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Colouring London

the Survey of London6 April 2020

Many of our readers will already be familiar with Colouring London, a map-based crowdsourcing platform designed to collect information on every building in the capital. We would like to share a blog post previously published to coincide with the launch of Colouring London in October 2019, in case any of our readers are looking for an interesting and rewarding distraction during these difficult times. Over the last six months Colouring London has collected large amounts of data about buildings in Greater London, and welcomes contributions from the public. This blog post offers some guidance on contributing to Colouring London by searching for data in the Survey of London series, an essential source for information about the city’s buildings and places.

Colouring London 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.

The Colouring London website, showing the Greater London study area

The Colouring London website, showing building age data in Camden

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 stages of testing, which makes your involvement and feedback all the more important.

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 were launched, including location, age, size and shape, planning and ‘like me’. Type and sustainability are now available for editing, while a land use category is set to become live soon.

Location

Location: This category covers the basic but essential data required to locate buildings accurately, such as address and coordinates. The colours on the map indicate the percentage of data collected. This screenshot shows that the locational information for King’s Cross Station and St Pancras Station is almost complete, whereas other buildings in the neighbouring streets are still waiting to be coloured in.

Age

Age: This section includes estimated construction date and façade date, with options to add sources and links. This screenshot shows All Souls Church, Langham Place, covered in the Survey of London’s South-East Marylebone volumes (published in 2017). If you have used the Survey’s volumes to find construction dates, please use the drop-down box to mark ‘Survey of London’ and include a link to the online version.

Size and shape

Size and Shape: This category relates to the form of the building, including the number of storeys, height and area. This screenshot shows Broadcasting House and its surroundings.

Planning

Planning: This category links the building to conservation areas, local lists and the National Heritage List for England administered by Historic England. This screenshot shows buildings which are located in conservation areas around Aldwych and the Strand.

Like me

‘Like Me’: Designed to welcome positivity and inclusivity, the ‘like me’ function is a tick-box inviting users to pinpoint buildings that are admired and thought to contribute to the city. This screenshot shows the British Museum and Bedford Square.

Type

Type: This category covers building type, focusing on original form and use. This screenshot shows a former terraced house in Varden Street, Whitechapel.

Sustainability

Sustainability: This recently released category collects information about the sustainability and energy performance of buildings, including BREEAM ratings, EPC ratings and significant retrofits. This screenshot shows the National Gallery and its surroundings.

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.

Map of areas covered by the Survey of London (please click here to download a pdf version)

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)

Volume 48, Woolwich (2012)

Volume 50, Battersea (2013)

Volume 51, South-East Marylebone (2017)

Volume 52, South-East Marylebone (2017)

Populating Colouring London with age data from Survey volumes

If you are entering construction dates on Colouring London, please use the drop-down box to indicate the source and include a link to the online version of the relevant publication. This screenshot shows Farringdon Road, covered in the Survey’s Clerkenwell volumes (2008). For the purpose of simplicity, the database does not allow ranges to be entered. When the construction date for a building is listed as a range (such as 1882–3), please choose the earliest date (1882). If the façade date differs from the remainder of a building (for example, in cases of façade retention), please enter it in the box below.

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.

Useful links

Colouring London

List of Survey of London volumes

Survey of London on British History Online

The Gunmakers’ Company’s Proof House complex, 46–50 Commercial Road, Whitechapel

the Survey of London21 February 2020

An irregular group of buildings on the south side of Commercial Road near its west end is a unique survival. Here a City Livery Company continues to exercise an original regulatory function on a site it has occupied for nearly 350 years. The buildings are the Gunmakers’ Company’s proof master’s house, proof house and receiving house (alternatively shop, office or room), all largely of the 1820s, and, to the west, the Company’s former Livery Hall, built in 1871, possibly incorporating earlier fabric from an East India Company storehouse of 1808.

