Category Archives: London Buildings

New Deal For East London – Whitechapel To Limehouse

A couple of weeks ago I started exploring East London using the map published in the Architects’ Journal from the 19th January 1972. The map was part of a feature article titled “New Deal for East London” and covered the considerable changes expected to take place across East London and the fate of a number of sites that the Architects’ Journal considered essential for preservation.

Sites across the map were categorised by how they were part of East London’s development. In the past two posts I covered Category A – Areas that were developed as overflow from the City of London.

In today’s post I start on Category B – Linear development along the Rivers Thames and Lea due to riverside trades.

The map below is an extract from the larger map published in the 1972 article and covers the next set of locations, those marked from 17 to 25, running from the southern edge of Whitechapel to Limehouse along the Thames. The sites along the River Lea will be the subject of a later post

The following map shows the same area today with the same locations marked.

The Architects’ Journal introduces this area as follows:

“And now the route east from the City can be followed by tracing the riverside developments. While land east of the City still consisted of fields dotted with small, independent villages, the riverside was already lined with a continuous strip of workshops, wharves and houses. As England’s trade and empire increased in the 16th and 17th centuries, riverside villages grew in size, not inland, but along the river, and eventually became an almost independent naval town stretching from the Tower to Limehouse. This independence from the rest of London astonished even 18th century Londoners. John Fielding wrote in 1776; ‘When one goes to Rotherhithe or Wapping, which places are chiefly inhabited by sailors, but that somewhat of the same language is spoken, a man would be apt to suspect himself in another country.’ And Boswell was recommended by Johnson to explore Wapping to see ‘ wonderful extent and variety of London.’ When Boswell did go to Wapping, almost 10 years later, he was disappointed and supposed that standardisation in building had destroyed its character. “

There is so much to be written about this area, however my posts are often getting rather long, so today I will concentrate on finding the sites, and write more about the history of this fascinating area in some future posts.

I always enjoy a walk in East London and when I walked this route the weather was perfect, although bright sun can cause problems with the contrasts between sunlight and shadow in some of the narrow East London streets. Starting off, I walked to the first point:

Site 17 – All that remains of Wellclose Square and 1850 GLC owned Wilton’s Music Hall in Grace’s Alley

I started off walking along Royal Mint Street, then Cable Street before turning off down Ensign Street where the entrance to Graces Alley can be found. It is here that Wilton’s Music Hall can be found.

The buildings that now house Wilton’s have a long history. Originally individual houses from the late 17th Century they have since been through many alterations and changes, a 19th century Music Hall, a Methodist Mission and a warehouse for rag sorting.

During the 1960s the London County Council planned to demolish the whole area including the nearby Swedenborg and Wellclose Squares along with the buildings that housed Wilton’s Music Hall. Whilst the other areas under threat of demolition did not survive, the buildings along the northern edge of Grace’s Alley, including Wilton’s Music Hall were spared, but fell into dereliction. Campaigns during the last few decades raised the funding to restore Wilton’s and it is the restored building that we find today. There is a full history of the building and the restoration on the Wilton’s web site which can be found here.

Wellclose Square is a different matter. The square is found at the end of Grace’s Alley:

In the 1972 article, the Architects’ Journal describes Wellclose and the adjacent Swedenborg Square’s:

“Off Cable Street were two early 18th Century squares – Swedenborg and Wellclose Squares – neither of which descended into the slum that Cable Street had become. Both escaped serious war damage but, although unique, were not spared by wholesale demolition that occurred in the last decade. Swedenborg Gardens now stand on the site of the square, no trace of which has remained. Wellclose Square (where Dr. Johnson’s friend Dr. Mayo lived – and which at that time was the residential centre for Scandinavian timber merchants and boasted a Danish Church) has not even been rebuilt, but lies as the demolition men left it. Sites of original houses are used as car parks. The East End as an area could not afford to lose these houses; their demolition destroyed vital community memory and identity.”

The last sentence in the above paragraph is a consistent message throughout the 1972 article. It is not just the buildings that are being lost, but also the loss of a community that had long considered East London as home.

I was not sure what I would find in Wellclose Square. The Architects’ Journal listing states “all that remains” which is not very specific. The article also includes the following photo of some of the houses in Wellclose Square but does not make clear whether there were still remaining in 1972.

The buildings on the right of the above photo with the panels above the ground floor windows were originally the Danish Embassy.

A quick walk around Wellclose Square confirmed that all the buildings of the original square have been demolished, with new building from the later decades of the 20th century now running along the sides of what remains of the square.

The only buildings of any age that are now within Wellclose Square are those that form part of the central square (the original location of the Danish church). One of which is this building:

It appears to be within the grounds of the school that occupies the central part of the square so I hope that the windows and door facing the road are covered in this way to prevent access from the road rather than that the building has been abandoned.

The plaques on the wall provide some background to the building. The plaque on the left reads “St. Paul’s Mission Room” and that on the right “St. Paul’s Church for Seamen Infant Nursery”.

The building was constructed in 1874 and is currently Grade II listed.  As this was a mid-Victorian building I suspect it was not what the Architects’ Journal was referring to and that all the buildings were demolished.

To get to my next location, I needed to retrace my steps to Cable Street and at the junction with Royal Mint Street turn left down Dock Street:

Site 18 – Late 18th Century Houses in Dock Street

The Architects’ Journal map shows three locations in Dock Street. One a short distance down on the left, one further on the right then one at the junction with The Highway, and it here that I will start.

The following photo shows the house in the location marked on the map, so what appears to be a fine survivor, although I am not sure whether the full house survives. If you look at the new building to the left, it appears to carry on into the original building and checking an aerial view it looks that the new building on the left extends across the rear of the older building and that whilst the front and part side facade looks to have survived this may well be a case of the body of a building being gutted and rebuilt as part of a new, larger construction.

Although nothing could prepare me for what I would find next. This is the building on the site marked on the left of Dock Street.

This has to be the worst reconstruction of a pretend 18th Century house that I have ever seen. The building also has a distinctly industrial feel with the metal door, air vents and pipework down the side. Openstreetmap has this building labeled as a mobile phone company so I suspect it houses equipment for their network, but why build the front facade to possibly resemble the 18th Century house that once stood here in such a superficial manner?

Walking back up Dock Street towards Cable Street there was some considerable building work underway. Here all the buildings to the right of the Sir Sydney Smith pub have been demolished.

The full site is in the photo below. This building site will soon become the Ordnance Building where “no expense has been spared in curating a collection of residences that live up to the development’s prime location”. The Ordnance Building will also feature a “Quintessentially (online) concierge service” whatever that is.

It seems that almost anything these days is “curated”. You can read more about the Ordnance Building here.

The final location in Dock Street appears to have survived intact. A fine three floor house. Note the way that the size of the windows reduce from ground to top floor.

From Dock Street it was then a walk down towards the River Thames, to the next location:

Site 19 – Wapping conservation area enlarged to take in early 19th century pair on river to east

Site 19 covered a number of buildings around and to the east of the Wapping basin entrance to the London Docks. The docks are long since closed, however the buildings remain, some much restored and rebuilt, however the area does retain the character of when the docks were in operation.

I have already written about this area in my post on The Gun Tavern, so as this is a rather lengthy post I will not repeat here.

At the time of the 1972 article, the restored buildings along Pier Head shown in the photos above and below were for sale with prices of:

Houses: £22,500 to £37,500

Flats: £13,500 to £42,500

A quick check for recently sold prices, found that in 2012 a terrace house at Pier Head sold for £2,550,000 and in 2011 a flat sold for £1,300,000. That is quite some investment in 40 years.

Looking across to the old St. John’s Church and the Charity School next door.

The next stop on the Architects’ Journal map was reached after walking along Wapping High Street, up Wapping Lane then turning into Raine Street to find:

Site 20 – 1719 School in Raine Street

Apart from the nearby church of St. Peter’s London Docks, the old school building, or Raine House as it is now named is the only survivor among an area of redeveloped 20th century housing.

The building was originally a charity school founded by Henry Raine, owner of a Wapping brewery with the traditional blue coated school children standing in alcoves on the front of the building, very similar to the charity school in the Wapping Conservation Area.

The plaque above the door confirms the date of 1719 and states “Come In & Learn Your Duty To God & Man”.

In 1972 the old school building looked to be at considerable risk. The Architects’ Journal states: “The 1719 school in Raine Street, owned by the GLC, this school is for sale – a sale that had better be quick if it is to survive attacks from the local children”. The article includes the photo below to demonstrate the poor condition of the building. Note also that the two statues are missing, hopefully moved to preserve them. The article then goes on to state “Since this picture was taken all first floor windows have been broken. What will become of this building if action is not taken soon?”

The last sentence sums up the concern that is a theme throughout the article. There were a whole range of important 18th century buildings across East London being left to decay, helped in that decay by vandalism. If the authorities did not apparently see the importance in these buildings no wonder the local children could see no reason why they could not use these decaying buildings for stone throwing and other general damage.

Fortunately the school buildings have survived and now rather suitably are home to the Pollyanna Training Theatre and Studios, rather than expensive flats.

From Raine Street, it was then a walk up Wapping Lane to The Highway to reach the next location:

Site 21 – Early 19th Century Rectory and Church of St. Paul’s Shadwell

The Highway is a really busy road and it took a while to get a suitable break in the traffic to take the photo below showing the Rectory on the right and the church on the left.

The current church is the third that has occupied the site. The original church was built in 1656 as a Chapel of Ease. This was rebuilt in 1669 as the Parish Church of Shadwell.

The 1669 church (the middle picture in the top row in the print below) was demolished to make way for the current church which was built in 1820.

St. Paul’s Shadwell has been traditionally associated with Sea Captains and Captain James Cook was an active parishioner at the church.

An information panel at the entrance to the church also records that John Wesley preached at the church and there were a number of notable baptisms including Jane Randolph, the mother of the US President Thomas Jefferson, and James Cook, the eldest son of Captain Cook.

If you look back at the maps at the start of this post, the church is just north of the Shadwell Basin and when this easterly part of the London Docks was constructed, part of the church yard of St. Paul’s was lost to make way for the new docks.

From here, I continued along The Highway, almost to the entrance to the Limehouse Link Tunnel, before turning left into Butcher Row to find:

Site 22 – late 18th Century Rectory in Butcher Row

Butcher Row is a really busy road. It links Commercial Road, Cable Street and The Highway and is at the point where The Highway disappears below ground as the Limehouse Link. The late 18th century Rectory was easy to find, but I had to wait sometime before I could get a photo not obstructed by traffic.

This is a lovely building, built between 1795 and 1796, not originally as a Rectory, but for Matthew Whiting, a sugar refiner and director of the Phoenix Assurance Company.

There was originally a church behind the Rectory building. St. James, Ratcliffe was the first church built by the Bishop Blomfield Metropolitan Churches Fund and consecrated in 1833. It was badly damaged during the war and demolished in the 1950s.

The following extract from the 1940 Bartholomew Atlas of Greater London shows the pre-war area with the church in the centre of the map with Butcher Row just to the left. The map also highlights the changes in the area. Today, Butcher Row is a much wider road and has taken over the part of Cable Street where it runs up to Commercial Road.

The Rectory and the area once occupied by the church is now the home of the Royal Foundation of St. Katherine.

On the front of the rectory is a blue plaque to the Reverend St. John Groser, an East End Priest during the first half of the 20th Century who took part in the General Strike and was injured in the Battle of Cable Street. There is a fascinating history of St. John Groser to be found here.

Hard to believe that this house is facing one of the busiest sets of roads in East London.

Leaving the traffic of Butcher Row, it was time to head to the next location:

Site 23 – Early 18th Century Group in Narrow Street

This group of buildings are still looking in fine condition and include The Grapes pub.

the Architects’ Journal provides a view from 1972 of how this type of house could survive and the social changes that this involved:

“In Narrow Street a few much restored early 18th century houses give foretaste of the social pattern that might soon develop along the whole riverside. the fronts are well painted, but generally anonymous, the backs, have picture frame windows and motor boats. Their original inhabitants have been moved into council flats behind. 

Significantly these houses survive only because they have been bought by people able to restore and maintain them. Tower Hamlets had planned to demolish them for open space, but relented when it was agreed that they would be restored privately.”

After a quick stop in the Grapes, it was on to the next location:

Site 24 – 18th Century Terrace in Newell Street

This terrace of houses is a surprise. It is reached from Narrow Lane by turning into Three Colt Street, then turning left into Newell Street. (Newell Street was originally Church Row, but changed name, I believe, in the late 1930s) Both these streets have housing blocks from the later half of the 20th century, however as soon as you pass under the bridge carrying the Docklands Light Railway over Newell Street you find yourself in a street lined with these 18th century houses.

At the end of the terrace is St. Anne’s Passage which provides access to the church of St. Anne, Limehouse. The following photo is taken by the passage which is running to the left and shows the full length of the terrace. In the photo of the site in the Architects’ Journal, the building with the curved facade is only two storey so the top storey looks to be a later addition which the different type of brick confirms.

If you look down St. Anne’s Passage you find the final destination for the walk:

Site 25 – St. Anne’s, Limehouse

St. Anne’s Limehouse is a wonderful church and visiting on a sunny February day was perfect. Although you can enter the churchyard from the Commercial Road, the best way to approach the church is through St. Anne’s Passage which provides this view of the church:

The article in the Architects’ Journal included the following photo from the same position. Note how the house on the right was originally two storeys.

The building on the other corner was the office for a building company in 1972 however it was originally a pub which is still reasonably clear from the building today, which does not look as if it has changed much since 1972.

The pub was the Coopers Arms and occupies a good location at the entrance to the passage to the church. I wonder how may participants of a Sunday morning service walked the short distance to the pub at the end of the service?

There are so many closed pubs across East London and looking at these buildings now it is easy to forget that they were once the hub for so much of the life of the community. Most East London pubs also had sports teams and ran sports events, and despite its relatively small size the Coopers Arms was no exception.

19th Century issues of the Sporting Life tell of the events held at the Coopers Arms.

From the issue of the 22nd February 1890:

“Cooper’s Arms, Church Row, Limehouse: There was a good muster present at this establishment on Tuesday evening to witness the opening bouts of the 9st competition for a silver cup, promoted by W. Turner, the well known boxer of Limehouse. Details:

Bout 1: W. Brown beat T. Tabbits – The latter retired at the end of the first round.

