very small area of water remained, massed with gasping fish. Luckily all the ducks had flown.

I often wondered what personal belongings and perhaps human remains were buried with the filling, and thought the loss of water foolhardy as air raids might well resume.

Cumberland Market became a Council Depot for building materials, huge mounds of sand and bags of cement, the site enclosed with old doors which were plentiful.

The large area in front of Swinley House is now occupied by allotments, as topsoil was placed over the rubble.

The following view is looking down the full length of the old Regents Park Basin towards where Cumberland Market would have been just after the flats at the very end. Swinley House is on the right.

Regents Park Basin

The two buildings in the distance in the above photo are Euston Tower on the left and the BT Tower on the right which should help with the location and orientation of this area.

Walking back into the courtyard area, this is part of Bagshot House. My father lived in a flat along the first floor balcony on the left.

Regents Park Basin

I stood in the courtyard imagining the scenes here in 1940. This extract from my father’s account is about the heavy bombing during the later half of 1940:

“On another night during this period our block of flats and Swinley House directly opposite were showered with incendiaries. As father was on day shift at the time we were all in our beds resting as well as we were able, until the characteristic incendiary noise had us quickly out of bed. Father, a big man over six feet tall, the son of a fire chief officer and born in a fire station, was no man to hang about if a fire was in the offing. Donning his steel helmet, dressing gown over his pyjamas and a pair of slippers on his feet he rushed out of the doors and disappeared along the balcony towards the stairs. Mother called out to him in anguish but to no avail, the days of the horse drawn appliance rushing to a fire was in his blood. Up to the top floor directly above us he went, grabbing a stirrup pump in one hand and a bucket of water in the other. A pump with buckets of water and sand were normally available at each stair landing. An incendiary had crashed through the roof above, entering the top most flat, and in short time would no doubt have burnt its way through to us or at least have ruined all our possessions with water. However with the help of the occupier who was panicking for the A.F.S. (Auxiliary Fire Service) father soon had both the fire and the bomb extinguished.

Meanwhile, the incendiaries which had fallen on Swinley House went unnoticed. In one top floor flat bedroom windows could be seen the now familiar dazzling white light, soon turning to orange, as I watched from the bedroom window. Presently the roof began to burn through. Noticing figures in the courtyard below, now beginning to be illuminated by the flames, father could be seen rushing across to the stairs to grapple with this new challenge. The top floor balcony soon became doted with silhouettes of men throwing what they could salvage down to the courtyard, a dangerous and pointless task carried out in desperation, as anything of value would be looted before daylight. This fire was too advanced for stirrup pumps and buckets of water and due to the great number of fires that night a trailer pump did not arrive until the fire was well underway. In the meantime, my father and others carried on as best they could, eventually arriving home with blackened face, wet and filthy, his dressing gown and pyjama trousers singed, and slippers ruined. Concrete floors and stairways saved the block from complete destruction, the rooms and furniture directly beneath the top floor remaining soaked with sooty water for weeks. As for salvage, bedding was hung over balcony walls to dry, an unsatisfactory and lengthy process without an alternative. Furniture carried down to the courtyard and left to the elements until it could be carted away, that is what remained after further looting.”

The comments on looting are interesting, even within a reasonably enclosed estate. There are many examples of the “Blitz spirit” in my father’s accounts, but they also demonstrate that there will always be people willing to take advantage of the misfortune of others.

There are many accounts of happenings throughout the war on the estate in his written records, another extract from early 1944 during the “little blitz” again covers bombing directly on the estate:

” I wasn’t going to miss this chance of rushing out and extinguishing as many incendiaries as could be found, and after a short argument with mother over the chances of not coming back I shot out of the front door followed by father, although at this stage of the war he had become weary and lost some of his enthusiasm for fighting fires.

From all sides came the familiar sights and sounds. A mile or so over King’s Cross way was the great orange glow of many fires taking hold where the first missiles had fallen, and below in our courtyard and all around lay the incendiary bombs, burning with that intense incandescent, white light. Already many people were running from bomb to bomb with sandbags, dousing the bombs as best they could. Then came pandemonium. Explosions, cries and shouts from all sides. it seemed as though all hell had been let loose as there came hundreds of explosions from all around in quick succession. 

Instinctively father and I dropped to the balcony floor behind the brick parapet wall that separated the balcony from the 20 foot drop to the courtyard below. For a minute or so we were completely dazed. The explosions had come suddenly and without warning and now, hot, steel fragments were whining in all directions. 

As the explosions became less frequent I shakily joined father to peer over the wall to the courtyard below. Realisation came that these were not the old incendiaries which could be picked up or kicked into the gutter to burn out, these weapons were fitted with some anti-personnel device of explosive fitted to the original type of bomb, so timed to explode about three minutes after the bomb had ignited. In other words, just as some likely person, it could have been me or father, was stooping over to extinguish the bomb, which is exactly what had happened.

By the time the two of us had reached the courtyard, most of the bombs had thankfully blown themselves to pieces, saving the effort of having to extinguish them, but with the penalty of perhaps having a body riddled with white hot steel and burning magnesium.

The device had proved very successful as we watched lifeless and injured residents being carried away.”

Thankfully the courtyard is very peaceful today.

The following photo was taken on the balcony outside my father’s flat. looking out through the gap between Swinley House and Ascot House. The old Regents Park Basin is behind the railing, land where bombed buildings have been cleared is behind that, with houses along Stanhope Street in the distance.

Regents Park Basin

I did consider walking up and along the balcony to take a photo of the above scene today, but this would be immediately outside people’s homes so decided not to, although I would love to have walked along the balcony and look down on the courtyard below.

The next photo is off Datchet House, along Augustus Street (see the estate map at the top of the post). I could not get a photo from the same position today as land in front of Datchet House which was a derelict bomb site when my father took the post war photo, has since been built on.

Regents Park Basin

This is the view of Datchet House from the corner of Augustus Street and Cumberland Market. The entrance arch and ornate window help identify the position. Compare also the roof on the part of the building above the entrance arch in the photos above and below. You can see in the above photo the result of incendiary damage. the top floors of the building have since been rebuilt as shown in the photo below.

Regents Park Basin

As with the rest of the estate Datchet House is in fine condition and the archway and ornate window seen in the above photo are still looking good.

Regents Park Basin

The following photo is of the end of Datchet House (on the right of the photo) with Windsor House running along Cumberland Market, the large block that runs to the left of the photo.

Regents Park Basin

Again, due to building on the derelict land in front of the flats there was no view of the flats from the position of the above photo today, so the photo below is of Windsor House from the corner of Augustus Street and Cumberland Market.

Regents Park Basin

The original photo was taken on the corner of Stanhope Street and Varndell Street. This is the view today looking in the same direction – new building completely obscuring the view, however if you look to the bottom left or both the photo below and the post war photo you will see the same rectangular manhole cover on the corner of the pavement.

Regents Park Basin

Returning to Swinley House, this is the view along the front facade of Swinley House that once faced the basin and now the allotments. The railings are along the original edge of the basin.

Regents Park Basin

This is the view from the opposite end to the above photo, the whole allotment area on the left was once the Regents Park Basin.

Regents Park Basin

At the far end of what was the Regents Park Basin, and now the allotments, in between the basin and the old Cumberland Market is a rather ornate block of flats with a clock tower:

Regents Park Basin

This is the view from the opposite side, this is all Windsor House, but this section is indented with gardens and an ornate gateway facing onto Cumberland Market.

Regents Park Basin

Bagshot House is one of the very few homes or workplaces that remain in London where my family have lived in or worked over the years. Most of these places have long since been demolished.

The Crown Estate attempted to sell the estate in 2011, however a campaign to resist the sale to developers resulted in Peabody taking over the estate and it looks incredibly well run. It is good to see the flats looking externally much as they would have when my father lived there during the war.