The Gunmakers’ Company’s Proof House complex, showing the former receiving house and Gunmakers’ Hall, 46–48 Commercial Road, view from the north-east. Photographed in 2018 by Derek Kendall for the Survey of London

The Worshipful Company of Gunmakers was instituted by charter in 1637, nearly fifty years after a group of gunmakers drew up draft procedures for proving the safety of firearms. Opposition from other interested parties – the Blacksmiths and Armourers – delayed the creation and adoption of the Company until a Royal Commission of 1631 recommended its institution. It received its charter from Charles I, but the proving of guns did not start until the charter was enrolled in 1656. This enabled the Company to test all new hand guns, great and small, pistols and daggs (heavy pistols), produced in London and for ten miles around, or imported, to search for the same, and to ensure that gunmakers had served a seven-year apprenticeship and produced a proof piece to the satisfaction of the Company. The Company’s first proof house, for testing the security of gun barrels by subjecting them to firing loads a quarter to a third heavier than normal, was built in 1657 near Aldgate on land owned by John Silke, a gunmaker. An explosion that damaged Silke’s premises may have encouraged the Company to take a new site in 1663, probably in the Minories or East Smithfield, the centre of the London gunmaking industry.

In 1676 the Company moved to its current site. This appealed, no doubt, because it was then in an open field and had no neighbours to disturb or damage. The site formed part of a larger holding bounded north and east by Church Lane, west by Goodman’s Fields, and extending south as far as present-day Hooper Street. This property was held in 1691 by John Nicoll, probably a Holborn soapmaker who had a family connection with Whitechapel through the Darnelly family, and from 1692 to 1703 by John Skinner, an apothecary with property in Whitechapel High Street. Skinner’s profession may account for the land being denominated the Physick Garden, though the name Jackson’s Garden was also in use. Skinner sold the entire property freehold in 1703 to Benjamin Masters, a mariner, and part was leased to Jonathan Keeling, a gardener, in 1720.

The Gunmakers’ site was at the north-west corner of the Physick Garden. It was an irregular rectangle of ground, approximately 85ft wide by 58ft deep, bounded north by a ‘mudd wall’ and ‘a passage made by and through the mud wall’, west by a ditch and a ropewalk, east by ‘the hedge next to the dung road’,1 and south by another ditch separating it from the rest of Masters’ land. The proof house of 1676 was built by Michael Pratt, a carpenter, who held a lease on the ground.

That proof house had to be rebuilt in 1713, this done by one John Rogers on a new sixty-one-year lease from Masters. Thereafter the Gunmakers acquired the freehold of the site. A proof master’s house was present by 1733 when the master, Humphrey Pickfatt, was taxed for the proof house and a dwelling.

Ground plans of the Gunmakers’ Company’s Whitechapel complex in 1752 (top) and in 1920. Drawing by Helen Jones for the Survey of London

In 1752 a boundary dispute arose with Sir Samuel Gower, who had become the freeholder of land adjoining to the south and west. A plan accompanying the agreement that resolved this dispute reveals that the Gunmakers’ site did not extend eastwards quite to what had become Gower’s Walk, from which it was separated by a long 10ft-wide strip of land, occupied by a greengrocer’s shop with a small house behind. At this stage the Gunmakers’ premises included the proof house, roughly 20ft square, to the east adjoining the greengrocer’s, a privy at the south-east corner of the yard, the 35ft-wide (so double fronted) proof master’s house to the west (on the site of No. 46), the charging house (for charging weapons prior to proof), a shallow building about 20ft wide on Church Lane, with a smaller marking room (for stamping proofed weapons with the Gunmakers’ proof mark) on its east side abutting a narrow yard intruding into the greengrocer’s site on the Gower’s Walk corner.

Datestone on the back wall of the former receiving house. Photographed in 2019 by Derek Kendall for the Survey of London

Thus lay the Gunmakers shortly before a major rebuilding, prompted because the proof house was once again ‘ruinous’. It was reconstructed in 1757–8 ‘on a more beneficial and useful plan’,2 with the proof master’s house adjoining. A date-stone survives, reset on an inner wall of the receiving house (see above). In 1760 the charging house, marking house and counting house, also ‘ruinous’, were rebuilt on the same sites.3 Contention arose in 1781 when Joel Johnson and others complained that the proof house damaged their investment in houses they had built nearby on Gower’s Walk, but the Gunmakers reasonably pointed out that the proof house had been in that location for more than a hundred years, builders must have been aware of this before they chose to build nearby. Further additions and improvements were made, though Johnson refused to sell the easterly strip of land he then held.

