Category Archives: London Buildings

Churchill Gardens and Battersea Power Station

If you travel along Grosvenor Road, the road that runs along the Thames embankment in Pimlico, opposite Battersea Power Station, you may catch a glimpse of a tall, round tower between the blocks of flats that form the Churchill Gardens estate.

It looks rather out of place. An industrial construction within an area dedicated for residential housing. It is now 70 years old, and is the remains of an innovative solution to make use of waste heat from Battersea Power Station to warm the homes of those living on the opposite bank.

Churchill Gardens

The tower is the most visible part of a highly complex system, that took hot water from Battersea Power Station, pumped it under the Thames through specially constructed pipes, stored water in the tower, then distributed it across both the Churchill Gardens and Dolphin Square estates for heating and hot water.

The system is described in considerable detail in a book published in 1951 for the Festival of Britain by the Association of Consulting Engineers. A large book that celebrates the work of civil engineering and construction across a wide range of projects.

The introductory paragraph to the section on the Churchill Gardens project provides an excellent description:

“In the ancient City of Westminster, almost within the shadow of the Houses of Parliament, so severely damaged by German bombers in 1942, great blocks of new flats are rising to meet the needs of London’s teeming millions, thousands of whom are still living in bomb-shattered houses built a century ago.

It is perhaps indicative of Britain’s will to survive and to surmount her economic troubles, that this great new housing estate, together with, it is expected an existing group of flats – probably the largest in Europe – is to have complete space heating and water heating by means of a district heating plan, thus banishing the dust and drudgery of the open coal fire, and the nuisance caused by the delivery and removal of fuel and ash for each block of flats. This plant is unique in two respects: it’s the first public heat supply in London, and it is also London’s first district heating plant wherein the heat is the byproduct of electricity generation. By this means the thermal efficiency of electric generating stations may be raised from its present figure of 25 per cent, to a figure approaching 75 per cent, for stations generating both electricity and heat.”

The section in the book is titled “District Heating Scheme, Pimlico Housing Estate and Dolphin Square”, as at the time the book was put together, the estate had not yet been given the name of Churchill Gardens.

The book includes diagrams and photos of the project.

In the following diagram, we can see Battersea Power Station at lower left, pipes leading under the river to the Churchill Gardens estate which is bounded by Lupus Street, Claverton Street, Grosvenor Road, and Westmoreland Terrace on the western boundary (now an extension of Lupus Street).

Churchill Gardens District Heating System

In the lower centre of the estate is the tower, labelled as the “Hot Water Accumulator”. Dolphin Square, which also received hot water from the scheme is to the right.

The pipes under the Thames were installed in a pre-existing Metropolitan Water Board tunnel, and they consisted of 12 inch bore pipes for feeding water from Battersea and pipes for the return of water. They were insulated by being covered in 2 inches of compressed cork.

The water sent from Battersea Power Station was up to a maximum of 200 degrees Fahrenheit (93 degrees Celsius) and was stored in the tower, or to use its correct name, the “Hot Water Accumulator” before being distributed across the estate.

Hot water was fed directly to radiators for heating and to a calorifier for hot tap water (a calorifier is basically a coil of pipe inside a tank of water allowing heat to be transferred between the two, so water from the mains supply was delivered at the tap, rather than water from the power station).

The purpose of the tower was to store a sufficient supply of hot water to balance demand, for example when there was higher demand than could be provided immediately through the pipes under the river.

Water temperature was regulated by the injection of the cooler return water to the hot water as by the time water had been used to heat the estate and it was being pumped back to Battersea, it was 70 degrees Fahrenheit cooler then originally sent.

The following diagram shows the supply chain from power station to flats:

District Heating System

The hot water accumulator tower, along with the rest of the heating system was constructed at the same time as the rest of the Churchill Gardens estate:

Churchill Gardens

The system had a number of safeguards built in as the Ministry of Health required assurance that the system would prevent the release of water at 200 degrees onto anyone who was working on the system. This included measures such as automatic stop valves which would operate when a fall in pressure was detected.

The outer surface of the tower consists of a steel framework with translucent glass panels.

Within the tower was the accumulator vessel which was 126 feet in height, and 29 feet in diameter. Constructed of mild steel plates and with a 3 inch layer of cork to provide insulation.

Hot Water Accumulator Tower

The project would save a considerable amount of coal, with the text in the book calculating a total of 10,000 tons of coal saved each year by taking the waste hot water from Battersea Power Station.

The amount of heat supplied to the individual flats across the estate was not measured, and a standard charge was applied to all residents for the service. For other buildings, the charge was based on the surface area of the installed radiators.

The hot water accumulator tower, and the first blocks of flats on the estate on the day of the official opening in 1951:

Hot Water Accumulator Tower

The following map shows the area today, with the Churchill Gardens estate within the red box, Dolphin Square with the blue box, and the hot water accumulator tower marked by the orange circle. Battersea Power Station is across the river marked by the light blue box (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Churchill Gardens

I went for a walk through the Churchill Gardens estate to find the accumulator tower and to take a look at the estate. Starting at the eastern side of the estate, I walked through the road that runs through the centre of the estate – Churchill Garden Road.

This is the view looking into the estate from Claverton Street:

Churchill Gardens

Map of the estate at the entrance from Claverton Street:

Churchill Gardens

Along with an early speed limit sign:

Churchill Gardens

The A.G. Dawtry. Town Clerk mentioned on the speed limit sign was Sir Alan Dawtry, who was town clerk, then chief executive of Westminster City Council from 1956 to 1977. He lived for 61 years in the nearby Dolphin Square complex and was instrumental in saving the building when in the 1960s the company that owned Dolphin Square was going through financial problems, and there was a risk that the buildings would be sold off and converted to a hotel.

The above sign probably dates from the later part of the 1950s, as the estate was being completed.

Pre-war, the area occupied by the Churchill Gardens estate had consisted of industrial buildings and terrace houses. Bomb damage during the war, and the slum conditions of the housing meant that the area was ideal for redevelopment.

The 1943 County of London plan had proposed the development of large, well planned estates, and at the end of the war, Westminster City Council launched a competition for the design of a new estate.

The competition was won by Philip Powell and Hidalgo Moya, who were also responsible for the design of the Skylon for the Festival of Britain, the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre in Westminster and the Museum of London building at London Wall.

The winning design by Powell and Moya included buildings with a variety of heights, consisting of eleven storey blocks to three and four storey houses and maisonettes. This was intended to break up any monotony across the estate, and to attract a broad cross section of residents.

Gardens and playgrounds would be provided between the buildings, and to address the urgent need for post war housing, the estate was designed to accommodate a high density of 200 people per acre, which was the maximum allowed at the time.

The first part of the estate that we reach from Claverton Street was the last finished. Built in the early 1960s, this part of the estate makes more use of glass than the rest of the estate:

Churchill Gardens

One of these 1960 to 1962 blocks crosses Churchill Garden Road, almost creating the impression of a gateway to the rest of the estate:

Churchill Gardens

Looking along Churchill Garden Road, we can see the main blocks of flats:

Churchill Gardens

The road curves as it runs through the estate, so the main blocks of flats do not form a continuous wall along the road. They are also aligned north – south so as to maximise the amount of day light that would fall on their main east – west facing windows.

The blocks that were built during the first phase of construction, from 1946 up to 1951 have large, glazed stairways protruding from the sides of the blocks. Later blocks would have galleries running along the length of the blocks.

Churchill Gardens

Well kept gardens between the blocks:

Churchill Gardens

Shelley House with a glimpse of the hot water accumulator tower to the right:

Churchill Gardens

In the above photo, a blue plaque can be seen on the wall.

Shelley House was one of the first four blocks completed by 1950 and the blue plaque is a Festival of Britain Award for Merit granted to these first blocks. These four blocks (Chaucer House, Coleridge House, Shelley House and Keats House) along with Gilbert House and Sullivan House on the western edge of estate, and the accumulator tower are also Grade II listed, and indeed the whole estate has been designated as a conservation area.

The Festival of Britain Award for Merit:

Festival of Britain

Looking back along Churchill Garden Road, and the block on the left has another plaque:

Churchill Gardens

This plaque marks the official opening of the estate on the 24th July 1951 when the first phase of the estate, including the hot water accumulator tower, had been completed:

Churchill Gardens

In the 1951 book by the Association of Consulting Engineers, the estate was called the “Pimlico Housing Estate”, as the estate had not yet been given an official name. A newspaper article in the Westminster and Pimlico News dated the 23rd March 1951 provides the sources of the name:

“It was disclosed at Westminster Council meeting that the name ‘Churchill Gardens’ was the brainwave of Housing Committee chairman, Councilor Miss Paton Walsh.

Mrs. Winston Churchill has agreed to perform the opening ceremony of the estate and of the district heating undertaking on Thursday, July 19.

Miss Paton Walsh pointed out that Mr. Churchill had many connections with Westminster in that he had lived and worked there and he was also their first honorary freeman of the city.”

The official opening covered the first phase of the estate and construction would continue into the 1960s. The 1950s were a difficult time for construction as there were so many competing demands for workers and materials as post war reconstruction gathered pace. This was also having an impact on Churchill Gardens as this article from the 3rd of August, 1951 edition of the Westminster and Pimlico News reported:

“Heartbreaking – It will be heartbreaking for home-seekers if flats at Churchill Gardens are held up while huge Government buildings started in the city are favoured and supplied with all the steel they need.

Sir Harold Webbe, Westminster’s MP attended the opening of Churchill Gardens. He is fully acquainted with the position. If there is a grave delay in the building of these flats he will undoubtedly use his influence in an effort to get things moving.”

Although the streets and houses that Churchill Gardens replaced had suffered bomb damage, with many regarded as slums, they were still occupied, and people were only moved when building had reached their part of the future estate. In 1959, contractors were preparing for demolition of the houses on the eastern edge of the estate ready for construction of the blocks that would be built in the early 1960s, however as the Westminster and Pimlico News reported on the 31st July 1959, there could still be delays:

“Demolition of houses in Claverton Street and Ranelagh Road, Pimlico on the site of Section IV of Churchill Gardens housing estate depends on rehousing the families still there.

Ald. C.P. Russell, chairman of the housing committee, said this at the Westminster Council meeting in a reply to a question put by Cllr. O.M. Boyd.

If rehousing proceeded at the anticipated rate, he expected demolition to start in the sprint of 1960.”

Another plaque from A.G. Dawtry. Town Clerk, this time banning Hawkers, Canvassers and Street Musicians, along with cycling on paths, throwing stones or other missiles, and that exercising dogs on the paths and lawns is not allowed.

Churchill Gardens

It is at this point in the estate that we meet the hot water accumulator tower:

Hot Water Accumulator Tower

At the base of the accumulator tower are buildings that house equipment for the heating system.

The supply of hot water from Battersea Power Station ended in 1983, when the final generators at the power station closed.

The system supplying heat to Churchill Gardens was then converted to what we would now call as District Heat and Power system. In the buildings at the base of the accumulator tower are boilers along with heat and electricity generating systems which produce heat for distribution across the estate, along with electricity which is fed into the National Grid, which provides revenue to help subsidise the costs of the system.

A poor view through the fence into the equipment rooms at the base of the tower, along with a graphic of the tower on the glass:

Churchill Gardens

The range of the system has extended from the original 1951 installation. As well as Churchill Gardens, the system now provides heating for Abbots Manor, Russell House and Lillington Gardens, with 5km of underground pipes serving 3,250 homes along with schools and commercial premises.

Another view of the equipment rooms, with the brick base of the hot water accumulator tower in the right:

Churchill Gardens

When you get up close, you can see that the tower is built within a deep pit, the following photo shows part of the side walls to this pit:

Belgrave Dock

These walls look as if they have some age, older than the Churchill Gardens estate, and their original purpose is rather surprising.

Before the war, there was a considerable amount of industry in the area now occupied by the Churchill Gardens estate. A distillery, saw mills, engine works and a furniture stores. There were also a number of wharves and docks, including one long dock called Belgrave Dock. This can be seen in the following extract from the 1894 Ordnance Survey Map (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’:

Churchill Gardens

In the map, I have outlined the area occupied by Churchill Gardens in red and Dolphin Square in green. Note the difference in street layout between the area to the south of Lupus Street and the area to the north, which still remains much the same.

In the centre of the map is a long stretch of water – this is Belgrave Dock. I have marked the location of the hot water accumulator tower with the orange circle, and you can see that it stands in the middle of the dock.

The brick walls that can be seen in the pit next to the tower are the original surviving walls of Belgrave Dock. Rather amazing that these reminders of the areas industrial past survive.

Belgrave Dock seems to date from the early 19th century. The first written reference I can find is from the 26th February 1832 when the London News reported on a number of accidents during some of the very thick fogs that were covering parts of London at the time. As well as the Belgrave Dock, the report mentions the Grosvenor Canal, which was just to the left of the railway tracks on the left of the above map:

“FATAL ACCIDENTS DURING THE LATE FOG – Between eight and nine o’clock on Friday evening, a police constable discovered a woman in the Grosvenor-canal, Pimlico, quite dead: with assistance he got the body out, and conveyed it to the station-house, in Elizabeth street. The body was owned yesterday, and proved to be Mrs. Ann Hart, aged 72 years, residing in St George’s-row, near the wooden-bridge, Pimlico. There is no doubt that the poor old woman had, during the intense fog, walked into the Canal, which is very dangerous from its unguarded state, as she had her clogs on and a basket in her hand when found. She had merely gone out on an errand.

On Friday morning, john Dillon, a police-constable of the B. division, discovered the bodies of two men at the entrance of Belgrave Dock. They proved to be the bodies of Mr. Wilson, of No. 22, Prince-street, Lambeth, a wadding manufacturer, and his son-in-law, Mr. York; who it is supposed walked into the water during the fog.

The place is in a most dangerous state, particularly in foggy weather; and the only wonder is, that more accidents have not occurred. The place belongs to the Marquis of Westminster; and it is to be hoped that his Lordship will give immediate orders to have the evil remedied. We have heard that another female was brought out of the Canal yesterday morning.”

The report provides an impression of what the area was like in the early 19th century, and I like the address for poor Ann Hart as “near the wooden-bridge, Pimlico”.

