Since 2015 the Survey of London has been responsible for teaching a module in the Bartlett School of Architecture’s Master’s degree course titled Architecture and Historic Urban Environments. Our module, ‘Surveying and Recording of Cities’, includes instruction in architectural photography, led by Chris Redgrave of Historic England, with whom we have been delighted to work in recent years. Students may submit photographs as an aspect of their coursework.
Archive for the 'Survey of London' Category
The Survey of London looks forward to the publication of the 53th volume in its main series in April 2020. Oxford Street is among the world’s great shopping streets, renowned for its department stores and the vitality of its crowded pavements. After well over 200 years of retailing, it stands unchallenged as London’s most continuously successful magnet for shoppers. As a thoroughfare Oxford Street is far older, going back to Roman times. Under its earlier name of Tyburn Road, it was notorious for centuries as the route of the condemned to the gallows on the site of the present Marble Arch. The volume will be the first in the Survey of London series to deal with the development and architecture of a single street. No major London street has ever received such a complete analysis, offering fresh insights on the growth of shops and shopping in the British capital and illuminating the variety of buildings and activities that have given Oxford Street its striking and fluctuating character. It also explains the reasons underlying Oxford Street’s unique success – at first, its position between opulent Mayfair and Marylebone, later, the array of underground lines affording fast and easy access to its shops.
Following the success of making draft texts of Woolwich, Battersea and South-East Marylebone available online, the Oxford Street texts have now been released on the Survey of London’s website. The draft chapters may be viewed or downloaded as pdf files. The chapters include references but not illustrations. The print volume will follow next April, published by Yale University Press on behalf of the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. The Survey of London’s website contains a catalogue with links to online versions of volumes in the main series and monograph series. For some time, volumes 1 to 47 of the Survey of London have been available via British History Online. Print copies of the most recent volumes, including Oxford Street (which may now be pre-ordered), are available from Yale Books and other booksellers.
Here follows a selection of illustrations specially created and commissioned for the forthcoming Oxford Street volume, with links to the relevant draft chapters.
Some of our readers will have noticed the Survey of London’s recent appearance alongside Layers of London in The Telegraph, which published an interview with Peter Guillery under the title ‘Meeting the historians bringing London’s past to life with maps’. We would now like to share tidings of an inspiring map-based project that is working to advance understandings of London’s history and evolution, while contributing to issues relating to its future. Colouring London is a new crowdsourcing platform designed to collect information on every building in the capital, launched formally only yesterday. This innovative project has been developed by the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), part of the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment at University College London, with funding from several academic and government organizations. The Greater London Authority, Historic England and the Ordnance Survey are core partners. The Survey of London is one of the project’s collaborators, offering advice on how to incorporate historical detail and sharing data from current research in Marylebone, Oxford Street and Whitechapel.
Colouring London has been designed to collect and visualize information about the built environment, inviting participation from any and all. The website provides a free knowledge exchange platform for data relating to all of the capital’s buildings and structures. As users contribute data, the footprints of individual buildings are colour-coded instantly to build legible maps about the city. In addition to submitting information, reading and interpreting the maps, users will be able to download the data. The website is currently in the early stages of testing, which makes your involvement and feedback all the more important. This blog post offers some guidance on contributing to Colouring London by mining for data in the Survey of London series, an essential source for information about the city’s buildings and places.
Polly Hudson, a researcher at the Bartlett and the instigator of Colouring London, has designed the website to harness information on building age, characteristics and lifespans. Data on the built environment is currently incomplete, fragmented and inaccessible, as organizations are slow or reluctant to release information to the public. The difficulty of collecting information about buildings and places is at odds with its inherent value. The Survey of London traces its beginnings to the Arts and Crafts architect, designer and social thinker Charles Robert Ashbee, who believed that to mark down a record of the historic environment is an essential and enriching public good. In the present day, accurate and comprehensive data about the city is also instrumental for urban analyses that contribute to research on significant issues, from sustainability to the housing crisis. These data also feed into scientific research on the reduction of energy use through the adaptive reuse of buildings and the use of predictive models relating to the vulnerability and resilience of cities in the future. For this type of research to be successful, knowledge needs to be converted into numerical data.
