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    Berners Hotel, the London Edition

    By the Survey of London, on 21 July 2017

    Berners Street Hotel Berners street, Marylebone. Entrance. Taken by Chris Redgrave for the Survey of (c) London Historic England

    Berners Hotel, Marylebone, now the London Edition. Entrance. Photographed in 2013 by Chris Redgrave for the Survey of London © Historic England

    The Berners Hotel is a rare instance of continuity in the area around Berners and Newman Streets. Though the current building dates only from 1905–11, the hotel can be traced back to 1826. In that year the pair of houses at 6-7 Berners Street were converted from a bank into a hotel, involving the dismantling of a massive strong-room at the back constructed of iron and stone. The bank had been established in 1792 by the firm of De Vismes, Cuthbert, Marsh, Creed & Company. Later known as Marsh, Sibbald & Co., it failed notoriously when one of the partners, Henry Fauntleroy, was hanged for forgery in 1824.

    Berners Hotel. Photographed by Chris Redgrave for the Survey of London © Historic England

    Berners Hotel. Photographed by Chris Redgrave for the Survey of London © Historic England

    No such notoriety was attached to the hotel. It was one of many, small family-run establishments in the vicinity of Oxford Street, where fashionable comers and goers mixed with longer-term residents. From the 1820s the private houses in Berners Street were increasingly being turned into lodging houses or shops. Pietro Rolandi’s Italian bookshop was one such at No. 20, a haven for literary and political exiles, which first opened in the same year as the hotel.

    Berners Street Hotel Berners street, Marylebone. Entrance lobby.Taken for Survey of London

    Berners Hotel entrance lobby. Photographed by Chris Redgrave for the Survey of London © Historic England

    In 1880 the hotel’s then owner, Richard Kershaw, sold up to the Berners Hotel Company, which acquired building and fittings alike, barring a piano belonging to Miss Kershaw and an assortment of display cases of stuffed birds. The company lasted a decade, being sold on in 1890 through Thomas Ward, of the London Music Publishing Company, to Berners Hotel Ltd among whose subscribers journalists (Henry Sutherland Edwards and George Augustus Sala) and minor musicians were strong. The hotel was renovated, and shamelessly puffed by the new management for its association with Fauntleroy and its ‘interesting woodwork, carvings, painted ceilings, &c’. Appropriately, in 1895 Ward, its managing director, was charged with the Fauntleroy-like offence of forging bills of exchange to do with the supply of beer and spirits to the establishment.

    Berners Street Hotel Berners street, Marylebone. Entrance lobby.Taken for Survey of London

    Berners Hotel entrance lobby. Photographed by Chris Redgrave for the Survey of London © Historic England

    Not long afterwards another hotel opened near by in Newman Street, the York Hotel. Its manager was Emmeline Lawrence, known as Mrs Mary Clark. A Welshwoman of considerable ambition, she oversaw the expansion of the York Hotel and soon became manager of the Berners as well. Backed by a fresh company, the Hotel York Ltd, she determined to rebuild the Berners Hotel on a much-enlarged site. Slater & Keith were commissioned to design the new building, which went up in stages. The first part completed was at the back, at 82–83 Newman Street and 73–75 Eastcastle Street, wrapping round the Blue Posts pub at the corner. The second, much larger western phase hit a snag when two Eastcastle Street houses, scheduled for demolition but still occupied, collapsed in 1908, killing eight men, all Austrian, German, Italian or Swiss employees of the hotel. The management also fought but lost a long legal battle with the LCC about fire doors or screens in the hotel corridors.

    Berners Street Hotel restaurant interior, Berners street, Marylebone. view towards north west. Taken for Survey of London

    Berners Hotel restaurant interior, view towards north west. Photographed by Chris Redgrave for the Survey of London © Historic England

    Once the rebuilding of the Berners Hotel had been completed in 1910, it was connected to the York Hotel by a subway under Eastcastle Street. The two hotels thus linked both had their main ground-floor public spaces facing west towards Berners Street, where spacious coffee rooms, lounges and main stairs were to be found. But they looked quite different. The York with its two corner tourelles belonged to the late Queen Anne manner affected by Slater in the 1890s, whereas the later and bigger block of the Berners, perhaps attributable to his partner Keith, is an altogether more pompous Edwardian production, neo-Georgian in style touched by Frenchness, with plenty of Portland stone and carving to set off the red brick, a pedimented entrance, and two storeys in the mansard roof. The lounge and coffee room were both double-height spaces, caked in opulent Edwardian plasterwork.

    Berners Street Hotel restaurant interior, Berners street, Marylebone. view towards south. Taken for Survey of London

    Berners Hotel restaurant interior, view towards the south. Photographed by Chris Redgrave for the Survey of London © Historic England

    In 1912–13 Mary Clark tried to expand her hotel empire with an even larger scheme for the Princess’s Theatre site on Oxford Street, and in 1914–15 she ventured on a further new building at 74 Newman Street housing garages for her clients’ cars on two levels underneath five floors of open dormitories for maids. This landed her in financial trouble and she had to go. Under her successor, Henry L. Clark (no relation), the two hotels prospered. In the late 1920s hot and cold water, electric fires and phones were installed in every room; at this time the hotels claimed to be able to sleep 500–600 per night. The smaller York Hotel or Hotel York survived Government requisitioning in 1918 to acquire an extension designed by Slater & Moberly facing Newman Street (Nos 78–79) in 1932. But after it was requisitioned again during the Second World War it was not reopened, becoming a nurses’ home for the Middlesex Hospital in 1946, and then in 1997 a block of flats. The Hotel York Ltd maintained its independent management of the Berners Hotel till 1957.

    Berners Street Hotel Berners street, Marylebone. View of Stair from north west. Taken for Survey of London

    Berners Hotel, view of main stair from north-west. Photographed by Chris Redgrave for the Survey of London © Historic England

    In 1972 the hotel was under threat, but following the intercession of John Betjeman (‘I don’t know who the architect was but he was somebody pretty good’) it was listed and survived. A long period of closure ended in 2013 when the Berners Hotel reopened as the London Edition, fully restored at the behest of Ian Schrager (as at the Sandersons Hotel), here working with ISC Design Studio and Marriott International. The main spaces have been generously restored but, as the management is keen to insist, ‘The London EDITION is no period piece … It is a potpourri of styles that only a sure hand could pull off’. [1]

    Berners Street Hotel Berners street, Marylebone. Plasterwork detail. Taken for Survey of London

    Plasterwork detail, Berners Hotel. Photographed by Chris Redgrave for the Survey of London © Historic England

    1.London Edition press release 2013

    Boulting & Sons

    By the Survey of London, on 19 May 2017

    At the corner of Riding House Street and Candover Street stands one of South East Marylebone’s architectural gems: a group of flats designed for T. J. Boulting & Sons. John Boulting & Son, furnishing ironmongers, were established perhaps as early as 1808 in two nearby houses. This is the date that is proudly displayed on the building, picked out in gold mosaic tiles along with the company name.