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Queen Square – A Water Pump, Zeppelin And Medical Imaging

For this week’s post, I am in Queen Square, Bloomsbury tracking down the location of the water pump that my father photographed in 1947;

Queen Square

The view from the same position 70 years later:

Queen Square

The cast iron fountain dates from 1840 (although the lamp at the top is of a later date). On the base of the water pump on both sides are the coats of arms of St. Andrew and St. George. The strange white and black symbol half way up is a temporary survey marker.

Queen Square

The above view is looking west towards the church of St. George’s Holborn and in the photo below looking east towards where Great Ormond Street meets Queen Square:

Queen Square

The fountain is surrounded by four bollards, three of Portland Stone and one of cast iron – no idea why there is this single iron bollard. The same set of bollards appear in the 1947 photo. I wonder if the single cast iron bollard is original being of the same material as the fountain and the stone bollards are latter replacements following damage to the other three cast iron bollards?

The water pump sits within a large paved area at the southern end of Queen Square with the gardens running north and occupying the majority of the centre of the square.

Queen Square

Construction of Queen Square started in around 1706. The square was built on the gardens of Sir Nathaniel Curzon’s house, which was typical of the expansion of London in this area with new houses and squares taking over the from the large houses that were once surrounded by countryside. The square was completed by 1725 but buildings only occupied three sides, the northern side was left empty so that the inhabitants of the square could enjoy the views over open countryside to the hills of Hampstead.

The following extract from John Rocque’s map of 1746 shows Queen Square in the centre, just below the line formed by the page fold. All the land to the north of the square is still open country. The map indicates that at the northern end of the square there were some ornamental gardens and trees to provide a boundary between the square and the lane running from left to right named Powis Wells in the map, this would later become Guildford Street.

Queen Square

The map also shows that in 1746, gardens occupied the centre of the square north from the junction with Great Ormond Street with the large paved area occupying the southern end of the square as it does today.

Behind the water pump in my father’s photo are two buildings of very different style. The same buildings remain to this day as shown by my photo, although they are now somewhat obscured by the trees that have grown around the water pump.

The building on the left has a rather large and ornate coat of arms above the door and along the width of the building, below the top floor windows, is written “The Italian Hospital”.

Queen Square

The Italian Hospital dates from 1884 when it was founded by the local Italian businessman Giovanni Batista Ortelli to provide medical care for sick Italians living in London who could not afford to pay for health care. It originally started operation in Giovanni’s home in Queen Square but moved into the purpose built building shown above following construction in 1898 to 1899.

It closed in 1990, but is now part of Great Ormond Street Hospital.

The buildings on the right are two Georgian houses that are now occupied by the Mary Ward Centre. Although there have been considerable changes to these two buildings, they are some of the few remaining original buildings with the first lease being granted on the 19th June 1703 by Sir Nathaniel Curzon.

Queen Square

At the junction of Queen Square and Old Gloucester Street is the St. George the Martyr Parochial School. Built in 1877 as a church school aligned with the adjacent church. The school has long closed and the building appears locked and empty. Just to the rear of the building on the top floor can be seen the metal frame of the meshed cover over an outside playground – the only way to provide outside play areas at inner city schools.

Queen Square

Queen Square

The plaque on the corner of the building records the year of opening and also that the school was for 200 boys.

Queen Square

Next to the school and in the south west corner of Queen Square is the church of St. George, one of the first buildings on the square The church dates from 1706, its construction having been funded by some of the wealthy inhabitants of the new square.

Queen Square

There was no space available for a graveyard adjacent to the church, this was instead provided in the land just to the north of the Foundling Hospital and is marked on the Rocque map shown above.

The antiquarian Dr. William Stukeley was rector of St. George from 1747 until his death in 1765. It was Stukeley who popularised the association of Stonehenge and Druids and in Old and New London, Edward Walford records Stukeley as also being known as the “arch druid”. For some reason, he had requested to be buried in East Ham rather than the burial ground of the church of which he was rector.

Opposite the church and to the right of the above photo is another of the original buildings. This is the pub “The Queens Larder”. The building now occupied by the pub was first let by Sir Nathaniel Curzon to Matthew Allam, a stationer.

George III stayed in Queen Square whilst under the care of a Dr. Willis whilst he was suffering from the mental illness that would impact so much of the later years of his reign. Queen Charlotte would apparently store the food that the King preferred in the cellar underneath the building which gave the pub its name during the King’s reign.

Although Queen Square is built with houses on three sides which were occupied by the business and professional classes who could afford homes on the edge of the city with the benefits of the countryside and clean air, during the 19th century the square and many of the surrounding streets were rapidly occupied with charities and medical institutions which resulted in rebuilding of much of the square.

Old and New London provides some background to the institutions that occupied the square in the years leading up to publication:

“Queen Square, as well as Great Ormond Street which we shall shortly pass, seems to be a favourite centre of charitable institutions. At the corner of Brunswick Row is the Hospital for Hip Diseases in Childhood, which was founded in 1867. At No. 22 was for many years located the oldest of Ladies’ Charitable Schools. This institution, for although called a school, it is in reality one of our oldest institutions, was established in 1702 for educating, clothing and maintaining the daughters of respectable parents in reduced and necessitous circumstances. The Ladies’ Charity School was removed in 1883 to new quarters in Notting Hill; and the site of the building here is being utilised in an extension of the National Hospital for the Paralysed and Epileptic, which adjoined it. This hospital was instituted in the year 1859.

At No. 29 is the College for Men and Women, with which is incorporated the Working Women’s College, both offshoots of the Working Men’s College established in 1874 with the object of supplying to men and women occupied during the day a higher education than had hitherto been within their reach.

No. 31 formed the head-quarters of some Roman Catholic charitable institutions, among which are the Aged Poor Society.

A large double house on the south side of the square is the College of Preceptors, founded in 1846, its object is to afford to commercial and other public and private schools those tests of results which were afforded to other schools by the university local examinations. “

This is just a sample of the institutions that were operating in the area in the later half of the 19th century. These also included the London Hospital for Sick Children which opened on the 2nd of January 1852. The hospital is today better known as Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Plaque above one of the entrances into the central gardens:

Queen Square

Inside the gardens, the following view is looking south towards the location of the water pump. The sculpture is titled “Mother and Child” and is by Patricia Finch. It was installed in the gardens in 2001 in memory of Andrew Temple Meller who was a Director of the Friends of Great Ormond Street Hospital from 1995 to 2000.

Queen Square

Nearby there is a plaque set into the ground that is rather easy to miss. It records the night of the 8th September 1915 when a bomb dropped by a Zeppelin fell on the location of the plaque. The Zeppelin was the L13 commanded by Heinrich Mathy.  The Zeppelin’s route over the city resulted in bombs being dropped in Golders Green, close to Euston Station, Bloomsbury, Clerkenwell, Smithfield and the railway lines into Liverpool Street,

Queen Square

As the plaque states, there were many people asleep close to the bomb in Queen Square, but luckily there were no casualties. This was not the case at other locations as there was a death in Lambs Conduit Passage, along with deaths in Clerkenwell (four children) and in Smithfield.

The following photo (© IWM (Q 58456)) shows the L13 Zeppelin.

Queen Square

The L13 was decommissioned in 1917 however Heinrich Mathy died on the 2nd October 1916 when he was commander of L31 which was shot down near Potters Bar. Mathy along with his entire crew died after jumping from the burning Zeppelin.Queen Square

Queen Square is named after Queen Anne, the monarch at the time of the construction of the square and there is a statue at the northern end of the square which was originally thought to be have been Queen Anne however as the plaque on the pedestal (shown below) states it is now thought to be of Queen Charlotte, who was also responsible for the naming of the Queens Larder pub.