Walking down the side road to the tower, and this is the view of the tower from the south:

Accumulator Tower

In the above photo, and in the photo below there is a large building completely covered in scaffolding, including scaffolding stretching across the road, presumably to provide some buttressing support to the building.

Balmoral Castle

Buried underneath the scaffolding is a closed pub – the Balmoral Castle. A painted sign can just be seen on the side of the pub.

Balmoral Castle

The Balmoral Castle dates from the mid 19th century and was part of the original development of the area. It can be seen in the 1894 Ordnance Survey extract above under the dark blue circle.

The pub seems to have been the focus for a number of sporting clubs, with the Metropolitan Cabdrivers Rowing Regatta and Mechanics’ United Rowing Club, along with the Pimlico Athletic Club all using the Balmoral Castle as their meeting place.

It was retained during the development of Churchill Gardens as the intention was to include community facilities for the residents. The pub closed in 2004, and the scaffolding was erected in 2014.

There have been plans to redevelop the area occupied by the pub and nearby Darwin House, but these do seem to be progressing rather slowly. In the meantime, part of the pub also seems to be supported by an incredible growth of what looks from a distance like a form of ivy.

Balmoral Castle

Continuing along Churchill Garden Road, and we can see blocks built during later phases. These do not have the multiple external stairs, but have galleries along each floor.

Churchill Gardens

There are design features such as concrete canopies over the entrances to the blocks:

Churchill Gardens

As well as the Balmoral Castle pub, a school was retained during the construction of the estate. This is St. Gabriel’s Church of England Primary School.

Churchill Gardens

The block of flats behind the school has the distinctive white rendered, rooftop drums for water tanks and lift equipment found on the top of the blocks across the estate.

At the end of Churchill Garden Road, I reached the western end of Lupus Street which forms the western boundary of the estate. The following photo is looking back through the estate:

Churchill Gardens

We then walked along Grosvenor Road, along the Thames for another view of the hot water accumulator tower, with the scaffolding surrounding the Balmoral Castle to the left:

Accumulator Tower

Part of the Churchill Gardens estate faces directly onto Grosvenor Road, however there are some original buildings that have survived:

King William IV

One of which was another pub that has recently closed and is now being redeveloped. This was the King William IV, originally from the mid 19th century and rebuilt in 1880:

King William IV

The future of the old pub seems to be some form of housing. The Health and Safety Executive Notification of Construction Project taped to one of the windows states that the address is now “Travel Joy Hostels Ltd” and the project will consist of 6 new apartments being designed and built, an extra floor added, and a basement to be constructed to the rear.

The old doors to the pub, with a gutted interior behind:

King William IV

A short distance along Grosvenor Road is Dolphin Square. This large estate was also provided with heating from the original Battersea Power Station / Churchill Gardens system:

Dolphin Square

My original reason for exploring Churchill Gardens was to find the hot water accumulator tower, and there was one final part of the original system that I had to visit, and this was Battersea Power Station, which supplied the waste hot water across the river to heat the estate.

Battersea Power Station seen from across the river:

Battersea Power Station

I also wanted to see how development of the old power station and the surrounding area was progressing. In the above photo, the large, glass apartment block that now sits between the power station and railway bridge can be seen on the right.

In the following photo, the additional building on top, and to the side of the power station can be seen:

Battersea Power Station

Crossing the river on Chelsea Bridge, and the apparently random jumble of towers that are spreading along the side of the Thames in Vauxhall can be seen:

Vauxhall

Battersea Power Station closed in 1983, and for many years the building was empty, roofless and derelict. After many false starts, much of the old building has been redeveloped. This included the complete reconstruction of the chimneys as the originals were structurally unsafe.

One of the chimneys is planned to included the Battersea Power Station Chimney Lift, which will lift visitors to the top of the tower to get a view from above. It is planned to open in 2022.

The redevelopment of the area follows the standard plan for any London developments – glass and steel apartments above, restaurants, cafes, shops and entertainment venues at ground level.

Alongside one of the new apartment blocks, restaurants, bars and a cinema have been built into the arches that line the railway viaduct:

Battersea Power Station

From the Battersea side of the river, we can look across the river to the blocks of Churchill Gardens, and the hot water accumulator tower that was once supplied by the power station:

Battersea Power Station

The new apartment block on the right closes in on the power station. There are restaurants on the ground floor and a small area of landscaping up to the river:

Battersea Power Station

Looking between the power station and apartment building. A similar glass and steel building has yet to be built on the opposite side of the power station as the area links up with the tower blocks currently being built along Vauxhall.

Battersea Power Station

The area behind and to the east of the power station is still blocked off for construction work, so there is not that much to see, apart from the area in front and around the new apartment building.

On a sunny Sunday, the cafes and restaurants seemed to be doing reasonably well.

The district heating system for the Churchill Gardens estate was the first of its type in London, and probably in the country. There have been a number of systems built since, the latest is the Bunhill 2 Energy Centre, built at the location of the long closed City Road underground station. Rather than waste heat from a power station, Bunhill 2 is unusual in that it takes heat from the Northern line tunnels below.

Bunhill 2 is an addition to the existing Bunhill energy centre built in 2012, which makes use of the more traditional gas powered engine to produce heat and generate electricity. The energy centre is open during this years Open House London event.

That was a rather long post, so thank you if you made it this far.

As usual there is so much to explore and discover. I find the combination of the hot water accumulator tower, built into the old Belgrave Dock, with the original side walls fascinating – relics of two very different industrial activities in Pimlico.

Churchill Gardens does have its problems, but is an estate that shows what can be done to provide housing with innovative design, well chosen materials, and importantly continuous maintenance of the buildings and landscape.

It was a fascinating walk.

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Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration and New River Head

House of Illustration is a small arts and education charity dedicated to the art of illustration – an art form that can be found on almost every aspect of modern life. Originally based in King’s Cross, the charity is moving to a very historic location and transforming into the Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration.

Quentin Blake has been one of the most prolific and high profile illustrators of the 20th and early 21st centuries, with his work across many forms of illustration, including illustrating the works of the author Roald Dahl.

The new location for the Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration will be at New River Head in north Clerkenwell / Islington, the site of the reservoir that terminated the first man made river bringing supplies of water to the city of London in the early 17th century.

Having been empty for many years, the base of the early 18th century windmill, the engine house and coal store at New River Head will be sensitively transformed over the coming year into the new centre. This transformation will ensure that these buildings are preserved and after being hidden away for so many years, will be given a new life hosting one of London’s small, but so important charities and exhibition spaces. The centre will also eventually be the home for Quentin Blake’s archive.

So why is this the subject of this week’s blog post? A while ago, a colleague from the Clerkenwell and Islington Guide (CIGA) Course was offered the opportunity to visit the site and create a walk that would illustrate how water has been key to the area’s development, and to visit the interior of the windmill and coal stores and the exterior of the engine house before work begins to create the new centre. 

Offered the opportunity to be involved, it took about a second to say yes, and for one week only there is a series of walks exploring the Fluid History of Islington, which, with the support of the Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration, includes access to the base of the early 18th century windmill, the coal stores and around the outside of the engine house at New River Head. I will be guiding on some of these walks, and colleagues from CIGA will be guiding the rest.

This is a unique opportunity to explore how water has influenced the development of the area, see these historic buildings up close, and learn about their future use.

The full set of walks are available to book here

As an introduction to the walk, the following illustration is the proposed plan of the new Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration.

Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration

Credit: Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration, Tim Ronalds Architects

In the above plan, the round building to the lower left is the base of the early windmill. I took the following photo of the building on a recent visit:

Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration

The large building to the right is the old engine house. The interior will not be open for the visit as it is currently difficult to navigate, however we will walk around the outside of the building and talk about the part the engine house played in the development of New River Head and London’s water supply, along with the future of the site.

Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration

Credit: New River Head © Justin Piperger

The old coal store forms the longer building to the right, and will be open during the visit:

Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration

As can be seen from the following illustration, when transformed to a new exhibition area, the fabric of the building will retain its industrial heritage:

Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration

Credit: Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration, Tim Ronalds Architects, Prospective Gallery

The location for the new Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration is at a place that played a key part in the supply of clean water for London’s growing population for a considerable period of time.

The New River and reservoirs at New River Head were the first serious attempt at bringing significant volumes of water into London from a distance, and avoiding the need to draw water from the Thames, which by the end of the 16th century was not exactly a healthy source of drinking water.

The New River dates to the start of the 17th century, a time when there was a desperate need for supplies of clean water to a rapidly expanding city. Numerous schemes were being proposed, and the build of the New River tells the story of how the City of London, Parliament, the Crown and private enterprise all tried to gain an advantage and ownership of significant new infrastructural services, the power they would have over the city, and the expected profits.

The New River proposal was for a man-made channel, bringing water in from springs around Ware in Hertfordshire (Amwell and Chadwell springs) to the city. A location was needed outside the city where water from the New River could be stored, treated and then distributed to consumers across the city.

The site chosen, called New River Head, was located between what is now Rosebery Avenue and Amwell Street. The red rectangle on the following map shows the area occupied by New River Head (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration

The story of the New River dates back to 1602 when a former army officer from Bath, Edmund Colthurst who had served in Ireland, proposed a scheme to bring in water from Hertfordshire springs to a site to the north of the city.

As a reward for his military service, he was granted letters patent from King James I, to construct a channel, six feet wide, to bring water from Hertfordshire to the city.

Colthurst’s was not the only scheme for supplying water to the city. There were a number of other private companies, and the City of London Corporation was looking at similar schemes to bring in water from the River Lea and Hertfordshire springs.

Whilst Colthurst’s project was underway, the City of London petitioned parliament, requesting that the City be granted the rights to the water sources and for the construction of a channel to bring the water to the city.

In 1606 the City of London was successful when parliament granted the City access rights to the Hertfordshire water, a decision which effectively destroyed Colthurst’s scheme, which collapsed after the construction of 3 miles of the river channel.

It was an interesting situation, as Colthurst had the support of the King, through the letters patent he had been granted, whilst the City of London had the support of parliament.

The City of London took a few years deciding what to do with the water rights granted by parliament, and in 1609 granted these rights to a wealthy City Goldsmith, Hugh Myddelton. He was a member of the Goldsmiths Company, an MP (for Denbigh in Wales), and one of his brothers, Thomas Myddelton was a City alderman and would later become Lord Mayor of the City of London, so Myddelton probably had all the right connections, which Colthurst lacked.

Colthurst obviously could see how he had been outflanked by the City, so agreed to join the new scheme, and was granted shares in the project. Colthurst joining the City of London’s scheme thereby uniting the rights granted by James I and parliament.

Work commenced on the New River in 1609, but swiftly ran into problems with owners of land through which the New River would pass, objecting to the work, and the loss of land. A number of land owners petitioned Parliament to repeal the original acts which had granted the rights to the City, however when James I dissolved Parliament in 1611, the scheme was given three years to complete construction and find a way to overcome land owners objections, as Parliament would not be recalled until 1614.

There were originally 36 shares in the New River Company. Myddleton had decided to enlist the support of James I to address the land owners objections, and created an additional 36 new shares and granted these to James I who would effectively own half the company.

in return, James I granted the New River Company the right to build on his land, he covered half the costs, and Royal support influenced the other land owners along the route, removing their objections, as any further attempts to hinder the work would result in the king’s “high displeasure”.

The New River was completed in 1613. It was a significant engineering achievement. Although the straight line distance between the springs around Ware and New River Head was around 20 miles, the actual route was just over 40 miles, as the route followed the 100 foot height contour to provide a smooth flow of water, resulting in only an 18 foot drop from source to end.

The New River Head location was chosen for a number of reasons. A location north of the city was needed to act as a holding location, from where multiple streams of water could then be distributed through pipes across the wider city.

The location sat on London Clay, rather than the free draining gravel found further south in Clerkenwell, and it was also a high point, with roughly a 31 meter drop down to the River Thames, thereby allowing gravity to transport water down towards consumers in the city.

The site already had a number of ponds, confirming the suitability of the land to hold water.

By the end of the 17th century, London had been expanding to the west and developement was taking place around the area now called Soho, including Soho Square.

The challenge the New Rver Company had with supplying water to London’s expanding population was down to having sufficient volumes of water available, and with maintaining water pressure.

The City of London was much lower than New River Head, and water pressure was generally good, however further to the west of the city, the land was higher, and the difference in height between places such as Soho and New River Head was insufficient to provide a good supply to new developments.

This is when the windmill appeared. The New River Company built a new reservoir at Claremont Square, towards Pentonville Road. This new reservoir provided extra storage capacity, and was also higher than New River Head, thereby able to deliver water at greater pressure.

A method was needed to pump water to the new reservoir and the method chosen was a windmill. This was in operation by 1709, but was never very efficient and the top of the windmill was severely damaged by a storm in 1720. Newspaper reports of the storm refer to “the upper part, quite to the brickwork, was blown of the Windmill at New River Head”

The storm also damaged large numbers of ships anchored in the Thames, and: “The Horse-Ferry boat, that passed to and fro from Greenwich to the Isle of Dogs was lost and is not yet found, and the Storm was so violent as to lay the Isle of Dogs under Water by the beating of Water over the Banks”

The following print shows the windmill in the 1740s with the sails and top section missing after the storm  (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration

By 1775, the top of the windmill appears to have been castellated. The first engine house is in operation to the left. The engine house replaced the windmill and later horse power by providing the power for the pumps.  (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration

The following print from 1752 shows the New River Head complex with the remains of the windmill after the 1720 storms  (© The Trustees of the British Museum).

New River Head

To the lower left of the windmill is a small building that would have housed the horse-gin, used between the storm and the installation of the steam engine to power the pumps, pumping water to the reservoir which can be seen in the lower part of the view.

If you look closely between the reservoir and the windmill, you can see what appears to be a couple of pipes running between the windmill and a building on the edge of the reservoir from where water is pouring into the reservoir.

Although now reduced to just the base, it is remarkable that part of the windmill has survived over 300 years, and it is the base of the windmill that we will see inside during the walk.

After the storm, a “horse gin” was employed which consisted of a small building adjacent to the windmill that provided room for a horse to walk in a circle whilst harnessed to a wheel. The rotation of the wheel was transferred to the pumps to provide the power to move water from New River Head to the higher reservoir.