    Detail of 59-61 Riding House street, Marylebone, Greater London. View from southt. Taken for Survey of London

    Detail of 59-61 Riding House Street, Marylebone, Greater London. View from south. Taken for the Survey of London by Chris Redgrave © Historic England

    Successive John Boultings died in 1863 and 1873, and a partnership dissolution between a third John and Thomas John Boulting was announced in 1879. Thereafter the firm was known as T. J. Boulting (& Sons).

    59-61 Riding House street, Marylebone, Greater London. View from south west. Taken for Survey of London

    59-61 Riding House Street, Marylebone, Greater London. View from south west. Taken for the Survey of London by Chris Redgrave © Historic England

    Among these sons was Percy Boulting, born about 1876 and seemingly architect-trained, to whose youthful aspirations the present buildings may well have been due. The firm had done well enough for members of the family, at first the father and then Percy’s brothers, to branch out into small property dealings on the Howard de Walden estate from the late 1890s. Naturally they took a special interest in rebuilding around their works. Their first venture appears to have been 40 Foley Street, a five-storey block of flats directly behind the Boultings’ address, built by John Anley in 1898. Its designers were then described as Clark & Hutchinson with Percy A. Boulting, in other words H. Fuller Clark and C. E. Hutchinson, two architects aged about 28 who had met in the office of Rowland Plumbe, plus the even younger Boulting. Later No. 40 was ascribed to Clark alone, and it is to him that the flamboyance of the Boultings’ cluster is usually credited. Clark’s masterpiece is the recasting of the Black Friar pub in the City; otherwise his work is little known, though he claimed to have a substantial practice.

    DP165743

    Flats built for Boultings at 40 Foley Street, designed by H. Fuller Clark, perhaps with H. E. Hutchinson and Percy A. Boulting. Taken for the Survey of London by Chris Redgrave © Historic England

    Architecturally, No. 40 is an up-to-date but not eccentric performance which breaks into roughcast at second-floor level and terminates in two shaped gables. The plan follows the standard late Victorian arrangement in this quarter of two flats per floor, originally with a sanitary excrescence at the back in the form of a central stack of bays shared between two flats. Clark & Hutchinson promptly followed up in 1899 with a second block of flats opposite, Belmont House, 5–6 Candover Street, built this time by A. A. Webber. Here a similar plan is fronted in a weightier, fussier idiom, with a great belt of purple brickwork enveloping the first floor and a dab of Art Nouveau lettering.

    DP-165731

    Tower House, Candover Street. H. Fuller Clark and Percy Boulting, 1903-4. Taken for the Survey of London by Chris Redgrave © Historic England

    Tower House, York House and Oakley House, encompassing the Boultings’ former premises and the Sir Isaac Newton pub on the corner, followed on in 1903–4. This time the architects were described as Fuller Clark and Percy Boulting, without Hutchinson: the builders were Smith & Co. of Mount Street. Again these are essentially five-storey flats, though the backs go one storey higher; here too were originally bare sanitary stacks of bay windows. The fronts are the reverse of bare. Among the tricks set to work are brickwork bands of startling hues, bay projections both canted and square, a bristling roofline and three separate fancily lettered mosaic panels advertising the Boultings firm and its wares (‘gas and electrical engineers’; ‘sanitary and hot water engineers’; ‘appliance and stove manufactory’).

    Detail of 59-61 Riding House street, Marylebone, Greater London. View from south. Taken for Survey of London.

    Detail of 59-61 Riding House Street, Marylebone, Greater London. View from south. Taken for the Survey of London by Chris Redgrave. © Historic England

    Colour was an evident preoccupation; originally three different cements were used, while the window joinery was all white apart from the bay windows, finished in stained oak. Despite the hint of Voysey about these elevations, they are entirely individual and indeed this building too was attributed to Clark alone when it was republished. The Boultings firm survived at 59 Riding House Street up until the 1960s. In 1978 the freehold of all their flats passed to the Community Housing Association, which employed Pollard, Thomas & Edwards, architects, to update them over the subsequent decade. Their changes included enlarging the sanitary bays at the back to form more generous kitchens.

    DP179720 - 59-61 Riding House Street detail

    Detail of 59-61 Riding House Street, Marylebone, Greater London. View from south. Taken for the Survey of London, by Lucy Millsom-Watkins © Historic England

     

    71–73 Great Portland Street

    By the Survey of London, on 28 April 2017

    Great Portland Street

    71-73 Great Portland Street, Joseph Emberton, architect, 1937. Photographed for the Survey of London by Chris Redgrave © Historic England

    This building is a little known work by Joseph Emberton, showrooms of 1937 that would have been more boldly Modernist but for compromises that arose from the fact that the freehold of this entire street block was held by the Crown.

    The site’s leaseholder from 1920 was Julius Turner (born Tanchan), who lived at 58 Portland Place and was a major figure in Great Portland Street’s motor trade through his control of Thorns. Turner stutteringly converted two shops for motor showrooms, first dubbed Crown Motors. In 1927 he asked the Crown Commissioners for a building lease at 71–77 Great Portland Street, wanting to build a ‘magnificent Motor Showroom’.  He was rebuffed. Trouble had been caused by his parking and washing of cars, ‘Mr Turner (who is a naturalized Polish Jew) is not a particularly desirable tenant’. A second approach in 1929 also failed, but a more modest proposal for refurbishment of Nos 71–73 for Thorns gained approval in 1931. Turner then fell ill, suffering what was called a nervous breakdown in 1933. He returned to the fray in 1934, submitting new plans for rebuilding Nos 71–73 as motor showrooms below workrooms and offices. His architect now was Emberton, and the scheme was bold.

    H. Meadows, the Commissioners’ architect, commented that ‘The proposed design conforms to present day architectural ideas of simplicity and utility. It is in contrast with its surroundings and for this reason is somewhat incongruous. The flat surfaces of the façade to the upper storeys in one plane rests apparently on the glass of the shop fronts of the ground floor and this has the effect of making the building appear to be lacking in adequate support. This is particularly emphasised on the angle of the building which is shown as a solid mass of walling unsupported by a curved plate-glass window.’ Told that the Crown could not object much more than to ask that ‘they adopt small letters instead of the monsters’, Meadows persevered in shriller terms: ‘the design violates the canons of good architectural composition by failing to satisfy the eye that the structure is self-supporting and therefore structurally sound … [it is] lacking in the element of apparent truthfulness, which is the indispensable quality of all good architecture. The proposals are of a revolutionary character architecturally and it is difficult to foresee what the reaction of the public is likely to be.’