In the long term, there are plans for Colouring London to collect, store and visualize a broad spectrum of data relating to the built environment, spanning twelve categories such as land use, building type, designer and constructional details. For the initial testing phase of the project, a smaller number of categories have been launched, including:
Size and shape
Since its beginnings in 1894, the Survey of London has amassed a wealth of information about the city, its districts and buildings. Fifty-two ‘main series’ volumes, which generally cover historic parishes, and eighteen monographs on individual sites of particular interest have been published, with the next ‘main series’ volume on Oxford Street expected to follow in Spring 2020. The hallmark of the Survey of London series is accessible and readable writing, based on a combination of detailed archival research, secondary sources and field investigation. The volumes contain a vast amount of reliable information – data, essentially – relating to the construction, form and evolution of buildings over time. All of these data may be uploaded to Colouring London.
It is possible to sign up to the Colouring London website within a few minutes, and start colouring building footprints immediately by adding data. If you would like to focus on making contributions about a particular building, street or area, please start by referring to the Survey’s Map of Areas Covered (see below). This map provides a guide to the geographical remit of each volume in the series. From here, a catalogue on our website contains links to online versions of volumes, available via British History Online or in the form of draft chapters uploaded to our website. The detail and scope of the volumes vary significantly, with a shift from the 1970s towards a more inclusive and contextual approach. Today the Survey aims to deal with buildings of all types and dates; with this in mind, it may be worth turning to the latest volumes if you would like to produce a fairly comprehensive map of a particular area. On the other hand, referring to earlier volumes will present an interesting challenge, with the opportunity to trace separately the recent history and evolution of a street or wider area.
Alternatively, contributors to Colouring London could upload information from one of many gazetteers printed in Survey of London volumes. These lists contain concise descriptions and facts, such as key dates, architects and builders. Maps printed in the volumes will assist in comparing buildings listed in the gazetteer to building footprints on the Ordnance Survey’s MasterMap, which is the base for Colouring London. If you are not familiar with a particular street, it is worth visiting it in person or referring to online street views to check whether buildings still exist.
Gazetteers in recent volumes:
Volume 46, South and East Clerkenwell (2008)
Volume 47, Northern Clerkenwell and Pentonville (2008)
- King’s Cross Road and Penton Rise area
- Amwell Street and Myddelton Square area
- Percy Circus area
- The Angel and Islington High Street
- Pentonville Road
- Rosebery Avenue
Volume 48, Woolwich (2012)
Volume 50, Battersea (2013)
Volume 51, South-East Marylebone (2017)
- Marylebone High Street
- Cavendish Square
- Portland Place
- Queen Anne Street and Chandos Street
- Devonshire, Weymouth and New Cavendish Streets
Volume 52, South-East Marylebone (2017)
Populating Colouring London with age data from Survey volumes
We hope this guide will inspire our readers to contribute to Colouring London, and make use of the wealth of information collected and compiled by the Survey of London. This innovative website provides an exciting opportunity to collaborate with a broad network of people – from architects, historians and amenity groups to citizen scientists, local residents and students – to produce beautiful and meaningful maps of London.
This year marks the 125th anniversary of the Survey of London, a venerable institution that produces architectural and topographical studies of districts of London. To mark that milestone this blog post traces the Survey’s remarkable history, from its origins as a recording project undertaken by a band of volunteers to its present-day work carried out from its current base at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London.
The Survey traces its roots to the Arts and Crafts architect, designer and social thinker Charles Robert Ashbee, who established a Committee for the Survey of the Memorials of Greater London in 1894. Ashbee’s efforts to produce a ‘register’ or a list of buildings were prompted by the demolition of a Tudor hunting lodge in Bromley-by-Bow to make way for a Board School, which coincided with a growing sense of unease around the destruction of historic fabric in London. Members of the Committee decided to focus their work initially on the east side of London. Drawings, photographs and notes were produced to record buildings of interest and inform conservation. The first publication was a monograph on Trinity Almshouses in Mile End Road, which was threatened with demolition at the time. The resulting volume (published in 1896) interwove architectural history with social and cultural threads, contributing in no small part to a successful campaign for preservation of the almshouses.