Later in the 18th century, this was replaced by a steam engine. Whilst we will not be able to go into the engine house, we will walk alongside to explore the history of the building:

Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration

Credit: New River Head © Justin Piperger

Behind the engine house is a coal store used to store the fuel for the steam engines in the engine house. The following photo shows the coal store buildings on the left, with a storage area marked with dimensions on the right:

New River Head

Some photos of the interior of the engine house:

New River Head
New River Head
New River Head
New River Head
New River Head

New River Head would continue to play a part in the supply of water into the 20th century.

Reservoirs eventually built at Stoke Newington were of the size needed for London’s ever growing population, and the New River would come to terminate at these reservoirs rather than continuing on to New River Head.

The central Round Pond was drained in 1913. The remaining filter beds had disappeared by 1946, and New River Head became the head offices of the Metropolitan Water Board, along with supporting functions including a large laboratory building.

New River Head continues to be a key part of London’s water supply with one of the shafts to the London Ring Main on the site. The shaft is one of the 12 main pump out shafts across the ring main where water is taken out and distributed locally.

New River Head appeared in a 1748 print with astronomical drawings describing an eclipse of the sun. New River Head is at the bottom of the print, then fields and with the City in the distance  (© The Trustees of the British Museum).

New River Head

One of the two characters at bottom right is using a telescope, presumably to observe the eclipse which took place on the 14th July 1748.

The above print is the type of find that sends me searching for something that is not really related to the subject of the post, however as New River Head is in the view, there is a tenuous link.

The 1748 eclipse was an event well publicised in advance, and numerous papers published recommendations on how to view the eclipse, which sound very similar to what we would do today (apart from the candle).

1. Make a pin-hole in a piece of paper, and look through it at the eclipse. Or,

2. Hold a piece of glass so long over the flame of a candle, till it is equally blackened; and then the eclipse may be viewed through it, either with the naked eye, or through a telescope. Or,

3. Let the sun’s rays through a small hole into a darkened room, and so view the picture of the eclipse, upon a wall, or upon paper. Or,

4. Transmit the image of the sun through a telescope, either inverted, as usual on a circle of paper or pasteboard.

In London the eclipse would start at four minutes past nine in the morning and end at ten minutes past twelve. The eclipse was partly visible, however for much of the time it was obscured due to what were described as “flying clouds”.

I can guarantee that there will not be an eclipse at New River Head during the week of the walks, however the walks will provide a unique opportunity to view some of the buildings that contributed to the development of London’s water supply, learn about their future use, and to hear how water has influenced the development of Islington.

The walks can be booked here.

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The Angel, Islington and Plackett’s Common

Even if you have not visited the area, or travelled to the underground station with the same name, you probably recognise the name of the Angel, Islington.

This is probably down to the game of Monopoly, where The Angel, Islington can be purchased for £100, and is one of the light blue board positions, along with Euston Road and Pentonville Road.

Monopoly is probably why the name Angel is nearly always followed by Islington. Unlike the majority of other places on the Monopoly board, the Angel, Islington is not a street, and when you buy a hotel for the location in the game, you are bringing some historic reality to the game.

The original Monopoly game was a US invention, and its migration to the UK happened when the board game makers John Waddington licensed the game for UK sale. The game required UK locations, and the story is that the Managing Director of the company, Victor Watson, along with his secretary, Marjory Phillips, visited the capital looking for locations for the game. Dependent on different Internet sources (always a dangerous thing), they either met, or had lunch at the Angel, and decided it would be a good location and name for inclusion in their new game.

The Angel, Islington had been a key London landmark and meeting place long before its appearance on the Monopoly board.

It appeared in the 1896 book “The Queen’s London”, published as a pictorial and descriptive record of London in the 59th year of the reign of Queen Victoria.

In the book, the Angel, Islington is described as:

“Trams and omnibuses give an invaluable gratuitous advertisement to the inns at certain points on their route; and one of the hostelries best known in all London – by name at least – from this cause is the Angel. For here trams start and stop, and innumerable omnibuses converge and diverge. The Angel occupies a commanding position at the corner of the High Street, Islington, and of Pentonville Road, leading to King’s Cross, while it faces the end of the City Road, Goswell Road, and St. John’s Street Road. It is no wonder, therefore that the pavement in front of it should be always thronged.”

The photo from the 1896 Queen’s London showing the Angel, Islington:

Angel Islington

The text from the Queen’s London sums up why the Angel, Islington became such a well known location – its position at the junction of four important London Roads.

In the following map, I have circled the location of the Angel (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors):

Angel Islington

To the left is Pentonville Road, opened in 1756 as the eastern section of the New Road. It took its current name in 1857 after the Pentonville Estate which had been built on land around the road.

To the right is the City Road, completed in 1761, to continue the New Road on towards east London. These streets formed an 18th century “North Circular” allowing traffic to pass around the City, and to reach the best street for entering the City. One of these was Goswell Road which in the map above branches off to the south from City Road.

To the south is St John Street which led to the City and provided a direct route to Smithfield Market.

To the north, Islington High Street now forms the A1, indicating the street’s importance as the start of a key route to the north of the country.

The Angel, Islington was therefore located where drovers and farmers bringing their sheep and cattle to Smithfield Market would stop off before making the final journey. Where those heading north or south would stop before continuing their journey. Where those travelling around the City would stop, as the junction was a key meeting point, a place where people could relatively easily travel to and meet others from across both London and the rest of the country.

The area has long been associated with livestock. Local cattle farms as well as the fields around Islington providing stopping off points to feed and fatten cattle on their way to Smithfield Market. The Royal Agricultural Hall, built a short distance away in 1862 continued this tradition.

Long before the construction of Pentonville Road / New Road / City Road, the Angel had been a key stopping point. In the following extract from Rocque’s map of 1746, I have circled the location of the Angel, at the junction where the road that would become the start of City Road, with the branch of what is now Goswell Road, meet the street that continues south to Smithfield.

Angel Islington

Looking towards the upper half of the map, we can see how three key streets converged just before the Angel, which also contributed to the location’s importance.

The Angel, and the buildings lining the road up to Islington Green, Upper and Lower Streets are surrounded by the fields that were used for livestock and for the temporary provision of grazing prior to completing their journey to Smithfield Market.

The building seen in the photo from the Queen’s London was originally built in 1819, however by the time of the 1896 photo it had been heavily modified over the years and was known as the Angel Hotel. It was demolished to make way for a new version of the Angel, built by the owners of the site, Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co. – the London brewery company.

The 1903 building (again, modified a number of times over the years) is the building that we see on the site today:

Angel Islington

The location of the Angel has long been the site for an inn or tavern. Some of the first references are to an inn on the site towards the end of the 16th century, when the property on the site was called Sheepcote.

The name Angel for the inn appears around 1614. There is a Wikipedia reference as to the origin of the name, however I cannot find any written references, either to confirm the Wikipedia suggestion, or to offer an alternative. When researching these posts, I prefer to have at least two different written sources, so for the purposes of the post I cannot find the source.

The excellent “Streets with a Story – The Book of Islington” by Eric A. Willats does state that early in the 17th century, the Angel had a sign of the Angel of the Annunciation, with wings outstretched, however the sign only aligns with the name, and does not identify the source.

The inn was a staging post for travelers from and to the city, and it was a good place to spend a night before entering the city. There are numerous 18th century newspaper articles about thefts and muggings across the fields, paths and roads between Islington and the built edge of the city, so after dark it was not a safe place to travel, and the Angel Hotel was the perfect place to stay until the following morning.

The following print shows the Angel as it appeared in 1808  (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Angel Islington

The view is from what is now Islington High Street. The singe storey buildings to the left of the picture are stables that were on land owned by the Angel, located where Pentonville Road now runs, and extending across the street to the opposite side of the Angel.

The following print shows the view from the Angel, looking down the City Road. Goswell Road is the road branching off to the right  (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Goswell Road

The print mentions the Blue Coat Boy public house. This is the building on the left of the print.

The print is also a perfect example of how easy it is to go off on a tangent with London’s history. The text at the bottom of the above print mentions Jack Plackett’s Common as the space where the obelisk now stands, (to the right of the print) at the junction of City Road and Goswell Road.

I suspect that Jack Plackett was John Plackett who was executed on City Road in 1762. A newspaper report of the time reads: “Yesterday the report was made to his Majesty at St. James’s, by Sir William Morton, Knight, Recorder of this City, of the Six Capital Convicts in Newgate, when John Plackett, for robbing Mr. Jacob Faye, was ordered, for Execution on Wednesday next, near the Turnpike-House, on the New Road from Islington to Old-Street”.

John Plackett was a career criminal who had already served seven years transportation for house robbery. At the end of this sentence, he returned to England and continued to commit a series of robberies between Islington and London.

The crime that led to his execution happened on the 10th June 1762, after he had spent the day drinking in a pub in Wapping. He left the pub around midnight and met the Norwegian merchant Jacob Faye (also written as Fayne).

Faye was trying to find his lodgings in Shadwell, however because of his poor English he could not explain where he wanted to go, or get any directions. Plackett met him and indicated that he should follow. Faye assumed he was taking him to Shadwell.

They walked for a lengthy time, and ended in the fields around Islington. It was here that Plackett hit Faye on the head from behind. Faye collapsed to the ground and after a while awoke to find that Plackett had stolen all his clothes and possessions, including his pocket book and money.

A reward was offered, and Plackett was quickly found, still in possession of Faye’s shirt. He was sentenced to be hung, and was executed on the 28th July 1762, on City Road, close to where he had committed his crime in the fields of Islington.

Although the obelisk has gone, there is still a landmark where City and Goswell Roads divide and at the point where Jack Plackett’s Common was located.

A short walk down City Road from the Angel, and this is the view where the roads divide:

City Road

A clock tower is now at the space once occupied by the obelisk – the area identified as Jack Plackett’s Common in the print.

Apparently, the obelisk was replaced by a clock tower, which in turn was replaced early in the 20th century by the clock tower we see today.

City Road

Around the base of the clock tower are the words from the third verse of the nursery rhyme “Pop goes the weasel”, as the City Road in the rhyme passes to the left of the clock tower:

Up and down the City road,
In and out the Eagle,
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop goes the weasel

The clock tower was made by the St Johns Square, Clerkenwell firm of J. Smith & Sons, and they donated the clock to replace the previous version. It was originally clockwork, and the company retained responsibility for maintaining and winding the clock. It is now electric.

It was somewhere on the space that stretches south from the clock tower that John Plackett was executed for the crime he had committed in the surrounding fields.

The view looking back towards the Angel, from where City and Goswell Roads divide, shows how both the height of the land, and the corner location contributed to the Angel being in such a prominent position for those travelling the roads in and out of the City of London:

Angel Islington

Although many of the 18th century newspaper references to the area around the Angel often refer to crime, there are the occasional reports that bring to life the people that once walked these streets. A report from the 5th January 1793:

“Saturday, a cutler, in the City road, undertook for a wager of five shillings, to hold by the spokes of a carriage wheel, while it was turned round for a given distance. A Hackney Coach was in consequence procured, and he placed himself on the outside of the wheel, holding the spokes with his knees and hands, and in this position continued from the Angel at Islington, to the turnpike, the coachman driving for the most part of the way with great velocity. At the turnpike he leaped from the wheel while in motion, and when the horses were in a smart canter, resumed his station on his return, eating with much composure, an orange”.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, there are many adverts for staff, adverts for auctions taking place at the Angel, and also references to the many meetings that would take place, many with an agricultural theme, continuing the Angel’s long term association with those bringing their livestock to Smithfield Market, and also those visiting the nearby Royal Agricultural Hall. For example, in December 1900, there was a meeting of the Cotswold Sheep Society, who held their annual general meeting in the Angel Hotel.

The Angel was also a stopping place for coach and mail services. The following print dated 1828, shows the Royal Mails at the Angel Inn, Islington, on the night of his majesty’s birthday  (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Angel Islington

The destinations listed on the side of the coaches are Holyhead, Manchester and Liverpool, illustrating the routes that would be taken by those passing the Angel.

Lettering on the side of the building reads “Angel Inn Tavern and Hotel for Gentlemen and Families”.

The Angel would change significantly in 1921, when the lower three floors of the building were converted into a Lyons’ Café, with a Grill in the basement, Café on the ground floor, and cafeteria on the first floor.

The Lyons’ Café lasted until 1959, with the site then being sold to the London County Council.

The Angel had long been at an important road junction, with an ever increasing volume of traffic moving through the junction in front of the building. In 1932, Harold Clunn in The Face of London was describing the junction as “the busiest traffic centre of north London”.

The road junction was the reason for the London County Council’s purchase of the Angel site. There had long been proposals for ways in which the junction could be improved, however in the 1960s and early 1970s, a rather large roundabout was proposed as the solution for the amount of traffic using the junction, and the traffic bypassing the junction and using residential streets as alternative routes.

In January 1973, Mr. George Cunningham, the MP for Islington, South-West asked a parliamentary question about the plans for the junction and whether the Greater London Council or the national Government would be funding the costs.

Cunningham describes “The proposal at the Angel is for an enormous roundabout, the central island of which will be an acre or perhaps 1.1 acres in area. It will be surrounded by a relatively narrow carriageway of 20 yards—relatively narrow, that is, in relation to the central island”

There was strong opposition to the loss of the Angel, and such a large roundabout taking so much space, and in 1975 the GLC started researching less ambitious options for the junction. There was an updated proposal in 1979, however with political changes, proposals for the junction disappeared and the junction remained as we see it today.

The Angel, along with the Angel side of Islington High Street is now part of the Angel Conservation Area. In 1979 it was sold by the GLC to the New River Company, which by then was a property company and a subsidiary of London Merchant Securities. The building was refurbished and opened as offices and a bank on the ground floor. It now appears to be owned by an offshore property company.

The western side of Islington High Street, with the Angel at the southern end has an interesting range of buildings, that tell part of the story of the evolution of this part of Islington.

Angel Islington

In the above photo, the old Angel Hotel is on the far left. To the right is a Wetherspoons pub called the Angel. This is on land that was part of the original Angel Inn.