Further development happened on the establishment’s west side in the early nineteenth century. The East India Company had been acquiring arms from London gunmakers since 1664. From 1709 to 1766 and again from 1778 it used the Gunmakers’ Company’s facilities to prove its arms. The East India Company built a storehouse and inspection room in 1807–8 on a westerly strip of the Gunmakers’ site, of which it took a ninety-nine-year lease in 1815. A door gave access to the Gunmakers’ yard through which barrels were transferred to the proof house. Beyond, the westernmost end of the Gunmakers’ holding was also developed, with two street-side houses with rear workshops, built in 1812 by John Williams, a bricklayer, on a fifty-seven-year lease. These properties were occupied over the next thirty years by a hairdresser, a bootmaker and a watchmaker, and were together gradually taken over by George Story (1805–1874), a scale-maker and the leaseholder from 1839.

By 1823 the proof house was again dilapidated, and the master’s house ‘likely to endanger the lives of the proof master and his family’.4 Hereafter the site was rearranged much as it is today. The freehold of the easterly strip of land between the proof house and Gower’s Walk was acquired from George Waller, more amenable to a sale than his father-in-law, Joel Johnson. The new proof house and proof master’s house were built in 1826–7 at the north-east corner of the enlarged site, with a single-storey and basement receiving or entrance building adjoining to the west. These buildings were designed by the Company’s surveyor, Robert Turner Cotton (1773–1850), perhaps with input from his son, Henry Charles Cotton (1804–73). John Hill was the bricklayer, and James Bridger of Aldgate the carpenter. Foundations for the proof house, dug and redug, were five bricks thick and more than 12ft deep.

The Gunmakers’ Company’s proof house, Gower’s Walk, view from the south-east in 2015. Photographed by the Survey of London

The proof house itself, up against Gower’s Walk behind the proof master’s house, is outwardly entirely utilitarian, a rectangular stock-brick building with segmental-headed windows at upper levels, of a height necessary to cope with the pressures and gases generated by proving. Most of the windows are blind, though some at least originally had iron louvres to dispel the smoke and pressure. The interior was essentially one space under a cast-iron framed roof, though subdivided in its lower half into two unequal open-topped proving chambers, one the main ‘proof hole’, containing a bed of sand where multiple barrels could be tested at once, the charges set off by a trail of gunpowder. In 1835 the upper part of the proof room was lined with cast-iron plates by Graham & Sons to protect the structure from damage from exploding gun barrels. The original cast-iron roof frame and these plates survived until 1994.

The central bay of the former Gunmakers’ Company’s receiving house of 1826–7. Photographed in 2019 by Derek Kendall for the Survey of London

The proof master’s house on the corner is of conventional three-storeyed design, also in stock brick, with a round-headed ground-floor window, gauged-brick arch heads and a stuccoed door architrave and cornice. The single-storey receiving house, possibly incorporating fabric from the marking house of 1760, originally had a copper-lined gunpowder magazine within its attic. Its three-bay façade, again stock brick but heavily stucco-framed, makes a stronger if entirely conventional classical statement. Four pilasters frame openings, including a central entrance with consoles to a segmental pediment. A rectangular panel atop the entablature announces: ‘THE PROOF HOUSE OF THE GUNMAKERS COMPANY OF THE CITY OF LONDON. ESTABLISHED BY CHARTER ANNO DOMINI 1637’.

By 1857 the East India Company building was unoccupied as small arms for India had come to be supplied by the War Office. The Company surrendered its lease in 1860 and, following a report by the local architect G. H. Simmonds, the building was converted in 1863 to be a committee room for the Gunmakers’ Company. This room seems to have been largely incorporated, rather than rebuilt, when the Gunmakers redeveloped the west side of their property in 1871, extinguishing Story’s lease. Gunmakers’ Hall went up to designs provided by John Jacobs, the builder, but possibly the work of Simmonds. It included the old committee room and a new court room to its west with a new two-storey stock-brick front range in a lumpen Italianate manner. Portland stone dressings, now painted, include an arch-headed central door surround and a pierced cornice balustrade. The impressive panelled court room, with a slightly canted south end, has a bracketed coved ceiling with a central lantern. A heavy court room table was grandly set off on the east wall by a huge trophy of arms, a starburst of more than 1,000 bayonets, military swords, hammers, ramrods etc. In 1893 a further room was created above the committee room, with a staircase inserted at the front of the east side of the entrance lobby, this to designs by W. J. Lambert.