    The project, which proposed a dark vitrolite cladding, like that of Fleet Street’s Daily Express building, anticipated Emberton’s designs for Simpsons Piccadilly by a year. Emberton was ready to compromise when the delays were deplored by Turner in May 1935 at which point he, with his brother Joshua Philip Turner and Harold Gershom Vickers, was fined £1,010 for under-declaring the value of four imported cars and thereby defrauding Customs of £453. The Crown Lands Advisory Committee, which included Raymond Unwin and Frank Pick, made no objections to Emberton’s design other than to a proposed seventh storey and to the vitrolite cladding, suggesting stone or reconstructed stone instead. Turner, who had relaunched as the Lansdown Trust, was given new leases in 1936 but his desire for a reduction in rent caused further delay. Meadows urged Portland stone cladding, but Emberton pointed out that Great Portland Street was ‘mostly a brick street’ and suggested yellow brick, with the shopfront to be clad in the Empire Stone Company’s artificial Portland stone. The showroom and workroom building went up in 1937, with Dorman Long & Co. steelwork, Hunziker bricks (new to the UK), and John Knox (Bristol) Ltd as builders.

    Motor showroom use was short-lived and the building stood empty after the war. Numerous and miscellaneous occupants since have come mainly from the garment trades, but have also included artificial-flower makers and, in the early 1970s, Hermes Computing Services Ltd’s punched-card service bureau. The ground floor has been reshaped and the building has lately been occupied by Motel, a fashion label.

    (all quotes are from The National Archives, CRES35/2962)

     

    ‘Portland House’: Robert Adam’s unexecuted designs for the Duke of Portland’s London residence

    By the Survey of London, on 7 April 2017

    The Adam brothers’ celebrated street improvements at Mansfield Street and Portland Place, carried out from the 1760s on the Marylebone estate of the Dukes of Portland, are among the many significant buildings covered by the Survey of London’s forthcoming volumes on South-East Marylebone. Less well-known, however, is the detached mansion that Robert Adam designed around 1770–2 as a new London residence for the 3rd Duke, to stand on a large site on New Cavendish Street, looking down Mansfield Street. Though it was never built, its story can be pieced together from designs in the collection of Adam office drawings at Sir John Soane’s Museum – the principal resource today for anyone wishing to study the work of the Adam brothers.

    William Henry Cavendish Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland. An engraving of 1785 after Sir Joshua Reynolds’ portrait of the Duke. British Museum, Prints & Drawings Dept (museum no. 1902,1011.3545) © Trustees of the British Museum

    William Henry Cavendish Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland (1738–1809), had recently married Lady Dorothy Cavendish, daughter of the 4th Duke of Devonshire, and was already embarked upon a career as a statesman that would see him appointed 1st Lord of the Treasury (the equivalent of today’s prime minister) on two occasions, in 1783 and 1807–9. But although he had succeeded to his father’s title in 1762, the 3rd Duke did not immediately inherit all his estates. By the terms of his father’s and grandmother’s wills, the Duke’s mother, Lady Margaret Cavendish-Harley Bentinck, the Dowager Duchess (1715–85), retained a life interest in the family’s lucrative Cavendish lands, and she also held on to her husband’s house in Whitehall – leaving her son short of funds and without a London residence. The situation was exacerbated by strained relations between the two. They argued over country seats, in the end engineering a ‘house swap’ (she favoured Bulstrode in Buckinghamshire, he preferred Welbeck, Nottinghamshire), and failed to see eye to eye on politics as well as family finances. The Duke was a Rockingham Whig, intent on curbing what he perceived to be an increase in royal powers under George III; she numbered the king and queen among her friends, and was especially close to John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, the royal favourite and prime minister in 1762–3, a man whom her son vehemently distrusted. The Duke complained to anyone who would listen that he was required to pay rent for a London house when he should have had access to the ducal residence in Whitehall. And so a new, Adam-designed townhouse at the head of Mansfield Street would suit his intended station as a leading politician and also act as a focus for his fast-improving Marylebone estate.

    Portrait busts of William Bentinck, 2nd Duke of Portland, at centre, his wife Lady Margaret Cavendish-Harley at left, and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu at right, in ovals, with coats of arms below, allegorical objects between, curtains at left and above, in ornamental frame. From a drawing by Vertue after a painting by Zincke, 1739. British Museum, Prints & Drawings Dept (museum no. 1849,1031.70), © Trustees of the British Museum

    In its size and scale the house that Adam designed, intended to be known as Portland House, was more like a country pile than a townhouse. In this and in certain elements of its internal planning it shared similarities with Lansdowne House, Adam’s first big private London commission, designed initially for Lord Bute but finished after his fall from favour in 1763 for his rival, another future prime minister, William Petty Fitzmaurice (1737–1805), 2nd Earl of Shelburne, later Marquess of Lansdowne.

    Adam’s designs for Portland House were for a rectangular, two-storey block set within extensive grounds, with a garden to the rear and an entrance courtyard in front. The house itself would have been a fairly standard neo-Palladian affair, with seven central bays recessed behind projecting three-bay end wings. The entrance front was marked by a central portico with columns of what look like Adam’s favourite ‘Spalatro’ order – an invention of his own, based on a late-Roman capital he had seen in the Peristyle of the Emperor Diocletian’s Palace at Spalato on the Dalmatian coast (now Split, Croatia).

    ‘Principal Front of a House for His Grace the Duke of Portland’. Adam office elevation of c. 1770–2. Sir John Soane’s Museum, Adam vol. 29/2. Reproduced by courtesy of the Trustees of the Soane Museum

    Portland House was to have had a lower ground floor given over mostly to servants’ rooms and storage, but with a gentleman’s library in a bowed room at the rear, and a bedchamber for the Duke and ‘Book room’ alongside. The principal state rooms were placed centrally on the floor above, with dressing rooms for the Duke and Duchess to either side. These connected with the little single-storey bays shown in shadow at each side of the mansion in the elevation, where there were to be powdering and retiring rooms, privies and water closets. There would have been further rooms on the first floor and in an attic within the hipped roof.

    One of a pair of Adam office plans shows a proposed design for the house’s lower ground floor, with a rectangular courtyard in front, lined with coach-houses and stables on one side, kitchens, sculleries and more service buildings on the other. This plan matches the elevation, and shows how the portico served as a porte-cochère, with a curved ramp for coaches leading up to the main entrance. Also, in this plan an entrance screen wall and gateway is set quite a way back from the road, with more stabling and coach-houses in front.

    Plan of the Ground Story of a House for His Grace the Duke of Portland’. Adam office design of c. 1770–2. Sir John Soane’s Museum, Adam vol. 29/4. Reproduced by courtesy of the Trustees of the Soane Museum

    A first-floor plan offers an alternative arrangement, for a far more dramatic circular courtyard, surrounded by a roofed and colonnaded walkway. An accompanying section shows how this colonnade connected directly to the house, dispensing with the portico. This arrangement required further alterations to the design of the house, with windows at a higher level on the piano nobile, to allow light to enter the main rooms above the courtyard structure. Apparently this was the design chosen by the Duke.