The narrow building with the tower is the remains of the Angel Cinema, built in 1911, the building was the narrow entrance foyer to the cinema, which led back to a large auditorium on land behind the buildings that face onto Islington High Street.

The building to the right dates from 1891, then the large brick building, along with the much smaller three story building on the right edge of the photo mark the site of another old inn, serving the people passing along these roads. This was the Peacock Inn that lasted from 1564 to 1962.

The large brick building was the final version of the Peacock and dates from 1931. The small building on the right is all that survives of the terrace that formed the 1700 version of the Peacock.

This was a fascinating walk around a very small area, and as usual there is so much to discover. Opposite the location of the clock tower was the original entrance to Angel underground station, which I covered in an earlier post.

The Angel is still a well known landmark, as it was well before the game of Monopoly brought the name to the attention of those who had never been to the area.

When exploring London, it is always interesting to find long lost places and place names, that tell some of the history of London life, and discovering Jack (or John) Plackett’s Common was a perfect example.

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Carlton House Terrace

For today’s post, I am in Carlton House Terrace. It is one of my favourite types of post as I am looking for a place that has been demolished, the site has changed significantly, however I can still find part of a building that helps to confirm the location.

The following photo was taken by my father in 1949, and shows a house in some form of courtyard, with some steps to a street on the right.

Carlton House Terrace

The location should be easy to find as the house has the address 22A Carlton House Terrace next to the door. The photo appears to have been taken from underneath some form of archway.

As well as finding the location of the above photo, I took a walk through the area to the north of Carlton House Terrace to explore the stairs and streets which few people seem to walk.

The following map shows my route, starting at S, where Carlton House Terrace meets Waterloo Place, and ending at E, on Pall Mall. Also on the map, the arrow shows the location of the photo (start of the arrow) pointing in the direction of the stairs through to the wall seen in the background of the stairs in the 1949 photo. Although there is a very different building on the site today, I will explain how I found the location in the rest of the post  (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Carlton House Terrace

This is the view along Carlton House Terrace from the junction with Waterloo Place. The street is a dead end with no exit for vehicles.

Carlton House Terrace

On the right of the above photo are the houses that were originally part of the plan by the architect John Nash to enhance the background to St James’s Park as the other side of the houses face onto The Mall, with the park on the other side.

Although part of the plans developed by Nash, much of the terrace seems to have been heavily influenced by architect Decimus Burton. The terrace was constructed in 1831.

Carlton House Terrace consists of a run of terrace houses, divided by the stairs that lead down from the end of Waterloo Place down to The Mall. The houses provide an impressive background to the northern edge of The Mall, however it is in Carlton House Terrace that we find the front of the buildings with their entrances and forecourts, and facades whilst not as impressive as on The Mall, still with considerable grandeur.

Carlton House Terrace

The round plaque in the above photo records that William Gladstone, the Liberal politician and Prime Minister lived in the house.

The view along the southern edge of Carlton House Terrace. The rear of these buildings face onto The Mall:

Carlton House Terrace

On the opposite side of the street is a relatively modern development. The number on the first building – 24 Carlton House Terrace – shows that the building is close to the 22A in my father’s photo.

Carlton House Terrace

A wider view of the northern side of Carlton House Terrace.

Carlton House Terrace

The large building on the left dates from the 1970s and is the former head office of the mining company Anglo American. It is this building that is on the site of my father’s photo.

To identify the location, I turned to the 1951 revision of the Ordnance Survey map as this was only two years after my father’s photo.

In the following photo I have marked the position from where the photo was taken with the red dot (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’).

Carlton House Terrace

The red dot is under a feature which has an X arcros the dark grey for a building. The use of X is to show a building which has a walk / roadway through at ground level, and the buildings continue above. This explains the dark walls of such a feature on either side and above the immediate location of the 1949 photo.

Following the arrow across the open courtyard, and on the left of number 22A is the symbol for a set of stairs, exactly as seen in my father’s photo.

As usual, there is so much to discover in these maps. To the right of the above map is a building labelled “Old County Hall”. If we go back further to the 1895 Ordnance Survey map, we can see the same building labelled London County Council Office (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’).

Carlton House Terrace

This was the first offices of the London County Coucil after it was formed in 1889, and prior to the move to County Hall on the Southbank in 1922. Prior to the London County Council, the building was occupied by the Metropolitan Board of Works, which the London County Council replaced.

The above 1895 map also shows the same features as the 1951 map, providing confirmation of the same features in my father’s photo.

if you look at the above two maps, the arrow in the first map is pointing to the houses on the south side of Carlton House Terrace, and there is a curving feature to the edge of the forecourt in the centre of the terrace.

The same feature can be found today, with the railings curving from street to building:

Carlton House Terrace

My father’s photo is looking towards some stairs which lead up to Carlton House Terrace, and through the gap above the stairs we can see part of the wall of a building.

To the left of the hut in the above photo is a drain pipe, and this can also be seen above the stairs. In the following photo, I have outlined the area of wall in red and included an extract from the 1951 photo to show the same area of wall.

Carlton House Terrace

The following photo is from the south side of Carlton House Terrace, in front of the building in the above photo, looking across to the location of the stairs in my father’s photo. If I have worked out the exact location correctly, the stairs were just behind the car in the middle of the photo.

Carlton House Terrace

The above building was built during the 1970s. I cannot find when the buildings, courtyard and stairs in my father’s photo were demolished, however I suspect they were part of the demolitions to free up space for the building which now covers much of the northern side of this stretch of Carlton House Terrace, and occupy a large area of space back to Warwick House Street.

The following photo is from the eastern end of Carlton House Terrace, looking back to the junction with Waterloo Place and the stairs down to The Mall. The Duke of York’s Column (dating from 1834) which marks the stairs to the Mall and the split between the two sections of the terrace can be seen in the distance.

Carlton House Terrace

The street and terrace are named after Carlton House, which occupied much of the space now occupied by Waterloo Place. Carlton House had a considerable area of gardens which covered the space where today we can find the two sections of the terrace, on either side of the Duke of York’s Column.

I will save the story of the house and the rest of the terrace for another post, as my walk explored a couple of the streets to the north, between the terrace and Cockspur Street / Pall Mall (see map at start of the post).

Although Carlton House Terrace is a dead end for traffic, there is an exit for pedestrians, with some stairs at the far north eastern corner of the terrace.

Carlton House Terrace

Looking back up the stairs, and there is an artwork by the sculptor David John Kent titled “States of Mind” at the top of the stairs:

Carlton House Terrace

Close up view of “States of Mind”:

Carlton House Terrace

The stairs take us into a short street called Cockspur Court that leads from Spring Gardens. Cockspur Court is a dead end, and its only function seems to be to provide a service access to the surrounding buildings.

In the centre of Cockspur Court appears to be the loneliest tree in London. No other trees within view, and a tree that must spend much of its time in shade due to the height of the surrounding buildings.

Cockspur Court

Looking across the court, and a building on the far side has the words “Grand Trunk Railway” displayed.

Cockspur Court

The following photo was taken towards the end of Cockspur Court, looking back towards Spring Gardens, again showing the lonely tree. The stairs down from Carlton House Terrace are behind the tree, and the large building behind the tree, and also running over Cockspur Court is the British Council Building, much of which occupies the space where the first London County Council building was located.

Cockspur Court

Although a dead end for vehicles, at the end of Cockspur Court, there is another set of steps:

Cockspur Court

Walking up these steps, and between two buildings:

Warwick House Street

Which leads into Warwick House Street:

Warwick House Street

Despite appearing to be just a service road for the buildings on either side, Warwick House Street is actually a very old street, which predates Carlton House Terrace, and survives from the time of Car;ton House and the extensive gardens just to the south.

In the following extract from Rocque’s map of London from 1746, I have ringed Warwick Street, now Warwick House Street:

Warwick House Street

Referring back to the maps earlier in the post, it can be seen that the street follows the same route as the much earlier Warwick Street, apart from a slight change at the final junction with Cockspur Street.

In the 1747 map above, large gardens can be seen to the south. Carlton House Terrace now occupies this space.

Warwick House Street consists of the backs of buildings that face onto other streets. To the north is Cockspur Street and Pall Mall, and there are a number of interesting buildings that have their backs on Warwick House Street, for example, this interesting mix of materials and shapes:

Warwick House Street

And on the same building that had “Grand Trunk Railway” displayed at the top, has “The Grand Trunk Railways of Canada” inscribed above the ground floor of the rear of the building:

Warwick House Street

Looking back along the street towards Cockspur Street and Trafalgar Square along a street that was here in 1746:

Warwick House Street

To take a look at the front of these buildings, I walked round to Cockspur Street.

The Brazilian Embassy occupies the buildings which has the ground floor with a mix of materials and shapes:

Brazilian Embassy

And the building with the railway references also has one on the front with the “Canadian National Railway Company”, the company that the “Trunk Railways” became part of. It is now the London Visitor Centre, and if I remember rightly, in the 1980s was the US Visitor Centre.

Canadian National Railway Company

Confirming the building’s Canadian heritage, between the windows of the upper floors are the coats of arms of the provinces and territories of Canada:

Canadian National Railway Company

I am pleased I found the location of the photo at the top of the post. Buildings and a view that have long been lost, however it is always good to find the exact location, and some remaining part of the view.

The sides streets are very close to Trafalgar Square, but are very quiet, mainly as they are basically service roads to the buildings on either side, but finding one that has been here since at least 1746 shows that whilst major houses and gardens come and go, and spaces are significantly reconfigured, in London, it is always possible to find traces of the past.

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Embankment Gardens Art Exhibition and the Adelphi

The Victoria Embankment Gardens has often been the location for an open air art exhibition, and a couple of the photos in my father’s collection show the 1952 exhibition:

Embankment Gardens Open Air Art Exhibition

This could have been a difficult photo to locate, however the feature in the background made it easy to find the exact place. This is the same scene on a very sunny June day in 2021:

Embankment Gardens

The first exhibition appears to have been in 1948, as an article in the Sphere on the 23rd May 1953 describes that year’s exhibition as the sixth annual open air exhibition of contemporary art. The article also states that the exhibitions were sponsored by the London County Council, and that “On all days except the final day the pictures are for sale”, which seems rather strange, not also to sell them on the final day of the exhibition.

Exhibitions also seem to have been during part of the month of May, which would explain the coats worn by those in the photo, although that could really be any summer’s day given typical British weather.

The little girl in the photo looks to be around five or six. She would now be around 75 and the only one from the photo still alive.

The Illustrated London News on the 12th May 1962 describes that year’s exhibition as opening on the 30th April and running to the 12th May, with 700 paintings on display from both amateur and professional artists.

There is some British Pathe film of the 1949 exhibition which can be seen here, where “Our Roving Camera Reports”.

The monument behind the exhibition which enabled the location to be found, is to Henry Fawcett, the rather remarkable blind MP who championed the cause of women’s suffrage. His interests in the cause led him to meet Elizabeth Garrett who rejected his proposal of marriage in order to concentrate on becoming a doctor. He went on to marry Elizabeth’s younger sister, Millicent Garrett.

A statue of Millicent Garret Fawcett was unveiled in Parliament Square in 2018 with the words from one of her speeches “Courage calls to courage everywhere”.

The wall behind the monument is part of one of the air vents to the cut and cover underground Circle and District lines, a short distance below the surface.

The monument to Henry Fawcett:

Embankment Gardens

A wider view of Embankment Gardens, with the monument on the left.

Embankment Gardens

The gardens are looking very green with plenty of plants and trees, which would cause a problem trying to recreate the following photo of the art exhibition:

Embankment Gardens Art exhibition

My father took the above picture from the Adelphi Terrace, overlooking the gardens. The art exhibition is running along the pathway through the gardens, and shows how far to the right the exhibition ran, as the edge of the Fawcett monument can just be seen on the very left edge of the photo. The Thames and Waterloo Bridge can be seen in the background.

Adelphi Terrace, from where the above photo was taken is shown in the following photo:

Adelphi Terrace

I walked up and down the terrace looking over the wall to the gardens below, trying to recreate my father’s photo, however the trees and bushes have grown considerably since 1952, and the best I could get was the following photo:

Embankment Gardens

There is a small bit of wall visible in the gardens in the centre of the photo. This is not the monument or wall in the 1952 photo, rather a nearby fish pond, a short distance from where the art exhibition was held, and the nearest I could get to recreating the photo.

The Adelphi Terrace is in front of the Adelphi building, and raises the street around the Adelphi up above Savoy Place which runs at ground level between the Adelphi building and Embankment Gardens.

The following photo was taken from Savoy Place looking up at the terrace and the rather magnificent Adelphi building, and shows the height of the terrace:

Adelphi

The main entrance to the Adelphi building is on John Adam Street, and the building consists of two outer wings which extend over the terrace as shown in the above photo, with the core of the building between and behind the two wings, up to John Adam Street.

The Adelphi building is in the centre of the following map, which also shows the Victoria Embankment Gardens and the Henry Fawcett memorial to the right of the gardens (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Adelphi

I thought I had a photo of the Adelphi from across the river, but I cannot find it. I did find a photo I took a few years ago which shows the three wings of the Adelphi as the building on the left of the photo.

Adelphi

From this distance the building does not look that impressive. It is only when you walk around the building that its unique decorative features can be seen.

The Adelphi was built between 1936 and 1938, by architect Stanley Hamp of the partnership Colcutt and Hamp.

Of standard steel frame and reinforced concrete construction, what makes the building rather special is the large amount of architectural decoration and design that follow the art deco approach.

In the photo of the building from Savoy Place, two large allegorical relief figures can be seen on the two wings that extend over the terrace. There are four of these (the other two are on the other corners of the wings). These represent Dawn, Contemplation, Inspiration and Night, with Contemplation and Night being seen in the above photo.

The following photo shows a detailed view of “Night” by the sculptor Donald Gilbert.

Adelphi

The following photo shows “Dawn” by Bainbridge Copnall, with architectural decoration extending above the sculpture to fill in part of the curved corner of one of the wings.

Adelphi

There is detail across the building. The following photo shows a side entrance on Robert Street. Note also that where the building faces towards the river, Portland stone is used, with brick used for the other facades, but retaining Portland stone for the ground floor and architectural detailing.