The persistence of the Gunmakers on the increasingly urban site had been challenged since Joel Johnson took issue in 1781. In 1802 the Gunmakers successfully resisted the trustees of the new Commercial Road’s plan to acquire the site, though an Act of Parliament limited the hours of the day when guns could be proved. The Gunmakers succeeded in keeping the site from the Commercial Road trustees once again in 1824, and also saw off further limitation on the hours of proving. In 1882 the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway Company pressed to acquire the site for a vast warehouse that went up to the south, but the Gunmakers had only to relinquish a small strip with sheds. Even so, the south walls of the proof house and court room had to be heavily buttressed following excavations for the railway warehouse’s north yard and extensive vaults.

Gunmakers’ Company’s workshop on the west side of the inner courtyard, view from the north with the inner wall of the proof house visible through the window. Photographed in 2019 by Derek Kendall for the Survey of London

Piecemeal repairs and improvements were made from time to time, mostly reflecting changes in the requirements of proof. The shift from muzzle-loading to breech-loading guns and the consequent need for more complex proving accounted for additions in the yard, a small proof house for testing breech-loading guns in 1866, by when secondary proofing could be conducted with a gun fixed in a frame firing into a bed of sand, and other proving-chamber sheds thereafter. By 1920 low-level viewing shops and proofing rooms snaked around the southern boundary including behind the court room, and a loading shop opened off the receiving room. The Company endured lean years in the 1920s and was obliged to sell Gunmakers’ Hall in 1927, the trophy of arms transferred to the Birmingham Gun Barrel Proof House.

Gunmakers’ Company’s inspection bench in the workshop on the south side of the inner courtyard, with the inner wall of the receiving house visible through the window. Photographed in 2019 by Derek Kendall for the Survey of London

The buyers were Israel Eichenbaum (1874–1935), the owner of a wholesale drapery at 20 Commercial Road, and his son-in-law, Pinkus Segalov (1902–1959), and the building was let to the Order Achei Brith and Shield of Abraham Friendly Society. Jewish friendly societies were similar to other such societies, operating a subscription on which members could call in times of sickness. Mainstream societies sometimes excluded Jews, so specifically Jewish societies came into being from the 1790s. The Order Achei Brith (‘Brethren of the Covenant’), founded in 1894 out of a friendly society founded in 1888, was the first fully to embrace a Masonic character, operating as a Lodge with ceremonies, elaborate regalia and rituals. It merged with the Shield of Abraham Society in 1911 and, in common with other registered friendly societies, was empowered to administer the National Health Insurance Act of that year. It was one of the largest such societies by 1928 when alterations were made by Bovis Ltd to close up the connections between Gunmakers’ Hall and the courtyard of the proof house. The building, now called Absa House, was opened as the Order’s headquarters by Lord Rothschild on 14 October 1928, the consecration conducted by the Chief Rabbi. In 1933 the Order had around 25,000 members. What had been proofing rooms in the yard behind the court room were then rebuilt as an office, reached from a door formed from one of the court room windows. The new room was fully lined in modish vaguely art-deco wooden panelling.

The creation of the welfare state and the loss of the powers bestowed in 1911 reduced the practical need for friendly societies. Meanwhile the Order’s membership dispersed and failed to rejuvenate. By 1948 it was down to around 5,000 members. Amalgamation with the Order Achei Ameth in 1949 formed the United Jewish Friendly Society. From 1955 to 1958 what was now 46 Commercial Road was let to the St Louis Club, a social club, with alterations made by H. J. F. Urquhart, architect, for a restaurant in the former court room, a lounge in the former committee room, and a first-floor billiard room. Thereafter the basement was relet to the Gunmakers for arms storage, with alterations for access through the party wall overseen by Morris de Metz, architect. No. 46 reverted to being offices for the Friendly Society, part let off to Joseph Textiles Ltd, until 1976, shortly before the society’s dissolution in 1979.

