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HISTORY OF SOHO

August 9, 2011

The following is a diary on this project following that important date of 21st August 2012. The application was turned down, as expected, but as explained under the first post, SOHO FOUNDRY, on this website, the freeholders – Westminster Kingsway College – merely had to claim an intended use for the Schoolkeeper’s House, and their objection would take priority over our application. Westminster planning department  supported our application, and the four councillors at the sub-committee meeting (3 Conservative, 1 Labour) – all stated that after 24 years of no use and being empty, the property should be brought back into public use. The Labour councillor, Ruth Blair, Harrow Road, went against the policy, and voted on our behalf. The Head of Planning, John Walker, reiterated the general sentiment, and stated that a future application may be considered more favourably. But the freeholders promises, believed by the councillors, takes precedence. There is a 6 month period available for appeal.

CLICK then ZOOM on a pic to enlarge

3rd September 2012     Research today at London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) has shown the property to be on accredited maps (Horwood 1794-99) and possibly (Rocques) PRIOR to 1746.

  • Building of the main college was probably commenced around 1875, and occupied in 1880 (see below scan Survey of London, F.H.Sheppard 1963). From the 1794 and 1819 Horwood maps, the Schoolkeeper’s House was No. 13 Peter Street. The row of terraced houses are described as “artisans’ and labourers’ dwellings”, and for the “industrious classes” (sic) (See 12th Sept below). Nos. 6-14 Peter Street were ‘2 up, 2 down’ houses for workers serving local businesses eg. the brewery at the end of Peter Street. THE SCHOOLKEEPER’S HOUSE IS PROBABLY THE ONLY REMAINING PROPERTY IN THIS AREA OF LONDON SHOWING THIS SOCIO-ECONOMIC DEMOGRAPHIC.
  • Peter Street itself is clearly shown on earlier maps but the properties visible on these maps so far seen are not separated. Indeed, the numbering of houses didn’t start till circa. 1735, and it would be several decades till this became widespread. The Schoolkeeper’s House probably dates 1750-80, built after the current Meard Street (click for link) townhouses were built circa. 1720.  I viewed the original drawings for the Pultney School (ie. the main building on the current site, Westminster Kingsway College, Soho) by the Corporation’s architect E.R.Robson, and there is no mention of the Schookeeper’s House or the demolition of the houses 6-12 Peter Street. The Drawings & Archives library at RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) at the Victoria & Albert museum  will offer new information. It seems that the Schoolkeeper’s House predates the college by approximately a century

7 months after our application for change of use on the Schoolhouse, 15 Peter Street, London W1F 0HS, Berwick Street Community Group were given 2 days notice of a planning sub-committee hearing at Westminster City Hall on 21st August 2012. We were notified that the freeholders wished to use the building for educational purposes. As freeholders, their suggested use takes precedence over our application, so our application could therefore not be supported by the planning department. Since inheriting the site from Westminster council, Westminster Kingsway College (WKC) have done nothing with the building which was once publicly owned

However, there was broad support from the four councillors present, particularly on the view that the building has been unused and unkept for 24 years! Councillor Ruth Bush (Labour, Westminster Harrow Road ward) voted to support our application. Councillor Christabel Flight (Conservative, Westminster Warwick ward) stated that the freeholders, Westminster Kingsway College, should be given a time limit in which to commence work, after which our application could be approved if work was not implemented. John Walker, head of planning, stated this was not policy, but a future application may be viewed differently.

On balance, we feel these results to be very successful. Firstly, Westminster planning SUPPORTED our application for art gallery (D1) with a licenced cafe (A3). They agreed with us that our application for alcohol to be provided with no extension of hours after midnight would not contribute to stress in the area. This is virtually the first time for a NEW A3 planning application to be supported in Soho for some 14 years. The council and the Soho Society have a consistent policy of no new A3 permissions in the Soho stress area. As a resident of Soho for 32 years, I entirely agree with this policy, but not as dogma. We have shown there would be minimal or no added stress. With A3 permission, we can pay our bills and allow this important community project to proceed.

Secondly, this has highlighted the desire by the freeholders to DEMOLISH the building (see ITEM 07:1 below). This is in the report submitted to the sub-committee by the planning department (see below AGENDA & ITEM 07). No application has yet been made by WKC to develop the site. WKC tried to sell the entire site some 5 years ago, but were blocked by the council on the grounds that the sale would not be for public use. We are still trying to obtain details of this attempted sale and the correspondence for its rejection. The proposed demolition would be within the Berwick Street conservation area. It is believed that WKC are still determined to achieve a sale of this site, unencumbered by a third party (ourselves) being involved, and to further concentrate the college’s activities to their Kings Cross site.

The main college building was built in 1880 as the Pultney School. However, our building predates this, as can be seen from the ordnance survey map of 1869 (see below). We are investigating this further at the London Metropolitan Archives and Westminster Archives. Below are recent pictures of the Schoolkeeper’s House showing where this building was connected to adjacent terraced buildings. We believe the building should be Grade II listed on the grounds that it was built prior to 1840 (an important yardstick, see WCC – and English Heritage – criteria for listing below) and is historically significant (it represents the only remaining building in Soho that is of the working class socio-economic demographic). The adjacent NCP carpark, built in 1929, is also Grade II listed, and was built over the William & Mary Yard (off the present Lexington Street). See much enlarged sections of maps (1553, 1572,1681,1746, 1770, 1862, 1869, 1873-74, 1894, 2012)

Listing a building prevents it being demolished, and is a far greater impediment to that than it just being within the Berwick Street & Soho conservation area. It also obliges the freeholders to bring it to a proper condition. Listing a building preserves it for the nation’s heritage

…..