Queen Square

At the north eastern end of the square there is a recent statue of Lord Wolfson, the chairman of Great Universal Stores (remember them ?) and also founder with his father of the Wolfson Foundation in 1955 which was endowed with £6 million of Great Universal Stores shares.

Queen Square

The Wolfson Foundation is a charity that provides grants to individuals and organisations in the fields of science, health, education and the arts and humanities. I assume that the medical institutions that now surround Queen Square have benefited from the Wolfson Foundation, hence the statue.

The square dates back to the start of the 18th century, however standing at the north eastern corner it was strange to hear a 21st century sound with the rhythmic thumping of an MRI scanner working in a large container parked in the street. There are other reminders of the functions of the buildings surrounding the square. Whilst I was there, patients in wheelchairs were being pushed around the square. As well as being a historic square this is also a centre of medical research and treatment.

Queen Square

Along the eastern side of the square are buildings of the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery.

Queen Square

The plaque below is on the building shown above.

Queen Square

Next to the above building, there is a later building, also part of the same hospital, that was opened in 1937. The majority of the building was covered in scaffolding and sheeting, however one of the doors to the street was clear and there is an excellent relief above the door.

Queen Square

This is by A.J.J. Ayres who was born in Paddington in 1902 and worked from a studio in Hampstead. There is a second door from the building which also has another relief by Ayres, however this door was covered when I walked past.

This was the second photo I had taken of this door and relief. When taking the first I surprised a doctor coming out the building who was faced by someone taking a photo at as distance of a couple of feet. he had not noticed the relief before – it is strange how you do not notice things when you pass them so many times.

On the west side of Queen Square is this building – St. John’s House.

Queen Square

Build in 1906 for an organisation of the same name which was founded in 1848 as a ‘Training Institution for Nurses for Hospitals, Families and the Poor’. St. John’s House recruited and trained nurses for many of the major London Hospitals, however in the early 20th century recruitment into a religious training organisation was falling as hospitals were starting to recruit and train their own nurses and the St. John’s House organisation closed in 1919. The building was then used as a centre for nurses who had been trained at St Thomas’ Hospital.

St. John’s House is now occupied by the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging.

There are some rather nice decorative features on the building. At the top of the first floor on the right is the following plaque which records that St. John’s House was founded in 1848 and rebuilt in 1906.

Queen Square

Just below the above plaque is this small stone which records the date of 1906, however the name of the builders appears to be now unreadable.

Queen Square

The plaque on the left of the building:

Queen Square

The building below is the Queens Square Imaging Centre. Owned by the University College London Hospitals Charity it is strange to think that behind this rather ornate facade are some of the latest medical imaging systems.

Queen Square

Reliefs from the top of the second floor of the above building:

Queen Square

The final buildings in my tour of Queen Square are these in this view of the northern side of the square. It is here that during the first decades of the 18th century when the square was built that the square was open to provide views across open countryside up to the hills of Hampstead.

Queen Square

The building on the left was the head offices of the Royal Institute of Public Health and now houses private consulting rooms.

The building on the right is the 1930s apartment block Queen Court. There is a blue plaque on the building for Forest Frederick Edward Yeo-Thomas who lived in Queen Court for a short period. Yeo-Thomas was a Special Operations Executive agent who went on a number of missions to occupied France during 1942 and 1944, ending with his betrayal and capture in Paris. He suffered severe torture by the Gestapo and was sent to Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Following further transfers and a number of escape attempts he managed to escape and made it back to Allied lines in April 1945. After the war he participated in the Nuremberg War Crime Trials, then settled in Paris where he died in 1964.

A couple of years ago in 2015 a potential developer paid £150,000 for the ground beneath Queen Court, presumably with the expectation of building large basement apartments. It seems crazy that the ground beneath existing buildings can now be sold for such ridiculous figures, presumably with no regard for the occupiers of the building above ground.

Limited work has started, however the residents obtained an injunction forcing the developers to halt the work. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

That was a brief run around Queen Square. It is one of the locations in London I like to walk through when I am feeling cynical about London and the over priced apartment buildings that are being built at every opportunity, bland architecture, the loss of local character and disconnection with the past

Queen Square does what London does best. Loads of history, a wide mix of different architectural styles dating back to the first building in the area as London expanded, a concentration of expertise, institutions and professions, all still very relevant today – and a good pub.

Long may it continue.

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55 Broadway – London Underground’s Modernist Head Office

I have been on the majority of the London Transport Museum’s Hidden London tours, but until a couple of weeks ago had not been on the tour of 55 Broadway. Built in 1929 as the head office of the Underground Group, 55 Broadway continues to serve this role through the descendants of the original company, London Transport and Transport for London.

55 Broadway is reached from Westminster by walking up Tothill Street to where Broadway divides past the building, which is also above St. James’s Park underground station. Despite being almost 90 years old, 55 Broadway is still a very impressive building.

55 Broadway

In the first decades of the 20th century, the London Underground was expanding rapidly and the company needed a headquarters building that suited a forward looking and innovative company. The architecturally overly decorative and fussy buildings of the 19th and early 20th centuries did not meet the aspirations of those running the Underground Company, the Chairman of the Board, Lord Ashfield and Frank Pick the Managing Director (although these aspirations did not include moving away from the hierarchical structure of the company as will be seen when touring the building).

The modernist architect Charles Holden had already worked with the Underground Company and was commissioned to work with Ashfield and Pick on the design for 55 Broadway.

The site for the new building was a rather complex shape and had to accommodate the underground station and the station entrance at ground level.

Holden designed the main building in the shape of a crucifix with the longest wing leading back from where Broadway met Tothiil Street to provide the imposing view seen above when walking from Westminster.

The crucifix shape of the building also makes best use of natural light within the building with all the offices being close to large windows, made possible as the external walls are not load bearing as the building uses a structural steel frame for support.

Just above the main entrance facing Tothil Street is the name of the building, the station and between these is the Royal Institute of British Architects, London Architecture Medal for 1929, the year the building was completed.

55 Broadway

In the following photo from the Britain from Above website, 55 Broadway can be seen slightly above and right the centre of the photo. The crucifix shape of the building is clear in an aerial view. The photo is from 1928 and whilst the main body of the building is complete, the steel frame for the central tower shows that this part was still awaiting completion.

55 Broadway

The large windows can be clearly seen in this view looking towards the centre of the building with two of the wings of the crucifix shape and the central tower. Note also just over half way up, the buttress between the two wings to provide additional structural strength by tying these two wings together.

55 Broadway

Although the building was intended to be of a modernist design and not to be covered with the decorative features so common in buildings of the previous century, Holden and Pick did want the building to create a visual impact and therefore commissioned a number of modernist sculptors to provide a small number of sculptures for the building which would complement rather than overwhelm the design of the building.

On the two main sides of the building are statues by Jacob Epstein. These were highly controversial at the time and divided opinion among the public and art critics.

The statue in the photo below was the first of the pair to be finished and is titled “Night”.

55 Broadway

The following extract from the Illustrated London News on the 1st June 1929 is typical of newspaper reporting of the statues:

“THE MUCH-DISCUSSED EPSTEIN STATUARY ON A NEW LONDON BUILDING; ‘NIGHT’ – A GROUP WHICH THE SCULPTOR HIMSELF DESCRIBES AS ‘AN EMBODIMENT OF THOUGHT IN PLASTIC FORM’. Mr Jacob Epstein has again provided London with a public work in sculpture that has aroused a storm of aesthetic controversy. ‘Night’ is the first finished of the two companion groups (the other being ‘Day’) executed for the new Underground Railways Building over St. James’s Park Station. It is about 9ft high, and represents a mother (called by the sculptor a ‘Madonna’) soothing a child to sleep. While some critics hail it as his finest work, others denounce it as repellent, formless, and distorted. Mr Epstein himself is reported to have said: ‘Sculpture can only live as long as it is the embodiment of thought in plastic form….I do not distort the human form more than is necessary to force my main idea. All the greatest sculptors of the world have modified nature to suit the purpose of the subject – Michelangelo especially. The sculptor must understand anatomy from A to Z; but he is not a surgeon – he is an artist.”