To return to the east part of the site, in 1927 the imminent loss of Gunmakers’ Hall caused the Gunmakers’ Company to knock the first-floor rooms of the proof master’s house together to form a new court room, tie-rods being inserted; R. Hewett was the builder. Following war damage, the Company made further alterations in 1952 to designs by Albert Robert Fox, architect, with Wilton & Burgess, builders, to convert the receiving house basement into the court room, the proof master’s house altered back to form a first- and second-floor maisonette. In 1959 glazed timber-framed lean-tos for workshops and rifle storage were added on the south and east sides of the courtyard by Morris de Metz and James Jennings & Son Ltd, builders.

Detail of the inner or west wall of the proof house, showing stone tablets commemorating the rebuilding of 1826 and the refurbishment of 1995. Photographed in 2019 by Derek Kendall for the Survey of London

The only major modernisation of the proof house itself took place in 1993–5 when Thomas & Thomas, surveyors, and E. F. Whitlam, engineers, oversaw works by W. M. Glendinning Ltd, builders. Two floors and a reinforced-concrete ring beam and lateral (spreader) beams were inserted, with a light steel-truss roof replacing late-Georgian cast iron. The extra floors, reached by a new staircase at the north end of the building, allowed for four smaller proofing chambers on the ground floor, equipped with ‘snail-catchers’ to contain the fired bullets, depleting their energy in complex bending lengths of metal tubing, in place of the traditional sandbanks, with ammunition storage, loading rooms, a testing laboratory, gun-mounting room and instrument room on the first floor. The second floor was reserved for storage.

Proof House interior, showing a Lee Enfield rifle set up for proof firing. Photographed in 2019 by Derek Kendall for the Survey of London

The former hall at No. 46 was sold by the United Jewish Friendly Society in 1976 to the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), a private bank based in Luxembourg and the Cayman Islands, founded in 1972 and rapidly expanding to become the world’s seventh largest private bank. It closed in 1991 when it was revealed to be a giant money-laundering scheme. The former court room became a banking hall with desks and cashiers, the floor in the canted bay removed to create a double-height space, connecting to the basement by a spiral staircase, with a vast window filling most of the south wall. Six new openings were made on the north and east sides, connecting east to the former committee room, now subdivided into a manager’s office and corridor, and north to the lobby. The one-time first-floor billiard room became a conference room. The architect was Harry S. Fairhurst. After the winding up of BCCI, the Gunmakers’ Company offered the liquidators £80,000 for the building. This was rejected and the building sold at auction for £120,000 to Itzik and Adrienne Robin and Robert and Stephanie Itzcovitz. The Gunmakers finally reacquired the building for £1.1m in 2007. After the departure of BCCI No. 46 was used as a textile showroom until conversion to educational use in 2002, first as an outpost of the City of London College at 71 Whitechapel High Street, and since 2009 as the London College of Christian Revival Church Bible School, founded in South Africa in 1944.

Following the closure of branch proof houses in Manchester and Nottingham in 1996 and 2000, Gunmakers’ Company proofing of military weapons in Whitechapel has increased. By 2008 the proof master’s house was no longer residential, being reserved entirely for offices.

Proof House interior, proofing bay mechanisms. Photographed in 2019 by Derek Kendall for the Survey of London

 

Display of cartridges in the proving workshops. Photographed in 2019 by Derek Kendall for the Survey of London

A hundred years ago, the Builder observed of the Gunmakers that ‘[t]he history of the Company is devoid of the romantic and historical associations connected with most of the misteries (sic), and is that of a well-organized and managed commercial undertaking, doing much useful work and deriving the necessary income from the fees charged for testing and proving weapons’.5 That still holds true.

References

1.  London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), CLC/L/GI/G/001/MS05231

2.  LMA, CLC/L/GI/G/001/MS05227/001

3.  LMA, CLC/L/GI/G/001/MS05220/009

4.  LMA, CLC/L/GI/G/001/MS05227/001

5.  The Builder, 8 October 1920, pp. 400–1

London buildings photographed by the Survey of London’s students

the Survey of London24 January 2020

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.