Bout 2: A. Smith beat W. Potts – There was little to choose between these men, Smith receiving the verdict.

Bout 3: J. Bennett beat H. Cooper – This was a grand affair for two rounds when Cooper retired.

Bout 4: D. Hudson sparred a bye with G. Painter

Exhibition boxing by the following also took place: Willits v. Perkins, Paver v. Pointon, Walmer v. Daultry, Hall v. Barnes, brothers Campbell. Wind-up, Bill Turner v. Buffer Causer

The judges were H. Watson and H. Perry, referee T. Baldwin, timekeeper, Sporting Life representative, M.C.  The finals take place on Tuesday next.”

The Cooper’s Arms also had a very active Quoits team with the Sporting Life referring to the team as “those well known East-End quoiters.”

Remove the yellow lines on the street, the street lamp and the blue sign on the gates and you could be walking to church in the 19th Century.

If you look just to the left of the blue plaque in the photo above, there is a much older stone plaque in the narrow gap:

If I have read this correctly, the plaque from 1757 gives the dimensions of the passage and confirms that the passage is the property of St. Anne’s Church.

St. Anne’s Limehouse is a magnificent church. It was one of the 12 churches built following the 1711 Act of Parliament to build additional churches across London to cater for the expanding population of the city.

Built between 1714-1727, the church was rebuilt after a serious fire in 1850 and there was further restoration work in the 1980s and 90s.

St. Anne’s, Limehouse was permitted by Queen Anne to fly the White Ensign of the Royal Naval Service, a tradition which continues to this day. The proximity of the church to the River Thames also meant that the church was a Trinity House navigation mark for those travelling on the river.

In the churchyard is a strange pyramid structure. It was originally planned that this would be installed on the roof of the church, however this did not happen so the pyramid continues to sit in the churchyard looking up at the church roof where it should have been located.

This was a fascinating walk, rounded off by finishing in the churchyard of St. Anne’s on a sunny February afternoon with the church yard full of crocuses.

On this third walk to visit the sites of concern in the 1972 Architects; Journal, I was pleased that the majority have survived well, the main exception being the rather strange modern mock Georgian fascia of the building in Dock Street.

The next stage will be the route from Cubitt Town on the Isle of Dogs up along the River Lea to finish of the category B locations. That is a walk for another day.

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Atlantic House, Holborn Viaduct

In the late 1940s and early 1950s reconstruction started on many of the sites that had been destroyed by wartime bombing. One of the buildings completed in 1951 was Atlantic House, Holborn Viaduct.

This was an easy location to find, but in discovering more about the building I found how in London some things remain the same, and how some buildings are not what they seem.

My father took the following photo of Atlantic House in 1951 shortly after completion of the building. The photo was taken on Holborn Viaduct looking towards Holborn Bridge over Farringdon Street.

The photo below is an enlargement of part of the above photo and shows the bridge over Farringdon Street to the right of the lamp post with the remains of a building just behind the bridge with the outline of stairs on the adjoining wall. I will come on to the relevance of this building later.

This area of London suffered badly during the war as can be seen from the Aerofilms photo below taken in 1951. The photo also demonstrates how random was the impact of bombing with some blocks of buildings completely destroyed whilst others remain untouched.

In the photo Atlantic House was still under construction. The building is in the lower left corner. The length along Holborn Viaduct appears complete whilst that along Farringdon Street is still just the steel framework.

Atlantic House was design by T.P. Bennett & Son, an architectural practice that is still in existence today.

Atlantic House was built under the government’s “lessor scheme”. This was a scheme to try and get post war building underway as there was a considerable shortage of office space across the city.

Under the “lessor scheme” office buildings would be leased back to the government for a fixed rate of interest. This provided a cost effective way for the government to get office space built whilst providing a modest return for the construction company.

The aim of the “lessor scheme” was to develop office space quickly and cost effectively so there was little incentive for good architecture.

Atlantic House was built of steel frame (as seen in the Aerofilms photo) with the frame being clad in brick. The building had symmetrical frontages on both Holborn Viaduct and Farringdon Street with a curved corner facing onto the bridge over Farringdon Street.

The architecture was very much of a 1930s style with long lines of windows along the otherwise plain long facades. It was criticised for its architectural blandness when completed, although I rather like the curved corner of the building.

The photo below is from the LMA Collage collection and shows the two long facades and the curved corner facing the bridge.

(Photo used with permission from London Metropolitan Archives, City of London. Catalogue reference SC/PHL/01/013/57/3007)

Atlantic House lasted almost 50 years and was demolished in 2000 and 2001, to be replaced by:

Another Atlantic House, but of a very different architectural style and built of very different materials.

Whilst Atlantic House is very different the building on the corner is also new as it does not appear in the photos of the post war Atlantic House. Originally, Holborn Bridge had four pavilions, one on each corner of the bridge. During the war, the two northern pavilions were destroyed by bombing, only the two southern pavilions remained.

Go back to the enlargement of my father’s photo and the remains of the north eastern pavilion is the structure seen at the end of the bridge.

When the 1951 Atlantic House was built, the remains of the original pavilion were demolished and a concrete stairway built at bridge level to provide access to Farringdon Street below. The original pavilion was not rebuilt.

The pavilion that we see on the north west corner today was built after Atlantic House was demolished in 2001. Built to replicate the original, it looks old but is relatively recent.

Given that the name Atlantic House is on the building that now occupies the site of the post war Atlantic House, I checked whether there was a pre-war Atlantic House on the same site, and sure enough there was, and I was able to find records of the building dating back to 1901, so there have been three different incarnations of Atlantic House going back for at least 116 years.

The current Atlantic House is occupied by a legal services company. The post war version was the home of Her Majesty’s Stationary Office and the pre- war building appears to have been home to a number of companies including Armour & Co. Ltd, famed for their tinned meats including Armour’s Corned Beef, Armour’s Boned Chicken and Armour’s Ox Tonque which could all be purchased from Harrod’s as well as stores across the country.

Another occupant of the pre-war Atlantic House was the Berthon Boat Company, a manufacturer of collapsible boats.

Percy K. Langdale, the secretary of the Berthon Boat Company wrote to the Pall Mall Gazette on the 25th April 1912, one of a number of letters concerning the sinking of the Titanic.

The Berthon Boat Company manufactured collapsible boats which were used as back up to wooden life boats. Langdale wrote that:

“Unfortunately, in shipping disasters, collapsible boats, being supplementary or auxiliary, are only resorted to after every wooden boat has been launched, and when the vessel is generally going down, so are seldom brought into use. In the case of the Titanic disaster, however, two and a half hours elapsed from the time of collision to the sinking, so there was ample time to have got out sufficient collapsible craft for all on board of the vessel had she been equipped with a sufficient number of them.”

I have no idea how good the Berthon collapsible boats were, but it does make you wonder how many lifes would have been saved if their boats had been on board the Titanic.

On the north east corner of Holborn Bridge, Bath House was built on the site in the 1970s and in 2014, following demolition of Bath House and as part of the redevlopment which included a new Bath House, the final missing pavilion building was constructed. Whilst in the style of the original pavilions, the clean stonework gives away that this is a building only three years of age.

The round plaque on the lower left of the pavilion is a City Heritage Award from 2014. The reconstructed pavilions on the north side of Holborn Bridge are rather good replicas of the originals. The photo below shows one of the original pavilions, still standing on the south east corner of Holborn Bridge.

As can be seen in the photos above, on each of the pavilions there is a niche containing a statue of a London Mayor. The four mayors are shown below and are:

South east pavilion – Sir Thomas Gresham

North easrt pavilion – Sir Hugh Myddelton

North west pavilion – Sir William Walworth

South west pavilion – Henry Fitz Eylwin (the first Lord Mayor of London)

Holborn Bridge is part of Holborn Viaduct, the 427m long viaduct designed to provide a bridge over the valley of the Fleet River and a level road between Holborn Circus and Newgate Street.

The construction contract for Holborn Viaduct was awarded on the 7th May 1866 and on the 6th November 1869 it was opened by Queen Victoria.

Whilst Holborn Bridge is the most obvious part of the Viaduct, there are other places where it can be seen, including the height of the viaduct above the land where it once sloped down, either side of the Fleet River.

One such place is the smaller bridge over Shoe Lane.

The small bridge over Shoe Lane can also be seen in my father’s photo below, taken from a slightly different angle than the first photo and showing the Shoe Lane Bridge at the lower edge of Atlantic House.

The height of the viaduct can also be seen looking out from Holborn Bridge, south along Farringdon Street down towards the River Thames.

As well as the four statues of London Mayors on the pavilion buildings, the bridge also has four statues to Agriculture, Commerce, Fine Art and Science.

Each of the pavilions provides a means of getting between Holborn Viaduct and Farringdon Street with a staircase in each pavilion. This was probably their original design purpose, providing access between the two levels via an ornate set of symmetrical buildings at each corner of the bridge.

Although the post war Atlantic House did not include rebuilding the pavilion, it did provide a staircase between Holborn Viaduct and Farringdon Street as well as the three windows which look out from the first floor, however it is a very utilitarian concrete structure.

(Photo used with permission from London Metropolitan Archives, City of London. Catalogue reference SC/PHL/01/010/75/360)

In the photo above, the ground floor was occupied by W.B. Poultry & Meats Ltd, one of the many businesses in this area connected with Smithfield Market.

Atlantic House and Holborn Viaduct and Bridge show that despite frequent rebuilding there is some continuity in the names of buildings with Atlantic House being the name for the building on the north west corner of the bridge for over 116 years.

They also demonstrate that some things are not quite what they seem with the pavilions on the north side of Holborn Bridge missing for several decades and now being replicas of the originals.

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New Deal For East London – Spitalfields

Before continuing on from last week’s post, it is interesting to understand why so much of East London had reached the state described by the Architects’ Journal in 1972. Such changes do not usually just happen, there is some underlying influence at work to cause so much gradual dereliction over such a large area.

The following extract titled “Planned Depression” from the 1972 article goes someway to describing how this had come about:

“Perhaps the most cheering factor in the situation is that it has now been recognised by Greater London’s planners that the economic depression existing throughout east London is the result not of thoughtless neglect, but of national planning policy. This was explained convincingly by Dr. David Eversley, now chief strategic planner to the GLC, when he spoke to the conference of municipal treasurers last year. As that important speech was not widely publicised (municipal treasurers not being regarded as newsworthy by the national press), this seems a good opportunity to present his argument in some detail.

First perhaps, one may recall that, whereas in the ‘hungry 30s’ when Ramsey MacDonald was prime minister of a national government, everybody burst into despairing laughter when he promised that progress was going ‘on and on and on, and up and up and up’, since 1945 this has in fact been the assumption of most of our economic advisers – at least until recently.

Founded on that assumption, it was a major goal of post-war planning policy to prevent London from going on and on and on (though it has certainly gone up and up and up) by inducing people to leave the capital and go to new towns. This was done by bribing industry, to establish itself in these towns by the system of industrial development certificates accompanied by various financial encouragements to leave overcrowded London, and other over-developed industrial centres and go to the new towns. As Dr. Eversley pointed out, the characteristic of the British approach has been for at least 30 years, ever since the intra-urban approach to the city’s problems concentrates largely on large-scale redevelopments; slum clearance followed normally by high-density, high-rise rebuilding; above all ambitious city centre schemes, designed to preserve the local and regional dominance of the older centres at a time of changing settlement habits….and into the age of private motor transport.

The distinguishing characteristic of British planning for urban problems in the last two decades, Dr. Eversley pointed out, has been that compared with most other countries, it has been extraordinarily successful… that the stated aims of national planning have by and large been implemented. Cities have held on to their Green Belts, the seven conurbations all had lower populations and London will by 1981 have fewer than 7,000,000 inhabitants – that is, about 2.5 million less than there would have been but for planned and voluntary out-migration.”

Although there was rebuilding across East London (but much of the high-density and high-rise housing as mentioned by Dr. Eversley), the inducements for both industry and people to move out to the new towns, (with the Essex new towns of Harlow and Basildon being the new homes for significant numbers of east Londoners), contributed to a lack of employment opportunities and a reducing population across east London.

Following last week’s walk around Whitechapel, my next stop following the Architects’ Journal 1972 map is Spitalfields. The last of the category A sites on the map which the Architects’ Journal classified as “Areas that were developed as overflow from the City of London”.

I must admit to feeling somewhat nervous in writing about this area of London which continues to be described in such detail by the excellent Spitalfields Life blog and in the books by Dan Cruickshank who was so instrumental in the years following the Architects’ Journal report in saving so much of this area. (Dan Cruikshank’s latest book “Spitalfields: Two Thousand Years of English History in One Neighbourhood” is sitting on my shelves waiting to be read)

The following map is an extract from the large map in the 1972 Architects’ Journal covering the eight locations around Spitalfields.

I have marked the locations on the following extract from OpenStreetMap to show the area as it is today. Comparison of the maps show the loss of Broadstreet Station, adjacent to Liverpool Street Station in the lower left corner. The Goods Yard at the top centre of the map, and the market in the middle of the map when it still the original fruit and vegetable market in 1972.

The first stop is site 9 on the above two maps. To follow the locations numerically, Widegate Street is reached by turning off Bishopsgate into Middlesex Street where a short distance along we reach the turn into:

Site 9 – Late 17th Century Widegate Street

On walking into Widegate Street we enter a series of narrow streets that retain their original layout and give a glimpse of what this part of London would have looked like from the time they were built until post war development.

As you walk down Widegate Street, the buildings on one side are recent all the way down to the building just before the Kings Stores pub with the buildings on the opposite side being a mix but appear to be mainly from the 19th century.

The following view is from the junction of Widegate Street (on the left) Sandy’s Row (on the right) and Artillery Passage. The corner building displays a construction date of 1895.

Looking down Widegate Street from the Middlesex Street end. Most of the buildings appear of 19th century vintage. The Architects’ Journal title for this location is “Late 17th century Widegate Street” and the black location mark on the map is on the left side of the street near the junction with Middlesex Street which may refer to the white-painted building on the left. This is a different style to the rest of the street and therefore may be a late 17th century building, but I would not apply this description to the whole of Widegate Street.

I assume that the buildings that once lined the opposite side of Widegate Street were of similar style to those that remain on the left.

The next stop is at the end of Widegate Street where we enter Artillery Passage.

Site 10 – Artillery Passage and Artillery Lane

Artillery Passage is a narrow foot passage that leads down from Widegate Street to a curve in Artillery Lane.