Adelphi

The sides of the building have small decorative panels between the brick pillars:

Adelphi

And carved coats of arms of UK cities between the ground and first floors. Three of these can be seen in the above photo, and in close up, the arms of Sheffield, Derby and Birmingham can be seen below:

Adelphi

Another view of Adelphi Terrace, which was constructed in part due to the 1930s expectation of the rise of the car as a means transport within the city, as well as replicating the original terrace:

Adelphi Terrace

Construction of the Adelphi in the 1930s required the demolition of an historic estate.

The original Adelphi estate was the work of Robert Adams and his three brothers, John, James and William. The name Adelphi comes from the Greek word adelphós, meaning brothers.

In the mid 18th century, the area now occupied by the Adelphi had been a rather run down area called Durham Yard, which had been the location of Durham House. At the time, the Embankment Gardens had not been built, so the space now occupied by the Adelphi was then facing on to the foreshore to the Thames. The damp conditions and flooding at high tide meant that this was not a good area to build the type of quality houses intended by Adams.

The plan developed, mainly by Robert Adams, was to build the houses and streets on a series of arches, which increased in height as the land descended from the Strand down to the river.

This was how the terrace came into being as the end of the estate overlooking what was then the edge of the River Thames. The following print from 1795 shows the terrace as it appeared soon after construction  (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Adelphi Terrace

However the Adelphi Terrace in the above print is not in the same position as the Adelphi Terrace we can walk along today. In the above print, the block of buildings on the right were demolished to make way for the Adelphi building (not the building at the far end as we shall see).

In preparation for the construction of the Adelphi building, the whole of the block of houses that occupied the area, included the arches and space underneath the houses, was demolished all the way back to John Adam Street. As part of the build of the Adelphi, construction was pushed forward up to Savoy Place, so the terrace is now forward of the terrace in the above print.

The following photo from just before demolition in 1936 shows the Adelphi Terrace on the left, with the block of houses which would also soon be demolished. In the background is the recently completed Shell Mex House (1932) with Savoy Place running to the lower right of Shell Mex House.

Adelphi Terrace

With the construction of the new Adelphi building and terrace, the terrace was pushed forward to also run up against Savoy Place, in line with Shell Mex House, so the area in the lower right of the above photo is now under the terrace.

Another view of Adelphi terrace around 1897 before the construction of Shell Mex House:

Adelphi Terrace

If you look to the left of the second lamp post in the above photo, you can just see a round plaque. This was a medallion of the Royal Society of Arts recording the fact that the actor David Garrick had lived in the house. It was in one of the back rooms of the house that the actor died in 1779.

The large building on the right on part of the site now occupied by Shell Mex House was the Hotel Cecil.

And if you had been living in one of the houses in the terrace, this would have been your view as you looked along the river to the east, with the corner of Hotel Cecil on the left, and the first Waterloo Bridge crossing the river.

View from Adelphi Terrace

At the time of the above photo, the Adelphi was described as “one of the finest places to live in all London, as well as for pleasantness of situation as for convenience. The noise of the Embankment is sufficiently far away, and the hooters and sirens on the river suggest that sense of freedom and open space which goes with ports and their kinship with the sea. All too uncommon in London, late at night, the loudest noise is often the wind in the trees which move the lights of silent shipping“. Not from an early 20th century Estate Agents description, the quote is from the book Wonderful London.

Continuing a walk around the Adelphi building, and more door surround decoration:

Adelphi

Looking back between the wings of the building, we can see bow windows extending outward, with metallic decoration:

Adelphi

More decorative carvings:

Adelphi

Balconies:

Adelphi

The main entrance to the Adelphi on John Adam Street:

Adelphi

What is confusing is if you look above the doors, is the address John Street, however if you look to the lower right, is the full name John Adam Street.

John Street seems to have been the original name, as it is used on the 1895 Ordnance Survey map, and by the time of the 1951 revision, the current full name John Adam Street is used. I suspect the name change was when the Adelphi was built in the 1930s.

Having had a walk around the Adelphi building, time for a look at what remains of Robert Adam’s original estate. This is the view along Robert Street, with a fine terrace of buildings lining the side of the street. The end of the building on the left would have originally faced onto the original terrace, and is the same building at the far end of the terrace as in the 1795 print.

Robert Street

The scheme proposed by the Adams was highly ambitious. The land was sloping down to the river, and indeed consisted of part of the foreshore. The area would often flood at times of high tide.

Rather than building houses down along a sloping plot of land towards the river, with the resulting problems of damp and flooding, the plan consisted of building brick arches with the houses building on the platform created above.

The space within the arches would be sold or leased, and this approach would create a considerable improvement to the embankment of the Thames.

The following print from 1784 shows the completed estate with houses built above the arches which provided storage space easily accessible from the river  (© The Trustees of the British Museum).

Adelphi

The plan and construction was ambitious, and the financial side of the project was rather risky, as a lease on the land was only signed a year after construction had begun in 1768, and parliamentary approval to build the new embankment along the river was not granted until 1771.

Costs for the project were so high that the money had run out by 1773 when much of the estate had yet to be completed. To raise additional finance, a method common in the 18th century was used whereby a lottery with 4,370 tickets selling for £50 each raised enough to complete the estate. Prizes for lottery winners included some of the houses on the estate as well as storage space in the arches below.

The following plaque on the terrace in Robert Street identifies some of those who have lived in the houses:

Robert Street

View of the terrace in Robert Street from the junction with John Adam Street:

Robert Street

Strange that with street renaming, John Street changed to John Adam Street, however Robert Street kept the original name without a rename to the full Robert Adam.

The houses were highly decorated including Adam fireplaces. Many of the first floor ceilings were also painted by either the Swiss artist Angelica Kauffman or Giovanni Battista Cipriani from Florence.

Walking to the north of the Adelphi, along John Adam Street, and we find this building which was clearly not built as one of the terrace houses:

Royal Society

A plaque on the front identifies the building as the home of the Royal Society for the encouragement of arts, manufactures and commerce, which was founded in a coffee house in Covent Garden, and then moved to this building by Robert and James Adam in 1774. The building is still their home.

Royal Society

During the 1930s demolition ready for the construction of the Adelphi, demolition reached to the southern side of John Adam Street, so the street and home of the Royal Society are part of the original build, and the basement of the Royal Society building retains some of the brick arches built to raise the area above the sloping land.

In the 19th century, the arches and vaults below the houses had become somewhat different to what had been intended. The Sketch in 1903 includes the following description “The houses were built on deep arches that rivalled the Catacombs of Paris and these, at one time, were a great thieves kitchen, a tramps paradise, or doss house, that defied Watchmen and Bow Street Runners, and their successors the modern Peelers”.

There is probably some journalistic exaggeration in the above quote, however the following print from the mid 19th century does show a rather dark and gloomy place, underneath the Adam’s terrace houses  (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Adelphi vaults

Looking along John Adam Street to the junction with Adam Street and we can see how the Adam’s plan included focal point houses at the end of the streets, and the type of decoration used.

The building in the background is Shell Mex House. When researching this post and after taking the above photo, I found the following print which shows the Royal Society building on the left, and the same building as in the photo, at the end of the street  (© The Trustees of the British Museum).

John Adam Street

I should have found the above print before visiting the site as I would then have taken the photo slightly further back to include the Royal Society building. If you stand in the street today, ignore the new Adelphi to the right, and Shell Mex House, the view does look much the same as in 1795.

The following photo is looking up Adam Street. The junction with the Strand is further along the street to the left, with an original house at the end of the terrace with a curved extension to the smaller width of the street. Adam Street was cut through to the Strand as part of Adam’s construction of the Adelphi.

Adam Street

The house behind the white car has a GLC Blue Plaque stating that the 18th century industrialist and inventor Sir Richard Arkwright lived in the house, with English Heritage’s background to the plaque stating that Arwright lived some of the final years of his life here in Adam Street before his death in 1792.

Looking above the houses in the above photo, there is an unusual sight hidden within the dense building of this area south of the Strand. A brick chimney with some robust steelwork providing support from Shell Mex House.

Chimney by Shell Mex House

The type of brick chimney seen in the above photo was once relatively common across London, but now is an unusual sight. No idea of the chimney’s purpose, whether it was or maybe still is, part of the Shell Mex House heating system.

That was rather a detour from my father’s original photo of the open air art exhibition in the Victoria Embankment Gardens, but that is why I started the blog, as a means of getting out to find the location of a photo and discovering a wider area.

There is more to the story of the Adam’s brothers and the surrounding area, including the creation of the Embankment Gardens, Shell Mex House, and Lower Robert Street which still routes under part of the estate. The old river stairs that would have entered the river roughly along where Savoy Place is today, and some of the lost streets down to the river – hopefully all subjects for future posts.

And returning to the original photo, I wonder if the little girl in the photo can today remember walking in the gardens and alongside the art exhibition?

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St Paul’s Cathedral – 1977 and 2021

I was looking through some of my old negative scans and found four photos of St Paul’s Cathedral dating from 1977. Nothing special about the photos, and the cathedral is one of the buildings in the City that has not changed, however they did highlight how much dirt the cathedral had accumulated, and in comparison, how clean it looks today.

The following photo shows the view of the cathedral from the junction of Cannon Street and New Change in 1977:

St Paul's Cathedral

The following photo shows the same view, forty four years later in 2021::

St Paul's Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral has had a number of extensive cleaning and restoration projects over the years, however the state of the cathedral in 1977 was probably not what those who worked on the mid 1960s cleaning project would have expected.

At the end of the 1960s cleaning, it was expected that with recent clean air legislation, and the City of London being designated a smokeless zone the cathedral would remain clean and there was a possibility that in “250 years time, St Paul’s Cathedral will look as Sir Christopher Wren would have liked to have seen it”.

The above quote and the following still is from a fascinating BBC programme from 1965, when “Tonight” had a lengthy feature on the cleaning of St Paul’s Cathedral. The full programme can be watched here, and also highlights the 1960s approach to health and safety (as illustrated in the still below) as well as the rather basic method of cleaning employed. At times the wind lifted the sheets preventing cleaning water from falling to the streets, resulting in some very annoyed City Police Officers who threatened those cleaning the cathedral with a summons if they did not stop work as water was blowing as far as Cannon Street.

Cleaning St Paul's Cathedral

There is also a 1962 British Pathe film of the 1960s cleaning project here, which shows how jets of water and wire brushes were used to scrub the soot from the surface of the building, which in some areas was in layers over one inch thick.

Only 11 years after completion of the mid 1960s clean, the cathedral was again looking rather dirty.

St Paul's Cathedral

The above photo is the south facing side of the cathedral in 1977 and the photo below is the same view in 2021:

St Paul's Cathedral

In my 1977 photos, the cathedral appears cleaner towards the top, and dirtier towards the bottom of the building. Although central London was a much cleaner place than it had been for many centuries, vehicles were emitting far more pollutants than they do now, and pollution would still be blowing in from the surrounding area.

It is hard to appreciate just how dirty London was up until the late 1960s. Coal burning in homes, offices and factories along with electricity power stations, and industries producing gas from coal all contributed to a significant smog of pollution and dirt.

The 1960s cleaning of the cathedral had to deal with dirt that was over an inch thick in places, and we can get an idea of the impact of this amount of dirt from a Parliamentary question asked on the 06 April 1955 by Mr. George Isaacs, MP for Southwark, when he states that based on measuring equipment installed next to Bankside Power Station, and at the Town Hall in Walworth Road, they found that over a year, the “deposit recorded at that time was the equivalent to 235 tons to the square mile on Bankside and a mile away in Walworth Road the deposit was 60 tons to the square mile”.

In the written question, he states that it is necessary to live in the area to really know what the impact of this level of pollution to everyday life means, which he describes as: “Our people have grit in their eyes and grit in their food; there is grit underfoot and grit in the laundry on washing day. I know that what I say has happened. There are the large blocks of the Peabody Buildings less than 150 yards from the station. The only place there for women to dry their laundry is on the roof. They put their laundry on the roof, and the grit comes down. Father comes home to tea, and mother goes upstairs to take in the washing, and when she comes down father knows all about it because she is not in a good humour if she finds that she has to do her laundry all over again. I can say with some justification that this is a nuisance not only physically but in the way it upsets amenities and family life in the area”.

The following graph shows how the level of pollution in London, measured by Suspended Particulate Matter (measured in micrograms per cubic metre), has changed over time (source: What the history of London’s air pollution can tell us about the future of today’s growing megacities by Hannah Ritchie, using data from Foquet (2011) –  Creative Commons BY license):

St Paul's Cathedral

Whether these figures could have been accurately measured going back to 1700 is an interesting question, however the key point of the graph is the overall shape, and the rapid decrease in the second half of the twentieth century, confirming that the air is London is now much cleaner than it has been for many centuries.

The cathedral featured in classroom material produced by the National Society for Clean Air. A chart was produced which included a before and after the recent cleaning view of St Paul’s Cathedral. The chart also included a picture of a boy and girl in clean country air, as well as devices such as smokeless domestic heating equipment. Rather scarily, the chart also included drawings of the sections of the lungs of those living in the city and in the countryside, showing the damage that was being done to the lungs of city dwellers.

School education continues, with the Mayor of London now producing toolkits for schools focusing on air pollution and the dangers of high levels of Nitrogen Dioxide, which particularly affects children, and those with breathing difficulties.

Whilst the clogging grit and smoke that quickly blackened London’s buildings may no longer be a problem, invisible gases such as Nitrogen Dioxide, and very small particulate matter are now the main problem.

Another view of the south facing side of the cathedral in 1977:

St Paul's Cathedral

The same view today of a much cleaner building:

St Paul's Cathedral

The most recent full clean of St Paul’s Cathedral completed in 2011 ready for the 300th anniversary of the cathedral.

This had been a 14 year project which cleaned both the interior and exterior of the building. There were some controversial methods used to clean the cathedral, including a latex paste that was applied to the interior stone, which absorbed the layer of dirt and allowed this to be pulled away with the latex layer.

New methods have frequently been used for cleaning the building. In 1903, an American method of stone cleaning where a blast of pitsand was blown at the cathedral walls through a tube at a pressure of 30lb to the square inch, to try and remove the soot and dirt that was ingrained on the Portland stone of the building.