The unveiling of “Day” continued the controversy with campaigns for the two statues to be removed, however Epstein robustly defended his work. In a newspaper article titled “Epstein Defends His Night” he wrote:

“If the man in the street does not like the look of my ‘Night’ on his daily way to work he can always avert his eyes from it. In any case the artist who considers that the taste of the masses is a goal is stultifying his own art. Why ask the opinion of the man in the street at all? One does not ask this man in the street his opinion of good music, one goes to hear it oneself, and forms an opinion of the work on its own merits. So why ask him about sculpture?”.

Epstein’s work did seem to generate very divided and strong opinions, one of his works in Hyde Park was tarred and feathered soon after installation.

As a compromise to let the Night and Day statues remain, Epstein did remove 1.5 inches from his statue “Day” shown below:

55 Broadway

In addition to these two main features, there were other sculptures with the theme of the four winds.

West Wind by Henry Moore:

55 Broadway

South Wind by Eric Gill:

55 Broadway

North Wind by Eric Gill:

55 Broadway

West Wind by Samuel Rabinovitch:

55 Broadway

North Wind by Alfred Gerrard:

55 Broadway

East Wind by Allan Wyon:

55 Broadway

There are also a couple of unusual foundation stones, laid by a long standing employee:

55 Broadway

And by one of the foreman stonemasons employed on the construction of 55 Broadway:

55 Broadway

On entering the ground floor reception of the building there is an original Train Interval indicator. The information on the central panel reads “The passing of a train at a given point on each Underground Railway causes a stroke to be marked on the dial of the clock. These strokes therefore indicate the number of trains run in each hour.”

There is a clock display for the District, Metropolitan, Central, Bakerloo, Piccadilly and Northern Lines. 

55 Broadway

The interior of 55 Broadway retains many of the original features. Wood frame doors with glass panels leading off each lift lobby to the office areas.

55 Broadway

View from the lift lobby to the wood paneled Directors corridor:

55 Broadway

The Directors corridor. The Underground Company, along with many other large companies of the time, was very hierarchical and the status of the employee was reflected in their surroundings. The high ceilings and expensive wood paneling of the Directors offices clearly show their status within the company.

55 Broadway

The quality of the workmanship and the cost of the materials is still very apparent after almost 90 years. Note the original brass door handles and the very long door finger plates:

55 Broadway

The largest office on the floor at the end of the corridor:

55 Broadway

Original stairwell features:

55 Broadway

Original lighting feature:

55 Broadway

Looking from the stairs at the doors which lead into the lift lobby, again the original doors. This is the 6th floor as indicated by the number which was needed as each of the floors looks identical.

55 Broadway

Signs from London Underground’s past have been added to the stairwell.

55 Broadway55 Broadway

Even in the stairwell, the level of detail in the tiling indicates the amount of work and money that went into 55 Broadway:

55 Broadway

There are two external levels at the top of the building. The first provides a good view of the tower:

55 Broadway

And the clock:

55 Broadway

But it is from the top of the tower that the best views of London can be found. Here looking towards Westminster with the Shard in the background, London Eye to the left and the towers of the Barbican on the left edge of the photo:

55 Broadway

Around the edge there are panels providing information about the view and the key features to be seen:

55 Broadway

The view at this level allows some of the external features to be seen slightly better than from the ground. Here is one of the original rainwater hoppers which displays the year 1929, but also includes the underground symbol with the large U and D letters that began and ended the uppercase UNDERGROUND with a smaller size of the font used for the letters between the U and D.

55 Broadway

View towards the north-east. The BT Tower on the left across to the Barbican on the right. The green trees of St. James’s Park provide a contrast with the built city.

55 Broadway

On the day of my visit, the weather was overcast with the threat of rain, so the views were rather hazy, but I always find it interesting to look across London from a high point.

The BT Tower with Euston Tower in the background:

55 Broadway

The Ministry of Defence buildings in the foreground and the towers of the Barbican in the background:

55 Broadway

A hazy St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is from these high points that the topography of an area becomes clear. 55 Broadway being close to Victoria and north of the river, you might expect to look along the north of the city to see St. Paul’s, however as can be seen the view is across the south bank of the river and the Royal Festival Hall:

55 Broadway

The London Eye with the towers of the City in the background. The cranes immediately behind the London Eye are constructing the new towers that will soon surround the old Shell Centre tower.

55 Broadway

As a slight diversion from 55 Broadway, the Shell Centre Tower has the most complex scaffolding I believe I have ever seen, stretching from ground to the top of the tower. I walked past the Shell building earlier this past week and took the photo below. No idea what construction work demands this level of scaffolding.

55 Broadway

Yet more cranes, this time round the Battersea Power Station development:

55 Broadway

Towers of existing apartments at Vauxhall:

55 Broadway

The information panels around the top of 55 Broadway’s tower show how quickly the view can change. In this panel looking towards the south-west, a large office block is shown obscuring much of the view:

55 Broadway

The office block is currently being demolished, revealing a view from the top of 55 Broadway which has not been visible for many years, although no doubt an equally high tower will soon be built.

55 Broadway

55 Broadway is an extraordinary building and its design reflects the ambitions of the London Underground in the 1920s and how the Underground was seen as the modern way of travelling across the city.

Transport for London, the current descendant of the 1920s Underground Company are relocating to new headquarters in the Olympic Park, which is understandable given the limitations of a 1920s building for today’s ways of working requiring flexibility of space and a dependency on IT services across the building.

I understand that whilst Grade I listing protects much of the internal and external features and structure of the building, the future use of the building is still uncertain. I suspect, given what typically happens to redundant buildings in central London, the future of 55 Broadway will be either luxury apartments or as a hotel. A sterile and repetitive outcome which will be a waste of such a wonderful building.

The London Transport Museum’s Hidden London tours of 55 Broadway are currently sold out, however if more become available I really recommend taking a tour of this fascinating building.

alondoninheritance.com

New Deal For East London – Sclater Street To St. George-In-The-East

Following on from last week’s post, here is the second part of my walk through the category B sites (Medieval village centres) considered at risk in the January 1972 article “New Deal for East London” in the Architects’ Journal.

This week I am walking from site 37 (Sclater Street) to site 43 (the church of St. George-in-the- East). The map extract from the 1972 article below shows the location of the sites:

At the end of last week I was in Shoreditch High Street. To get to the next site, I turned into Bethnal Green Road and then into Sclater Street to look for:

Site 37 – Weaver’s House In Sclater Street. Now Derelict

Although the title for this site is singular, the map shows a run of buildings along the south side of Sclater Street adjacent to the railway lines. In the same location as in the original map are these buildings, which if they are the same, can still be given the description of derelict.

These houses once ran the length of Sclater Street and the 1972 map shows them continuing towards where I took the photo below. Apart from the derelict run of buildings that still remain, most were demolished to make way for a car park.

Sclater Street shows its age at the junction with Brick Lane where on the side of the building at the junction is the plaque shown in the following photo which reads “This is Sclater Street 1798”.