In the photo below I am standing in Artillery Lane looking down Artillery Passage. Just behind me are numbers 56 and 58 Artillery Lane which are from around 1720, with replacement Georgian facades from the 1750s. Number 56 retains its Georgian shop front.

When I was taking these photos there were two large white lorries parked in front of these buildings. I returned later and another set of large delivery vans were parked immediately in front. This corner of Artillery Lane seems to be the parking place of choice for lorries making their deliveries to the shops and restaurants here, and in Artillery Passage. I shall have to return on a Sunday when hopefully the area is free of deliveries.

Despite trying to read the faded sign on the first floor of the corner building from many different angles, I could not decode the faded lettering. I have found sites on the internet that state it reads “Fresh Milk Daily from The Shed”. Perhaps it would be clearer in better lighting than on a December day.

In the photo above, Artillery Lane is the road curving round to the right where it heads to Bishopsgate. Today, Artillery Lane continues behind where I was standing up to the junction with Crispin Street and Bell Lane. Up until 1895, this short stretch of road was known as Raven Row. Just to the northeast of this point was the five acres of land that until the end of the 17th century was used for longbow, crossbow and gun practice and was known as the Old Artillery Ground. Interesting to speculate whether Ravens also frequented this open area and gave this short street the name Raven Row.

Artillery Passage remains a narrow passage between what appear to be mainly 18th century buildings. It gives a good idea of what this small area of London would have looked like, despite the shops and restaurants now being rather upmarket.

Coming out of Artillery Lane turn right then immediately left into the next location.

Site 11 – Single 1720 house in White’s Row

White’s Row is a narrow lane running from Artillery Lane to Commercial Street. The Architects’ Journal map has location 11 roughly half way along White’s Row and described as a single 1720 house.

White’s Row is narrow, made worse at the moment as part of the pavement on one side is boarded off due to the large building site between White’s Row and Brushfield Street, meaning that as you walk towards Commercial Street there is nothing on the left. Most of White’s Row one remaining side appears to be either 19th or 20th century. There is one building in roughly the position shown on the Architects; Journal map that answers the description of a single house, however I have some problems with confirming this as a 1720 house.

My photo of the building is shown below. Whilst there are some elements of 18th century design, the building just looks too new. The window casements are also flush with the brickwork. Buildings of the period typically had recessed casements.

My assumption is that design elements of the original 1720 house have been retained, however the majority of this building must be of recent construction.

Leaving White’s Row, I walked up Commercial Street towards Christ Church and this is the view on the left of Commercial Street. The rear of the facade of the old Fruit and Wool Exchange building in Brushfield Street are all that remain, whilst a completely new building rises to the rear of the facade.

To the right of the above photo is the Fruit and Vegetable Market building, with the frontage onto Commercial Street shown in the photo below. The low winter light bringing out the colour of the brick walls – one of my favourite building materials.

Site 12 – Network of early 18th century streets around Hawksmoor’s Christ Church

Site 12 in the Architects’ Journal map covers the network of streets north of Hawksmoor’s magnificent Christ Church including Fournier Street, Princelet Street, Hanbury Street and Wilkes Street.

The first building on the right in Fournier Street is Hawksmoor’s 1726 Rectory. This is a very substantial building, emphasised by the windows being set back a full 9 inches from the facade of the building. The 1709 Building Act required windows to be set back by 4 inches, but Hawksmoor went back a further 5, perhaps to show the depth of the walls.

Opposite the Rectory, Fournier Street is lined with 18th century houses. Note also the deeply recessed sash windows. The 1709 Build Act justified this on the basis that is would be harder for fire to propagate along a street if wooden window frames were recessed and not flush with the facade. It also set the style for how sash windows would develop. A later 1774 Building Act took this further by requiring the sash box (the wooden part of the window surrounding the glass framed panels) also to be recessed into the fabric of the building to reduce further the exposure to fire.

Here is 33A Fournier Street. The boarded up entrance between the two doors is the entrance to a yard behind these houses.

I can find no record of S. Schwartz or the age of the sign, however there are photos from the 1950s showing this as the entrance to the Express Dairy including the following from the Collage collection:

The Architects’ Journal details some of the challenges facing the restoration of Fournier Street: “Built in the 1720s it was one of the most fashionable and solidly constructed streets in the area and shows the obvious mark of the Huguenots. They established Spitalfields’ silk weaving industry and in their houses, to brighten their workrooms, they built large attic windows. The GLC is adamant that this street should be preserved, yet so far has done little to maintain it. Tower Hamlets will pay no money for restoration as the houses, due to their wooden construction, could be inhabited only as single units (quarter-inch wainscot partitions do not correspond to fire precautions and noise insulation specified for flats). If they cannot be restored to council flats, they can be saved only by individuals restoring them to their original purpose as private houses. Any rehabilitation of these houses would demand much greater social change than was necessary in other areas.”

View looking down Fournier Street.

Corner of Fournier Street and Brick Lane.

Leaving Fournier Street, I walked a short distance along Brick Lane, and although Brick Lane is not included in the list of sites in the Architects’ Journal, there are many fascinating buildings, including the following building which was the Laurel Tree pub, built in 1901. The name of the pub is on the middle plaque, the year on the right, and on the left plaque are the initials THB for Truman Hanbury Buxton. A very similar set of decorations can be found on the old Three Suns pub on Wapping Wall (see my post here). Perhaps a project to track the remaining pub buildings that have this type of decoration could go on my list?

Along Brick Lane we now come to Wilkes Street, the next street marked within site 12 of the Architects’ Journal map. The junction of Wilkes Street and Hanbury Street.

Much of the area I am walking across for site 12 was land originally owned by two lawyers from Lincoln’s Inn, a Mr Charles Wood and a Mr Simon Michell. A large area of land between Commercial Street and Brick Lane was purchased by the pair around 1717 and the streets were laid out between 1718 and 1728.

Difficult to see in the following photo due to the deep shadow. The terrace of identical houses running to the left of the modern building on the right were built by the speculative builder Marmaduke Smith in 1723.

Half way along Wilkes Street is the junction with Princelet Street. The Blue Plaque on the left is to Anna Maria Garthwaite (born in 1688 and died in 1763). Anna Maria was a designer of Spitalfields silks and lived and worked in this building on the corner of Princelet Street.

Anna Maria was originally from Lincolnshire but moved to Spitalfields to be with her widowed sister. She became a celebrated designer of fashionable silk fabrics and specialised in botanical designs. Many of her original designs are now held in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The following (© Victoria and Albert Museum, London) is an example of one of Anna Maria Garthwaite’s designs from when she was living and working in the house on the corner of Princelet Street.

Houses in Princelet Street.

With interesting window decoration.

As well as recessed windows, the photo above also shows one of the other identifying features for the age of Georgian building – the narrow mortar course between the bricks.

House in Princelet Street showing signage from the previous use of many of the buildings in this area.

The final street within site 12 is Hanbury Street with buildings marked on the southern edge of the street at the junction with Brick Lane:

Fortunately there are many buildings that have survived in the area covered by site 12 and the above photos are just a sample. Many houses were not so lucky to have survived and the Architects’ Journal records how developers worked around the risks of preservation orders in Folgate Street along which we will be walking to reach the next site:

“Around the corner, two houses in Folgate Street and most houses on the unrestored Elder Street are owned by a private developer. On the site in Folgate Street he wants to build offices, which the GLC oppose.

The day before a preservation order was to have been served on them, one was gutted by fire, and one Sunday soon after, they were demolished. There is a feeling that he will not restore his side of Elder Street to residential use, unless he is given permission to build offices on the now vacant site in Folgate Street.”

Site 13 – Much restored 17th century house in Spital Yard and the last 18th century house in Spital Square

To reach site 13, I left Hanbury Street, crossed over Commercial Street, walked down Folgate Street then turned into Spital Square.

The map locates the house almost adjacent to the entrance to Spital Yard and if I have located the correct building it is the one on the right in the photo below.

The above photo also demonstrates the impact that the ever growing glass and steel office blocks that are surrounding these 18th century streets in Spitalfields have on the views of the buildings.

Just along from the above buildings is the entrance to Spital Yard.

The house at the end of the yard fits the description of being “much restored” and the blue sign reads “In this house, Susanna Annesley mother of John Wesley was born January 20th 1669” which also fits with the 17th century description, although I am also fascinated by the adjacent building which is the head office of the Architectural Heritage Fund as this also looks to be of some age.

Site 14 – 1724 group in Folgate Street

Folgate Street between Bishopsgate and Commercial Street has a fine mix of buildings. The 1724 group are marked on the map as nearer the Bishopsgate end of the street and I believe are the houses shown in the photos below.

Including the wonderful Dennis Severs’ House, with the doorway dressed for Christmas as I walked passed in December.

Site 15 – Groups in Folgate Street and Elder Street

Elder Street can be found roughly half way down Folgate Street.

In the Architects’ Journal it is described in 1972 as “depopulated and isolated between the market area and a busy main road”. In the extract above about the fire at the house in Folgate Street there is the implied threat by the developer that he would not restore his side of Elder Street. Elder Street was in a bad way in 1972, however today the street is lined by restored buildings.

When restored the developer was selling the houses in Elder Street for £20,000 apparently with no lack of buyers. I could not find any houses for sale in Elder Street today, but estate agent estimates value houses at between £1.5 and £2.5 million – a considerable return on £20,000 in 45 years.

The mix of different styles and architectural features indicates the individual construction of each of these buildings rather than an identical terrace which can be found in a number of other streets such as Wilkes Street.

Note the building on the left with the bricked windows in the photo below. These are dummy window features added to break up what would have been a continuous slab of brick. The internal layout of the houses does not allow a window at these locations, as can be clearly seen on the first floor with the window across the two doors on both sides of the two houses.

Site 16 – Truman’s Brewery, 1740 – 1800

The final location in the group across Spitalfields is the Truman’s Brewery complex which can be found along Brick Lane.

Whilst the Architects’ Journal identified Truman’s buildings as worth preserving, they also identified the brewery company as a potential threat “It is not just small private developers exploiting this environment for personal gain – big businesses are expanding – Truman’s Brewery removed one side of early 18th century Hanbury Street and replaced it with a brick wall. The houses were in need of restoration, but no cosmetics could make a brick wall do anything but detract from a community.”

Reaching site 16 completes my walk around the category A sites in the Architects’ Journal map from 1972. It is good to see how many of the buildings of Spitalfields have survived since 1972, however as the article in 1972 predicted with comments about how Fournier Street could be restored, whilst the majority of the buildings have survived the area is socially completely different.

I have only just scratched the surface of these two areas, Whitechapel and Spitalfields, and I look forward to exploring them in more detail in the future.

In the coming months I will work on category B from the Architects’ Journal – Linear development along the Thames and Lea rivers due to riverside trades.

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New Deal For East London – Whitechapel

I read in the week that the bookshop Waterstones reported an increase in sales of physical books after years of decline due to competition from electronic alternatives.

I have always preferred physical books as they can become so much more than the original contents. Second hand books that have the original owners name and date of purchase recorded, notes written in the margins and additional pages of information inserted in the book all help a book tell a much more comprehensive story than when it was originally published.

One of my father’s books, London’s Georgian Houses by Andrew Byrne, published in 1986 is stuffed full of pages and cuttings from professional journals such as the Architects’ Journal, newspapers and magazines such as Period Home from the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. These provide so much more additional information, updated over past and future time from the original contents of the book.

Included in these was a complete copy of an Architects’ Journal from forty five years ago, dated the 19th January 1972. This issue has a lengthy, special feature titled “New Deal For East London”.

The feature reported on the challenges facing the whole area to the east of London, which by the 1970s had been in continuous decline since the end of the last war, along with the future impact of some of the very early plans for major developments across the whole area to the east of London.

The article identifies a range of these challenges and developments, including:

  • The impact on the London Docks of the large cargo ships now coming into service
  • The lack of any strategic planning for the area and the speculative building work taking place, mainly along the edge of the Thames
  • The location of a possible Thames Barrage
  • The impact of the proposed new London airport off the coast of Essex at Foulness
  • The need to maintain a mixed community and not to destroy the established communities across the area

For this last point. the article provides an example of what happens when small pockets of more prosperous families move into an area: “some well-to-do families moved into a small terrace of new houses by the river, and were approached by the small boys of the neighbourhood with offers of ‘Guard your car, sir?’ for some trifling weekly sum. The car-owners brushed these knowing offers aside, but soon found their cars, if left in the street, being persistently vandalised, scratched and mucked about by those they had casually frozen out.”

The title page for the article shows the view from south of the river of the new tower blocks being built across east London.

East London Header 1

The text underneath the title highlights the challenges facing London in the early 1970s:

“London, for centuries the goal of the ambitious young from all parts of Britain, has been quietly losing her appeal, and is now losing more of the ambitious young than she gains from the rest of the country. This may well have advantages for the rest of the country, but what is wrong with London? And can it be put right? We dare not allow any large part of our capital to become in any sense a distressed area.”

Very different to today when London is often seen as sucking in jobs, resources and talent from the rest of the country.

The article paints a very depressing picture of East London at the start of the 1970s:

“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.

The rag trade may still flourish in the east, but its best products will be sold in the boutiques and department stores of West London, none of which consider the East End area worth opening up in. Even the great chain stores seldom open up a new branch in this area, while there are obviously more profitable sites to be found to the west. The entertainment industry, too, takes little interest and one reason for this may well be the very poor public transport system in those parts, which must inevitably limit both the catchment area and the enjoyment of an evening out.

There is no comparison between the provision of public transport in the west and the east. The Underground provides a fast network of frequent trains, north, south, east and west – on the west of the City of London. No such network serves the East End, and even the newly proposed Fleet Line only touches north-east London at Fenchurch Street.”

A key focus of the article is 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 map was split across two pages and is shown below. The locations were divided into five categories, identified by their historical origins:

A – Areas that were developed as overflow from the City of London

B – Linear development along Thames and Lea due to riverside trades

C – Medieval village centres

D – Early 19th century ribbon developments

E – Medieval village centres along southern river bank and around London Bridge

East London Full Map 1

The second page of the map included a list of the buildings.

East London Full Map 2

When I see an old map with locations marked across the map I always wonder what is there now (although 45 years is not that old, but London was a very different place in the early 1970s).