The main west facing entrance to the cathedral in 1977, photographed from Ludgate Hill.

St Paul's Cathedral

The same view today:

St Paul's Cathedral

My early memories of walking through the City are of a grey and dirty place, although it is also difficult to be sure how real some of these memories are. What is certain is that the buildings of the City are now much cleaner. The air in many places is better, but there are still many places where pollution levels are too high, generally close to busy roads as London today does not have the same polluting industries as it did.

Hopefully George Isaacs, MP for Southwark would be happy with the change, as well as Sir Christopher Wren who would now recognise the cathedral as it was when it was built.

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Three Future Demolitions and Re-developments

The streets of London always have, and always will change. Buildings can disappear almost overnight and be replaced by a very different structure.

I try and photograph buildings and places before any demolition. This can be a challenge given the rate of change, however for today’s post, there are three places I want to focus on which will probably be very different in the years to come.

The three locations are shown in the following map  (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors):

Three Future Demolitions

The London Studios / London Weekend Television

Look across the river from the Embankment by Temple Underground Station, and this is the view:

London Studios

The tall tower was originally known as Kent House, a 24 story tower block, and the most visible part of the old studio complex which also includes a significant area of land around the base of the tower, including the low rise buildings which can just be seen to the left of the tower, above the tree line.

Kent House, and the low rise buildings were until 2018, ITV’s London Studios, also known as the Southbank Television Studios. It was here that ITV made Good Morning Britain, Loose Women, Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, the Jonathan Ross Show, along with a considerable number of shows for other channels, such as the Graham Norton Show and Have I Got News For You for the BBC. If you have watched ITV prior to 2018, chances are that you would have seen a programme filmed here on the south bank of the river.

The following photo shows the view of Kent House from Waterloo Bridge. The National Theatre is the building to the right.

London Studios

ITV were intending to return to the south bank studios after refurbishment and development, however they made the decision to leave and sell the site, with their programmes such as Good Morning Britain now filmed at the old BBC Television Centre in White City.

The story of Kent House and the associated studio buildings dates back to the early 1970s when there were two independent television stations serving London. Thames Television operated from Monday to Friday, and from Friday evening to six on Monday mornings, London Weekend Television (LWT) would broadcast.

When LWT started broadcasting in 1968, they only had temporary studios in Wembley, and were in urgent need for custom built studios, which was even more important with the transition from black and white to colour TV.

LWT identified a block of land near the National Theatre on the south bank and proceeded to build the new studio complex, including Kent House. These opened in 1972 and became the hub for all LWT production. The benefit of a new build was that they became the most technically advanced colour TV studios in Europe at the time of opening.

The studio complex faces onto the walkway along the south bank of the river. The tower is at the rear of the complex, facing onto the street Upper Ground, with low rise buildings facing onto the river.

ITV Studios

Studio buildings extend to the left of the above photo, with the block in the following photo up against the cafes, restaurants and shops at Gabriel’s Wharf which is further to the left.

ITV Studios

The whole site will soon look very different.

ITV sold the studio complex in 2019, including Kent House, to the Japanese real estate company, Mitsubishi Estate, and plans have now been submitted for redevelopment.

Kent House and the entire studio complex will be demolished, and replaced by a 26 storey office building to the rear (Kent House has 24 floors), two lower rise blocks of 13 and 6 storeys facing on to the river.

What is a surprise is that the majority of the complex will be office space, with a capacity for up to 4,000 workers. Based on what normally happens to sites in such a prime location is conversion to apartment blocks, as is happening around the Shell Centre tower further west along the south bank. Whether the plan continues to be for offices after the work at home impact of the pandemic will be interesting to see.

The proposal also includes plans for some form of open space, the obligatory restaurants and some form of cultural space.

The view from Upper Ground:

Gabriel's Wharf

The cafes, restaurants and shops at Gabriel’s Wharf are to the right of the two telephone boxes. Behind them are the low rise studio buildings.

Plans for the redevelopment of the area are still at an early stage, however Mitsubishi’s partner CO-RE are currently listing a 2026 date for completion of the project.

The following photo shows part of one of the old warehouses / offices at 58 Upper Ground, now part of the studio scenery stores.

Gabriel's Wharf

To the left of 58 Upper Ground is the early 1970s studio complex at the base of Kent House:

Southbank Studios

The mock Tudor building is one of the few survivors from before post war redevelopment of the area.

Gabriel's Wharf

ITV left the site in 2018, however the site still offers temporary office and studio space:

Kent House

To the lower left of the Kent House tower, the studio complex can be seen at the rear. This is the western boundary of the studio complex. In the distance can just be seen the half roof of a covered walkway. This was where the audience attending a show would queue for entry. When I worked on the Southbank, it was common to see a long queue of people here in the late afternoon.

Kent House

As shown in the above photo, there are frequently lorries parked around the base of the tower and studio area when the studios are in use.

The Southbank Conservation Area Statement prepared for Lambeth Council Planning states “The ITV tower is reasonably attractive but the lower buildings are of little architectural interest and the entrance forecourt is almost cluttered with waiting vehicles and delivery lorries”.

Personally, I think that this is a danger when looking at something only from a conservation perspective. The lorries at the base do add clutter to the scene, however they are there only because this is a working studio complex, which has added a diversity of activity and a busyness to Upper Ground.

The loss of a diverse range of activities when areas are transformed to a mix of expensive apartments, offices, hotels and chain restaurants, cafes and take-ways can really destroy an area.

Diversity of activity is essential in keeping a city alive.

The following photo shows the base of the tower and the lower levels of the studio complex. I love the way the tower looks as if it has been slotted over the lower levels, with the legs of the tower reaching down along the sides to the ground.

Kent House

A full view of the Kent House tower from Upper Ground:

Kent House

The next site is still on the south of the river, close to London Bridge Station and Tooley Street is:

Colechurch House

Colechurch House is a late 1960s office block on a relatively narrow strip of land between Tooley Street and Duke Street Hill. The main office building is lifted above ground level, and includes a walkway which provides access to the taxi waiting area for the station and London Bridge Street.

Colechurch House

Colechurch House was designed by architect E G Chandler for the City of London. It was named after Peter de Colechurch who was responsible for the first stone London Bridge, the building of which was started in 1176 and completed in 1209.

The building and the freehold of the land is owned by Bridge House Estates, and on the 14th October, the City of London Corporation as Trustee of Bridge House Estates released a press statement that property owner CIT had purchased a lease of the building, and would be bringing forward proposals for redevelopment.

Colechurch House

CIT’s proposals for the complete redevelopment of the site include replacing Colechurch House with a new office building ranging in height from 12 to 22 storeys, with the lowest height part of the building being at the London Bridge / Borough High Street end of the street. The highest part of the building was originally planned to be 32 storeys, however following a consultation process this has now been reduced to 22.

The new office block will be lifted off the street, with the area at ground level being public open space called the Park, which will be divided into a number of areas – Bridge Gate Square, Old London Bridge Park and St Olaf Square.

View of Colechurch House from the elevated walkway. The entrance to the office block is where the two lights can be seen.

Colechurch House

The planning application was submitted at the end of 2020, a number of issues with the application were raised in a letter dated the 1st March 2021. Consideration of these and a final decision is still to be confirmed, however I expect the demolition and rebuild will go ahead within the next couple of years.

Across the river to Fleet Street now, to find the site of a much larger redevelopment:

Fleet Street and Salisbury Court

This is probably the larger of the three developments covered in this post, and it covers a significant frontage onto Fleet Street and to the rear within a block bounded by Salisbury Court and Whitefriars Street.

The redevelopment is for a new area which has been dubbed the “Justice Quarter” as it will include a number of new buildings that will house functions related to the law.

The following map shows the area to be redeveloped, and the new functions that will be located in the development  (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Justice Quarter

1 – New City of London Law Courts

2 – New headquarter building for the City of London Police

3 – Public space covering an area slightly larger than the current Salisbury Square

4 – New commercial / office space with, you may have guessed, space for restaurants, bars or cafes on the ground floor

The following photos walk through the area, starting from Salisbury Square, which is the green space within rectangle 3 in the above map.

This is the view across the square.

Salisbury Square

The building in the background is Fleetbank House, built between 1970 and 1975, a large building that has a lower section to the right, and also runs down Whitefriars Street, which is behind the building.

The obelisk in the centre of the square is a memorial to Robert Waithman, Lord Mayor of the City between 1823 and 1824. The memorial states that it was erected by his friends and fellow citizens.

To the right of the above photo, is the following brick building, 1 Salisbury Square:

Salisbury Square

The road to the right is Salisbury Court, running up to Fleet Street at the top.

Both Fleetbank House and 1 Salisbury Court have been granted a certificate of immunity by Historic England. This certificate states that the Secretary of State does not intend to list the buildings for a specific period of time – in the case of these buildings, up to July 2025.

If I have understood the proposals correctly, 1 Salisbury Square will be demolished and the area occupied will become part of the larger public space of Salisbury Square.

The following photo is a wider view across the square:

Salisbury Square

I am always amused by developers now and future impressions of proposed developments. If you look halfway down this page on the Salisbury Square Development website, there is a now and future picture where you can scroll between the two.

The now part of the photo was taken on a relatively grey day, with people milling about, or hurrying across the square. The proposed computer generated picture, shows the square at dusk, subtle lighting lights up the trees and the ground floor area of the new public space and there is not a cloud to be seen in the sky. Buildings frequently look their best with this form of lighting.

This type of comparison is all too common with the proposals for any new development.

A row of bollards line Salisbury Square:

Salisbury Square

Walking along Salisbury Court, up to Fleet Street. A relatively narrow street, the edge of 1 Salisbury Court is to the left of the photo:

Salisbury Court

8 Salisbury Court – again if I have understood the proposals correctly, this building will also be demolished, and the land become part of the new public space.

Salisbury Court

To the right of number 8, is a large brick building that covers number 2 to 7 Salisbury Court. This is Greenwood House.

Salisbury Court

The blue plaque states that the first number of the Sunday Times was edited at 4 Salisbury Court by Henry White on October 20th 1822.

The building dates from 1878, and was designed by the architect Alexander Peebles.

Between the ground and first floors, the building has some rather ornate terracotta carvings, and the land or building may have once belonged to the Vintners Company, as their arms with the three tuns can be seen on the wall between first floor windows.

Salisbury Court

2 to 7 Salisbury Court are Grade II listed, however a City of London notice cable tied to the iron railings outside the building state that a number of changes will be made:

i) Part demolition of 2-7 Salisbury Court Grade II listed;

ii) remodelling at roof level;

iii) formation of new facade to south elevation, and part new facade to west elevation;

iv) replacement fenestration;

v) new plant; and

v) associated internal alterations.

The two “v” bullets are directly from the notice, the final should I suspect be a vi.

Always hard to decode exactly what these planning notices mean, but I suspect it will be a new façade to replace the joining wall where number 8 has been demolished. Possible demolition of the internal structure of the building, with the wall facing Salisbury Court retained as a façade. A new roof and changes to the windows.

So some dramatic changes.

The view looking down Salisbury Court from the junction with Fleet Street:

Salisbury Court

On the corner of Salisbury Court and Fleet Street is 80 to 81 Fleet Street. A large corner building that was until recently a Barclays Bank. The building was originally, up to 1930, the home of the Daily Chronicle.

Fleet Street

This corner building will also be demolished, and will form, along with the entire block along Fleet Street as shown in the above photo, the new City of London Law Courts.

The centre block in the following photo is Chronicle House, covering 72-78 Fleet Street. The building dates from 1924 and was designed and built by Hebert, Ellis & Clarke.

Fleet Street

The building takes its name from being home to the newspaper, the News Chronicle. The building has also been granted immunity from listing by Historic England and the Secretary of State.

The following block is on the corner of Fleet Street and Whitefriars Street, and will also be demolished to become part of the Law Courts complex.

Fleet Street

Walking down Whitefriars Street, and the following building is the Hack and Hop pub:

Hack and Hop

The Hack and Hop was originally the Coach and Horses, a pub that dates back to the mid 19th century. The earliest record I can find of the pub is a newspaper mention in the Morning Advertiser on the 25th November 1850, where there was an advert for a regular Monday evening meeting where a penny subscription would be collected for the London Copper-Plate Printers Benevolent Fund – a reminder of the long history of the area with the printing trade.

Hack and Hop

The buildings along this part of Whitefriars Street, including the Hack and Hop pub will be demolished and replaced by the new headquarters building for the City of London Police.

The new building will bring together police functions from a couple of existing buildings which have already been sold – Wood Street and Snow Hill police stations. The new building will have ten floors above ground with space for 1,000 police officers and civilian staff, with three levels below ground for specialist functions and parking.

Continuing on down Whitefriars Street, and we see the other side of Fleetbank House:

Whitefriars Street

Fleetbank House will be demolished and replaced with a new office / commercial building, which is described as having a “lively frontage”. I suspect this means cafes, bars and restaurants.

The view looking up Whitefriars Street, with the grey walls of Fleetbank House.

Whitefriars Street

The end of Fleetbank House in the above photo marks the southern limit of the new re-development of Whietfriars Street. The work to create the so called Justice Quarter will be one of the most significant developments along Fleet Street for a very long time.

The area off Fleet Street has a considerable amount of history which will require a dedicated post. Hanging Sword Alley passes through the space from Whitefriars Street to Salisbury Court. There is a memorial to journalist T.P. O’Connor along Fleet Street. Bradbury and Evans, one of Dickens publishers were located here. The Fleet water conduit was here until the Great Fire in 1666.

The whole block has a long association with the journalism and the publishing industry, which ended in 2009 when the French Press Agency left 72-78 Fleet Street (Chronicle House).

It is hard to avoid getting into a discussion about the good or bad points of any new development, and I have tried to avoid this in the above post, focusing instead on recording what may well disappear in the coming years.

There is much to consider regarding any change. The buildings lost, the new buildings, what the change brings to the overall area, architecture, impact on wider views, jobs, diversity of activity etc. etc.

There is also the issue of what then happens to the buildings where functions will move from. For example, one of the City of London courts that will move into the new Fleet Street building is the City of London Magistrates Court on the corner of Queen Victoria Street and Walbrook, shown in the following two photos:

London Magistrates Court
London Magistrates Court

A building in a very prime location.