I then crossed over Brick Lane to get to Cheshire Street. A little way along Cheshire Street, I turned left into St. Matthews Row to find the next location:

Site 38 – George Dance’s St. Matthew’s And Watch House

Walking towards the church of St. Matthew’s, I firstly found the Watch House on the corner of the churchyard:

Which looks almost the same as in the photo from the 1972 article:

According to the Architect’s Journal, the Watch House dates from 1820, however on the web site of the church there is an earlier date of 1754, which I suspect, is correct.The article explains why it was built “A watch-house stands at the corner of the churchyard. Body-snatching reached its peak during the 1820s and most London graveyards have, or had, watch-houses dating from that period. The Anatomy Act of 1832 put body-snatchers out of business. before that doctors could legally have only corpses of criminals for dissection.”

The church web site states that “by 1792 a person was paid 10s 6d per week to be on guard. A reward of 2 guineas was granted for the apprehension of any body snatchers.”

This is one of the finest examples of a watch house that I have seen.

A short distance past the watch house is the church of St. Matthew’s.

The original church was completed in 1746 to a design by George Dance. It was badly damaged by fire in 1859, reopening two years later. It was again badly damaged in 1940, with bombing reducing the church to a shell. It was not until 1961 that the church we see today was finally rebuilt and opened as recorded in this plaque in the foyer of the church.

The church has an association with some of Bethnal Green’s criminal past. Joseph Merceron was a churchwarden (see The Boss of Bethnal Green by Julian Woodford) and the funerals of Ronnie and Reggie Kray were all held at St. Matthew’s, the church being central to the area in which they grew up and commenced their criminal activities.

The interior of St. Matthew’s following the post war rebuild.

View of the rear of the watch house from the church yard.

The view of the church and churchyard from the rear of the watch house. Imagine being paid 10s 6d a week to watch over the churchyard overnight to stop any body snatchers.

Walking back down St. Matthew’s Row, the Carpenter’s Arms is on the corner with Cheshire Street. Once owned by the Kray’s, the pub now has a far more relaxed atmosphere.

The area around Cheshire Street is fascinating. It was originally named Hare Street as can be seen in the following extract from John Rocque’s map of 1746. The name came from Hare Fields, the open space that was here before the development of the streets, the beginnings of which can be seen in the map.  Leading south from Hare Street is a small street named Hare Marsh – the street is still in existence retaining its original name. The church of St. Matthew’s can be seen on the right with still large open spaces to east and west.

Cheshire Street is relatively quiet. Brick Lane seems to form a boundary between the busier streets to the west and the quieter streets to the east. In a few places Cheshire Street still retains the same feel as this area did when I first started walking here over thirty years ago.

In the following photo, an alley off Cheshire Street leads to a graffiti covered footbridge.

I was here for about 15 minutes and did not see a single person.

Peer carefully over the top of the bent metal spikes along the top of the metal panels along the edge of the bridge and there is a view of the rail lines into Liverpool Street station.Looking in the other direction and a Stanstead Express train heads from Liverpool Street towards the airport.

The far end of the bridge.

Another turn off from Cheshire Street is Chilton Street and just along this street is St. Matthias Church House.

This was originally the parish rooms and hall for St. Matthias Church which was directly opposite as shown on the following extract from the 1895 Ordnance Survey map.

In the 1895 map above, Cheshire Street was still Hare Street, however by 1940 as shown in the following extract from the 1940 edition of Bartholomew’s Atlas of Great London, it had changed to Cheshire Street. No idea why or when the street changed name, but I prefer Hare Street as a reminder of the open fields that these streets have now covered. To the right of the church, crossing the Great Eastern Railway is a footbridge – the same (although of later construction) as the footbridge I walked across earlier.

The 1940 map also shows St. Matthias Church (the church marked above the first ‘E’ of Cheshire. I have not been able to confirm, however I suspect the church was damaged during the war and became one of the many churches that were not rebuilt.

Stone laid by Princess Christian on the 20th April 1887 on the front of St. Matthias Church House.

Entrance to Grimsby Street from Cheshire Street – another graffiti covered street running alongside the railway.

I walked the route of this and the previous post just before the 2017 General Election. This was the only election advertising that I saw.

Long terrace of Victorian buildings with shops running the length of the terrace along Cheshire Street coming back to the junction with Brick Lane.

FAX number of Bashir & Sons above their shop. It is the pre-April 1995 071 number. According to their web site they still use FAX, but the number now has the 0207 prefix. Cannot be many users of FAX in 2017 and I suspect it will become rare to see a phone number above a shop.

My next stop was in Whitechapel Road, so I walked south along the length of Brick Lane then turned east along Whitechapel Road to reach my next destination:

Site 39 – Mid To Late 18th Century Whitechapel Bell Foundry

It is somewhat ironic that a site that the Architects’ Journal was concerned about in 1972 survived the intervening 45 years, only to be at risk in 2017.

The bell foundry was established in Whitechapel in 1570 and has occupied the current premises since 1738, however production at the site ceased earlier this year. The announcement on the website of the bell foundry provides a number of reasons for the closure, including some that tell of the changes to the area, including “In recent years the area in which we are located has changed from commercial use to almost entirely residential use. New developments now in the process of being built adjacent to our site will give us neighbours who would find difficulties with our industrial output and noise.”

It is very noticeable how areas such as Whitechapel are changing from a mix of different industries, commercial business, retail and residential, to mainly residential developments. Whilst the shortage of housing within London is critical, districts turn rather bland and their local character is lost without a range of different activities.

The bell foundry seen from across Whitechapel Road.

The foundry buildings along Fieldgate Street:

Taking a break:

With the closure of the business at Whitechapel, I can only hope that the buildings will stay substantially as they are (Grade II listing should help) and that some form of industrial activity continues at the site.

Continuing along Feldgate Street, I turned into New Road to look for:

Site 40 – Late 18th Century Terraces

The 1972 map shows two rows of terraces either side of the junction of Fordham Street with New Road. The first row of terraces:

Within the terrace are two pairs of identical houses.

With some of the most cheerful keystones above the doorway that I have seen:

Opposite Fordham Street is Walden Street and although not mentioned in the Architects’ Journal, there is this lovely terrace of houses along one side of the street. There are so many architectural gems to be found walking around east London.

Walking back along New Road, these buildings are the next section, past the junction with Fordham Street marked on the Architects’ Journal map:

I imagine that the top floor is rather dark in this building:

Continuing along New Road:

In the photo above, there is a red brick Victorian building on the right of the photo, taller than the others in the terrace. A plaque on the front of the building records a meeting held here in 1865:

To find the next location, I continued to the end of New Road, crossed over Commercial Road into Cannon Street Road, where a short distance along, opposite the junction with Burslem Street I found the next buildings.

Site 41 – Late 18th Century Group

The Architects’ Journal map, has a line marked along Cannon Street Road, directly opposite Burslem Street and here I found this lovely terrace of buildings.

It was interesting walking the length of Cannon Street Road as I did not notice any buildings with more than five floors, even the post war housing. Keeping buildings to a similar height along a street does help integrate very different architectural styles and materials.

A short distance along Cannon Street Road from the above photo is the junction with Cable Street. It is at this junction that John Williams, the alleged murderer in the Ratcliffe Highway murders was buried after he apparently committed suicide whilst awaiting trial.

The Ratcliffe Highway murders caused panic within this small area of east London in December 1811 following the brutal murder of two households. The investigation to find the murderer was somewhat chaotic and confused, but finally the trail seemed to lead to a seaman called John Williams. He apparently committed suicide whilst waiting trial, which was taken as admission of guilt and a show burial took place with his body paraded around the scenes of his crimes prior to being dumped into a pit dug at this junction.