    ‘Plan of the Principal Story of a House and Offices, For His Grace The Duke of Portland’. Adam office design of c. 1770–2. Sir John Soane’s Museum, Adam vol. 29/5. Reproduced by courtesy of the Trustees of the Soane Museum

     

    ‘Section through The Gateway, Circular Court and Body of the House, For His Grace The Duke of Portland, Fronting Mansfield Street’. Adam office design of c. 1770–2. Sir John Soane’s Museum, Adam vol. 29/3. Reproduced by courtesy of the Trustees of the Soane Museum

    The Adams had been experimenting with colonnaded courtyards in house designs since the 1750s. Although their prime inspiration was always Italy, and in particular ancient Rome, there is a heavy debt to French plan-types, particularly Parisian hôtels, in their mansion schemes of the early 1760s. An unexecuted house of c.1764, intended for Lord Shelburne near Hyde Park Corner, was set behind a large front court, as was another design of the same date for a house for Lord Holland at The Albany, Piccadilly. Also, an early Adam brothers’ plan of around 1767 for the house they built for General Robert Clerk at the south end of Mansfield Street, facing Duchess Street, had the lower part of the house arranged in a curve and fronted by a semicircle of columns forming a carriage-way, in a similar manner to Portland House.

    ‘Gateway for Portland House’, Adam office design of c. 1770–2. This worked-up office version, with doors in the centre of the curved linking walls rather than windows, probably matches the rectangular courtyard plan for the house as shown in the ground-floor plan reproduced above. Sir John Soane’s Museum, Adam vol. 29/6. Reproduced by courtesy of the Trustees of the Soane Museum

    Other surviving drawings include an office elevation of a screen wall and gateway to stand on New Cavendish Street in front of the courtyard, in the form of a triumphal arch, closing the vista up Mansfield Street. A second version, in pen and pencil, apparently in Robert Adam’s own hand, has detailed measurements added to it, in preparation for drawing up estimates.

    Design for a gateway for Portland House. This rendition in pen and pencil, in Robert Adam’s own hand, has had measurements added to help with working out an estimated cost, as mentioned in Robert Adam’s letter of February 1772 to the Duke, quoted above. Sir John Soane’s Museum, Adam vol. 51/98. Reproduced by courtesy of the Trustees of the Soane Museum

    As the Duke was both short of funds and overindulgent in his spending, a house on such a scale was evidently beyond his means. Unfortunately, the scheme also coincided with a reversal in the Adam family’s own fortunes, brought on by their attempts to develop the Adelphi and Portland Place at the same time. The Portland House project was still in hand in February 1772, when Robert Adam wrote to the Duke with a price for the ‘great gate’, porter’s lodges and some of the circular walls, and he sounded hopeful of further progress:

    as Your Grace was so good as say, you would do every thing that should be necessary, to finish the end of the street, towards Your Grace’s House. I have therefore got an Estimate made of the great gate & porter’s lodges, with the circular walls that form the Entrance, & now take the liberty to send it enclosed, that Your Grace may consider it & if approved of, it will be of great Service, both to your Grace’s estate & to us, to be allowed to proceed with it this Season. [1]

    But within a year the project had been dropped and the Duke was happy to let part of the site to the builder–developer John White for houses on the east side of Harley Street. The ground fronting New Cavendish Street was then leased by the Duke and the Adams to the architect-builder John Johnson, who erected the present Nos 61–63 there in 1775–6 (these will be the subject of a future blog post).

    For a time around 1773–4 the Adams seem to have considered re-siting their ‘hotel’ for the Duke of Portland to the west side of Portland Place, where they had been planning at least two other very large aristocratic houses, for the Dukes of Kerry and Findlater, but this plan also failed to materialize, and the Duke of Portland when in London continued to live mostly at Burlington House, courtesy of the Duke of Devonshire. In 1807, when he was made 1st Lord of the Treasury for the second time, the Duke moved to 10 Downing Street, which was then as now the official residence of the 1st Lord of the Treasury (not the prime minister, though in modern times the same person has usually occupied both posts).

    The Adams must have remained on reasonably friendly terms with the Duke, as they were allowed to continue to work on Portland Place, even though its completion was delayed until the 1790s by unfavourable economic conditions and the Adam brothers’ own financial problems; by then both Robert and James Adam were dead. Their cause may have been aided by the Duke’s friendship with their nephew, the Rt Hon William Adam of Blair Adam, the son of Robert and James’s older brother John Adam. A lawyer and advocate by training, and later a judge, he was one of the 3rd Duke’s great allies in the Whig party when it came to boosting party morale and raising funds in preparations for the general election of 1790.

    Acknowledgement

    Special thanks are due to Dr Frances Sands, Curator of Drawings at Sir John Soane’s Museum, for supplying the images of the Adam designs for the Duke of Portland’s house; these are reproduced here by courtesy of the Trustees of the Soane Museum. The catalogue entries for these drawings in the Adam office collection at the Soane can be found by following this link. A discussion of the designs also features in Fran’s book Robert Adam’s London, published to accompany the exhibition of that name recently held at the museum. See here for further details.

    Reference

    1. University of Nottingham, MSS and Special Collections, PwF 35

     

     

    The Central Synagogue, Great Portland Street

    By the Survey of London, on 17 March 2017

    The present synagogue was built to designs by C. Edmund Wilford & Sons in 1956–8, replacing its bomb-damaged predecessor of 1869–70.

    Central Synagogue, Great Portland street, Marylebone, Greater London. Exterior view from north east. Taken for the Survey of London.

    Central Synagogue, Great Portland Street, Marylebone, Greater London. Exterior view from north east. Taken in 2013 for the Survey of London by Chris Redgrave. © Historic England

    Jewish West Enders were obliged until well into the nineteenth century to attend long-established places of worship in the City of London, notably the Great Synagogue in Duke’s Place, Aldgate. In 1842 the Reform congregation broke this tradition with a modest synagogue in Burton Street, Bloomsbury, moving to Margaret Street in 1849. Fearing loss of worshippers to this convenient address, the Committee of the Great Synagogue agreed in 1850 to fund a new branch synagogue in the West End. The site selected lay behind 43–47 Great Portland Street, but the building there soon proved too small and could not be extended. In 1866 a Great Synagogue subcommittee headed by Sir Anthony de Rothschild was appointed to find a new site near by and build afresh for 800 worshippers, with two ministers’ houses attached. They promptly secured the houses at 133–141 Great Portland Street. The budget was ample, as the synagogue was prospering; Messrs Rothschild had promised £4,000. The committee decided against a competition and chose as architect Nathan Solomon Joseph, son-in-law to Nathan Marcus Adler, Chief Rabbi and creator of the United Synagogue, the federation to which the Central, as the congregation was by now called, adhered from 1870. Joseph presented a Moorish design in 1867, arguing that Gothic and Classical styles were both unsuitable, whereas the Moresque was well adapted to an ‘ecclesiastical’ building yet had advantages of ‘elasticity’ and economy. He was asked to present an alternative Italianate version, but the original was preferred, with modifications. That design was built in 1869–70.

    Survey of London (Marylebone). 40-36 Hallam Street, Westminster, London. View from west.