There was only one thing to do, and start a project to visit all these locations and see if the buildings identified in 1972 as worthy of preservation have survived the considerable development of East London over the last 45 years.

I had some time off at the end of December and so started with category A – Areas that were developed as overflow from the City of London and in today’s post I will visit the sites clustered around Whitechapel and in next week’s post conclude category A with those clustered around Spitalfields. I intend to visit all the sites on the map across the coming months.

Sites 1 to 8 – Whitechapel

East London Map A

I have marked these on an up to date OpenStreetMap of the same area. Note that the Architects’ Journal appears to have the location of site 8 wrong on the above map, I will come to this later.

East London Map B1

Comparison of the two maps also shows how the road layout has changed. In the 1972 map, Commercial Road coming from the upper right side of the map ran straight to the large junction with Whitechapel High Street, Leman Street and Commercial Street. In the map of the area today, Commercial Road makes a sharp right turn and has its own junction with Whitechapel High Street.

Also see the rail tracks turn off the main line into Fenchurch Street and heading north a short distance into an area marked as Goods Shed. Both the Goods Shed and the length of rail track have been removed and the area labelled Goodmans Fields now covers part of this area. Although the name includes the word Fields, this area is mainly covered with new housing developments.

So, to start finding these sites, it is time to walk to:

Site 1 – Early 18th Century Pair

Turning off Aldgate High Street, I walked down Mansell Street to where site A should be according to the Architects’ Journal map, on Mansell Street at the junction with Little Somerset Street. There was nothing to be found that resembled an early 18th century pair of buildings on this side of the road, and if the location on the map is correct, the site of these buildings is now occupied by the office block shown in the photo below.

Not a very good start with the very first location lost at some point since 1972.

East London A1

Site 2 – 18th Century Pair

The next location was further down Mansell Street, on the opposite side of the road and at the location marked on the map I found the following pair of well preserved buildings.

East London A2

These are from the 1720s, with some possible Victorian updates to the facade. The entrance doorways would originally have been symmetrical. The doorway on the right has lost the pedimented Doric doorcase and the cornice above the door.

The photo below from the Architects’ Journal shows the state of the buildings in 1972 and they continued to crumble into the 1980s when the ground floor housed an Indian take-away.

East London A2B

I am not sure when they were restored, however after a worrying start, it was good to see the second location in fine condition.

Site 3 – 18th Century Group

To reach site three, I walked to the end of Mansell Street and turned left into Prescot Street. Here I was looking for a group of 18th century buildings on the south side of the western end of the street. Looking along the street I could only see one building of an appropriate architectural style and age, squashed between a Premier Inn and an office building.

East London A3

The Architects’ Journal described this location as a “group” so I assume that originally there were similar buildings on either side of this one survivor, possible of terrace of identical buildings.

Strange to see this building sandwiched between two very different and much more recent buildings.

East London A3B

Although not mentioned in the Architects’ Journal, there are a couple of interesting buildings further along Prescot Street. The building to the right is the old Whitechapel County and Police Courts, completed in 1859 and on the left is the Victorian pub the Princess of Prussia, built in the 1880s.

East London A3C

Site 4 – Single Large 1760 House

Now to site number four. At the end of Prescot Street I turned left into Leman Street and walked along the street to roughly where the map showed the location of a single large 1760 house.

In the expected location I found this cluster of three buildings. I assume that the single large 1760 house is the building on the right.

East London A4

I am now heading to Alie Street, but before I look for the next location, some information on the area I have been walking around.

If you look at the map at the top of this post, Mansell Street, Prescot Street, Leman Street and Alie Street form a square around another square of streets, North, East, South and West Tenter Street.

According to the Architects’ Journal article, Alie Street was laid out by Sir William Leman in 1710.

Checking in the book “The Streets of London” by Gertrude Burford Rawlings:

“Mansel Leman, towards the end of the 17th century, married Lucy Alie of St. Dunstan’s in the East. hence Leman Street, Great and Little Alie Street and Mansel Street”.

One refers to William Leman and the other to Mansel Leman. On checking the wonderfully named “Synopsis of the Extinct Baronetage of England” from 1885, Sir William Leman was the son of Mansel Leman.

In the middle aisle of St. Dunstan’s in the East, there was an inscription to Alice Alie and Lucy Alie dated 1678 which is presumably the date of death. Mansel Leman died in 1687 (the name Mansel is the maiden name of his mother, Mary Mansel).

So, given that the streets were laid out in 1710, Sir William Leman must have named the streets after the first and last names of his father and the maiden name of his mother.

An earlier member of the Leman family, Sir John Leman (1544 to 1632) was Lord Major of London in 1616 and was a member of the Fishmongers Company.

Within this square of streets is another square of Tenter Streets. The origin of this name is from the Tenter Ground that was enclosed by these streets. A Tenter Ground was an area of land where wooden frames called tenters were placed. These were used to stretch woven cloth so that it would dry.

Before the Tenter Ground, the area was part of Goodman’s Fields.

Site 5 – House Over Half Moon Passage

Continue along Leman Street and turn left into Alie Street. Walk along Alie Street to location number 5 where we find the house over Half Moon Passage.

East London A5

The building and passage are still here. I have found a couple of references to the origin of the name Half Moon Passage. One that refers to the graphic representation of an unpaid sixpence on a person’s tally used in pubs and ale houses in the 17th and 18th centuries, the other was that a tenement building that stood here in Tudor times was called the Half Moon.

The photo below from the Architects’ Journal shows Half Moon Passage and the building around the passage in 1972. The buildings on the left have been replaced by a later office block. The pub on the right, the White Swan is still there, although impossible to get a pint of Double Diamond there today.

East London A5D

View through Half Moon Passage:

East London A5B

The name of the passage gives you some hope that it would open out into a hidden square of 18th century buildings, however at the end is a small car park and office entrance all thrown into shadow by the tall surrounding buildings.East London A5C

Site 6 – 1710 Terrace In Alie Street

Opposite the White Swan is the start of the next set of buildings, a terrace that runs along Alie Street on either side of St. Mark Street.

East London A6A

A pair of symmetrical, four storey buildings stand on each side of the junction with Mark Street.

The terrace continues along Alie Street towards the junction with Leman Street. Changes to the ground floor, including extensions to the edge of the pavement obscure the lower floor, however the upper floors of this original terrace are still visible.

East London A6B

At the junction of Alie Street and Leman Street. The design along Alie Street appears to have been four storey buildings on the corners of road junctions with a terrace of three storey buildings between these four storey corner buildings.

East London A6C

Site 7 – 1760 Seamen’s Chapel

Just past the junction with Leman Street, still on Alie Street is the German Lutheran Church of St. George dating from 1762, or in the original German from the front of the church “Deutsche Lutherische St. Georgs Kirche”

East London A7

The church of St. George is the oldest German Church in the country and dates from a time when the area around Aldgate and Whitechapel was home to a large population of German immigrants, which grew to such numbers that during the 19th century the area was home to the largest number of German speaking people outside of Germany.

The church would have looked more impressive prior to 1934 when standing above the centre of the church was a large bell tower capped by a weather vane. These were taken down in 1934 owing to the poor and unsafe condition of the structure with the plain roof we see now put in place.

As with much of the surrounding area, the church was falling into a state of considerable disrepair during the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Such was the state that when the church was acquired by the Historic Chapels Trust, almost £1m was needed to repair the fabric and structure of the building.

The church was closed during my walk, however the interior contains many original features from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Site 8 – 17th Century Hoop And Grapes Pub

The final site in the Architects’ Journal cluster of buildings in Whitechapel is the Hoop and Grapes pub. This is the building that is incorrectly marked in the Architects’ Journal map which shows the building at the junction of Whitechapel High Street and Leman Street where it is actually at the junction of Aldgate High Street and Mansell Street.

East London A8

The Hoop and Grapes has foundations going back to the 13th century. There are various dates for the main building with both the 16th and 17th Centuries being claimed. The Architects’ Journal states that the building is from the mid 17th century and Pevsner moves this to the late 17th century.

I suspect that this was due to the the way buildings evolved rather than being built as a new single construction, parts of the building could well date to the 16th century with additions to the facade being added to meet the 17th century dates of both the Architects’ Journal and Pevsner. If you look at the construction sites across the City today, buildings are completely cleared away allowing a new building to be constructed without any of the earlier foundations, reuse of materials etc. The only exception being the hideous practice of removing all parts of a building with the exception of the facade (although whilst i deplore this practice it does at least retain the original street appearance despite a completely new building behind).

The photo below from the Architects’ Journal show the Hoop and Grapes in 1972 with a more industrial set of buildings in the background. The photo also had the statement that the pub is marooned by the road system around Aldgate and is grotesquely situated, but gives a glimpse of what the City was like before the great Victorian and later rebuildings.

East London A8C

This is still somewhat true with the pub being at the very busy junction of Whitechapel and Aldgate High Streets, Mansell Street and Middlesex Street, with the surrounding ever rising office blocks.

The rather crooked entrance to the Hoop and Grapes. An ideal place to stop after a walk around Whitechapel on a cold December day.

East London A8B

Forty five years after the original Architects’ Journal article, I was pleased to find that seven out of the original eight buildings, or clusters of buildings that the article proposed should be considered for preservation have been restored and survive into the 21st century.

In my next post I will be visiting the final set of buildings in category A – the cluster around Spitalfields.

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A Visit To Hogarth’s House In Chiswick

Hogarth’s House in Chiswick has long been on my list of places to visit and a couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity. The drawings of William Hogarth have featured in a number of my posts. His observations provide a remarkable insight into 18th Century London society so I was very pleased to have the time for a trip out to Chiswick.

Hogarth’s House is next to the busy six lane road that leads from the Hogarth Roundabout to the M4, one of the main entry and exit routes into London from the west. On the day of my visit it was strangely quiet. An overnight accident next to the roundabout had resulted in a fuel spill on the road which was consequently closed for resurfacing. Very long queues of traffic led from the roundabout back into London, but adjacent to Hogarth’s House all was quiet.

hogarths-house-10

The house can easily be missed, but once seen it is clear that here is a building worth visiting. Viewed from the road in the photo below, the house is on the left, with a high garden wall running to the right. As with so much of London, the house is surrounded by construction activities with new apartment buildings rising in the background.

hogarths-house-9

The area of ground on which the house is built was originally part of a larger orchard. James Downes, a baker, inherited the land in 1713 and built the house in one corner of the orchard.

The house was purchased by Hogarth in 1749 from the widow of Georg Andreas Ruperti who had purchased the house new in 1717. Ruperti was the Pastor at the German Lutheran Church at the Savoy and was obviously a wealthy man as on his death in 1732 there was a sale of many of his possessions including 1,090 lots of books.

The following extract is from John Rocque’s map of 1746, three years before Hogarth purchased the house. The map shows the house to the northwest of the village of Chiswick, the last in the lane approaching Chiswick Common Field. I have circled the house in red. As can be seen, apart from building along the river, much of this area was still very rural.

hogarths-house-26

The following print (©Trustees of the British Museum) titled “Published as the Act directs by Jane Hogarth at the Golden-head Leicester Fields 1st May 1781” shows the view across the Chiswick Common Fields to Hogarth’s House which can be seen to the left of centre with the garden wall running to the right. This is the rural scene that Hogarth would have known. Today, the Hogarth Roundabout is on the far left and the six lane A4 runs from left to right across the scene, immediately in front of Hogarth’s House and the garden wall.

hogarths-house-27

Hogarth had been living in central London and his choice of a house in Chiswick may have been due to the heat wave in the summer of 1749 prompting a move to an area that was at the time mainly countryside, as well as Chiswick being the home to several of Hogarth’s friends.

The house, when purchased by Hogarth was a three storey brick-built building with wood paneled walls. Hogarth extended the house in 1750 by adding an additional room to each floor and a building in the garden included a first floor room which Hogarth used for painting.

The extension to the house can clearly be seen by the difference in mortar and brickwork. Hogarth also added the large oriel window in the centre of the house.

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Hogarth lived in the house for 15 years until his death in 1764. His wife Jane continued to live in the house until her death in 1789 when the house was inherited by Jane’s cousin Mary Lewis who had supported Jane by running the business to continue the sale of Hogarth’s prints. As well as the house, Mary also inherited the printing plates.

After Mary’s death in 1808, the house passed to Richard Lovejoy who may well have been Hogarth’s doctor. Lovejoy only had the house for 4 years until his death in 1812.

The house then went through a succession of owners during the 19th Century. The area around the house and the rest of Chiswick was changing fast. The construction of houses and the growth of industry including the nearby Griffen Brewery of Fuller, Smith and Turners (1828) was sweeping away the fields that Hogarth would have known.

The house was at risk of destruction in 1901 when plans were proposed for the building of new homes on the land occupied by Hogarth’s House. A committee was formed to try to raise funds to buy the house, however not enough was raised and after an appeal by The Chiswick Times, a Lieutenant Colonel William Shipway who also lived in Chiswick, purchased the house for £1,500. Shipway also paid for the restoration of the house, which was then opened to visitors in 1904.

William Shipway had to take legal action to preserve the house. From the London Daily News of the 26th March 1902:

“Colonel Shipway applied to Mr. Justice Buckley in the Chancery Division yesterday for an injunction to restrain Mr. Percy from excavating some land at Chiswick in such a way as to endanger the stability of Hogarth House. The defendant is a builder, and he had acquired some land at the rear of Hogarth House, and Colonel Shipway contended that he was working the valuable building sand which was beneath the surface in a manner which was likely to let Hogarth House down, and cause great damage. This the defendant denied. Mr. Justice Buckley, after hearing evidence said that there had been movement observed in the house by reason of the removal of saturated sand, and though the damage was slight it was sufficient to entitle the plaintiff to an injunction, which he accordingly granted, with costs.”

In 1909 Shipway made a gift of the house to Middlesex County Council with custodians living in the house rent free in return for showing visitors around the house.

The house suffered considerable damage in 1940 when a landmine fell nearby. It was repaired in 1951 and reopened the same year. In September 2008 the house closed for further restoration work, interrupted by a fire in 2009, with the fully restored house finally opening in 2011.

As well as being saved from demolition and damage by 2nd World War bombing, during the 20th Century the house also survived the building of the Hogarth Roundabout and the transformation of the road running alongside the house from the original Hogarth Lane into the A4 which was subsequently widened into the six lane road we see today. The house has also been surrounded by new building, and the Hogarth Business Park between the house and the roundabout. Building directly adjacent to Hogarth’s House continues to this day.