The cartographers John Rocque (1704(?) – 1762) and Richard Horwood (1757 – 1803) drew many of the maps of London (particularly for the Corporation of London) and Southern England. Rocque was also appointed to the Prince of Wales in 1751, and claimed himself map maker to King George III in 1761. Rocque drew his maps 1735 – 46, and these were published 1746/7. William Morgan (died 1690) was the step-grandson of another distinguished cartographer John Ogilby(1600-1676).

  JOHN OGILBY (1600-76). Cartographer, translator and impresario

Georg Braun (1541-1622) and Frans Hogenberg (1535-90). The Braun collection was the standard in cartography for a century. Also included is a part of a map 1553-59 showing the Soho area to have been largely arable, and an 1882 map of London by Edward Stamford (1827-1904). Radulphus Agas (1540-1621 ) is good too. The LMA is a good source for all these chaps works.

5th September 2012      RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) at the Victoria and Albert museum archives SW7 have no useful records, but suggest: English Heritage archives (National Monuments), Museum of London and the Georgian Group. Watch this space…..

6th September 2012     Emails to Museum of London and the Georgian Group. More maps today from the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA). The drawings by William Morgan for the Royal Society, dated by LMA as 1681-82, show a row of buildings on Peter Street (see enlargement). This is where the Horwood 1794-99 map shows the Schoolkeeper’s House…. The Braun & Hogenberg map of 1572, and Copperplate 1553-59, illustrate that Soho was largely open fields, with London being concentrated on the City to the east and St James to the west

11th September 2012    The nearby 12 Brewer Street, currently the home of ‘Soho’s Original Bookshop’ (sex shop in the basement), was grade II listed in 1978 and thought to have been constructed c. 1750.

12th September 2012   (LMA Survey of London, Vol. XXXI Broadwick & Peter Street Area) In 1720, Peter Street was described as ‘a Street not over well inhabited’ (John Strype, ‘A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster’ 1720) and in the 1830’s as ‘a short dirty street, without any thoroughfare’ (Tallis’s London Street Views). By the late 19th century, the buildings of Peter Street were described as ‘wretched hovels, and a disgrace to humanity’ (The Builder 1872). In 1721, a house in New Street (now Ingestre Place) was taken by the vestry of St James as a parish infirmary for ‘sick and impotent paupers’ (sic), remaining open till 1748. The Colman Hedge Close area, containing Peter Street, was known as ‘a haunt of artists of little note, and of trades subservient to an artist’s requirements’ and in The Builder 1853-62 as ‘…rookeries. They were all overcrowded and insanitary; the death rate was high and in 1854 there were many cases of cholera in Berwick Street                                                                                                                                                       (Colman Hedge Close, Survey of London Vol XXXI)                                                         In the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, the Peter Street/ Great Pulteney Street/ Brewer Street area was known for its breweries – Davis’s Brewery (17/18th C) and Lion Brewery. The name Peter Street is probably the passageway to the saltpetre (gunpowder ingredient)  house about 1656 (Public Records Office C8/204/13)                                                                                                                            (Survey of London, Great Pulteney St 1742)

  • F.H.W.Sheppard’s Survey of London XXXI page 228 states: ‘Most of the street (Peter Street) has been rebuilt in the last hundred years and the earliest surviving houses are of the late 18th or early 19th centuries

13th September 2012   Unlike most Grade II listed buildings, the Soho Foundry art gallery would be open for free public access 7 days a week. We would endeavour to have on permanent show a small presentation of the history of the Peter Street and Colman Hedge Close area of Soho. In 1455 Colman Hedge Close was a patch of 6 acres west of Colman Hedge Lane (now Wardour Street). This arable land was sold by William Say, probably Dean at St Pauls, to a William Nicholl, a brewer. On my next visit to the London Metropolitan Archives, I shall investigate the archives of the 19th C. ‘The Builder‘ with reference to the Peter Street buildings. The Builder was started in 1843 as a journal of architecture; goto this link for an example of its indexing

14th September 2012    I realise that to ascertain details of a pauper’s house, as opposed to the provenance of a house such as those listed in Meard Street which are relatively easily available, will take a lot more primary research. In other words, finding out about rich or famous people’s houses is relatively easy! When LMA reopens at 9.30am Monday 17th, ‘The Builder’ and ‘Tallis London views’ may help to obtain a year of construction and other details of the building

17th September 2012 LMA  Charles Booth’s (1840-1916) ‘Poverty Map’, this one published by Stamford in 1889  from the LSE archives                                   The Peter Street area (dark blue and blue) is of ‘very poor, casual – chronic want’ and ‘poor – 18s to 21s a week for a moderate family’. (Black areas are the lowest – vicious, semi-criminal). The Builder 1878 February 16th page 161 (The Builder was the foremost English architectual and building periodical of the nineteenth century). Peter Street – ‘Unhealthy dwellings in St James. There appear to be hovels unfit for human habitation in the parish of St James, in common with the less favourable districts in the metropolis, and the vestry are taking action in reference to some houses in Green’s Court and Peter Street, the condition of which the sanitary committee have reported on the statement of the medical offcer of health and the surveyor to be something shocking. They are described as “wretched hovels and a disgrace to humanity”. Mr Bradshaw, the chairman of the sanitatory committee were determined to carry out the provisions of the Artisans and Labourers’ Dwellings Act and to provide the working people with abodes fit for human beings to live in’.

18th September 2012    Good meeting on Peter Street today with a nice journalist from the local newspaper stable that includes the West End Extra. There may well be editorial this friday 21st September

19th September 2012   Notice the similarity of the red bricks surrounding the windows of both the college (built 1880), the Schoolkeeper’s House (built circa. 1780?) and those of Meard Street (built circa. 1720)                        

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