The Committee soon started to collaborate with the London County Council (LCC), which agreed to cover the cost of printing volumes relating to the more confined area under its jurisdiction. From this point onwards, the geographical remit of the Survey has been restricted to the area within the County of London as between 1889 and 1965. The LCC subsequently published the first volume in the main or ‘parish’ series, which focused on Bromley-by-Bow (1900). The project was infused with Ashbee’s social ideals, particularly his conviction that to mark down a record of historic buildings was an essential public good that would enhance the lives of Londoners: ‘We plead that the object of the work we have before us, is to make nobler and more humanly enjoyable the life of the great city whose existing record we seek to mark down; to preserve of it for her children and those yet to come whatever is best in her past or fairest in her present; to induce her municipalities to take the lead and to stimulate among her citizens that historic and social conscience which to all great communities is their most sacred possession.’
Despite the early links with the capital’s governing body, the Survey was not formally associated with the LCC for some time. In 1907, after Ashbee’s relocation to Chipping Campden, management of the Committee passed to Philip Norman, Percy Lovell and Walter H. Godfrey. After protracted discussions, an agreement between the Committee and the LCC was finally reached in 1910. The Committee agreed to deposit its extensive collection of material with the LCC, in exchange for the Council bearing the cost of printing the volumes. This arrangement continued for more than forty years. Under the auspices of the LCC, the Survey shifted gradually from being a project led by amateurs and enthusiasts – ‘whose’, to borrow Ashbee’s words, ‘best work is done on Saturday afternoons and summer holidays’ – to one undertaken by professional historians. The LCC embarked on a study of the parish of St Giles-in-the-Fields and Lincoln’s Inn Fields, which coincided with its plans to form Kingsway and Aldwych and in the event contributed to the preservation of buildings. The production of the series was balanced between the LCC and the Committee, which published volumes alternately under a Joint Publishing Committee.
The early volumes were consequently uneven in style and selective in scope, often focusing on the oldest or most high-status buildings in a parish. Each volume followed a similar format, comprising a map of the study area, an introduction, a register of buildings and a sequence of illustrations, including photographs and measured drawings. A separate series of monographs, focusing on single buildings and individual sites of particular interest, was published in parallel with the main ‘parish’ series.
After the completion of four volumes on St Pancras in 1952, the Survey Committee was disbanded. It was a decision reluctantly taken, brought about by a lack of ‘recruits for the heavy unpaid work which an earlier generation undertook with enthusiasm.’  The editing work was at first taken on by Ida Darlington, who had started working on the Survey as a research assistant in 1926, but it proved impossible to balance with the considerable demands of her existing role as head of the record office and library at the LCC.
From 1954 the Survey was managed entirely by the LCC, which appointed a General Editor to lead a small team of full-time staff. The first General Editor was Francis Sheppard, who oversaw the production of the series until his retirement in 1983. During those twenty-nine years, Sheppard published sixteen volumes in the Survey’s main series and developed a unique and enduring formula for its work: a complete record of the built fabric of each study area, integrated with social and economic detail.
After the abolition of the LCC in 1965, the Survey transferred to the Greater London Council (GLC). In an interview with The Daily Telegraph in 1976, Sheppard described the approach to choosing study areas: ‘Basically we have to decide where surviving buildings are thickest on the ground and where they are most likely to be demolished most quickly, but of course we don’t only describe existing buildings. We also list those which have been destroyed.’ Sheppard concentrated the Survey’s investigations on the West End, where many Georgian streets were threatened with demolition. Research in Covent Garden resulted in the listing of many buildings and helped to alter proposals for drastic redevelopment.
Following the dissolution of the GLC in 1986, the Survey became part of the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, where work continued on volumes on County Hall (Monograph 17, 1991) and Poplar, Blackwall and the Isle of Dogs (Volumes 43 and 44, 1994). Studies were subsequently made of Knightsbridge (Volume 45, 2000), Clerkenwell (Volumes 46 and 47, 2008) and the Charterhouse (Monograph 18, 2010). In 1999 the Royal Commission merged with English Heritage. The team next moved its investigations south of the river to Woolwich (Volume 48, 2012) and Battersea (Volumes 49 and 50, 2013). The Survey remained under the purview of English Heritage until 2013, when it joined the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London.