    40-36 Hallam Street, Westminster, London. View from west. Photographed in 2014 by Lucy Millson-Watkins for the Survey of London © Historic England

    The Central has been described as the first thoroughly Oriental-style synagogue, not just in Britain but beyond. The Great Portland Street front was an eccentric confection in brick and two types of stone, culminating at the north end in a tower-like feature over an entrance porch with a horseshoe arch. The interior, spacious, high and light, faced south like the present building, culminating in a richly decorated apsidal space for the ark. Windows and arches were round-headed, with an orientalizing horseshoe profile above the arches over the galleries, and round clerestory lights incorporating Star-of-David tracery. Cast-iron columns, painted at first, marble-clad from 1876, carried the galleries and roof, which was divided by ribs. The rabbis’ houses at the back along Hallam Street (Nos 36–40) survive, their two-tone brickwork and Moorish detail having a hint of the Great Mosque at Cordoba. Embellishments took place over the years, the grandest being the replacement of the central almemar with an elaborate new one in marble, presented in 1928 by the 2nd Lord Bearsted in memory of his parents; Joseph’s original almemar (or bimah) was relegated to the Margate synagogue. But the building was burnt out by a fire bomb on 10 May 1941, the congregation returning to a temporary building on the site in 1948.

    Central Synagogue, Great Portland Street,Marylebone, Greater London, Interior view from south east.Taken for the Survey of London.

    Central Synagogue, Great Portland Street, Marylebone, Greater London. Interior view from south east. Photographed in 2013  for the Survey of London by Chris Redgrave. © Historic England

    Meanwhile plans for a full rebuilding were hatching. The architects Shaw & Lloyd worked up a radical proposal in 1947, with the synagogue turned across the axis from Great Portland Street to Hallam Street, set over social space and flanked by narrow courts, with a taller block at the back facing Hallam Street, presumably for letting. Having done all the war-damage costings and negotiations, in 1954 S. John Lloyd presented a fresh scheme for a 1,028-seater, to be built of reinforced concrete with a Portland stone front to Great Portland Street.

    Central Synagogue, Great Portland Street,Marylebone, Greater London. Detail of theTebah from north east. Taken for the Survey of London.

    Central Synagogue, Great Portland Street, Marylebone, Greater London. Detail of the Tebah from north east. Photographed in 2013 for the Survey of London by Chris Redgrave. © Historic England

    There were tensions at this juncture, as the United Synagogue authorities were pressing for a fresh place of worship at Marble Arch and the abandonment of the Central. Isaac Wolfson and his son Leonard, resident in Portland Place, resolved things by offering £25,000 towards rebuilding the Central, which meant that, with war-damage compensation, rebuilding would cost the congregation little. The United Synagogue sent a long list of possible architects to the building committee, who shortlisted three, not including Shaw & Lloyd. At Leonard Wolfson’s request they added an outsider, C. Edmund Wilford. It seems that Wilford had shown him some sketches which, United’s president Ewan Montague agreed, showed ‘a most interesting approach to the theme of Synagogue architecture which hitherto in our experience has tended to be somewhat hackneyed’. But when Wilford was confirmed and met the building committee, he was told that the external elevation ‘should be on traditional lines’. [1]

    Wilford had made a name with cinemas before the war. He had no known connection with the Jewish community, but may have worked for the Wolfsons’ company, Great Universal Stores. He and his assistants were directed to look at synagogues in London and perhaps also Venice. The result, built by Tersons Ltd in 1956–8, was a conventional, dignified building with close correspondences to its predecessor but an internal touch of cinematic glamour.

    Central Synagogue, Great Portland Street,Marylebone, Greater London. Detail showing Torah Ark. Taken for the Survey of London.

    Central Synagogue, Great Portland Street, Marylebone, Greater London. Detail showing Torah Ark. Photographed in 2013 for the Survey of London by Chris Redgrave. © Historic England

    The Great Portland Street façade is mainly clad in Portland stone, but the plinth and the columns flanking the high and hooded windows are of red Swedish granite. At the north end the entrance doors are set back in a high frame clad in gold mosaic. There is also a subsidiary entrance from Hallam Street. The galleried interior gives a powerful impression of height and restrained opulence.

    Central Synagogue, Great Portland Street,Marylebone, Greater London. View of east windows. Taken for the Survey of London.

    Central Synagogue, Great Portland Street, Marylebone, Greater London. View of east windows. Taken for the Survey of London in 2013 by Chris Redgrave. © Historic England

    The focus is on the ark at the south end, which stands in an outer surround of red mosaic embellished by flanking lions on tall pillars of gold and an inner frame of Sienna marble. The bronze metalwork to the ark doors and elsewhere, made by the Brent Metal Company, is strong, spiky and characteristically 1950s. The other main feature is the almemar, clad in red marble, with attached panels carved in low relief.

    Central Synagogue, Great Portland Street,Marylebone, Greater London. Detail showing east stained glass window. Taken for the Survey of London

    Central Synagogue, Great Portland Street, Marylebone, Greater London. Detail showing east stained glass window. Photographed in 2013 for the Survey of London by Chris Redgrave.  © Historic England

    After completion, the synagogue windows were filled over a fifteen-year period with colourful glass made by Lowndes & Drury to designs by David Hillman. There is a hall below the worship area, and the circulation spaces including the stairs to the galleries are generous.

    Central Synagogue, Great Portland Street,Marylebone, Greater London. View of stair. Taken for the Survey of London.

    Central Synagogue, Great Portland Street, Marylebone, Greater London. View of stair. Photographed in 2013 for the Survey of London by Chris Redgrave. © Historic England

    Reference

    [1] London Metropolitan Archives, ACC/26712/15/2334

    South-East Marylebone Old and New

    By the Survey of London, on 24 February 2017

    In 2017 the Survey of London will publish two volumes (Nos 51 and 52) covering a large swathe of the parish of St Marylebone, an area comprising much of the West End north of Oxford Street, otherwise bounded by Marylebone High Street and the Marylebone Road, west and north, and Cleveland Street and Tottenham Court Road to the east. Like many of London’s place-names, Marylebone means different things to different people. To some it connotes the Marylebone Road and its penumbra, scarred by grinding traffic, to others the area adjacent to the two Marylebone Stations, main-line and underground, while those with a sense of civic history may call to mind a once-proud parish stretching from Oxford Street through St John’s Wood to the edge of Kilburn. By far the most famous association is with Lords, and the Marylebone Cricket Club founded in 1787. But the enduring image of Marylebone as a district is of the grid of alternating streets and mews, leavened by the occasional square, that picks up the West End’s uncertain structure beyond Oxford Street and shakes it into order and urbanity.

    The aura of south-east Marylebone is various. Time-honoured medical connections have bequeathed cosmopolitanism and gravity to the central grid. Here patients for private clinics or guests at serviced apartments and hotels alight at the kerbside, chauffeurs linger on the qui vive for parking attendants, and pedestrians scurry rather than saunter, pressed forward by the rhythm of the streets. A mundane mews behind may be disrupted by a vision of nurses on tea-breaks clad in overall green, or a lorry backing in with oxygen canisters. Marylebone High Street and its boutiques draw their constituency of well-heeled shoppers and loafers. Yet Paddington Street Gardens and Marylebone Churchyard close by convey an air of ease, with old people reflective on benches or gaggles of schoolchildren on the grass. Lunchtime sprawlers in Cavendish Square are different – a mélange of shop assistants, office workers and tourists taking their breaks. On the fringes of Fitzrovia, the livelier portions of Great Titchfield Street and its surroundings exude conviviality, mixing pubs, small shops and cafés even now not all gentrified, patronized by the copious media businesses that have spread outwards from the BBC and taken over the premises of the dwindling garment trade.