The view of Hogarth’s House from the end of the garden.

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The ground floor dining room:

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Hogarth’s bedroom:

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There are numerous copies of Hogarth’s drawings around the house. Here the six prints from the series “The Harlot’s Progress”, the first of his sets of prints where each individual print told part over an overall story. The Harlot’s Progress sold 1,240 sets of prints at a price of one guinea per set.

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Looking out from the large oriel window:

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Portraits of Hogarth’s sisters painted by Hogarth in 1740. Anne on the right who died in 1771 and Mary on the left who died in 1741. The sisters ran a dress shop in Smithfield and then in Cranbourn Street in Leicester Fields (now between Long Acre and Leicester Square.

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The house has been superbly restored. The wood paneling, layout of the floors and shape of the rooms does provide a good impression of what the house would have looked like when Hogarth was in residence.

Toy theatre and more prints:

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View from the 1st floor looking across the entrance to the house to the very quiet A4. Normally there are six lanes of traffic running along this road into and out of London. Very different from the narrow lane and fields that Hogarth would have seen through this window.

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An impression of what the lane that originally ran alongside the house was like in the 19th Century can be gathered from a newspaper article in the Daily Gazette, dated the 20th September 1878, where Hogarth’s House is described as “At a short distance north-west of the church, in a narrow and dirty lane leading towards one entrance to the grounds of Chiswick House still stands the red-bricked house which was once occupied by Hogarth, and still bears his name”.

A view from the rear of the house shows the unusual shape of the building. Hoarding reaching up to the house shows what is being built immediately to the rear.hogarths-house-11

Hogarth is buried in the nearby church of St. Nicholas. To reach the church, it was a short walk back to the Hogarth Roundabout, cross the roads by way of the underpass and walk down Church Street with the Fuller, Smith and Turner brewery on the left. The church is towards the end of this road on the right before reaching the River Thames.

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The tomb and monument to Hogarth is just to the side of the church.

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Inscriptions on the side of the monument read:

“Here lies the body of William Hogarth Esq. who died October the 26th 1764 aged 67 years” and “Mrs Jane Hogarth, Wife of William Hogarth Esq, died the 13th of November 1789 aged 80 years”.

The main inscription is an epitaph to Hogarth written by his friend, the actor David Garrick:

“Farewell great Painter of Mankind, Who reach’d the noblest point of Art, Whose pictur’d Morals charm the Mind, And through the Eye correct the Heart.

If genius fire thee, Reader, stay, If nature touch thee, drop a tear; If neither move thee, turn away, For HOGARTH’S honour’d dust lies here”.

In looking for Hogarth’s tomb I made the mistake of walking down the northern side of the church to the large entrance shown in the photo below. The churchyard is split into two sections, the original churchyard around the church and a much large extension to the churchyard that is accessed through this entrance.

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Plaques on the pillars of the entrance record that an additional acre of ground was given to the Parish of Chiswick by His Grace the Duke of Devonshire in 1871 and that the churchyard was then enlarged by the “addition of twenty five perches of ground given to the Parish by His Grace William Spencer in 1888”.

This extended churchyard is now a busy mix of very different styles of gravestone and monument.

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Part of the inscription on Hogarth’s tomb reads “If genius fire thee, Reader, stay, If nature touch thee, drop a tear”. After looking at the tomb I turned to look at the church and found that nature was indeed watching over Hogarth’s tomb:

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The River Thames is very close to the church and on the side of the churchyard wall is a plaque recording one of the floods when the Thames overflowed the very shallow banks along this part of the river.

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View from the side of the churchyard wall looking down towards the Thames. Hogarth would have known this part of the river very well.

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Some examples of Hogarth’s work (all ©Trustees of the British Museum). Here is Beer Street, a companion print to the famous Gin Lane. Beer Street is probably not so well-known as the scene is a more positive image than Gin Lane. Beer Street shows a happy, healthy and industrious population, all as a result of drinking beer.

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Whilst Gin Lane shows the dreadful effects on society of drinking Gin. Mother’s dropping their babies, a suicide hanging in the upper floor of the building on the right, the decay of buildings and general chaos on the streets. It was estimated that by 1743 the average consumption of gin was 2.2 gallons per person each year. The Gin Act came into force in 1751 to try to control the epidemic of gin drinking and Hogarth’s prints added to the impact of the campaign.

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The following print is titled “A representation of the March of the Guards towards Scotland in the Year 1745”, also known as the March of the Guards to Finchley. The print is a fictional representation of the assembly of Guards at Tottenham Court Road on their way to Finchley to defend London from the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745.

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The following print is the first from a set of eight titled “The Progress of a Rake”. These prints tell the story of Tom Rakewell from the first print where he comes into the possession of his father’s inheritance, through to the final print where we find Tom having descended into Madness and in the Bethlam Hospital.

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Tom’s journey from his inheritance is then covered by a series of prints titled The Levee (his rise in society), The Orgy (the descent begins), The Arrest (the party ends), The Marriage (Tom’s desperate sham), The Gaming House (Tom loses everything), The Prison (the beginning of Tom’s end) and finally The Madhouse (the end of the line).

Hogarth hated the abuse of animals that was so common in the 18th century. A series of four prints told a story of the Four Stages of Cruelty. As with the Progress of a Rake, these four prints also documented a journey and argued that if children were cruel to animals, and this was not prevented by society, they would grow into cruel adults.

The first stage of cruelty introduces Tom Nero as the central character who, along with other youths on the streets, is being cruel to a wide variety of animals. In the second stage (shown below) Tom Nero is now savagely beating his horse after the animal has collapsed under the weight of the cart.

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In the third stage of cruelty, Tom Nero has progressed from cruelty to animals to highway robbery and is shown after committing a murder. In the final print from the series titled “The Reward of Cruelty”, Tom has been executed at Tyburn and his body is shown being dissected for the purpose of the study of anatomy.

The four stages of cruelty are a shocking series of prints, and probably do show the horrific level of cruelty that would have been seen on the streets of London during the 18th Century.

I find Hogarth’s work fascinating. Whilst his work was certainly exaggerated somewhat for effect, it does provide an insight into 18th Century society without the romantic haze of looking back over a couple of hundred years. Life then could be hard and cruel.

A visit to Hogarth’s House is well worth a journey to Chiswick.

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Open House 2016 – Chrisp Street Market And St. Pancras Chambers

Last weekend was the brilliant Open House weekend when what seemed like hundreds of buildings around London opened their doors.

I had very limited time over the weekend, just a few hours on Sunday so only time to visit two locations, but ones I have wanted to see for a long time, so for this week’s post a quick visit to the Chrisp Street Market Clock Tower and St. Pancras Chambers.

Chrisp Street Market

Chrisp Street Market was part of the Lansbury Estate development in Poplar and featured in the Festival of Britain Exhibition of Architecture. I covered this in a post back in July when I went for a walk around the estate with a copy of the original Exhibition Guide.

The Clock Tower at the corner of the market was built as part of the Lansbury development to serve a number of purposes. It would provide a feature for the market area, a viewing gallery over the new estate, and provide a landmark at the far end of Grundy Street with the new church at the opposite end.

The viewing platform on the Clock Tower was closed many years ago and now there is only occasional access, one of which was during this years Open House event.

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Access to the viewing platform is via one side of a pair of interlocking reinforced concrete staircases. This design was to ensure that walking up was via one staircase and down was via the other so walking up you would not meet people coming down on the same staircase.

At the top of the Clock Tower, showing the two entrances to the staircases – only one was in use today.

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At the top of the tower there is a fading wooden plaque. This is probably not as old as it looks. I believe this is from about 2014, although it looks much older and based on the text it is probably from the Chrisp Street on Air Project.

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The text on the left of the plaque reads:

Neighbourhood 9

The nine locations of the field recordings series observing the Lansbury Estate and the people that live and work around Chrisp Street Market. Each broadcast centred on a single location uncovering the daily workings of each site and posing questions for its possible future.  

No. 1 Lansbury Amateur Boxing Club

No. 2 Queen Victoria Seamen’s Rest

No.3 The Market Square

No. 4 Jp’s Cafe

No. 5 The Spotlight

No. 6 The Festival Bar

No. 7 New Festival Quarter

No. 8 Gladstone Tower

No. 9 The Clocktower

Neighbourhood 9 refers to the Lansbury Estate being the ninth development neighbourhood in Poplar after the last war. The nine locations are individual locations around the Lansbury Estate that each had their own recording made during the Chrisp Street on Air project and tell a story of the place in question with local people talking about their experiences and history of the area.

These recordings are really worth a listen and can be found as podcasts on iTunes at this link or via Audioboom here.

View along the viewing gallery. All Saints DLR station in the distance.openhouse-2016-4

The Clock Tower was designed by Fredrick Gibberd and would have originally towered above the market, however later building between the market and the East India Dock Road has tended to overshadow the Clock Tower. It does though provide good views in a number of directions including this view looking towards the City. The Shard is in the centre of the view.

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View from the top of the Clock Tower towards Erno Goldfinger’s Balfron Tower:

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When built, this is the view that the visitor would have seen of the Lansbury Estate. The Chrisp Street market with the recent covered market area is in the lower half of the photo. The original buildings surround the market (again, see my post on the Lansbury Exhibition of Architecture for details of these buildings).  To the left, Grundy Street can be seen running up to the church. Standing in the centre of Grundy Street gives an idea of the intention of the architects – the church and Clock Tower appear to anchor each end of the street. Religion at one end, shops, market traders and pubs at the other.

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Continuing the theme of my recent posts on views from above London, it was interesting to see that St. Paul’s Cathedral is just visible to the left of the Cheesegrater building from the top of the Clock Tower.

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View towards Stratford with part of the ArcelorMittal Orbit just visible in the centre of the horizon.

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The Chrisp Street Market Clock Tower is starting to show its age. The height is very modest so it does not have the same views as other London viewing galleries, however as a symbol of the intentions of those behind the Lansbury Estate to create an integrated estate with housing and facilities for those who lived in the East End, it is perfect.

St. Pancras Chambers

St. Pancras Chambers was the name of the Open House tour inside parts of the original St. Pancras hotel and station buildings. The tour provided a quick look at the Grand Staircase, the corridors and staircases along the length of the building and the rooms at the top of the clock tower. The majority of the main building is now a hotel and the rooms in the Clock Tower are private apartments.

The building was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and built between 1868 -76 and opened as the Midland Grand Hotel. Both the exterior and interior of the hotel was built to impress, to demonstrate the strength and magnificence of the Midland Railway Company in the new age of the railway. Built in the Victorian Gothic Revival style, using materials sourced mainly from across the midlands, the style of the building is very similar to Scott’s earlier work with the Albert Memorial.

Despite the apparent extravagance, costs were tight and some features were not included in the final build. Look to either side of the top of the entrance archway in the photo below. There is a space on either side of the top of the arch for a statue. There are a number of these empty positions across the buildings. Although planned, they were not included due to cost.

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View of the Clock Tower, the rooms we would climb to are just below the clock.

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The first stop on the tour was at the base of the Grand Staircase. This has been fully renovated as part of the renovation of the whole building and now provides a view of what it must have looked like when the building opened.

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Floor tiles at the base of the staircase:

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Looking up the staircase. The restoration of the Gothic Revival style of the staircase comes together through the floor tiles, carpets, wallpaper, lighting and the architecture of the windows and staircase.

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Entrance to the staircase:

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Corridors running from the Grand Staircase.

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As well as the Grand Staircase there are a number of other staircases along the length of the building with different architectural styles:

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Rooms at the end of one corridor were apparently used as Board Rooms for the Midland Railway Company. The decoration along this corridor is rather more ornate than the rest of the hotel corridors.

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Walking up the stairs provides intriguing views of the station, including the following view at the rear of the station clock.

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Along some of the corridors are these small doors above the larger doors for the hotel rooms. Apparently the smaller doors provided access to sleeping areas for the hotel staff.

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In the clock tower.

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Some interesting views from the clock tower. This one looking along Euston Road towards Pentonville Road with part of Kings Cross station on the left.

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Looking south from the clock tower with the Shard in the distance.

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Looking down one of the main stairwells:

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As the majority of the building is now either the hotel or private apartments, the tour was limited, however it did cover the main features of the building and provided a welcome insight into this wonderful building from the time when rail was the future of transport.

Despite the very ornate architecture, the facilities in the original hotel were rather basic with a limited number of shared bathroom facilities, no lifts etc. The hotel did start to decline in the early years of the 20th century and closed in 1935, then being used as offices for the LM&S railway company.

Wartime damage, changes in transport from rail to road and a general decline put the station at risk in the 1960s but a campaign by people including Niklaus Pevsner and poet John Betjeman saved the hotel and station buildings and the arrival of the high-speed trains to Europe via the Channel Tunnel along with growing national rail use led to the redevelopment and restoration of the station and hotel which both now look spectacular.

After the tour I walked to the station area. Here is the front of the clock that was visible from behind in the above photos.

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The station roof.

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The hotel and station buildings are impressive on both the large and small-scale.

Viewing from a distance you can see the whole sweep of the hotel, or the length of the roof however there are so many small architectural features across the building including these ornate carvings at the top of pillars in one of the entrances.

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It was an all too brief visit to these two very different locations. Open House is a fantastic weekend of events which seems to be growing in scope every year. Hopefully I will have more time next year to visit more of the diverse range of locations available.

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Building The Royal Festival Hall

Now for the final post in my trilogy on the history of the South Bank. In my last post, we had walked the length of Belvedere Road which ends on the approach road to Westminster Bridge. In this post, it is a quick walk along the north bank of the river to get some views of the South Bank, then back across Hungerford Bridge to look at the building of the Royal Festival Hall.

A short distance after leaving Belvedere Road and just before crossing Westminster Bridge is the lion that was at the top of the Lion Brewery building on the river facing side.

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The lion is now on a large plinth which a plaque on the south facing side of the plinth with a brief history of the lion and how it came to be at the current location. We will meet the lion again as we cross Hungerford Bridge.

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At the end of Westminster Bridge, turn along the north bank of the river, almost to Hungerford Bridge and look across the river to the South Bank. My father took the photo below when demolition of the buildings between County Hall and Hungerford Bridge had commenced. The shell of the building in the background is the India Store Depot. Along the edge of the river is a huge pile of rubble from the demolition work that had already taken place across the area. This was used to help build the extended embankment along the Thames where the embankment that has been built in front of County Hall would be extended all the way to Waterloo Bridge creating additional land that would be used for the Festival of Britain and would finally close and fill in all the various wharfs and inlets across this stretch of the river.