The newspaper reports of the time provide a vivid account of his burial:

“INTERMENT OF JOHN WILLIAMS, On Monday, at midnight the body of this wretch was removed from the House of Correction, Coldbath Fields, to the watch-house near Ratcliffe Highway; and on Tuesday morning, at about ten o’clock, he was placed on a platform, erected six feet above a very high cart, drawn by one horse. The platform was composed of rough deals battened together, raised considerably at the head, which elevated the corpse. A board was fixed across the lower end, standing up about six inches, to prevent the body from slipping off. On this platform the body was laid; it had on a clean white shirt, quite open at the neck, and without a neck-handkerchief or hat, but the hair neatly combed, and the face clean washed. The countenance looked healthful and ruddy, but the hands and the lower part of the arms were of a deep purple, nearly black. The whole of the arms were exposed, the shirt being tucked quite up. The lower part of the body was covered with a pair of clean blue trowsers, and brown worsted stockings, without shoes. The feet were towards the horse, on the right leg was affixed the iron Williams had on when he was committed to prison. The fatal mall was placed uptight by the left side of his head, and the ripping chisel  or crow-bar, about three feet long, on the other side. About 10 o’clock the procession, attended by the head constable and head boroughs of the district, on horseback, and about 250 or 300 constables and extra constables, most of them with drawn cutlasses, began to move and continued at a very slow pace.”

The article goes on to describe the route of the procession which passes the murder scenes until reaching the junction on the photo above, where:

“a large hole being prepared, the cart stopped. After a pause of about 10 minutes, the body was thrown into its infamous grave, amongst the acclamations of thousands of spectators. the stake which the law requires to be driven through the corpse had been placed in the procession under the head of Williams, by way of pillow, and after he was consigned to the earth, it was handed down from the platform, and with the maul was driven through the body. The grave was then filled with quick lime, and the spectators very quietly dispersed.”

A rather strange scene to imagination, standing at the junction today. The book “The Maul and the Pear Tree” by P.D. James and T.A. Critchely provides a fascinating account of the Ratcliffe Highway Murders along with alternative theories as to the real murderer.

Either side of the above scene is:

Site 42 – Late 18th Century Terrace And Shop Front

The map shows two markers for this site, one along Cable Street and the other along Cannon Street Road down towards The Highway.

This is the terrace along Cable Street:

This is a lovely terrace of houses along Cable Street from the junction with Cannon Street Road, until the entrance to St. George’s Gardens.

A little way along, the terrace is broken by the entrance to Hawksmoor Mews.

The blue plaque on the right is to Dr. Hannah Billig, a rather remarkable doctor who was born in Hanbury Street, Spitalfields in 1901 and moved to the above house from 1935 until 1964. The plaque records that she was known locally as “The Angel of Cable Street” and was honored with a George medal and MBE for her bravery in World War II and for Famine Relief Work in India.

At the end of the terrace, is the entrance to St. George’s Gardens. Alongside the entrance is the mural commemorating the Battle of Cable Street.

Work started in the mural in 1976, but it was not finally completed until 1983. Vandalism caused delays to the project, and this continued to take place after the mural was finished. My father took the following photo of the mural in 1986 showing a typical problem with white paint having been thrown at the mural.

Sclater StreetThe other marker on the map for this site was along the eastern side of Cannon Street Road between Brick Lane and The Highway, where a long terrace of houses, of slightly different design run along the street.

Sclater Street

Including this building at number 44 which is Grade II listed and built in 1810, so would have been here when John Williams was buried at the road junction.  I have not been able to find out who was the “Thomas” named on the parapet, but it is the only building in the street with this type of decoration.

Sclater Street

At the end of Cannon Street Road is the final site in this walk around east London:

Site 43 – Hawksmoor’s St. George-in-the-East And Rectory

St. George-in-the-East was one of the 50 churches planned for London under the New Churches in London and Westminster Act of 1710. Only twelve were built of which St. George was one.

Work started on the church in 1714 and the church was consecrated in 1729, providing a new church for the rapidly expanding population of east London.

Sclater Street

Although east London’s population was expanding rapidly, it was mainly running along the river, south of the Ratcliffe Highway, north of this road it was still relatively rural. The extract below from John Rocque’s map of 1746 shows the new church in the lower left with the Ratcliff Highway running below the church from west to east. North of the church is Bluegate Field (now Cable Street) and it is rather tempting to imagine that where a track is shown running diagonally across the fields, there was a blue gate between the track and the road.

Sclater Street

The rectory referred to in the Architects’ Journal listing for the site is shown by the black rectangle in front and to the left of the church in the 1746 map above. The rectory building is still there:

Sclater Street

The church suffered considerable damage during the war and was gutted by an incendiary bomb in May 1941 with only the external walls and tower still standing. The church was rebuilt after the war and rededicated in 1964. The rebuilding though was rather unusual.

Rather than rebuild the church to the same original Hawksmoor design. the external walls and tower were left standing and a new church building was constructed within the interior, therefore when you walk through the main entrance under the tower expecting to walk into the church, there is an open space, open to the sky with the post war church building to the rear of the original church.

Sclater Street

A rather clever use of space as the original church was probably far too large for post war congregations and the new building provides a more intimate space. This was achieved whilst also preserving the external walls and tower so that externally the church still appears as when originally built.

The view from across The Highway:

Sclater Street

Within the churchyard is an old mortuary building. This was converted into a Nature Study Museum in 1904 with the aim of providing local people with more contact with the natural world.  The museum included live fish, stuffed birds and mammals and displays of butterflies. The information plaque in front of the building records that during the summer months up to 1,000 people, mostly local school children, would visit the museum each day. It was closed during the war, did not reopen and has since fallen into the state of disrepair that we see today.

Sclater Street

This last site concludes my walk to find (along with last week’s post) the sites in category B between Shoreditch and St. George-in-the-East.

It has been a brief walk, there is so much more to write about this area of east London, but I did achieve my aim of checking to see if the sites of concern in 1972 have survived, and it is good to see that the majority are still here, and looking in good condition.

The Whitechapel Bell Foundry is a reminder that these buildings, along with so many other historical buildings across London, will always be at risk from the constant threat of demolition, or an unsympathetic development.

The Architects’ Journal wrote about these sites in 1972, 45 years ago. It will be interesting to take the same walk in 2062.

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New Deal For East London – Shoreditch And Hoxton

A few months ago I started a series of posts following the sites that were identified as at risk in an Architects’ Journal article written in January 1972. This was a point in time when East London had been through a period of post war decline, and the changes that have developed East London to the area we see today could just be seen on the horizon.

A key focus of the article was a concern that should there be comprehensive development of the area in the coming years, then a range of pre-1800 buildings should be preserved. The article included a map that identified 85 locations where there are either individual or groups of buildings that should be preserved. The area includes parts of south London, although still to the east of the central city area, therefore considered as being east London.

The 85 locations were divided into different categories based on how the locality had developed. I have already written about the Category A sites, and part of Category B. For this week’s post I am starting on the Category C sites which the Architects’ Journal classified as “Medieval village centres”. The article describes these as:

“Inland villages grew more slowly than those on the ‘industrial’ riverside. They remained a series of basically rural communities, with a heavy smattering of rich Londoners’ country retreats until London’s great expansion in the early 19th century. However this countryside, even in the 17th and 18th centuries, was not totally unaffected by its proximity to the City whose dwellers used it for relaxation – Hoxton in the 17th century was a popular fresh air resort and Pepys would walk there across fields from Seething Lane – and also exploited it for industrial purposes. Hanway wrote in 1767: ‘we have taken plans to render its (London’s) environs displeasing both to sight and smell. The chain of brick-kilns that surround us, like the scars of smallpox, makes us lament the ravages of beauty and the diminution of infant ailment'”.

An extract of the map from the article is shown below. For this post I will be walking from site 31 in Shoreditch to site 36 with a detour via Hoxton, covering the sites listed in the Architects’ Journal along with a few of the features I found whilst walking in this fascinating area of East London.

Hoxton

Site 31 – 1725 House In Charles Square, Shoreditch

I walked to Charles Square from Old Street station, with the square being found just north of the junction of Old Street and Great Eastern Street. A small park in the centre of the square is surrounded on all sides with post war housing, however the 1725 house identified in the article stands out clearly.