    Parts of south-east Marylebone have resisted change during the last century. The following photographs taken by Bedford Lemere & Co. at the turn of the nineteenth century are shown alongside recent photographs by Chris Redgrave.

    Debenham and Freebody department store during construction, 27–37 Wigmore Street, in 1907 (Historic England Archive)

    Former Debenham and Freebody department store, Wigmore Street, Marylebone, Greater London. View from north west.

    Former Debenham and Freebody department store, 27–37 Wigmore Street, in 2013 (Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    The south side of Wigmore Street offers a sudden change in scale and monumentality with the silvery bulk of No. 33, built as headquarters for the drapery business of Debenham & Freebody in 1906–7. A public offer was made in 1907 to help pay for a grand reconstruction of the Wigmore Street premises, ‘rambling and incoherent’ after 90 years of piecemeal development. The London Scots architects William Wallace and James Glen Sivewright Gibson were chosen to design the new building. The frontage was conceived as symmetrical across the whole of the block, but because of the bank there is an extra bay at the west end, devoted originally to a discrete fur shop. A giant arcade runs across the ground and first floor, with plate-glass windows to what were originally single large shops either side of the entrance, their semi-circular tops lighting the first-floor showrooms. Three segmental pediments top three bays set slightly forward with paired giant-order Corinthian columns of grey-green Truro marble forming a vestigial screen to the third and fourth floors. Decoration is mostly channelled ‘stone’ work to the first floor, applied garlands, and two seated female figures within the central pediment, all executed in Doulton’s Carrara Ware. Crowning all is a columned lantern-turret on an octagonal plinth.

    46 and 48 Portland Place in 1903 (Historic England Archive)

    Howard de Walden Project. General view with 46 & 48 Portland Place, Marylebone, Greater London. View from north west.

    46 and 48 Portland Place in 2013 (Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    Nos 34–60 is the best run of surviving Adam-period houses in Portland Place, still with its eye-catching stuccoed and pedimented central pair at Nos 46 and 48, with their ingenious mirrored angled entrance doors. It is here that one gets the strongest sense of the Adam brothers’ original palace-front design concept. Various alterations have changed the appearance of the middle pair at Nos 46 and 48, marring though not completely obliterating the powerful original composition. Its crowning balustrade has gone but for once, when the upper floor was extended around 1870, rather than building up the front wall as elsewhere in the street, the builders left the central pediment in situ, with an enlarged mansard roof and dormers rising behind. Like its partner opposite (No. 37, now demolished), this façade was faced entirely in stucco and decorated with a frieze, pilasters, roundels and characteristic Adam panels of griffins and urns of the same material. Unusually the rusticated ground floor has the windows flanking the entrance set within relieving arches. Particularly elegant is the shared entrance within a shallow apse under a segmental arch, with the two doorways set at an angle.

    28 Portland Place in 1903 (Historic England Archive)

    28 Portland Place in 2013. (Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    28 Portland Place in 2015 (Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    No. 28 Portland Place retains its Adam pediment and Ionic pilasters (though both were raised in the nineteenth century to accommodate an extra storey), as well as a later Doric entrance porch. Despite many changes it still exudes an aura of old-world elegance. Though it was sold by the Goslings to the Institute of Hygiene in 1928 and has been in institutional or corporate use ever since, No. 28 is still a first-rate example of a London society townhouse adapted and added to over time by one family. The interiors have survived well, of which the most notable is an exceptionally fine ballroom, comprising a suite of linked first-floor drawing rooms fitted out in an elaborate late-Victorian Adam Revival style, with an abundance of painted and gilded plaster decorations and a figurative front-room chimneypiece in the manner of Wyatt.

    11 Harley Street in 1903 (Historic England Archive)

    Howard de Walden Project. Harley Street, Marylebone, Greater London. View from.

    11 Harley Street in 2013 (Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    9 and 11 Harley Street are tall red-brick rebuildings, of 1891 and 1886 respectively, in similar styles, with plentiful stone dressings and pediments. No. 9 was designed by F. M. Elgood as a speculation for W. H. Warner (of Lofts and Warner, estate agents). Elgood was also involved in the design of No. 11, one of his earliest works in the area, whilst still in partnership with Alexander Payne (to whom he was articled) as Payne & Elgood. Their client was the physician and surgeon William Morrant Baker. The building was extended to the rear in 1906 for another doctor, the dermatologist J. M. H. McLeod. Stone figures on the gable were removed in 1937.

     

    Bedford & Co. offices at 24 Wigmore Street in 1894, No. 22 to the right (Historic England Archive)

    18–20 Wigmore Street in 2014. (Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    18–24 Wigmore Street in 2014 (Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    Nos 18–22 Wigmore Street were built by Holloway Brothers in 1892–3 to the designs of Leonard Hunt, as showrooms and offices for the piano manufacturer John Brinsmead & Sons. The business, founded in 1837, moved to No. 18 (then 4) in 1863 and subsequently expanded into 20 and 22. The works moved from Charlotte Street to Kentish Town in 1870, and by 1893 produced around 3,000 pianos a year. Hunt’s building, expensively finished with mahogany panelling and leaded glass, was ‘one of the sights of fashionable London’. The ground floor was given over to display space, divided by a hallway with pavement lights illuminating basement showrooms, the upper floor comprising offices and chambers. In 1895 a recital room was added at the back of the basement, seating 130. Lit from two sides with leaded windows, it had mirrored columns and fully-tiled walls. Bedford & Company, surveyors, had offices next door at No. 24. Brinsmeads went out of business in 1922, but was re-established at 17 Cavendish Square in 1924. Lloyds Bank acquired the Wigmore Street building, creating a strong room within the former recital room, and subletting the western shop, which retains a 1928 neo-Georgian bronze shopfront fitted for the opticians Curry & Paxton. The upper floors were converted to flats in 1933.

    34 Weymouth Street in 1910 (Historic England Archive)

    34 Weymouth Street in 2014. (Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    34 Weymouth Street in 2014 (Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    On the other side of Upper Wimpole Street, of 1908 in a strong, shaped-gable style, is 34 Weymouth Street, by F. M. Elgood for the developer W. H. Warner. Here the gables have oculus windows with attractively sculpted stone surrounds and festoons beneath, the work of A. J. Thorpe, who was also responsible for the carved stone consoles to the door surround.