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The following photo is from roughly the same position today. Not easy to get a clear photo due to the ships that are now moored along this side of the river.

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Now walk up to the footbridge on the side of Hungerford Railway Bridge that faces Waterloo Bridge. My father took the following photo from along here before the main demolition started. The Lion Brewery is on the right, still with the stone lion on the top of the brewery, the same lion that we walked past on the southern end of Westminster Bridge. The Shot Tower is on the left.

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The original footbridge alongside the Hungerford Railway Bridge was a narrow walkway right up against the railway bridge, only on the side of the bridge facing Waterloo Bridge. This was replaced in 2002 by the much larger Golden Jubilee Footbridges which stand off from the railway bridge and are also on both sides of the railway bridge.

As these footbridges stand off from Hungerford Railway Bridge, it is not possible to get the same perspective, however the following photo is roughly from the same location. Waterloo Bridge is on the extreme left of both photos. The Royal Festival Hall is on the site of the Lion Brewery and the Hayward Gallery on the site of the Shot Tower,

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This photo was taken when my father took a boat trip down the Thames from Westminster to Greenwich. There is an inlet along the river edge to the left of the Shot Tower. Referring back to the 1895 Ordnance Survey map in my previous posts, this can be identified as Canterbury Dock. On the left of the Dock is a travelling crane.

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My father then took the following photo from the same position as the earlier photo, now showing the Royal Festival Hall under construction. All the original buildings on the site have been cleared with the exception of the Shot Tower, although the very top of the Shot Tower has been removed ready for the installation of the anti-aircraft gun that would provide the mount for the antennae that would be used during the Festival of Britain to bounce radio signals off the moon enabling visitors to see the echo of the radio signal – part of the Festival’s demonstration of British scientific achievements.

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Walk further along the bridge and this is a closer view. The new embankment is also being built.

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There are now a series of photos from the end of the footbridge, taken earlier than the above couple of photos, that show the digging of the foundations of the Royal Festival Hall. These start from the river edge and move round to the edge of the excavations. They show the amount of excavation needed as preparation for the rest of the build.

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In this photo, the buildings of Howley Place can still be seen in the background behind Cubitts site office.

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And in this photo, the buildings that ran along the edge of York Road are still there. These, and the building along Howley Place would soon be removed ready for the construction of the rest of the Festival of Britain site.

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I stitched the above photos together to get a panorama of the building site.

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Construction of the Royal Festival Hall was documented in a book published for the Festival of Britain by the Association of Consulting Engineers. The book celebrates the role of Britain’s Engineers in a wide selection of global construction projects ranging from the Royal Festival Hall to Power Stations in South Africa and a Hydro-Electric scheme in Ceylon.

The section on the Royal Festival Hall details construction and some of the challenges with the build, for example with the proximity to the river and high ground water level. The land on which the Royal Festival Hall would be built is described as miscellaneous fill and silt down to about 10ft and London Clay at about 20ft. The ground water level also rises and falls with tide from a level of 2ft below and 3ft above ordnance datum (see picture below).

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Work on the foundations started in May 1949 with bulk excavation of the whole area – as clearly seen in the photos above that my father took of the area. Bulk excavation was used as the easiest way to clear the area needed for the foundations. The centuries of previous construction on the site included the remains of the old water works along with the brewery which was built on a 6 foot thick mass concrete raft. There was a large amount of work to prepare, which included sinking well points and then pumping out water which started on the 17th June 1949, when, withing four days the ground water level was reduced to 13ft below the ordnance datum. A huge volume of water was extracted, with at the start of pumping 150,000 gallons of water per hour were being pumped out, and even after the site had been “de-watered”, pumping was still needed of 80,000 gallons per hour to keep the area of the foundations dry.

A total of 63,000 cubic yards of materials were removed for the foundations.

To assist with construction, a 10-ton derrick and and 50ft gabbard was erected adjacent to Belvedere Road. This is shown in the photo below and is the tripod like structure with the crane on the top platform – typical of the large cranes of the day, unlike the singe tower cranes that would be used today. Belvedere Road is running from left to right, the black cars show the location of the road and the Cubitts site office is the same as in the photos my father took along Belvedere Road and featured in the previous post.

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The book by the Association of Consulting Engineers describes the key structural features of the Royal Festival Hall:

“The structure under and around the auditorium consists of floors carried on columns and without infilling walls. The external faces of the building being largely glazed. These fundamentals of the architectural design resulted in the rather unusual condition  of the heavy mass of the auditorium weighing about 25,000 tons being supported at a high level on slender columns without lateral support. It was consequently decided to use the staircases at the four corners of the building as buttresses, and with this end in view they were designed as far as possible with reinforced concrete walls. It was found as the design developed that these walls had to be pierced by a large number of openings for ventilation and other services which has made them somewhat intricate. This result was not foreseeable at the time when the decision to use reinforced concrete walls was taken, since very little was known about the ventilation and other requirements. Had such information been available the design of the stair blocks would have been somewhat modified, although their function as buttresses would have had to be retained. This experience emphasises the importance of the ventilation scheme being developed at an early stage of the design of buildings.

The magnitude of the Festival Hall can be gauged from the particulars given below:

Contract price (including small hall)  £1,628,260

Tonnage of Steel reinforcement (excluding small hall): 2,340 tons

Weight of Roof Steelwork: 260 tons

Volume of mass of concrete: 8,800 cubic yards

Volume of Reinforced Concrete: 23,000 cubic yards”

The comment about the need to pierce the buttresses and install ventilation again shows the speed with which the Royal Festival Hall was being built with plans still being completed as the building was being constructed. New plans would be brought across from the Cubitts site office to specify the next part of the build and any problems would need to be resolved where the new plans required a change to what had already been built.

A criticism at the time that the Festival of Britain was planned and being built was that the manpower and resources being used were a distraction from the real need to build homes and factories after the devastation of the war, as well as the need to export production to bring in much needed foreign currency. The figures above illustrate the volume of materials needed for this single building.

The book then goes on to describe the challenges with the roof of the building:

“The acoustic consultants originally laid down that the roof of the auditorium should consist of two leaves, the inner one 8 inches thick and the outer 6 inches thick. These leaves were to be supported by an air space of 12 inches minimum thickness, and where the outer leaf rested on supports from the inner leaf, it was to be isolated by some insulating material which was subsequently decided to be 2 inches of glass silk. In addition to the 8 inch and 6 inch roof slabs, the roof girders are also required to carry a 2 inch solid suspended ceiling, ventilation ducts and other miscellaneous items. It will be realised that this constitutes a roof of unusual weight. The structural engineers recommended that the acoustic consultants should reconsider the rook thickness, and it was finally arranged that an inner leaf 6 inches thick and an outer 4 inches thick would suffice, a saving of 4 inches of concrete or approximately 50 lb. per square foot on the original proposal”.

The following drawing shows a cross section of the Royal Festival Hall showing the raised auditorium:

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The design was dictated by the limited area of the site which resulted in the raised auditorium allowing two levels of main floors below the auditorium consisting mainly of open space for the main reception, restaurants and bars and exhibition areas. Walking in from the South Bank takes you directly into these open areas from where the fact that the main auditorium is built above is not immediately obvious – a very clever design.

The Royal Festival Hall went from design to completion in a very short time. A sketch design had been prepared by October 1948. Work on the engineering design started the following month in November 1948. Work on foundations started in May 1949 with the concrete super-structure starting to rise above ground level in October of the same year. The reinforced concrete roof was completed by the end of September 1950.

The short time for construction required work to continue throughout the cold winter of 1949/50. To ensure concreting work could continue during low temperatures, two stages were implemented. For stage one, precautions included heating of the mixing water, shielding and warming aggregate heaps to prevent them becoming frozen and covering over concrete with special mattresses. For even colder temperatures, stage two was needed during the early months of 1950 and included the use of a battery of steam boilers with steam heat being applied to newly concreted areas.

This was a significant achievement given that the Royal Festival Hall was only one part of a major construction site on the South Bank. There were also many other construction priorities across the country, there was a shortage of money and foreign currency, rationing was still in place and the country was still recovering after over 5 years of an intense war.

The following photo from the Association of Consulting Engineers book was taken from the top of the Shot Tower and shows the construction of the Royal Festival Hall in the foreground with the Dome of Discovery between the hall and County Hall, both surrounded by the construction site that will be the location of the Festival of Britain.

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Still standing at the end of the footbridge, this is what the area looked like prior to the construction of the Royal Festival Hall.

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The Survey of London volume on the South Bank and Vauxhall included a drawing of the shop on Belvedere Road which can be seen at the far end of the road running alongside the railway arches.

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And months later, the same area with clearance well underway.The entrance arch to the Lion Brewery from Belvedere Road is still there.

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I mentioned in my first post on the South Bank that I first realised that my father had a large store of negatives of London when I started working here and he showed me some of the photos he had taken of the area. Back in 1980 I had also started taking photos of London which included photos around the South Bank and I have recently found and scanned some of these negatives.

The following photo is the same scene as the above two, but taken in 1980. It is closer to the first of the above two photos, the part of the bridge on the right is still much the same and there is still a road on the lower right providing access to the arches underneath the railway.

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And below is my photo from June 2016 showing the same area, 36 years after I took the above photo and between 69 and 66 years after my father took the photos showing the various stages of the development of the site. It is much different now. New buildings have been constructed along the space of the original road.

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I have mentioned the footbridge alongside Hungerford Bridge a number of times and it was at the end of this bridge that my father took the above photos. He also took the following photo looking back from the southern end showing the bridge as it was when he was taking these photos between 1947 and 1951.

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The old footbridge is long gone and has been replaced by the Golden Jubilee footbridges that run on either side of Hungerford Bridge, unlike the original which only ran on the side facing Waterloo Bridge. I think you will agree, a major improvement to walking across the river.

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To finish off this exploration of the South Bank as it was before the Festival of Britain, walk straight on past the side of the Royal Festival Hall and walk down the steps to reach Belvedere Road and we have come full circle.

In my next post I will start to explore the Festival of Britain commencing with the South Bank Exhibition which occupied the area I have covered in my last three posts, and was the reason for the end to end clearance of the site and the construction of the Royal Festival Hall.

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Smith Square – Architecture, History, And Reformers

If you are in Westminster, walk past the Houses of Parliament towards Lambeth Bridge, but turn right before reaching the bridge and you will end up in Smith Square. The relative peace is in sharp contrast to the crowds around Westminster and it is a pleasure to walk here and explore the history of the area.

Smith Square and the surrounding streets still follow much of the original 18th century street plan. A central square occupied by a church, with streets radiating out, some still lined by the original terrace houses from when the square was originally developed.

If you have turned down Great Peter Street from Millbank, then the first turning on the left is Lord North Street. This street is a contemporary with the church of St. John at the centre of the square and is lined with terrace housing built between 1722 and 1726.

The view looking down Lord North Street:

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Whilst the architectural style of the majority of the buildings along the street is the same  – the buildings have timber sash windows, iron railings and the same building materials – there are variations, for example with the decoration around the main door to the street, some being simple with others having a rather ornate door surround as shown in the photo below.

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As well as retaining their original 18th century features, some of the buildings in Lord North Street have features from more recent events:

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Smith Square suffered badly from bomb damage, the church was gutted by incendiary bombs and a high explosive bomb landed in the square also damaging the church and some of the surrounding buildings. The shelters in the basements of these buildings would have offered basic, but much needed protection from everything except for a direct hit.

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Variations in style:

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A plaque at the end of Lord North Street to W.T. Stead, a fascinating character who lived his last years here.

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Stead was originally a journalist and newspaper publisher. His believe was that newspapers should be informative and entertaining and also an “engine for social reform” and pioneered a new form of journalism which led to the tabloid format of the 20th century. His expose of child prostitution in Victorian London was one of the most shocking newspaper articles of the time. He was a peace campaigner, attacking the Boer War and travelling widely to promote his ideas. In later years he developed an interest in spiritualism.

In 1912 he accepted an invitation to speak at the Men and Religion Forward Movement at Carnegie Hall in New York. He would probably have left his home here in Lord North Street to travel down to Southampton to catch the first sailing of the Titanic to attend the conference in New York.

He did not survive the sinking of the Titanic and accounts speak of Stead helping others into lifeboats and passing on his life jacket. His body was never recovered.

A fascinating man of his time, although some recent authors have been rather unsympathetic to Stead. For example, in “The Victorians”, A.N. Wilson writes:

“Stead, and the sort of journalism which he pioneered, was to provide for the lower-middle-class chapelgoers a marvelous substitute for the dramas of the Devils Theatre, the frivolous triumphs and disasters of the Devil’s Prayer Book. He was to redefine the world as a lurid back-drop for a new literary form, every bit as diverting as the three-decker novel from the Satanic circulating libraries.”

The real start of tabloid journalism!

The web site attackingthedevil,co,uk is a dedicated resource on W.T. Stead and is a highly recommended read.

The view looking back down Lord North Street from the steps of the church. Stead’s house is on the left corner of Lord North Street.

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The land around Smith Square was dominated from medieval times by the Abbey and Westminster Palace with vine yards, market gardens, orchards and building moving west from the Abbey and Palace complex. During the 17th century, part of the land between Millbank and Tufton Street was purchased by Simon Smith and his son Henry, and building commenced towards the end of the century.

Smith Square was formed around the church of St. John the Evangelist. This was one of the 50 new churches that had been identified by the Church Building Commissioners to meet the needs of an expanding London and growing population.  Land was bought by the Church Building Commissioners and the church was built between 1714 and 1728.

The church was originally at the centre of a much larger square with a considerable amount of space between the church and the closest buildings. The extract below from John Rocque’s map of 1746 shows the newly built streets and the church at the centre of a large space.

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The following map extract shows the core area around Smith Square today. The area is still bounded by Tufton Street and Millbank (to the left and right) with College Street to the top of the map and Market Street at the bottom (now named Horseferry Road). Much of Vine Street has disappeared with the remaining section now named Romney Street. The large open space to the top left of the church has since been built over with Gayfere Street connecting Smith Square  to Great Peter Street. Church Street now runs longer from MIllbank to the square and has been renamed Dean Stanley Street. Horse and Groom Yard to the top right of the church has been built over.