Hoxton

In 1972 this was the view across the square to the house:

Hoxton

I could not take a similar photo as the trees were in leaf and they obscured the view of the house so I had to get closer, however the house looks much the same today (including the buildings on either side).

Hoxton

The house in Charles Square is a remnant of attempts in the late 17th and early 18th centuries to start a West End type of development that would attract rich City merchants. The house is a very different architectural style to the rest of the buildings that line the sides of the square, however all the later buildings are of roughly the same height as the 1725 house which helps the different styles to integrate.

Leaving Charles Square I headed to the next site in Hoxton Square, firstly crossing Pitfield Street where on the corner with Coronet Street is one of the many old Truman’s pubs that can be found across London. This is “The Hop Pole”. Closed in 1985 and now converted into flats.

Hoxton

Coronet Street leads into a large open area bounded by Coronet Street and Boot Street. At one end is a large brick building that is now the home for the National Centre for Circus Arts:

Hoxton

However originally this was an electricity generating station for the Vestry of St. Leonard Shoreditch. The building dates from 1896, a time when electricity generation was mainly the responsibility of the individual Vestries across London who constructed generation stations to serve the growing electricity requirements of their local area.

The original function of the building is still recorded above the main entrance.

Hoxton

The plaque on the building records that the generating station burnt rubbish to create the steam needed to generate electricity. This was a rather unique power source at the time as the majority of other London electricity generating stations burnt coal.Hoxton

The Shoreditch Electricity Generating Station operated until 1940 then post war developments with the national grid and construction of large power stations meant that this type of local station was redundant.

The building was derelict for some years, but today, as well as the Circus Arts school, the building is also an event venue for hire with the large rooms needed to house the original equipment providing the perfect space for the uses to which the building is now put.

As well as the National Centre for Circus Arts, the square has a statue of a “Juggling Figure” by Simon Stringer, created to “Commemorate the traditions of Theatre and Music Hall in Hoxton and Shoreditch”

Hoxton

From Coronet Street, it was a very short walk to my next location:

32 – A Few Late 17th Century Relics In Hoxton Square

The text is not specific as to where these “relics” can be found in Hoxton Square, however the map shows a black marker at the location on the south western corner of the square where Hoxton Square connects to Coronet Street.

At this location I found the following single building which looks to be of around the right date.

Hoxton

Hoxton Square is a fascinating area that deserves a dedicated post to cover the history of the area. The central garden was laid out in 1709 and the surrounding housing was largely finished by 1720. Although the Architects’ Journal shows the building(s) at a different location, it may just be a mapping error as probably the oldest remaining building on the square is number 32, on the eastern side of the square, probably dating from around 1690. This is the building on the right in the photo below:

Hoxton

Hoxton Square has a variety of buildings of different ages and architectural styles as shown in the following photos:

Hoxton

Hoxton

Hoxton

Hoxton

Walking around Hoxton Square, it is possible to trace how the square has developed from the earliest buildings at the end of the 17th century, when the square was mainly residential, as industry such as furniture making took over many of the buildings, the construction of St Monica’s Catholic Church in 1865 (on the right in the above photo) to serve the poor local Irish population through to the present day.

Hoxton

I could have stayed in Hoxton Square for some time, and I will write further on this fascinating area in the future, however I had many other sites on the map to walk to.

The next location was in Hoxton Street, where firstly I found the following crest of the London County Council on the side of Follingham Court. I love finding these as they are a reminder of a time when London housing was being built for Londoners as genuinely affordable, rather than the so called luxury apartments that now take over almost any available plot of land, or disused building.

Hoxton

The Macbeth – thankfully still a music venue as locations such as these seem to be disappearing from London’s streets.

Hoxton

I was not expecting to see the following plaque on the side of a recent building at the junction of Hoxton Street and Crondall Street:

Hoxton

William Parker, Lord Monteagle had a house here in Hoxton and it was here that he received the letter revealing the details of the gunpowder plot.

The opposite corner of Crondall Street – these are the types of buildings and food outlets that I will always associate with Hoxton.

Hoxton

Site 33 – Early 18th Century Pair

Based on the map in the Architect’s Journal, I believe that the buildings shown in the photo below are the early 18th Century pair.

Hoxton

I assume that when built, these buildings were set back from Hoxton Street with perhaps an ornamental garden between house and street, or given that the other two, much lower status, buildings on the right are also set back from the street, this may have been a small square set back from the road. The 1893 Ordnance Survey map does not help as it shows two buildings set back, one of which (on the left) also has a building extending to the street.

There is also no photo in the Architects’ Journal showing these buildings in 1972 so difficult to tell how long they have been sealed off from Hoxton Street in this manner. A shame that these buildings are hidden in this way.

Also in Hoxton Street – Hayes and English – funeral directors since 1817:

Hoxton

F. Cooke pie and mash shop, the family business started in 1862 by Robert Cooke in Sclater Street.

Hoxton

Leaving Hoxton Street, I walked down Falkirk Street to Kingsland Road to find:

Site 34 – Geffrye Almshouses

The Geffrye Almshouses, or as they are better known today as the Geffrye Museum look much the same today:

Hoxton

As they did in the 1972 Architects’ Journal article:

Hoxton

The Geffrye Museum was originally built as almshouses for the Ironmongers’ Company in 1715. Early in the 20th century, the Ironmongers’ Company moved their almshouses out of Hoxton and there was a serious risk in 1913 that the buildings could have been demolished.

Purchased by the London County Council, they were converted into a museum and are now run by the Geffrye Museum Trust.

I am surprised that the Geffrye Almshouses were included in the Architects’ Journal list as their definition of sites to be included was “buildings that should be considered for preservation if comprehensive redevelopment of East London were undertaken.” Even in 1972, and with the buildings in apparently good condition, I would have thought that there would be no question that these buildings would be preserved.

The article did use the Geffrye Museum as an example of how “Learning and Looking” could be distributed across London, rather than in the overcrowded museums and art galleries in west and central London, The article comments that:

“Indeed it is a matter for astonishment that museums run on the lines of the Geffrye Museum in Kingsland Road, London, E13, are not a recognised part of our education system in every city. As a result of the Geffrye’s aim of interesting and involving children, all sorts of stimulating knowledge-hunts are provided there. As a result it has the unique distinction among museums of having sometimes had to close its doors on Saturdays, declaring ‘ house full’ because the children pour into it in such crowds. 

There seems to be absolutely no serious reason why our great museums and art galleries should not establish new branches, colonising – if you like – such regions as east London, by siting their much needed expansions in that area. This would be good not only for those who live there, and above all their children, it would also bring a number of tourists into this half of London with all the advantages already discussed here, including that of relieving the summer congestion in the West End.” 

A sensible aim which unfortunately did not progress any further than the article.

Hoxton

Above the main entrance to the almshouses there is a statue of Sir Robert Geffrye. He was a former Lord Mayor of London and also a previous Master of the Ironmongers’ Company. Geffrye’s bequest after his death provided for the construction of the almshouses.

Hoxton

Again, the Geffrye Almshouses / Museum justifies a dedicated post however I had more sites to visit on the Architects’ Journal map. I left via the entrance at the northern end of Kingsland Road, adjacent to the small cemetery for those associated with the almshouses.

Hoxton

Hoxton

Adjacent to the northern entrance to the almshouses is this old water fountain dated 1865 and the gift of the Hon. Mrs Rashleigh of Berkeley Square. The only Rashleigh’s I can find are a family from Prideaux in Cornwall. Early in the 19th century Philip Rashleigh was the MP for Fowey. In 1873 a Sir Thomas Rashleigh died, again from Cornwall. I can find no reference that they had a house at Berkeley Square, however Robert Geffrye had been born in Cornwall so perhaps there was some association between them.