Development often leads to further development as functions, businesses etc. shuffle their way around the City.

Three possible future demolitions and re-developments that will have a significant impact on their local area of London.

Further reading on these can be found at:

City of London Salisbury Square Development web site

City of London Consultation briefing for the Salisbury Square development

Save Britain’s Heritage petition to stop the demolition of 72 – 81 Fleet Street

Colechurch House development web site

Article with artist’s impression of new Colechurch House development

Article with artist’s impression of development on south bank replacing Kent House and Studios

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The Minories – History and Architecture

I have been to the Minories in a previous post when I explored the lost Church of Saint Trinity, or Holy Trinity in the Minories, and when I went to find the pulpit from the church which is now at All Saints’ Church, East Meon in Hampshire.

I wanted to return to explore the street, the abbey after which the street is named, and one of the most architecturally interesting buildings in the city.

The following photo is from Aldgate High Street at the northern end of the Minories, looking down the street.

The above photo shows what looks like an ordinary London street. Lined by commercial buildings, fast food stores, and the obligatory towers rising in the distance; the Minories has a far more interesting history than the above view suggests.

The following ward map from 1755 shows the Minories running down from Whitechapel, just outside the City wall.

In the above map, the area of land between the city wall and the Minories was once part of the ditch that ran alongside part of the walls. Look across the map at the top of the Minories, and running to the top left is another reminder of the ditch, the street Houndsditch, the last part of the name can be seen.

Being outside the City walls, the area may have been the site of a Roman cemetery, and in 1853 a large Roman Sarcophagus with a lead coffin was found near Trinity Church, just to the right of the street.

In the map the street is called The Minories, however today “The” has been dropped and the street name signs now name the street just Minories (I am continuing to use “the” in the post as I suspect it helps the text to flow”.

The name derives from the sisterhood of the “Sorores Minores” of the Order of St. Clare. The sisters of the order were known as Minoresses and the book “A History of the Minories, London”, published in 1922 and written by Edward Murray Tomlinson, once Vicar of Holy Trinity Minories, provides some background as to the origins of the order:

“The Order of the Sorores Minores, to which the abbey of the Minores in London belonged, was founded by St Clara of Assisi in Italy, and claimed Palm Sunday, March 18th 1212, as the date of its origin”.

The Order’s arrival in London, and establishing an abbey outside of the City walls dates back to 1293. It appears that the first members of the Order in the Minories came from another of the Order’s establishments just outside Paris.

The land occupied by the 13th century Order can be seen in the following map, enclosed by the red lines to the right of the street (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

The land supported a Church, Refectory, Guest House, Friars Hall, and along the right hand wall, a Cemetary and Gardens.

The Order received a number of endowments, and rents on properties that had come into their possession, and by 1524 they were receiving £171 per annum.

The lists of rents received in 1524 provide an interesting view of the costs of renting in different parts of the city. The following table lists the rents received from Hosyer Lane (now Hosier Lane in West Smithfield).

The majority of documentation that survives from the Order are mainly those relating to endowments, rents received, legal and religious documents. There is very little that provides any information on day to day life in the Minories. The only time we have a view of the number of sisters who were part of the Order, is at the very end of the Order, when on November 30th 1538, the Abbey buildings and land in the Minories were surrendered to Henry VIII.

The Abbess of the Order probably realised what was happening to the religious establishments in the country, and that by surrendering to the King, the members of the Order would be able to receive a pension, and it is the pension list that provides the only view of the numbers within the Order.

In 1538 there was an Abbess (Elizabeth Salvage) who would receive a pension of £40, along with 24 sisters, ranging in age from 24 to 76, and each receiving a pension of between £1 6s 8d and £3 6s 8d.

There were six lay sisters who do not appear to have received a pension – the name of one of the lay sisters was Julyan Heron the Ideote, indicative of how even religious establishments treated people who probably had learning difficulties.

It appears that the King granted the land and buildings to the Bishop of Bath and Wells, and many of the original Abbey buildings were still standing in 1797, when a large fire destroyed many of the remaining buildings of the Abbey. The last religious building on the site was the church of Holy Trinity, which closed as a church at the end of the 19th century, but the church survived as a parish hall until the Second World War when the building suffered severe bomb damage. A wall did remain until final clearance of the area in the late 1950s.

The remaining abbey buildings of the Minories in 1796:

As well as the name of the street, Minories, a side street also recalls the order. The street in the following photo is St Clare Street, after the Order of St. Clare. It runs through the land of the old abbey, and at the end of the street was the church of Holy Trinity.

The pub on the corner of the Minories and St Clare Street is The Three Lords. The current pub building dates from around 1890, however a pub with the same name has been on the site for much longer. The earliest newspaper reference I could find to The Three Lords dates to the 11th January 1819 when the Evening Mail reported on the arrest of a man for robbery. He was formerly a respectable man with carriage and servants, one of whom in 1819 kept the Three Lords and a pot from the pub was found in the room of the alleged thief.

Walk along the Minories today, and apart from the street name, there is nothing to suggest that this was once the site of the Abbey. The street is mainly lined with buildings from the first half of the 20th century.

With a mix of different architectural styles and construction materials.

Towards the southern end of the Minories is one of the most architectually fascinating buildings in the city. This is Ibex House:

Ibex House was built between 1933 and 1937 and was designed as a “Modernistic” style office block by the architects Fuller, Hall and Foulsham.

it is Grade II listed and the Historic England listing provides the following description: “Continuous horizontal window bands, with metal glazing bars. Vertical emphasis in centre of each facade in form of curved glazing (in main block) and black faience strips”

“faience” was not a word I had heard before, and the best definition I could find seems to be as a glazed ceramic. Black faience is used for the ground floor and vertical bands, with buff faience used for the horizontal bands on the floors above ground.

The ground floor, facing onto the Minories consists of the main entrance, sandwich bar and a pub, the Peacock:

The Peacock is a good example of the way developers have integrated a business that was demolished to make way for a new building, in that new building.

A pub with the same name had been at the same location since at least the mid 18th century. It was demolished to make way for the Ibex building, and a new version was built as part of the development.

An 1823 sale advert for the Peacock provides a good view of the internal facilities of the original pub, from the Morning Advertiser on the 19th May 1823:

“That old-established Free Public House and Liquor Shop, the PEACOCK, the corner of Haydon-street, Minories, in the City of London, comprising five good sleeping rooms, club room, bar, tap, kitchen, and parlour, and good cellar, held on lease for 18 1/4 years, at the low rent of £45 per annum.”

Newspaper reports that mention the Peacock include the full range of incidents that would be found at any city pub over the last couple of hundred years – thefts, the landlord being fined for allowing drunkenness, betting, sports (boxing seems to have been popular at the Peacock, etc.) however one advert shows how pubs were used as contact points, and tells the story of one individual travelling through London in 1820. From the Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser on the 29th May 1820:

“WANTED, by a PERSON who is 30 years of age, and who has been upwards of three years in the West Indies, a SITUATION to go to any part Abroad, as CLERK in a Store or Warehouse, or in any way he may be able to make himself useful. Address (post paid) for A.B. to be left at the Peacock, in the Minories”.

It would be fascinating to know “A.B’s” story, did he get another job, and where he went to next.

On the southern corner of Ibex House is a rather splendid sandwich bar, all glass and chrome:

The main entrance to the building looks almost as if you are entering a cinema, rather than an office building:

During the first couple of decades, occupants of Ibex House illustrate the wide variety of different businesses that were based in a single London office block, including:

  • Shell Tankers Ltd – 1957
  • Johnston Brothers (agricultural contractors) – 1952
  • Associated Lead Manufacturers Ltd – 1950
  • Vermoutiers Ltd (producers of “Vamour”, sweet or dry Vermouth) – 1948
  • The Royal Alfred Aged Seamen’s Institution – 1948
  • Ashwood Timber Industries – 1947
  • The Air Ministry department which dealt with family allowances and RAF pay – 1940
  • Cookson’s – the Lead Paint People – 1939
  • Temple Publicity Services – 1938

The Associated Lead Manufacturers advertised “Uncle Toby’s Regiment of Lead” as their special lead alloy was used widely in the manufacture of toy soldiers. It would not be till 1966 that lead was banned as a material for the production of toys due to the damage that lead could cause to the health of a person.

The front of Ibex House is impressive, but we need to walk down the two side streets to see many of the impressive details of the building. Ibex House is designed in the shape of an H, with wide blocks facing to the Minories, and at the very rear of the building, with a slightly thinner block joining the two wider.

Walking along Haydon Street we can see the northern aspect of the building (Haydon Street was also the southern boundary of the Abbey of the Order of St Clare / the Minories).

The central glazed column contains small rooms on each floor level. There are few sharp corners on the building, mainly on the very upper floors, with curves being the predominant feature.

Looking back up towards the Minories:

The stepped and curved floors and railing on the upper floors give the impression of being on an ocean liner, rather than a city office block:

Curved walls feature across the building, including the corners of the ground floor which are tucked away at the end of the street:

Portsoken Street provides the southern boundary of the building:

Detail of the projecting canopy roof at the very top of the central, glazed column:

With a small room at each floor level:

The design detail includes curved windows in the glazed column that open on a central hinge:

Larger room at the top of the glazed column – a perfect location for an office with a view:

As well as the main entrance on the Minories, each side street also has an equally impressive central door into the building:

Ibex House is a very special building.

The view back up the Minories from near the southern end of the street:

The sisterhood of the “Sorores Minores” of the Order of St. Clare have left very little to tell us about life in their Abbey, and there are no physical remains of their buildings to be found, just the street names Minories and St Clare Street. Just one of the many religious establishments that were a major part of life in the city from the 12th century onwards.

So although we cannot see anything of the abbey, the Minories does give us the architectural splendor of Ibex House to admire as a brilliant example of 1930s design.

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Winchester Palace and the Great Hall, Clink Street

Clink Street in Southwark is close to Southwark Cathedral and Borough Market, and the street is part of the busy walk along the south of the river. Converted warehouses line the river side of Clink Street, but on one part of the southern side of the street, a remarkable survivor, the Great Hall of Winchester Palace can be seen; the Southwark residence of the Bishops of Winchester.

Winchester Palace

The following map extract shows the location – the green rectangle towards the middle, top of the map is the part of the palace that can be seen alongside Clink Street (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Winchester Palace

The first evidence of a palace for the Bishops of Winchester dates back to the 12th century, with an eastern boundary wall, and some building of stone construction.

The 13th century saw the expansion of the palace estate with some major construction work. This work included a number of two storey blocks, a hall, chapel and courtyard. Work also included improvements to the wharf along the River Thames.

The 13th century also included the surfaced road that would become Clink Street, with the name Clink Street being in use by the start of the 17th century.

One of the earliest references to Winchester House (as it was also known) comes from the life of St. Thomas à Becket by William FitzStephen, who wrote that Archbishop Thomas received hospitality at the house of the Bishops of Winchester before making his final journey to Canterbury where he would meet his death.

The Bishops needed a London residence, not just for their religious duties. At the time there was not that much separation between religion and government, and the Bishops of Winchester also frequently held some of the great Offices of State.

The Palace was also frequently used for entertaining, and hosted events for the rich and powerful of the land. For example, in 1424 the wedding feast of James, King of Scotland, and Joan, daughter of the Earl of Somerset was held at the palace.

The palace appears to have been in possesion of the Bishops of Winchester through to the mid 17th century, when it was turned into a prison for Royalists during the Civil War. In 1649 it was sold for £4,380 to a Thomas Walker of Camberwell, but after the restoration of the monarchy, the palace estate was returned to the Bishops of Winchester.

It was during the 1640s that a parliamentary survey of the palace was carried out, and around 1647 the artist Wenceslaus Hollar completed a drawing of the Palace, or Winchester House, the words Palace and House are frequently used in reference to the Bishops of Winchester residence  (Prints in this post are ©Trustees of the British Museum):

Winchester Palace

Hollar’s drawing shows an extensive range of buildings alongside the river. The Great Hall is to the right, with the rest of the buildings housing accommodation blocks, storage, kitchens, a chapel and stables. There were also extensive grounds to the palace.

The text below the above print provides some detail about Winchester House: “Winchester House founded in the year 1107 by William Gifford Bishop of Winchester as a Town dwelling for himself and successors on a piece of ground rented of the Priors of Bermondsey and which was situated at a small distance from the fine convent of St Mary Overy on Bankside Southwark. It was much enlarged by Succeeding prelates particularly Bishop Gardiner, in the reign of Mary and covered with its gardens &c. three acres and a half of ground”.

The small drawing at the bottom of the print shows the Great Hall, and it is the remains of this building that we can see alongside Clink Street today.

Although the palace was restored to the Bishops of Winchester on the restoration of Charles II, it was not really used again as their London residence. They now also had a property in Chelsea, provided to them by a 1661 Act of Parliament. Perhaps the location of their palace was not as pleasant for the bishops due to the growing population, the location of industry, entertainments and markets that were not allowed in the City of London, displaced to the south side of the river, and around the bishops palace.

The buildings of the palace were now let out to a large number of tenants and sub-tenants.

The bishops cannot have been too morally fussy in previous centuries, as the local area of Southwark and Bankside had a history of prostitution long before the Bishops left their palace in the 17th century, and they had a role in the governance, and profited from the brothels or “stews” that were found in the area. These had been banned in the City of London, so their south bank location, close to London Bridge was an ideal place to relocate.

The bishops let out buildings to be used as brothels and were also responsible for managing the “Ordinances Touching the Government of the Stewholders in Southwark under the Direction of the Bishop of Winchester” set out in the 15th century.

These ordinances dictate 36 specific rules and the fines associated with breaking these rules, for example:

  • Number 6: Owners of a stew (stewholder) could not lend a sex worker more then 6s 8d (this was done to prevent a stewholder from having too much control over a sex worker)
  • Number 9: a sex worker who paid the rent of 14d must be allowed to come and go at will. The owner of the stew must not interfere
  • Number 15: a fine of 40s if a stewholder’s wife solicited at a stew

Perhaps the most serious was for any sex worker who established a relationship with their procurer or what we would now call a pimp. For this they would be fined, they would also suffer a dunking on the cucking stool, possible imprisonment, and would also be banished from the borough.