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View from the church steps showing original houses along Smith Square.

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The church from the edge of the square.

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The church was designed by the architect Thomas Archer and was one of the few of the “50 churches” that were completed. It was also the most expensive, costing £40,875 to complete.

There are four identical short towers on each corner of the church. These have led to the story that the church was designed after Queen Anne’s footstool as when asked what the church should look like, she kicked over a footstool and said “Go, build me a church like that”. Another myth is that the towers were added to ensure an equal pressure on the marshy ground of the area which caused a number of problems during construction. The towers were though part of Archer’s original design and not added for any other reason.

In 1928 the church was the location for Emmeline Pankhurst’s funeral, despite having earlier been the target of a Suffragette bomb plot.

Following the considerable destruction of the church during the war, it was eventually rebuilt but as a music venue rather than as a church, a role that the building continues to this day.

A print of St. John’s, Smith Square from 1814. The text below the print states “Situated on the West Side of Millbank, is one of the 50 New Churches & was finished 1728, but has since suffered greatly by fire. This Parish was originally part of St. Margret’s. This structure has many beauties notwithstanding the peculiarity of the design, which probably suffered from a settlement while building which prevented the whole from being carried into execution.” The fire that the text refers to was a major fire in 1742 that caused significant damage to the church.

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Looking up from Smith Square, along Gayfere Street to the towers of Westminster Abbey. A high explosive bomb fell in the road to the right of the red letter box during the war causing considerable damage to the surrounding buildings.

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In the 1980s during the time when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minster, Smith Square was often in the news due to the Conservative Party Central Office being located here at number 32. The Conservative Party moved here in the mid 1950s, moving out in 2004.

The building today is, perhaps ironically, the Information Office of the European Parliament.

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Smith Square has had a long association with politicians. The Conservative MP Rab Butler lived in Smith Square as did the Labour MP Oswald Mosley who went on to leave Labour and set up the British Union of Fascists in 1932. Harold Wilson lived in Lord North Street during the early 1970s.

Another building (the photo below – Transport House) in Smith Square was also home to the Transport and General Workers Union as well as the Labour Party.

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There is a rather strange building at one corner of Smith Square. A small part of the old ICI building, Nobel House, the bulk of which is on Millbank and extends to this corner of Smith Square and rather than blend in with Smith Square, the building has used exactly the same decoration as the main frontage of Nobel House on Millbank.

If you look up at the building along Millbank and part of Horseferry Road, the building is decorated with the faces of scientists on the keystone above the window with the name of the scientist across the balcony below. (See my original post covering Noble House). The corner of the building in Smith Square has:

  • John Dalton (1766 to 1844), a chemist, physicist and meteorologist, who was responsible for a wide range of scientific discoveries, and it was his work on Atomic Theory that was his major legacy, and;
  • Marcellin Berthelot (1827 – 1907), a French chemist  who demonstrated that organic substances could be synthetically produced rather than being dependent on some form of “vital spark” over which there was no human control.

The corner entrance to Nobel House in Smith Square with Dalton above the door and Berthelot to the right.

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In the first decades of the 20th century, some of the original buildings around Smith Square were demolished to make way for new office blocks resulting in a range of building styles around the square.

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If you leave Smith Square by Dean Bradley Street (named after George Bradley, who was Dean of Westminster from 1881 to 1902) and walk down to Horseferry Road, the view down Dean Bradley Street provides another view of the church.

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The streets around Smith Square are fascinating. A short walk down Horseferry Road is this building on the corner of Tufton Street. There is an old plaque on the building at ground level.

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The plaque is the foundation stone for one of Mr Fegan’s Homes.

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Mr Fegan was James William Condell Fegan who was born in Southampton in 1852 and moved to London with his family in 1865. He worked in the office of a firm of brokers and in the evening taught at a Ragged School. His experience at the Ragged School of the very poor conditions of many of the children who did not benefit from the school led Fegan to set up a home where children could come and learn in the evening and be given shelter overnight.

Fegan’s homes quickly developed with homes being opened at Deptford, Greenwich, Ramsgate and Southwark. As well as providing education and shelter for children in London, he also supported the emigration of children to Canada where he believed they would have a much better future.

The building in Horseferry Road was built for Fegan when the Southwark building had been outgrown and the new building housed the General Offices, an Enquiry and Advisory Bureau and a reception for new arrivals along with a Working Lads Hostel.

Fegan’s Homes also had a number of properties based in the country to prepare children for living and working in Canada.

Fegan’s Homes have all closed, however Fegans continues to exist as a Christian charity supporting children and their families

Tufton Street has some interesting architectural features. Lansdale House with a second door surround, but with no door, built to provide symmetry to the overall building.

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Plaque in Tufton Street to Siegfried Sassoon (one of the First World War poets):

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And another plaque on Tufton Street to Sir Michael Balcon who was a prolific British film producer. Just a few of the films he produced include The 39 Steps (produced when he was living here in Tufton Street), Passport to Pimlico and The Lavender Hill Mob.

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The architecture of Sir Michael Balcon’s house in Tufton Street is fascinating:

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The Tradesmen Entrance in the centre flanked by two entrance doors to two separate parts of the overall building.

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Above the Tradesmen Entrance is a niche covered by an ornate metal grille which looks like it should have a statue within. At the bottom of the niche is this rather beautifully carved bat. I have never seen one of these before and to find one in the centre of Westminster was an interesting find.

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I have always found plaques such as the blue and green ones found around Smith Square both frustrating and tantalising. They provide a very brief glimpse of a single aspect of a life. Take the following plaque to Eleanor Rathbone in Tufton Street:

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Eleanor Rathbone was the daughter of the philanthropist and politician William Rathbone and a member of a wealthy and nonconformist shipping family.

Her first public roles were as a reformer and feminist in Liverpool, and she was the first woman to be elected to Liverpool City Council. Rathbone was a constant campaigner for family allowances, having published The Case for Family Allowance in 1940 and just lived to see the start of their introduction in 1945, however there were many other aspects to her life.

She was an MP for the Combined English Universities. This was one of the constituencies that did not represent a physical location, but for this position the representation was for the graduates of English Universities other than Oxford, Cambridge and London which had their own MPs.

She was a campaigner for Women’s Suffrage and the impact of war on the dependents of soldiers. She also recognised the danger that Hitler and the rise of the Nazi Party presented, early in the 1930s. In her role as an MP she was an outspoken critic of appeasement with Germany and supported Winston Churchill when he was also warning about the rise of Nazi Germany.

Rathbone denounced the Munich Agreement in 1938 much to Neville Chamberlains displeasure and pressured the Government to take dissident Germans and Austrians along with Jews fleeing from the rise of the Nazis. She also set-up the Parliamentary Committee on Refugees and during the war campaigned for the Government to publish the growing evidence of the holocaust.

Up to 1940, Rathbone lived in Romney Street (just further back along Tufton Street), however this house was badly bombed in 1940 and the building in Tufton Street with the plaque is where she moved to after bombing damaged her Romney Street house.

A remarkable woman. Rathbone moved to Highgate in April 1945 but died suddenly in January 1946.

At the end of Tufton Street at the junction with Great Peter Street is Mary Sumner House.

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Mary Sumner was the founder of the Mothers Union, originally a group of mothers in the village of Old Alresford near Winchester formed by Mary in 1876. For the first nine years the group remained local but after a speech at the 1885 National Church Congress the concept of the Mothers Union grew rapidly across both the UK and the Commonwealth. By the end of the 19th century, the Mothers Union had 169,000 members.

Mary Sumner died in 1921 and is buried with her husband George (who held a number of posts in the church at Winchester) in the graveyard of Winchester Cathedral.

The foundation stone of Mary Sumner House, laid by her daughter in 1923.

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A short distance down Great Peter Street we can turn into Gayfere Street and head back to Smith Square to complete this quick walk around Smith Square and the local streets.

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Original two storey houses along Gayfere Street.Smith Square 28

A short walk around Smith Square and a couple of the surrounding streets, but a fascinating history and architecture. There is mush else I can add, however I apologise for my usual problem of doing justice to a subject within the constraints of a weekly post.

I walked around the area on a Saturday afternoon and the streets were very quiet, they are not that much busier during a week day so avoid the crowds around Parliament Square and much of the rest of Westminster and explore the streets around Smith Square.

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Manchester Square, The Marchioness Of Hertford And A Very Old Lane

Manchester Square is the subject of this week’s post. Georgian architecture, a Marchioness who had intimate meetings with the Prince Regent and an original lane that once ran through fields and now runs through the streets of Georgian London.

Manchester Square is a short distance north of Oxford Street and a perfect example of how in London you can walk in a matter of minutes from streets crowded with people and traffic to a peaceful place that is full of history and wonderful architecture.

Manchester Square still has the much of the original Georgian and Regency period houses from when the square was built, along with an original London town house that occupies one full side of the square. In the centre of the square is a garden which looked fantastic when I visited on a sunny spring day.

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Construction of Manchester Square was part of the Georgian expansion of London. The land formed part of the Portman Estate (as it still does) and a lease on a plot of land was granted to George Montagu, fourth Duke of Manchester who commenced construction in 1776 of a house on the north side of the square.

Other builders purchased leases on the other three sides of the square, the central gardens were laid out, and Manchester Square came into existence, named after the Duke, as was his house, which on completion in 1788 became Manchester House.

Soon after the completion of his house, the Duke died. The house was then purchased by the Spanish Government as their London embassy, a role it occupied until 1797 when the second Marquis of Hertford purchased the lease and renamed the house as Hertford House (and this is where the Marchioness of Hertford became a rather scandalous London figure – more later in this post).

The second Marquis died on 1822 and the house passed to the third Marquis, then in 1842 to the fourth Marquis of Hertford who was a collector of art, furniture, china etc. scouring the auction rooms of Europe to put together a very large collection that was stored in his houses in London and Paris. The fourth Marquis of Hertford died in 1870. He was unmarried and with no children, left his entire collection to his friend Sir Richard Wallace (who was also a collector). Wallace made a number of changes and extensions to the house to form the building that we see today.

The combined collection became known as the Wallace Collection, and on the death of Sir Richard Wallace, the collection was bequeathed to the nation, and it is this collection which is now housed in Hertford House

Hertford House, home of the Wallace Collection in Manchester Square:

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Manchester House soon after completion and before it became Hertford House:

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Standing in Manchester Square it is hard to believe that you are only a couple of minutes from Oxford Street. The central gardens are an oasis of green, spring blossom is blowing across the street and the few people around are either heading to the Wallace Collection, or using the street as a local parking place for Oxford Street.

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The original plan for Manchester Square was for a church to be built in the central square, however this did not get built and the gardens were laid out between 1776 and 1788.

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The second Marquis of Hertford who purchased Manchester House and renamed it Hertford House was a good friend of the Prince of Wales (who would later become George IV) and the Prince of Wales was a regular visitor to Hertford House, however it was his interest in the Marchioness, Lady Hertford that appears to have been his main reason for making the journey to Manchester Sqaure. It was written at the time that “The Prince does not pass a day without visiting Lady Hertford, indeed so notorious did these calls on ‘the lovely Marchesa’ become that a scurrilous print inserted in its columns the following advertisement: Lost, between Pall Mall and Manchester Square, his Royal Highness the Prince Regent”.

The relationship between the Prince of Wales and Lady Hertford was also the subject of a number of satirical cartoons. The following cartoon from 1819 shows Lady Hertford and the Prince Regent, the Prince of Wales on one of the new velocipedes. The signpost on the left is pointing to Wales and Hertford.

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©Trustees of the British Museum

The following carton shows a room in Hertford House with Manchester Square seen through the windows. The Prince Regent on the right is walking towards Lady Hertford. The Prince is holding the Privy Purse and the small character inside the purse is John McMahon who at the time was the keeper of the Privy Purse and the official private secretary to the Prince.

The Prince is saying to Lady Hertford: “I am so partial to the Privy Purse my Lady; that I have turn’d it into a Ridicule that I may have it always about me.” and she replies: “Well! upon my Honor, our Friend has got a snug birth there indeed.”

The two men talking in the square seen through the window are talking about the bad news of the day being that McMahon is now the keeper of the Privy Purse (and will do exactly what the Prince requires) and the Prince is therefore holding the Privy Purse up to ridicule.

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©Trustees of the British Museum

The Marchioness, Lady Hertford was considered one of the reigning beauties of the day. The Irish poet, Thomas Moore, initially a good friend of the Prince wrote of Lady Hertford:

“Or who will repair unto Manchester Square,

And see if the lovely Marchesa be there?

And bid her to come, with her hair darkly flowing,

All gentle and juvenile, crispy and gay,

In the manner of Ackerman’s dresses for May.”

Portrait of Isabella Anne Ingram Shepherd, 2nd Marchioness of Hertford by Sir Joshua Reynolds:

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©Trustees of the British Museum

When Manchester Square was built, London was expanding rapidly to the west and north. The area to the north of Oxford Street was being turned from fields to wide, formal streets and squares. To see what the area was like immediately before Manchester Square was built, I turned to John Rocque’s map of 1746, just 30 years before construction started on Manchester Square.

The following map shows the area on which Manchester Square would be built.

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I wanted to see if I could place Manchester Square in Rocque’s map and whilst doing so, found what I believe to be an original street remaining from when the area was all fields.

See the two maps below. On the left is Roqcue’s map of the area and on the right a Google map of the same area. If you look to the lower right of both maps, the 1746 extent of building can be seen.

I have shown the modern street names in red on the Google map. In the 270 years since Roqcue’s map there have been some subtle changes in street names:

Wigmore Row in 1746 is now Wigmore Street

Wellbeck Street is now Welbeck Street (it has lost an ‘l’)

Wimple Street is now Wimpole Street

Henrietta Street is now Henrietta Place

The dotted line in the Google map is the location of Wimple Mewse which has disappeared since the Rocque map.

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The extent of the building in 1746 is along Marybone Lane, this is now Marylebone Lane. I have marked the name in red in the Google map, however where it gets really interesting is if you follow Marylebone Lane north across Wigmore Street you will see that it curves to the left, following roughly the same curved path as Marybone Lane in 1746.

Marylebone Lane today is different to the majority of other streets in the area. It is a much narrower street and is not a formal straight street as are nearly all the others in the area. Also, look just above Wigmore Row in the 1746 map and Marybone Lane curves to the left to avoid a pond in the field, I have marked the rough position of this pond on the Google map by the blue oval.