Hoxton

At the southern end of the almhouses, the adjacent building retains a large advertisement for Bloom’s Pianos.

Hoxton

I then walked south along Kingsland Road to the junction with Hackney Road to find:

Site 35 – George Dance’s St. Leonard’s Church and 1735 Clerk’s House

St. Leonard’s Church stands in a prominent position at the junction of Kingsland Road, Hackney Road and Shoreditch High Street. A church has been on the site for many centuries, possibly earlier than the 11th century.

Hoxton

The present church was opened in 1740 after the previous church partly collapsed.  Designed by George Dance the Elder the church has an impressive portico topped by an ornate tower.

Walter Thornbury writing in Old and New London however was not impressed with the new church “The present St. Leonard’s Church, Shoreditch, occupies the site of a church at least as old as the thirteenth centruy. The old church, which had four gables and a low square tower, was taken down in 1736, and the present ugly church built by the elder Dance, in 1740, with a steeple to imitate that of St. Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside, and a fine peal of twelve bells. The chancel window, the gift of Thomas Awsten, in 1634, and a tablet to the Awstens, are the only relics left of the old church. St. Leonard’s is the actor’s church of London; for in the days of Elizabeth and James the players of distinction from the Curtain in Holywell Lane, and from “The Theatre,” as well as those from the Blackfriars Theatre and Shakespeare’s Globe, were fond of residing in this parish. Perhaps nowhere in all London have rooms echoed oftener with Shakespeare’s name than those of Shoreditch.”

As with the Geffrye Almshouses I am surprised that the church was included in the Architects’ Journal article as I would have thought there was no threat to the church, even in 1972. The article does though mention several times the risks of “wholesale demolition”, covering large areas without any thought to the buildings that would be demolished – the risks to remaining 18th century buildings in East London seemed very real in 1972.

What may have been at risk was the Clerk’s House which dates from around the same time as the church. This small building is in a corner of the churchyard with a frontage directly onto the street.

Hoxton

A short distance along Shoreditch High Street, at the junction with Calvert Avenue is Syd’s Coffee stall. Both myself and my father have included Syd’s while taking photos around the area over many years. This is from my walk round in 2017:

Hoxton

And in 1986. The car is obviously of the time, but the rest of the photo could be today rather than 30 years ago.  The only other obvious change is the phone number for Hillary Caterers from an 01 number in the photo below to an 0181 today.

Hoxton

Syd’s dates from 1919 and there is an excellent article on SpitalfieldsLife covering the history of the coffee stall.Hoxton

A short distance in Shoreditch High Street from the junction with Calvert Avenue is the last of the locations in today’s post on the category C sites:

Site 36 – All That Remains Of Pre-Victorian Shoreditch High Street

The Architects’ Journal is not that specific regarding these buildings, just stating “all that remains” so it is not possible to check whether all the buildings in 1972 remain in 2017, although I suspect not.

There are a number of pre-Victorian buildings that remain, including this interesting building on the corner with Boundary Passage with a strange set of windows along the side passage included one rather large, blocked up window.

Hoxton

And opposite is this rather nice row of pre-Victorian buildings:

Hoxton

That completes the first part of my walk through the Architects’ Journal category C sites and 45 years after the article was published it is good to confirm that the sites listed as worthy of preservation are still here.

In my next post, I will continue from Shoreditch High Street, via Bethnal Green and Whitechapel to the edge of Shadwell.

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The Odeon, Shaftesbury Avenue

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote two posts covering a walk around the West End of London to find all the working theatres. There are also a number of buildings that were once theatres but have now taken on a different function. I had not intended to write about these yet, however there was one old theatre building where the light of an early afternoon in late May highlighted a wonderful architectural feature that runs along the facade of this building. This is the Odeon, Shaftesbury Avenue.

Odeon, Shaftesbury Avenue

The facade is not what you would typically associate with a cinema and gives away the building’s original function. This building was originally the Saville Theatre.

The Saville Theatre opened in 1931 and according to an introduction to the theatre in one of the early theatre programmes was “built by Messrs Gee, Walker and Slater of 32, St. James’s Street, SW1 from plans of the Architects, Messrs T.P. Bennett and Son, of 41 Bedford Row, WC1 who were also responsible for the whole colour scheme, lighting, furnishing etc.”

The exterior of the building looks much the same today as when it first opened as the Saville Theatre, apart from the canopy over the entrance and the glass blocks that now replace the wrought iron windows in the enclosed area above the canopy.

The cover from the 1934 programme for the production of Jill Darling shows the theatre entrance as built:

Odeon, Shaftesbury Avenue

The Saville Theatre operated as a theatre until the end of 1969, however during the 1960s, as well as plays the theatre would also put on concerts by The Beatles, The Who, Elton John among many other big names from the period, and for a while was owned by Brian Epstein, the manager of the Beatles.

In 1970 the theatre was purchased by EMI who converted the building into a cinema which opened as part of EMI’s ABC cinema chain at the end of the year. ABC cinemas went through a number of ownership changes, until the chain was owned by the same company that had brought Odeon cinemas from the Rank Group. The ABC cinemas were then gradually re-branded as Odeon Cinemas.

The interior of the theatre was a luxurious 1920s design that included an early example of how shopping could be integrated with other activities. The theatre featured the “Saville Theatre Salon”, described in the programme as “The Saville Theatre Salon is unique. Tea, Coffee and other Refreshments are served, whilst there is also a fine display of the latest costumes, coats and jewellery, by leading London West End Stores. It is, indeed, well worth a visit by our patrons in the Stalls and Dress Circle. There is no access to it from the Upper Circle.”

I assume the reference to having no access from the Upper Circle is to reserve access to those in the more expensive seats.

Whilst the interior decoration has been lost during the various cinema conversions, the facade of the building retains the magnificent frieze that runs the length of the facade along Shaftesbury Avenue, and it is this frieze that stood out so well as I walked past.

The frieze is titled “Drama through the Ages” and the sculptor was Gilbert Bayes.

Gilbert Bayes was a prolific artist and sculptor during the first half of the 20th Century. His works can still be found on buildings across the country and perhaps his most famous work is the large clock and statue combination “The Queen of Time” above the main entrance to Selfridges in Oxford Street.

The frieze is 129 feet in length and tells the story of drama across time and from left to right starts with Minstrels, Players and St. George:

Odeon, Shaftesbury Avenue

Greek Chorus and Gladiators:Odeon, Shaftesbury Avenue

Imperial Rome and Bacchanalia:

Odeon, Shaftesbury Avenue

Bacchanalia and Harlequinade:

Odeon, Shaftesbury Avenue

Harlequinade and Romantic:

Odeon, Shaftesbury Avenue

Romantic and Twentieth Century:

Odeon, Shaftesbury Avenue

The frieze is very detailed and it takes some time to look along the frieze and pick out so many individual features. Here is Gilbert Bayes name recorded in the very lower left of the frieze:

Odeon, Shaftesbury Avenue

Punch and Judy:

Odeon, Shaftesbury Avenue

The masks of a Greek Chorus:

Odeon, Shaftesbury Avenue

Before being installed on the facade of the Saville Theatre, parts of the frieze were displayed at the Royal Academy during 1930 and 1931.

If you go back to the photo of the front of the theatre at the top of the post, there are also a series of round plaques. They are also the work of Gilbert Bayes and show Art through the Ages.

The theatre did suffer some limited bomb damage during the early 1940s, however the frieze survived this damage, along with the subsequent conversion of the Saville Theatre into the ABC then Odeon Cinemas.

Whatever forms of entertainment take place in the West End in the future, I hope that Gilbert Bayes magnificent frieze lasts for a very long time.

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