This year, the course has its largest cohort so far, thirty-one students, and we have received some excellent photographs. This blogpost looks away from the work of the Survey proper to share some of the best photographs by this year’s MAHUE students.

Alexandra Road Estate (photographed by Iason Ntounis)

Old St Pancras Church (photographed by Tyesha McGann)

Frobisher Crescent at the Barbican (photographed by Yumeng Long)

Church of St Andrew Undershaft (photographed by Zhan Shi)

The British Library (photographed by Steve Ge)

Oxford Street

the Survey of London29 November 2019

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.

3 Tottenham Court Road, front of the former Lyons Oxford Corner House in 2015. F. J. Wills, architect, 1927–8 (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave). Read the account of the Oxford Corner House in Chapter 1

Oxford Circus Station, former Central and Bakerloo Line Stations, in 2018. The Bakerloo Line Station to the left with its superstructure is in the foreground, with the Central Line Station across Argyll Street (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave). Read a full account of Oxford Circus Station in Chapter 12

Ground and first-floor plans of Joseph Emberton’s second reconstruction of HMV, 1938–9 (© Survey of London, Helen Jones). Read more about the HMV store at 363–367 Oxford Street in Chapter 20

Debenhams, Oxford Street, front in 2019, showing overcladding installed in 2013 to designs by the Californian artist Ned Kahn (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave). Read more about the Debenhams flagship store in Chapter 8

The 100 Club in the basement of 100 Oxford Street, 2018 (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave). Read more about Century House and the 100 Club in Chapter 2. Earlier this year, the 100 Club was the subject of a blog post

Frascati’s Restaurant, 26–32 Oxford Street, section c.1905 (© Survey of London, Helen Jones). Read the account of Frascati’s Restaurant, located at 26–32 Oxford Street between 1892 and 1954, in Chapter 1

Marks & Spencer, Pantheon Branch, front in 2018. W. A. Lewis & Partners with Robert Lutyens, architects, 1938, extended eastwards in 1962–3 (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave). The Pantheon store is included in Chapter 17, and was the subject of an earlier blog post

John Lewis, Oxford Street and Holles Street fronts in 2018. The revised fascia with the firm’s new title John Lewis and Partners was incomplete (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave). Chapter 6 covers the block entirely taken up today by John Lewis

Etam shop, 264 Oxford Street, plan and section, 1959 (© Survey of London, Helen Jones). The redevelopment of the ‘East Island’ site by Land Securities may be found in Chapter 5

164–182 Oxford Street, former Waring & Gillow store, in 2019. R. Frank Atkinson, architect, 1904–6 (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave). Read the account of Waring & Gillow in Chapter 4

Peter Robinson, former restaurant on top floor of Oxford Circus block, now accounting department of Topshop, in 2013, with murals by George Murray (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave). Read more about Oxford Circus and the Peter Robinson department store in Chapter 12

Selfridges, block plan showing phasing of the original building between Oxford and Somerset Streets, and inter-war acquisitions of sites further north up to Wigmore Street (© Survey of London, Helen Jones). Read the full account of Selfridges and buildings previously on the site in Chapter 10

London College of Fashion, detail of the front, 2018 (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave). The London College of Fashion building (LCC Architect’s Department, 1961–3) above the ‘East Island’ site development by T. P. Bennett & Partners for Land Securities may be found in Chapter 5

Tottenham Court Road Station, vestibule with mosaics by Eduardo Paolozzi in 2018 (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave). Read about Tottenham Court Road Station and its surroundings in Chapter 13

Studio Two, plans of the new cinema in 1936. Leslie H. Kemp & Tasker, architects (© Survey of London, Helen Jones). Read more about Studios One and Two in Chapter 19

Main entrance of Selfridges in 2018, showing bronze doors and flanking figures of Art and Science by William Reid Dick, sculptor, 1929 (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave). Chapter 10 is devoted to the large block occupied by the Selfridges store, with a summary of buildings previously on the site followed by an account of the store’s convoluted origins and growth

156–162 Oxford Street, former Mappin & Webb building, in 2013. Belcher & Joass, architects, 1907–8 and 1929 (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave). Read about the Mappin & Webb store at 156–162 Oxford Street in Chapter 3

Colouring London

the Survey of London4 October 2019

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.