The Survey continues to produce detailed topographical studies from its new home at the Bartlett, earning recognition for its scholarly rigour and pioneering approaches. In 2018, the Survey was honoured to receive the prestigious Colvin Prize from the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain for two volumes (Nos 51 and 52) covering south-east Marylebone (2017).
The Survey is continuing its work in Westminster with a volume covering Oxford Street (Vol. 53), which is set to be published in Spring 2020, and a volume on south-west Marylebone (Vol. 56). The current study of Whitechapel (Vols 54 and 55) has been supported by a major grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which has funded the development of a public collaborative website to experiment with integrating memories, moving images and texts, illustrations and experiences by numerous others with the work of the Survey. Research has also commenced towards a monograph on UCL’s campus in Bloomsbury.
The Survey’s detailed investigations do take time, and even after 125 years a good deal of the map remains untouched. As the architectural historian Sir John Summerson said, ‘The Survey will never be finished. If the time comes when a final “coverage” seems to be in sight it will be time to begin again. London changes. So does the writing of history. The Survey as the continuing illustrator and expositor of the fabric of London has a function with no imaginable term.’
 Walter H. Godfrey, lecture at the University of London, 5 January 1954
With the Survey of London’s Oxford Street volume currently in preparation, today’s blog post looks at one of the street’s hidden musical treasures – the 100 Club, at 100 Oxford Street.
At a time when the capital’s increasing gentrification and corporatisation is gradually erasing anything of vitality or individuality from the city’s streets, the 100 Club stands out as a rare survivor of the type of raw and intimate live venue that once made London the world centre of popular music culture.
Hidden away down a simple staircase in the dark basement of a 1920s office block, the 100 Club epitomises the type of gritty trad jazz and folk ‘cellars’ that rose to prominence in post-war London. But its origins go back further, to 1942, when a Sunday night swing club, Feldman’s Swing Club, opened in a basement restaurant called Macks at 100 Oxford Street. By 1949 the club had become the Jazz Club, or London Jazz Club, and by 1951 the Humphrey Lyttelton Club. Roger Horton, father of the current owner Jeff Horton, took over the premises in 1964 and renamed it, presumably after its address – though legend has it that the name was also a sly reference to the club’s small capacity – though today that is now 350.
All the factors that might appal a modern concert-goer are what make the place special. It can be dark, cramped, hot, noisy, and teeming with people – ‘a proper cave’, as the music citric Geoffrey Smith once described it  – but nearly always overflowing with the raucous atmosphere of audience and musicians having a good time. That atmosphere has lasted through the jazz and blues nights of the fifties and sixties, the British ‘beat’ explosion of the early to mid sixties, punk and funk in the seventies and eighties, and Britpop in the 1990s.
The list of now world-famous names who have appeared on the 100 Club’s tiny stage is astonishing, from Louis Armstrong, Humphrey Lyttelton and Stan Tracey, to Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks and Bob Dylan, and in more recent years Blur and Oasis. But emphasising this glittering roll-call partly misses the point. The 100 Club’s durability is due in large part to its refusal to confine itself to one particular brand of music, to its championing of the up-and-coming, the new and the unfamiliar. The now legendary ‘100 Club Punk Festival’ held there by Malcolm McLaren in the summer of 1976, which heralded the appearance of a new, exhilarating, anti-establishment force in music and popular culture, expressed this best, when an impromptu group of ‘musicians’ that would later evolve into Siouxsie and the Banshees took to the stage to open the festival, for what was their first ever live performance.
Despite its undoubted cultural significance and the dearth of live music venues in twenty-first century London, the 100 Club was by 2010 struggling with debt and facing closure. Rising business rates, alcohol duty increases and licensing restrictions had tipped the business into debt. A partnership with Converse footwear (now finished) and a high-profile publicity and fund-raising campaign, including a performance by Paul McCartney, saved the 100 Club then. But today its future is still far from secure. Further rises in rents and rates, and especially the Conservative government’s iniquitous attitude to business rates, which were raised again dramatically in 2017, have once again left the club’s owners faced with debt and ruin. The recent business rates revaluation takes no account of the size of a business or its profit margins, only its property. The effects can be seen all across London’s high streets today, where many cafés, bars, live music venues and other small local businesses have been forced to close.