    30–31 Wimpole Street in 1917 (Historic England Archive)

    30 wimpole street and New Cavendish Street corner 8 bit

    30–31 Wimpole Street (left) and 30a and 30b New Cavendish Street (right) in 2014 (Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    Though treated as one architectural piece, this large and imposing Portland stone corner block of 1910–12, extending round the corner into New Cavendish Street, appears to have been a joint redevelopment and was built as four separate ‘houses’, each originally comprising doctors’ consulting rooms on the lower floors and residential accommodation above. The two properties facing Wimpole Street (originally numbered 30 & 31) were designed by F. M. Elgood, working for the developer Samuel Lithgow. But the two houses fronting New Cavendish Street (30a & 30b) were by Banister Fletcher & Sons, acting for Dr James Lennox Irwin Moore, who had consulting rooms at 30a – and it was these two ‘doctors’ houses’ that attracted attention in the architectural press. The style is a muscular free Jacobethan, with mullioned and transomed windows, and a stone balcony resting on decoratively carved console brackets, all topped off by pedimented gables with deep modillion eaves  – offering a strong contrast to Wimpole House opposite, with its dressing of florid salmon-pink terracotta. The composition is stylistically dissimilar to most of the Edwardian buildings on the Howard de Walden estate (and is none the worse for that) but there are a few oddities about the design. For instance, above the deep modillion cornice on the New Cavendish Street elevation, instead of gables as elsewhere, broad dormers flank a flat-roofed pavilion with a concave façade in what appears to be Bath stone but is probably coloured render. In terms of their construction, the buildings made use of expanded-steel reinforced concrete, with interiors awash with oak panelling and polished oak to the floors and staircases.

    In advance of the publication of Volumes 51 and 52 of the Survey of London, on South-East Marylebone, in 2017, the draft chapters have been made freely available online.

    37 Harley Street

    By the Survey of London, on 9 September 2016

    Howard de Walden Project. Harley Street, Marylebone, Greater London.

    37 Harley Street, Marylebone (photographed by Chris Redgrave © Historic England). 

    Perhaps one of the most widely admired late-nineteenth century buildings in South East Marylebone is 37 Harley Street, built in 1897-9 to designs by Arthur Beresford Pite. It is remarkably different from the houses and flats around it, and when newly built the architectural press proclaimed it to be ‘nothing short of a revolution in Harley Street architecture’.

    Howard de Walden Project. Harley Street, Marylebone, Greater London. View from.

    37 Harley Street, Marylebone, detail of oriel window (photographed by Chris Redgrave © Historic England).  

    Marylebone was once the heartland of Beresford Pite’s London buildings, and his office was just around the corner at No.48 where he added turquoise mosaic tiles to the ground-floor front. Many of his Marylebone buildings have gone, although his earlier 82 Mortimer Street survives, with its still arresting sculptural window treatment. At both houses Pite was working with a local building firm, Matthews Brothers. But while the Mortimer Street house was built with a specific client in mind, the anaesthetist Dudley Buxton, this one in Harley Street was a speculation. This was a boom time for medicine in the area, when houses were being snapped up by physicians and surgeons as homes with consulting rooms, and so it was designed with that end in mind.

    Howard de Walden Project. Harley Street, Marylebone, Greater London. View from.

    37 Harley Street, Marylebone, detail of bay window (photographed by Chris Redgrave © Historic England).

    The Georgian house that formerly stood at this corner was narrow and relatively small, without back yard or mews. By shifting the main entrance from Harley to Queen Anne Street (without altering the address) Pite created a more open and versatile layout within. But the real charm of the building is on the outside, in the use of warm Bath stone, a rarity hereabouts, and the harmonious integration of the architectural sculpture that adorns it. It is not bold and thrusting, as in the Mortimer Street figures, but sinuous and restrained.

    Howard de Walden Project. Harley Street, Marylebone, Greater London. View from.

    37 Harley Street, Marylebone, detail of bas-relief panel by Schenck depicting anatomy (photographed by Chris Redgrave © Historic England).

    The success of the sculptural element can be ascribed at least in part to the close collaboration between architect and carver. The many bas-relief panels of allegorical figures are the work of the architectural sculptor Frederick E. E. Schenck. Low-relief friezes on the bay windows are arranged with figurative subjects, flanked by flowing branches and leaves, representing Grammar, Astronomy, Justice and Philosophy, with Poetry represented by Homer. A dramatic winged figure atop the oriel symbolises Fame.

    Howard de Walden Project. Harley Street, Marylebone, Greater London. View from.

    37 Harley Street, Marylebone, detail of Schenck panels on the oriel window (photographed by Chris Redgrave © Historic England).

    The first occupants in 1901 were (Sir) Edward E. Cooper, an underwriter (later deputy chairman) at Lloyds, talented amateur singer, chairman of the Royal Academy of Music and future Lord Mayor, and his wife (Lady) Leonora.

    Howard de Walden Project. Harley Street, Marylebone, Greater London. View from.

    37 Harley Street, Marylebone, detail of the iron railings (photographed by Chris Redgrave © Historic England).

    The Coopers later moved out to Hampshire and by 1905 the surgeons Edred Moss Corner and (Sir) Percy William George Sargent were both practising and resident here; Corner’s son, the botanist Edred John Henry Corner (d. 1966) was born at No. 37 in January 1906. Other medical men associated with the building included the surgeons Sir Henry John Gauvain and Sir James Cantlie, both in the 1920s.

    Howard de Walden Project. Harley Street, Marylebone, Greater London. View from.

    37 Harley Street, Marylebone, detail of coloured glass in the circular window in the door (photographed by Chris Redgrave © Historic England).

    Though now subdivided and in mixed residential and office use, the building  retains much of its original character.

    37 Harley Street, Marylebone, first-floor landing with Pite-designed stair balustrade and coloured glass in landing window (photographed by Chris Redgrave © Historic England).

    37 Harley Street, Marylebone, first-floor landing with Pite-designed stair balustrade and coloured glass in landing window (photographed by Chris Redgrave © Historic England).

    Text taken largely from the draft chapter from the forthcoming South East Marylebone volumes, which can be found online here.

    Cavendish Square 5: the Duke of Cumberland’s statue

    By the Survey of London, on 19 August 2016

    This is the fifth instalment in an occasional series of posts about Cavendish Square. John Stewart’s Critical Observations on the Buildings and Improvements of London (1771) said of Cavendish Square that ‘the apparent intention here was to excite pastoral ideas in the mind; and this is endeavoured to be effected by cooping up a few frightened sheep within a wooden pailing; which, were it not for their sooty fleeces and meagre carcases, would be more apt to give the idea of a butcher’s pen’. This was a satirical allusion to the square’s new statue of the Duke of Cumberland, the ‘Butcher of Culloden’, commander at that final and decisive defeat of the Jacobite rising in 1746. All the same, the square was indeed let to a butcher for grazing.

    Critical Obs

    John Stewart’s Critical Observations, 1771.