The Colouring London website, showing building age data in Camden

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:

Location

Location: This category covers the basic but essential data required to locate buildings accurately, such as address and coordinates. The colours on the map indicate the percentage of data collected. This screenshot shows that the locational information for King’s Cross Station and St Pancras Station is almost complete, whereas smaller buildings in the neighbouring streets are still waiting to be coloured in.

Age

Age: This section includes estimated construction date and façade date, with options to add sources and links. This screenshot shows the grid of streets east of Langham Place, covered in the Survey of London’s South-East Marylebone volumes (published in 2017). If you have used the Survey’s volumes to find construction dates, please use the drop-down box to mark ‘Survey of London’ and include a link to the online version.

Size and shape

Size and Shape: This category relates to the form of the building, including the number of storeys, height and area. This screenshot shows the streets lying west of Tottenham Court Road and expresses the height of the Post Office Tower in relation to its neighbours.

Planning

Planning: This category links the building to conservation areas, local lists and the National Heritage List for England administered by Historic England. This screenshot shows buildings which are located in conservation areas around Aldwych and the Strand.

Like me

Designed to welcome positivity and inclusivity, the ‘like me’ function is a tick-box inviting users to pinpoint buildings that are admired and thought to contribute to the city. This screenshot shows the British Museum and Bedford Square.

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.

Map of areas covered by the Survey of London (please click here to download a pdf version)

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)

Volume 48, Woolwich (2012)

Volume 50, Battersea (2013)

Volume 51, South-East Marylebone (2017)

Volume 52, South-East Marylebone (2017)

Populating Colouring London with age data from Survey volumes

If you are entering construction dates on Colouring London, please use the drop-down box to indicate the source and include a link to the online version of the relevant publication. This screenshot shows Farringdon Road, covered in the Survey’s Clerkenwell volumes (2008). For the purpose of simplicity, the database does not allow ranges to be entered. When the construction date for a building is listed as a range (such as 1882–3), please choose the earliest date (1882). If the façade date differs from the remainder of a building (for example, in cases of façade retention), please enter it in the box below.

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.

Useful links

Colouring London

List of Survey of London volumes

Survey of London on British History Online

125 years of the Survey of London

the Survey of London6 September 2019

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.

C. R. Ashbee, photographed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1900

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.

Bird’s-eye view of Trinity Almshouses from Mile End Road, looking north. Illustration by Matt Garbutt

Two elderly sea-captains playing draughts. Illustration by Max Balfour

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.’

Progress report of the Committee printed in 1897, including a list of honorary members, who received a copy of the volumes in return for a subscription

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.

Pamphlet circulated to mark the publication of Eastbury Manor House (1917) the eleventh volume in the monograph series

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.

Ida Darlington and Marie Draper, c.1950

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.’ [1] 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.

Francis Sheppard, the first General Editor of the Survey of London

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.

 

Bird’s-eye view of Covent Garden Market area. Drawn by F. A. Evans and T. P. O’Connor (Survey of London, Volume 36, Covent Garden, 1970)

Note to Francis Sheppard from John Betjeman, 1959

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.

Pelham Crescent, site and house plans, elevations and details. Drawn by John Sambrook (Survey of London, Volume 41, Brompton, 1983)

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 of London team in 2013, photographed in the year of the publication of the fiftieth volume in the series

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 Langham Hotel, Langham Place, drawn from measured survey by Helen Jones and Andy Crispe (Survey of London, Volume 52, South-East Marylebone, 2017)

All Saints’ Church, Margaret Street, view towards the east end (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave, published in Survey of London, Volume 52, South-East Marylebone, 2017)

John Lewis, detail of Oxford Street front at the corner with Old Cavendish Street in 2018 (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

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.

St George’s Lutheran Church and School, Alie Street, Whitechapel. Drawn by Helen Jones of the Survey of London

Map of the London Hospital and its surroundings in Whitechapel, showing the footprint of the main hospital building, specialised departments, and nurses’ homes. Redrawn by Helen Jones from Ordnance Survey maps of 1913 and 1948

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.’