Miles Kingston once described the 100 Club as a ‘vast underground barn … where over the years the hand of the interior decorator has not set foot, a big functional oblong which, if 1950s jazz clubs ever get the Betjeman seal of approval, will have a preservation order slapped on it as a totally unspoilt specimen’.  That was in 1980 and little has changed at 100 Oxford Street since then, but that ‘preservation order’ has still to come. Perhaps it is time for a rethink?
 Country Life, 26 April 1979, p. 1282.
 Punch Historical Archive, 10 September 1980, p. 392.
Thank you for reading the Survey of London’s blog posts over the last year. Here follows a selection of our favourite wintry photographs from our past and present studies of London. Happy Christmas and all good wishes for the New Year.
As the longest continuous shopping street in Europe since the eighteenth century, Oxford Street is a unique phenomenon. Though it has witnessed almost continuous change, it has never lost its popularity. The character of Oxford Street is defined above all by its shops, and Christmas is its busiest time of the year. In 2015 we asked Lucy Millson-Watkins to photograph the lights, sights and decorations of Christmas on Oxford Street. Here is a selection of the photographs that she took, first published online in a blog post that considered the festive season on Oxford Street and its enduring traditions. The Survey’s work on Oxford Street is nearing completion, and the volume is expected to be published by Yale University Press, with support from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, in 2020.
Research is continuing in Whitechapel, a district with a long and rich history, currently in the throes of intense change. One of this year’s highlights for the Survey was the Whitechapel History Fest, which took place at the Whitechapel Idea Store in October. The festival marked the closing stages of the three-year Arts and Humanities Research Council funded research project, ‘Histories of Whitechapel’. Local experts, residents and historians convened to discuss the past and present of Whitechapel, with talks, film, poetry readings and panel discussions.
In 2017, two volumes (Nos 51 & 52) were published on South-East Marylebone, covering a large swathe of the parish of St Marylebone. In November 2018, the Survey was honoured to received the prestigious Colvin Prize from the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain in recognition of the volumes as an outstanding work of reference on an architectural subject. The draft chapters are available to download via our website, pending a full online version. The Survey is following up these volumes with a study of South-West Marylebone, covering the area west of the boundary of the previous volumes as far as Edgware Road.
The Survey completed its work on Battersea in 2013, with the publication of two volumes (Nos 49 and 50) by Yale University Press. The draft texts of all thirty-two chapters from the Battersea volumes are available via our website, prior to the release of a full online version.
Finally, 2018 saw the online publication of the Survey’s volume (No. 48) on Woolwich, first published in 2012 and now digitally available here.
The Survey of London is sad to announce the death of Francis Sheppard at the advanced age of 96. Francis was the first General Editor of the Survey, between 1954 and 1983. During those 29 years he published sixteen volumes in its main or ‘parish’ series, an amazing rate of better than one volume every two years. Incomparably the most successful and productive editor the Survey has had, he stands second only to its founder, C. R. Ashbee, in stature and attainment.
Francis came to the Survey of London at one of the many turning points in its history. For the first half of the twentieth century, the writing, research and publication of the series had been precariously balanced between an amateur committee of scholars and the London County Council, which over the years had taken on increasingly more of the costs and tasks involved. After the Second World War the committee could no longer continue, so the LCC was faced with bearing the whole responsibility. At first the editing work was undertaken by the remarkable Ida Darlington, who had started working on the Survey as an assistant in the 1920s but was promoted after the war to be the Council’s chief librarian. She produced two excellent volumes on Southwark (Volumes 23 and 25 in the series). But she could hardly carry on doing both jobs. So the LCC advertised for a full-time General Editor, with the brief of producing the Survey more regularly (once a year was the aspiration). The editor was to work closely with the LCC’s developing Historic Buildings Division, which would go on supplying the illustrations and the old-fashioned ‘architectural descriptions’ then still prevalent.