Stewholders were also banned from selling food, drink and fuel from their premises.

The Bishops of Winchester profited from the rents from the buildings occupied by the stews and from the fines generated by any transgression of the rules. They were also expected to ensure the rules were adhered to, and manage law and order in the area.

The association of the Southwark stews with the Bishops of Winchester was such that the sex-workers in the stews became known as Winchester Birds or Winchester Geese.

The Bishops of Winchester probably made a considerable sum from the rents and fines, and it would be interesting to know if as supposedly religious men, they had a moral conflict with making money from women involved in sex work.

If they did feel any moral responsibility, it did not extend to the treatment of these women after death who were buried in unhallowed burial grounds, many at the nearby Cross Bones burial ground, today on the corner of Redcross Way and Union Street.

The Southwark stews were closed in 1546 when Henry VIII banned them.

During the late 17th and 18th centuries, the land occupied by Winchester Palace was further broken up and sold. Warehouses and docks now occupied the area as trade along the river expanded, and walls that remained from some of the old palace buildings were included in the new structures that grew up along the river and Clink Street.

As was common in the 19th century, in 1814 a large fire destroyed a number of buildings in Clink Street, but whilst the fire appears to have destroyed later building, it did reveal part of the old Great Hall of Winchester Palace, and the following print from 1828 shows the remains of the Great Hall exposed after the fire, looking very much the same as they appear today.

Winchester Palace

The following photo shows again the west wall of the Great Hall and Clink Street alongside. The three openings that look to be windows were doors from the first floor of the Great Hall to the kitchens on the other side. The space below was occupied by an undercroft or cellar.

Winchester Palace

A small part of the southern wall of the Great Hall remains, up against the west wall. A ground floor door below with a first floor doorway above:

Winchester Palace

In the years after the 1814 fire, warehouse space along this part of river was in short supply, so it would not be long until a new warehouse was constructed over the site of the Great Hall, however, the approach of minimising costs by including any existing stone or brick structures into a new build continued, and the west wall and rose window of the Great Hall were included in the new warehouses.

There was some damage to warehouses in the area during the last war, however this does not appear to include the two warehouses that had been built either side of the west wall. In 1943 a Mr. Sidney Toy, of the Surrey Archaeological Society removed the brickwork on the seperating wall on the 3rd and 4th floor of the warehouses, and found the rose window, still showing blackened markings from the 1814 fire and with parts missing, and used in other parts of the structure.

There have been a number of early excavations of the palace, such as a 1962 excavation on the site where a new warehouse was planned. The major excavation of the site of Winchester Palace took place during 1983 and 1984. These excavations revealed a considerable amount of evidence of the original palace, including parts of the eastern range of the early 13th century building which were found under the current location of the Cafe Nero, on the corner of Palace House.

The following photo shows the other side of the west wall. The majority of the wall has been covered over by a glass frame that appears to be part of the new building to the right. The edge of a Pret coffee shop can be seen to the right.

Winchester Palace

In the above view we can again see the three doors that led through to the kitchens that would have occupied this space.

The following print from 1815 shows the same side of the wall as in the above photo. The print was a year after the 1814 fire.

Winchester Palace

Behind the wall we can see the tower of St Mary Overy (today Southwark Cathedral), and on the left is London Bridge. The text at the bottom of the print provides some details as to the size of the Great Hall:

  • Total length of the Hall from East to West within the Walls, 108 feet, 5 inches
  • Width of the Hall within, 30 feet 3 inches
  • Thickness of the Wall, 3 ft, 6 inches
  • Diameter of the Circular Window, 12 feet
  • Each side of the Triangular Compartments (of the window) 2 feet 8 inches

The following print is dated 1812, so before the fire of 1814.

Winchester Palace

The print shows the south view of the Palace of the Bishops of Winchester. It is not clear whether it is a view of the Great Hall, however it does show the state of the buildings just over 150 years after the Bishops of Winchester had left their palace, and the buildings had been sold and let to multiple new owners and tenants.

It is interesting to compare the above view, with the following view of the same building on the right of the above print. This print is dated 1800, so just 12 years before the above print.

Winchester Palace

Given the age of the west wall of the Great Hall, and the amount of rebuilding over the centuries, it is a remarkable survivor from the original Winchester Palace.

The following map extract is from a map of the Parish of St. Saviours Southwark by Richard Blome (late 17th century but published by John Stow in 1720). Clink Street is in the centre of the map, and the location of the Great Hall is under the word Street.

Winchester Palace

There is no mention of the palace that was once of considerable importance, so perhaps by the time of the above map, it was just another part of the buildings that lined the streets of the area. The white space in the centre of the block bordered by Clink Street and Stony Street is probably one of the old courtyards of the palace, possibly the space in front of the buildings in the above two prints from 1800 and 1812.

The palace occupied a far larger area than the remains of the Great Hall we see today. The Museum of London Archaeology Service published a richly detailed report in 2006 (Monograph 31) covering the history of the palace and focusing on the excavations of 1984 and 1985 and the finds discovered under the new and redeveloped buildings that occupy so much of this area.

The wall of the Great Hall has survived for so long because it was included in the structure of later buildings. This is how a number of other very old structures have survived in London, for example the Roman and Medieval bastions at Cripplegate and much of the Roman wall.

When we rebuild today, the approach seems to be a complete demolition of the previous building, including all the foundations and basements. It is interesting to consider how much 20th and early 21st century architecture will remain to be discovered in whatever form London takes in the future.

When the weather improves, and we can go out walking, sit outside the Pret with a tea and sandwich, in what was the kitchen of the Great Hall, and imagine the feasts that were prepared here and taken through the doors into the hall.

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The National Theatre – Denys Lasdun’s theatre on the Southbank

In 1979 I photographed the recently opened National Theatre on the Southbank:

National Theatre

In 2020 I photographed the same building again:

National Theatre

Before getting into the history of the building, the two photos highlight an issue I have with the Southbank – trees.

The trees along the Southbank illustrate a really difficult problem with landscaping public space. When walking along the Southbank, the trees add considerably to the environment. Providing shade, colour, breaking up and adding texture to an open space, as well as their environmental benefits.

However from an architectural perspective, I am not sure they are in the right place.

The National Theatre building has always been a rather controversial design. In 1988 the Prince of Wales described the theatre as “a clever way of building a nuclear power station in the middle of London without anyone objecting”, which is a rather good description.

Personally I really like the building. Close up, with the textured concrete, the external stairways and the diagonal columns that stretch out to support the lower cantilevered terrace. The building also looks good at night:

National Theatre

When the large glass windows to the lower floors, and the external stairways stand out well:

National Theatre

However it is only from a distance that the building can be really appreciated.

It was constructed on land next to the River Thames as part of the post war plan for cultural development of the Southbank, and it is from across the river that the overall design of the building can be fully seen.

Compare my two photos and standing on the north bank in 1979, we can see the complete façade of the building, the full width of the stacked terraces and the two rectangular concrete towers that rise above the building. In 2020 the trees obscure the majority of the tiered terraces.

The architect of the National Theatre building, Sir Denys Lasdun, probably designed the river facing façade expecting this view of the building to be seen from across the river, and the trees that have been planted along the Southbank obscure this view – as shown in my 2020 photo.

I am not against trees in a city environment. Far more are needed in London. They considerably improve the walking experience, they improve the environment, they cut down the wind tunnel effect produced by the clustering of tall buildings. I am just not sure that the trees along the Southbank are in the right place, in respect to the architecturally important buildings that line this part of the river.

We can see the same issue a short distance further west, where trees also obscure views of the Queen Elizabeth Hall complex to the left, and the Royal Festival Hall to the right.

National Theatre

The Royal Festival Hall also has a problem with the development around the Shell Centre tower, where the tower is the only remaining part of the original office complex. The earlier 9 storey office blocks surrounding the tower have been demolished, to be replaced by much taller blocks which dominate the view of the Royal Festival Hall from the east.

National Theatre

The National Theatre has a fascinating history.

Ideas for a National Theatre started in the mid 19th century, however first plans for a National Theatre would come fifty years later in 1903 when the actor and director Harvey Granville Barker published plans for a National Theatre.

Fund raising and campaigns continued through the first decades of the 20th century, however it would need the post war consensus that something good should come out of the war, along with the availability of space on a bomb damaged Southbank to turn almost one hundred years of ideas and campaigning into a physical building.

The 1943 County of London Plan proposed a radical development of the Southbank, with Government Offices, a Youth Centre, and in the centre, a Theatre.

National Theatre

The Festival of Britain went on to occupy the site and the Royal Festival Hall remained as the only permanent building from the festival. The Festival of Britain did not include a National Theatre.

In 1949 a National Theatre Bill committed £1M of central government funding towards the project, but the project would have to wait until 1961 when the London County Council committed to the rest of the funding for the theatre.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) appointed a panel of architectural experts to evaluate proposals for the building’s design, and after a shortened evaluation process, Denys Lasdun was appointed as the architect for the National Theatre.

Denys Lasdun’s career started in the 1930s, but was interrupted during the Second World War by a period in the Royal Engineers.

Restarting his career after the war, his early work included east London developments such as Sulkin House and Keeling House (see this detailed exploration of these two buildings on the Municipal Dreams site).

In the early 1960s his work included the Royal College of Physicians in Regent’s Park, and the University of East Anglia campus, which included rather novel pyramidal shaped student halls.

The initial plans for the National Theatre included not just the Theatre, but also an Opera House. Land was made available for these by the LCC, between County Hall and Hungerford Bridge. The land that had been occupied by the Dome of Discovery during the Festival of Britain.

Lasdun created a model of his proposed National Theatre and Opera House in the original location. I photographed a photo of the model from a magazine a number of years ago (hence the poor quality). In the model below, the National Theatre is on the right and the Opera House is on the left. The ghostly form of the Shell Centre tower hovers in the background. The site today is occupied by the Jubilee Gardens (see this post for the story of the gardens).

National Theatre

The two buildings almost mirror each other, and the designs are very similar to that of the National Theatre we see today, with terraces running along the length of the buildings and the large concrete towers above.

They almost look like two cruise ships in dock alongside the river.

Going back to my comments earlier on trees, Lasdun’s model includes trees along the river side of the buildings, so it must have been part of his original thinking, however I wonder if he considered the visual impact these would have after years of growth on the visibility of his design from across the river?

The designs for the two buildings were highly regarded, however late 1960s budgetary constraints scaled back the project to just the National Theatre, along with a location change to a site immediately to the east of Waterloo Bridge.

Construction began in 1969.

Work during the 1970s was relatively slow due to a number of strikes, shortage of workers and the 1973 oil crisis.  There were also funding problems, with the cost of the project going significantly over the initial budget. There had already been many design changes to address budgetary issues, for example, the terraces which run along the river facing side of the building were originally to have run around all sides of the buildings. Terraces on all but the river façade were dropped to save costs.

Additional funding was provided by the Arts Council and Government during the 1970s. In March 1975, Hugh Jenkins the Minister for the Arts made the following statement in Parliament in support of the National Theatre, in reply to a question “Our attitude to the arts has changed. We no longer take the view that only that which pays can and should be done. We now say that we must do it the best way it can be done. We must do it even if it is expensive because the theatre is as necessary to urban civilisation as an art gallery, a library, or a museum”.

As well as the National Theatre, the Government also had another costly project in view, the extension of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. With the planned move of the market to Nine Elms the Arts Council had already purchased the land, however Hugh Jenkins was not in a position to confirm any future plans or funding for the Royal Opera House.

Construction of the National Theatre was complicated not just with the building, but by the three theatres that were within the overall structure. These were planned to make use of the latest technological advances, which again caused delays and cost overruns.

The three theatres were:

  • The Olivier. Named after Laurence Olivier, the first artistic director of the theatre. Seating 1160 in two main stepped tiers, linked by intermediate tiers
  • The Lyttelton. Named after Oliver Lyttelton, the first chairman of the National Theatre. Seating 890 across two levels
  • The Cottesloe. Named after Lord Cottesloe, the Chaiman of the Southbank Theatre Board. Seating between 200 and 400, dependent on the layout of stage and seating. The name of this theatre has since changed to the Dorfman, after Lloyd Dorfman, who donated £10 million towards the National Theatre Future redevelopment.

Each theatre had its own machinery to move scenery and equipment across the theatre, elevators to raise up to the stage floor, lighting and lighting control systems, sound systems and stage management systems. The Olivier also had an 11.5 metre drum revolving stage as part of the theatre’s construction.

The aim was to make each theatre as flexible as possible so as to support a wide range of future productions.

Attention to detail was not limited to the technically advanced theatres. Although the concrete construction of the building could appear to be a simple and cheap construction method, in reality great care was taken with the shuttering into which the concrete was poured. The wood used was sawn Douglas Fir, with a six-inch module being used for most parts of the building. This gives the building the appearance of being constructed from the concrete equivalent of wooden planks.

The Queen officially opened the National Theatre on the 25th October 1976, and the three individual theatres gradually opened between 1976 and 1977 as they were completed.

In five years time, the National Theatre will be celebrating 50 years since being opened by the Queen. The theatre has been redeveloped and upgraded during the past decades and still continues to serve the purpose first proposed in the mid 19th century.

Sir Denys Lasdun was knighted in 1976. He would continue with his architectural practice, with projects including the European Investment Bank in Luxembourg. He died in 2001.

I will leave the last word on the National Theatre to the architect Denys Lasdun who, when the theatre opened in 1976, said “Nothing takes priority over the atmosphere and the dramatic space created by the building. Although we’ve opened the theatre, it’s not the end but the beginning of something, from my point of view. The nature and the quality of something won’t be known for a couple of years; it depends on the directors and what they create within the new space”.

The building does indeed create an atmospheric and dramatic space.

Before closing the post, going back to the original 1979 photo, there is a mystery structure which I just cannot remember anything about. To the left of the National Theatre, on space which is now occupied by the IBM building, there is a strange, apparently circular structure which appears to spiral into or out of the ground.

I have enlarged this feature in the photo below:

National Theatre

Any suggestions would be most welcome.

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