I suspect that Marylebone Lane today follows the same alignment as Marybone Lane when it originally ran through open fields and the curved route of today avoids a long lost pond that is now under the Holiday Inn Hotel between Welbeck Street and Marylebone Lane.

I have marked my estimate of where Manchester Square would later be built on the 1746 Roque map, in the middle of a rather large field.

If I am right, it is remarkable that with the considerable 18th and 19th century development of this area, and the laying out of wide streets in straight lines, it is still possible to walk down a street that once ran through open fields and is probably many hundreds of years old.

After that diversion, let’s return to Manchester Square to admire the architecture.

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Many of the buildings surrounding the square have the wrought iron balconies of the late Georgian / Regency period.

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And as you might expect, there are plenty of Blue Plaques to be found. This one for Alfred Lord Milner, who started as a journalist, then was a civil servant before becoming High Commissioner for South Africa and Governor of the Cape Colony during times of considerable tension which led to the 2nd Boer War. On return to London he was chairman of the Rio Tinto mining company, a Director of the Joint Stock Bank and continued to have a number of roles in the Government, continuing to travel widely.

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The south west corner of Manchester Square.

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Below is the south east corner of Manchester Square. The windows in these buildings clearly show the impact of the 1774 Buildings Act which took the 1709 requirement for the windows to be recessed by 4 inches and added the requirement for the sash box to be hidden behind the brickwork. The main reasons for these changes were to prevent the spread of fires and the risk of the sash window falling out, but was also driven by the fashion of an austere and simple window design.

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Blue plaque to Sir Julius Benedict, a German composer and conductor who spent the majority of his life in London.

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And in the same corner of the square a blue plaque to John Hughlings Jackson, a prominent neurologist, whose work on epilepsy resulted in an improved ability to diagnose and understand the condition.

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Blocked up windows on the side of one of the buildings in Manchester Square, possibly to reduce the amount of Window Tax paid by the occupiers. The windows are blocked on the side street from the square so the main frontage of the building onto Manchester Square has the full complement of windows. The owner would not want the view of his house facing to the square to be any different from his neighbours and savings would be made where parts of the house were less visible.

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A different architectural style on the north east corner of Manchester Square:

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One of the streets leading off Manchester Square (to the right of Hertford House) is Spanish Place – the name recalling the Spanish connection of Hertford House when it was home to the Spanish Embassy.

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Some of the original houses in Spanish Place. As with many of the houses in the main square, they have the Georgian form of windows as well as the fanlight, arched window above the door:

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With yet more blue plaques. This time to Captain Frederick Marryat, a Royal Naval officer and author and also to George Grossmith, who was a theatre director, actor and playwright.

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Manchester Square and the surrounding area is fascinating. This area grew considerably during the Georgian period as London expanded rapidly to the west and north of Oxford Street and there are many fine streets and squares to be found, and Marylebone Lane looks to be a survivor from the time when this area was all fields.

The legacy of the 4th Marquis of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace with the Wallace Collection housed in Hertford House is well worth a visit and whilst walking the rooms of Hertford House you are also walking the site of the Prince Regent, the Prince of Wales many visits to meet with the Marchioness, Lady Hertford.

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Regent’s Park Power Station And The First Electric Lighting In Tottenham Court Road

Today, we take electricity for granted, however in the history of London it is only comparatively recently that the city has been lit and powered by electrical power.

The old power station at Bankside has been transformed to Tate Modern and the power station at Battersea is finally undergoing a major redevelopment, however before these two well known landmarks powered the city, there were a number of smaller stations built at the start of London’s electrical age at the end of the 19th century.

My grandfather worked in one of these during the 1930s and 1940s. I never met him as he died long before I was born, however I have always been interested in discovering where he worked and if I could find any history of the power station.

The site he worked at was the Regent’s Park Central Station, an unlikely name for such an industrial activity, but at the start of electrical generation in London, the technology available only supported small scale, local generation and there was a need for a station that could serve the area to the east of Regent’s Park.

The Regent’s Park Central Station was constructed by the Vestry of St. Pancras, the first local authority in London to start the transfer from gas street lighting to electric and to provide a supply to private consumers. Construction started in 1890 and the station started generating electricity in late 1891. (The Vestry of St. Pancras was the original Parish Administration before the change to a Metropolitan Borough following the London Government Act of 1899)

So where was this power station and what did it look like?

I have been searching a number of archives but have been unable to find any photos of the power station. I have found an aerial view taken by Aerofilms in 1926 which does show the chimney of the power station. See the photo below, the power station can be seen to the left of centre. (Aerofilms link here)

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To highlight the location, and to show where it was relative to other landmarks, I have marked some locations in the photo below. The photo has been taken north of the power station, looking south. Tottenham Court Road is on the left, running from the junction with Euston Road away towards Oxford Street at the top of the photo. Regent’s Park can be seen to the right.

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I knew roughly where the power station was located as in the accounts written by my father of growing up in London during the war, he referred to the power station being in Longford Street and Stanhope Street, so my next challenge was to see if I could find the location today.

As with much of London, parts of this area have seen some significant change, particularly the major building work that has resulted in the Euston Tower and Triton Square office developments. The following map  (Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland) shows the location of the power station, built within an area of land surrounded by houses, bounded by Longford Street and Stanhope Street.

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An 1892 issue of The Engineer contains an article about the power station and includes a number of plans and drawings, including the following detailed plan of the power station (I have rotated by 90 degrees to roughly align with the map above).

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The challenge with locating the site of the power station today is that the routing of Longford Street changed in the 1960s as part of the redevelopment of the area. The following map shows the area today.

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Compare this map to the 1895 Ordnance Survey map. In 1895, Longford Street ran straight to Stanhope Street which continued down to the Euston Road. Today, Stanhope Street has been cut off from Euston Road by the Triton Square development and Longford Street now curves up to meet the end of Stanhope Street and Drummond Street. As can be seen from the 1895 map, this curve to get to Drummond Street (the road that is not named to the right of the power station) means that Longford Street now cuts across the lower part of the power station.

Having found the location of the power station and how the streets have changed, it was time to visit the area. I have repeated the 1895 map, and have now marked the approximate positions of where I took the following three photos.

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For the first photo, I walked down Drummond Street, and came to the junction with Stanhope Street. This photo is taken from position 1 and is looking down the new routing of Longford Street down towards position 2. Westminster Kingsway College now occupies the site of the power station and the houses that ran along Stanhope Street. The southern end of the power station building housing the engine and dynamos would also have run across the area now occupied by Longford Street.

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This photo is taken from position 2, looking across the houses that ran along Longford Street and directly into the power station which occupied the centre and left area of the college buildings with the engine and dynamo building extending onto the road.

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And this photo was taken from position 3, standing in the original section of Longford Street, which originally ran straight on. The revised layout with the curve round to the left can be clearly seen.

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So what did the power station look like? The “Engineer” publication also included drawings of the power station. In photo 2 above I am looking directly into the South Elevation shown below.

Regent's Park Power Station 12

The roof of the power station was constructed from glass panels. In my father’s account of growing up in the area, written just after the last war he refers to this roof. During September and October 1940 my grandfather was working the night shift at the power station. The following is my father’s account of one particularly heavy night’s raid when a land mine landed close to their flat during this time:

“After perhaps two hours, a warden appeared, told us of our miraculous escape from the land mines – we were not yet aware of what had happened – and suggested we should make our way to the nearest rest centre. now that the raid appeared to be easing.  However, mother’s priority was to get to see father although the thought of the glass roof and the electrical apparatus under it was not exactly comforting.

Mum said her grateful goodbyes from both of us, then passing through the passageway beneath Windsor House out into Cumberland Market to walk the quarter mile or so to Longford Street. the moon was still there, and from the east came the distant rumbles and flashes in the sky, marking the dying hours of the raid. Neither of us said much and hurried along fearing a sudden blast should the mines explode. The usual smell of smoke, and the far off sound of planes, bells of emergency and fire service vehicles making their way as best they could and hardly anyone around on their feet.

Answering the ringing bell at the generating station gate, father was shocked to see us standing there. He knew from reports that Saint Pancras was being plastered that night, but little else. in the warm again and with dad, more tea and the raid diminishing all the time we slowly made a sort of recovery.”

The power station was built for the Vestry of St. Pancras. A municipal electricity service to provide electrical street lighting and provide power for industry and homes in the local area.

The annual statements for the power station remain and make fascinating reading to understand the process for building a power station in the late 19th century and how quickly the use of electricity was adopted in the immediate area.

The construction of the power station was authorised by the St. Pancras (Middlesex) Electric Lighting Order 188x (the last number was not readable, but I believe to be 1888).

Loans were raised to fund the construction including an initial £70,000 loan, a temporary bank loan of £21,269 then in 1891 a loan of £10,000 from the London County Council.

Land was purchased for a total of £10,827, which included a number of houses along Longford Street which then contributed rent into the accounts of the power station.

Initial site clearance and erection of a hoarding was done by George Tatum for £36. Additional hoarding was provided by F.H. Culverhouse & Co. for £4, 17s, 6d.

Machinery and plant cost £24,878 and the laying of mains cables and services including royalties (presumably to land owners) came to £33,787.

The initial batch of public lamps cost £6,723 and £3 was spent on posters and £40 on advertising.

The station started generating electricity in 1891. The following table shows how the number of consumers, electricity generated, lamps and motors grew in the first few months of operation.

    30th Nov 1891 31st Dec 1891 31st Jan 1892 28th Feb 1892 31st Mar 1892 30th April 1892 31st May 1892 30th June 1892
Number of Consumers 57 72 81 93 103 108 115 119
Daily Consumption (Units) Minumum 17 33 79 174 104 201 187 144
Maximum 390 1825 3105 1641 880 1248 842 861
Average 220 665 1145 1067 640 757 625 540
Number of Arc Lamps 68 71 68 67 83 83 85 85
Number of Motors 0 3 3 3 3 4 4 3

The annual accounts provide very detailed information on the performance of the power station. Two examples of the information recorded are shown below.

For the month of January 1893:

260 tons of coal delivered at a cost of £260
Station staff: 18
Outdoor staff: 11
Total units sold: 49,750
Customers: 167
Units to private houses: 3,973
Units to other than private houses: 43,775
Public Lighting: 20,211
Complaints as to supply to Consumers and Arc Lights: 6

and for the month of December 1893:

306 tons of coal delivered at a cost of £272
Station staff: 19
Outdoor staff: 24
Total units sold: 57,784
Customers: 238
Units to private houses: 5,119
Units to other than private houses: 49,268
Public Lighting: 27,252
Complaints as to supply to Consumers and Arc Lights: 5
589,690 Gallons of water used = 5.4 gallons per unit generated
672,000 lbs of Coal used = 6.1 lbs per unit generated

Interesting that whilst the Station Staff stayed almost static, the number of Outdoor Staff more than doubled. I assume this was due to the manpower required to connect a growing number of new customers to the supply system across an infrastructure that did not yet exist and to maintain the connections of existing customers.

The volume of coal and water needed to support generation gives some idea of the complex  infrastructure and supply chain required to continue round the clock operation.

Also note that at this early stage, utilities were recording the number of complaints, something that utilities would continue to do well over 100 years later.

The accounts also record the average number of units consumed per household. These are shown in the following table and show a considerable increase per household during the last decade of the 19th century. Presumably due to the increased use of electric lighting and new electrical appliances being developed and bought by householders:

1892 18.8 1896 47.7
1893 24.7 1897 63.12
1894 29.57 1898 82.91
1895 35.29 1899 102.86

The generation of electricity allowed the transition to start from gas to electric street lighting and the Vestry of St. Pancras were one of the first municipal authorities to start this change.

The Engineer article and the accounts refer to some of the drivers for moving to electric street lighting and also some of the other day to day events for the power station and Vestry:

– In consequence of the War in South Africa, great difficulty in obtaining supplies of smokeless steam coal. As a result, the price of smokeless coal has increased between 50% and 75% on previous years contracts;

– Numerous complaints have been received of smoke nuisance;

– Four workmen employed by the department who were reservists and have been called up. Their wives are receiving half pay;

– For the gas street lights still in use in 1897, the wages of the lamp lighters increased from 21s 6d to 24s per week.

Tottenham Court Road and Euston Road were some of the first streets to be lit using electricity from the Regent’s Park Central Station. A number of experiments were undertaken to identify the best position for street lamps, their height and the type of light generated by arc lamps.

The best position for lamps was identified as being in the centre of the road and close to side roads. This enabled an even spread of light across the road, with light penetrating down side roads. Lights were installed and connected to the supply from the Regent’s Park station and in January 1892, Tottenham Court Road became the first street to be lit by electric lamps and electricity supplied by the Vestry of St. Pancras. A committee from the Vestry visited Tottenham Court Road and were most satisfied by the lighting from the new street lamps, which provided twelve times more light than the gas lamps they replaced.

The following map shows the position of the new arc lamps installed by the Vestry of St. Pancras.

Regent's Street Power Station 2

The original design of the street lamps.

Regent's Park Power Station 13

These original street lamps are still in place, although converted to modern forms of lighting and electricity (the original power station produced Direct Current unlike the Alternating Current (AC) of today’s electrical system). Just before visiting Longford and Stanhope Street I walked along part of Tottenham Court Road to take a look. The streetlamp at the junction with University Street and Maple Street.

Regent's Park Power Station 3

Looking up Tottenham Court Road to the junction with Euston Road. The final two street lamps at the top of Tottenham Court Road which also appear to have lost their glass domes.

Regent's Park Power Station 4

The St. Pancras Vestry was the first municipal authority in London to generate electricity. Others swiftly followed. Hampstead Vestry in 1894 and Islington in 1896. Shoreditch implemented an innovative way of generating electricity and profit for rate payers by using their refuse destructor as a means of generating electricity and disposing of waste.

By the end of the 19th century there were some 200 miles of streets across London lit by electricity generated by municipal authorities.

Victorian London is often portrayed through the perspective of fog and Jack the Ripper. I much prefer the view of an innovative city with a growing infrastructure and the sophistication and organisation to start the delivery of services that today we take for granted.

I hope that one day I will find some photos of the Regent’s Park Central Station, however it was still a moving experience to stand in Longford Street early one January morning and look at the site where my grandfather worked many years ago.

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