It was Francis’s achievement to turn this delicate assignment into a triumph, by dint of brilliant scholarship, tact, utter trustworthiness, amiability of manner and sheer hard work. He soon won the confidence of the LCC’s small Historic Buildings advisory committee, which at various times embraced such luminaries as John Summerson, John Betjeman and Osbert Lancaster. When the first of the Sheppard series, Volume 26 on South Lambeth, appeared in 1956, it was hailed by Betjeman (not yet on the HB committee) as ‘this great book’. Next he concentrated at the Historic Buildings Division’s request on the West End of London, where many Georgian streets faced possible redevelopment. There had previously been little in-depth scholarship on areas rich in architecture like St James’s, Soho and Mayfair. Between 1960 and 1980 Francis and his colleagues transformed the position, and in the process helped tip the balance towards the preservation of whole swathes of urban fabric. The most famous case was Covent Garden, where the Survey’s investigations, published in Volume 36 of the series, led to the listing of many previously overlooked buildings and helped lead to the drastic modification of the Greater London Council’s redevelopment plans for the area. The Survey and the Historic Buildings Division had been transferred over from the LCC to the GLC in 1965, and the planning controversies over Covent Garden were among many struggles within the Council. But Francis always wisely kept his head down, proving the Survey’s value by the reliability, quality and presentation of his team’s findings.
Never one to put himself forward, Francis always attributed much of the Survey’s growing reputation in those years to his colleagues. They included Marie Draper, who began working on the Survey in Ida Darlington’s day and did much of the research for the early history of Covent Garden, before becoming archivist to the Bedford Estate; Peter Bezodis, who took on the ground-breaking Volume 27 on Spitalfields almost single-handed, became Francis’s official deputy, and carried on with the Survey into the 1990s; and, latterly, Victor Belcher, John Greenacombe and Andrew Saint. But throughout his editorship Francis was the series’ mainstay and most productive writer. The Survey’s texts have always been firmly anonymous, but it is not hard to spot his direct and driving style of narrative writing. He loved nothing more than to piece together the complex story of some famous building. Examples of Sheppard setpieces are the accounts of Burlington House in Volume 32, the Pantheon in Volume 32 and the Royal Opera House in Volume 35.
The Survey has always evolved. In the 1970s Francis turned its attention to Kensington, where he had been brought up. In Kensington, notably North Kensington, the first area to be tackled, the totality of the Victorian townscape was of greater moment than individual works of architecture. It became the Survey’s task to tease out how the original building development had come into being. Always eager to learn, Francis at this stage was greatly influenced by the new holistic urban history championed by his friend Jim (H. J.) Dyos, Michael Thompson, Michael Robbins and others. Volume 37, Northern Kensington, published in 1973, represented a fresh breakthrough. It has been many people’s favourite volume of the Survey ever since, with its beautiful drawings arranged in a freshly graceful format by the architectural editor of the time, James Stevens Curl, and largely drawn by the gifted John Sambrook. As to the text of Volume 37, packed with revelations about the doings and dealings of hitherto obscure local builders, Francis always attributed many of its innovations to Victor Belcher.
By the time Francis retired in 1983, three of the four Kensington volumes had been published. The unique formula on which the Survey prides itself today was by then in place: an all-but complete coverage of the built fabric of each area covered, with architecture to the fore, but underpinned by a full treatment of the social and economic character of the locality. Francis found the Survey of London a partial history of the best buildings in each parish. He left it a thriving and integrated record of London’s urban history, without a rival in any other major city.
Despite his formidable work-rate on the Survey, Francis found time to write widely in his own name: learned articles, reviews (often for the now defunct Books and Bookmen) and books. His classic London, The Infernal Wen 1808–1870 came out in 1971, and a history of Brakspear’s, the Henley-on-Thames brewery across the street from where he lived, in 1979. Believing that his family deserved more space and better air than ‘the wen’ could afford, he had moved to Henley in the early 1950s, putting up with the punishing commute to London almost daily.
Astonishingly he was also deeply involved with Henley’s civic life, where he served as councillor, alderman and mayor in 1970–1. That all began with a conservation struggle to save the venerable Catherine Wheel Inn in Hart Street, Henley. After his triumph over the developers, Francis set up the Henley Society. In his retirement years he wrote a history of the Museum of London, where he had been employed before working on the Survey, and a general history of London. He had a wide circle of friends in and around Henley, closest among them perhaps the historian Christopher Hibbert.
None of this was familiar to his colleagues, because Francis was a private and reticent person, though he could be excellent company, a warm friend and very funny when he chose. He is greatly honoured by his surviving colleagues and present-day successors.