Areas and buildings covered by the Survey of London. Please click to expand

[1] Walter H. Godfrey, lecture at the University of London, 5 January 1954

The 100 Club, 100 Oxford Street

the Survey of London22 March 2019

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.

The 100 Club (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

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.

The 100 Club (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

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.

The main staircase at the 100 Club (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

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 [1] – 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 100 Club (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

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.

The dressing room at the 100 Club (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

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.

The 100 Club (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

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’. [2] 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?

Notes

[1] Country Life, 26 April 1979, p. 1282.

[2] Punch Historical Archive, 10 September 1980, p. 392.

Seasons Greetings from the Survey of London

the Survey of London21 December 2018

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.

Oxford Street

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.

Boots at 385–389 Oxford Street, photographed in December 2015. (© Lucy Millson-Watkins)

West end of Oxford Street looking towards Marble Arch, with Marks & Spencers flagship store. (© Lucy Millson-Watkins)

The Toy Store at 381 Oxford Street, a Dubai-based chain which opened its first UK store in 2014 close to Bond Street Station. (© Lucy Millson-Watkins)

Whitechapel

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.

The Whitechapel Bell Foundry, 32–34 Whitechapel Road, in 2010. (© Historic England Archive, photographed by Derek Kendall)

Gee 8 Fashions, 14 New Road, Whitechapel, photographed in November 2018. (© Derek Kendall)

View into vehicle dispatch bay at the East London Mail Centre and E1 Delivery Office, Whitechapel Road, photographed in October 2018. (© Survey of London, photographed by Derek Kendall)

South-East Marylebone

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.

17–18 Cavendish Square, view from the east in December 2015. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

The Golden Eagle Public House, 59 Marylebone Lane, view from the north-east in January 2016. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

Nativity with six apostles on the lowest row of the reredos at All Saints Church, Margaret Street, South-East Marylebone. The tilework at All Saints was designed by Butterfield, painted by Alexander Gibbs and executed by Henry Poole & Sons. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

Battersea

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.

Battersea Square, photographed in December 2012. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

Clapham Common under snow in 2013. St Barnabas’s Church on Clapham Common North Side is within view in the distance, its pitched roofs adorned by a dusting of snow. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

Clapham Common under snow in 2013, looking towards towards Clapham Common North Side. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

Woolwich

Finally, 2018 saw the online publication of the Survey’s volume (No. 48) on Woolwich, first published in 2012 and now digitally available here.

Woolwich Covered Market, Plumstead Road, listed in 2018, photographed in 2007. (© Historic England, Derek Kendall)

Mosaic detail from St George’s Garrison Church, Woolwich, photographed in 2007. (© Historic England, Derek Kendall)

Mosaic and painted decoration, St Michael and All Angels Church, Woolwich, reconstruction. (© Historic England, George Wilson)

Francis Sheppard (1921–2018)

the Survey of London9 February 2018

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 Sheppard soon after his appointment to General Editor of the Survey of London in 1954.

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.

Francis Sheppard at work.

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.

Bird’s-eye view of Covent Garden Market area. Drawn by F. A. Evans and T. P. O’Connor. (Survey of London, Volume 36, Covent Garden, 1970)

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.

Royal Albert Hall, section looking south in 1932. Redrawn by F. A. Evans. (Survey of London, Volume 38, South Kensington Museums Area, 1975)

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.

Nos. 2–8 (consec.) Lansdowne Walk, plans, elevations and details. Drawn by F. A. Evans. (Survey of London, Volume 37, Northern Kensington, 1973)

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.

Nos. 56 and 58 Queen’s Gate Terrace, plans, elevations and details. Drawn by John Sambrook. (Survey of London, Volume 38, South Kensington Museums Area, 1975)

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.

Nos. 93–98 Park Lane, details of decorative ironwork. Drawn by Frank Evans. (Survey of London, Volume 39, The Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part I, 1977)

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.

Pelham Crescent, site and house plans, elevations and details. Drawn by John Sambrook. (Survey of London, Volume 41, Brompton, 1983)

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.

Survey of London ‘Main Series’ volumes published under Sheppard’s editorship.