    The gilt lead equestrian statue of the Duke of Cumberland had been erected in 1770 at the cost of Lt. Gen. William Strode, who had fought under and befriended the Duke, and whose own memorial in Westminster Abbey records him as ‘a strenuous assertor of Civil and Religious Liberty’. At the time Strode lived on Harley Street, on the north-east corner with Queen Anne Street. The Duke’s sister Amelia, who had paid for a lead statue of George III for Berkeley Square in 1766, lived at the west end of the north side of Cavendish Square. Strode conceived what was London’s first outdoor statue of a soldier in 1769, the same year he was alleged to have withheld clothing from his soldiers, a charge of which he was acquitted at a court martial in 1772.

    Malcolm engraving

    J. P. Malcolm’s engraving of 1808 (© City of Westminster Archives Centre).

    The statue was by John Cheere, who had made another version of Cumberland for Dublin in 1746. The paunchy figure in modern dress faced north to the contemporary temple fronts of what are now 11–14 Cavendish Square (see earlier post). That the statue faced this way, presenting its rear to those who approached the square along the Hanover Square axis, may reflect where Princess Amelia and Strode lived. It also looked to Scotland. The statue was immediately ridiculed on aesthetic grounds; any politics in the gesture appear to have passed without published comment.

    Meekyoung Shin's soap statue, photographed in 2013.

    Meekyoung Shin’s soap statue, photographed in 2013.

    Lacking admirers, the statue fell into dilapidation. In 1868 the 5th Duke of Portland took it down, ostensibly to be recast. It never was, perhaps simply melted down instead. Its Portland stone plinth survived, with Strode’s inscribed dedication. By 1916 this had been encircled by a roof on thin columns to create a summer house. That lasted into the 1970s.

    Temporary Soap Staue, Cavendish Square, Marylebone, Greater London. Taken for The Survey Of London

    Meekyoung Shin’s soap statue in 2014 (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

    In 2012 a replica of the lost statue was mounted on the plinth, made of soap on a steel armature by the Korean artist Meekyoung Shin as Written in Soap: A Plinth Project. She anticipated its gradual and scented erosion within a year, but its tenure was extended, her commentary on mutable monumentality complicated by endurance and popularity. An identical replica was installed at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Gwacheon, South Korea, in July 2013. The Cavendish Square statue was dismantled in 2016.

    fgdgd

    Meekyoung Shin’s soap statue in 2015 (above and below).

    April 2015 (2)

    RIBA headquarters, Nos 66–68 Portland Place

    By the Survey of London, on 29 July 2016

    Howard de Walden Project. Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, Marylebone, Greater London. View from south west.

    RIBA Headquarters, view from the south-west (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

    Ian Nairn once noted the irony that the RIBA’s headquarters should be located in Portland Place: the one street in London he felt had been ‘most stupidly and selfishly and blindly ruined by twentieth-century R.I.B.A. members’. But George Grey Wornum’s building, with its sophisticated union of clean lines and classical proportions, is not one of those brutal transgressors.

    At the entrance, a pair of giant cast-bronze entrance doors, decorated with a series of charming relief sculptures, tell the story of London’s river and its buildings, modelled by James Woodford, to drawings prepared by J. D. M. Harvey.

    Howard de Walden Project. Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, Marylebone, Greater London. Detail of bronze entrance door.

    Howard de Walden Project. Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, Marylebone, Greater London. Detail of bronze entrance door.

    Howard de Walden Project. Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, Marylebone, Greater London. Detail of bronze entrance door.

    Howard de Walden Project. Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, Marylebone, Greater London. Detail of bronze entrance door.

    Inside, the entrance hall has a honey-coloured sheen from its yellow terrazzo floor slabs and polished limestone walls, incised with the names of RIBA Presidents and Gold Medallists. But it is the staircase that is Wornum’s tour de force. It is a dramatic space, dominated and held together by four giant fluted columns of green Ashburton marble, star-shaped in plan and without bases or capitals, that rise nearly 30ft to the coffered glass ceiling.

    Montage 2

    On the first floor is the principal reception room: the Henry Florence Memorial Hall.  Decoration is everywhere, with a patterned floor and splayed limestone piers carved with scenes of architecture through the ages (designed by Edward Bainbridge Copnall), and several fine wall carvings (also by Copnall), including one showing Wornum and Maurice Webb deep in conversation under the watchful eye of Ragnar Östberg. On the ceiling are sculptures by Woodford depicting the various building trades. Also in this room is a pine screen carved with twenty reliefs (by Denis Dunlop) representing culture and industry in India, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

    Howard de Walden Project. Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, Marylebone, Greater London. Florence Hall, first floor, view from east

    Henry Florence Memorial Hall, designed by Wornum with his visit to Stockholm obviously very fresh in his mind (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

    Howard de Walden Project. Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, Marylebone, Greater London. Detail of plasterer in Florence hall ceiling, first floor.

    Henry Florence Memorial Hall,  ceiling panel by Woodford (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

    Montage 1

    Henry Florence Memorial Hall, splayed limestone piers carved with scenes of architecture through the ages (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

    The British Architectural Library on the third floor was designed by Wornum in consultation with the RIBA’s then librarian Bobby Carter, with Moderne curved ends to its bookcases, and originally with a colour scheme by his wife Miriam (recently restored) of steel bookshelves enamelled in blue and yellow, and a brown cork floor.

    British Architectural Library (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

    British Architectural Library (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave).

    With grateful thanks to Eloise Sinclair who put this blog piece together based on the text in the draft chapter from the South-East Marylebone volumes, which can be found here.

    Commemorating Lord Byron on Holles Street

    By the Survey of London, on 20 May 2016

    Byron_1813_by_Phillips

    Lord Byron by Thomas Phillips (Reproduced via Wikimedia Commons).

    That Lord Byron was born in Holles Street in January 1788 seems clear. His mother Catherine had returned from Paris a month before his arrival to live in rented rooms there. These rooms have been identified variously as No. 16, which stood on the west side of the street, near its north end, or via a supposed renumbering as No. 24, eight doors further south. It was at No. 24, on a house rebuilt in 1852, that the Society of Arts commemorated Byron in 1866–7 with the first of its round blue plaques. But there had been no renumbering and, in any case, letters from Catherine Byron are addressed simply as from ‘Holles Street’ – no evidence for any house number has been traced. The plaque disappeared in 1889–90 when John Lewis redeveloped this stretch of the street. Lewis commissioned a bronze half-length profile of Byron from the sculptor John Edward Taylerson as a replacement. This was housed within a large Portland-stone aedicule on the second floor of the new frontage at No. 24 in 1900, and was exploited by Lewis for marketing and propaganda purposes during a hot-tempered dispute with the Howard de Walden Estate over the conversion of the old house at No. 16. The Byron aedicule was destroyed by aerial attack in 1940 and Tom Painter designed a modest bronze portrait plaque for a pier between the rebuilt department store’s windows in 1960. This was taken down and replaced in 2012 by a City of Westminster plaque that bears the message (misquoting the poet), ‘Always laugh when you can it is a cheap medicine’.

    800px-Byron._London,_John_Lewis_Market_on_the_corner_Oxford_Street_and_Holles_Street

    Plaque designed by Tom Painter for John Lewis, now replaced (By Miezian via Wikimedia Commons).

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