Category Archives: architecture

The Paragon

The Paragon in Blackheath, by flickr user John Poulton
Interesting post on Flickr about World War Two bomb damage to The Paragon (former home of our recently acquainted character General Sir James Abbott).

The photograph shown in this post is by Flickr user John Poulton (a different one from the link above, due to copyright).

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Blackheath Park from End to End

UPDATE: it’s not this weekend- sorry! (thanks to Ben for spotting the mistake)

Part of the Open House weekend – a walk through Blackheath Park – it’s on Saturday & Sunday 18th-19th September

Blackheath Park from End to End

Blackheath Park is a three-quarters of a mile long thoroughfare of boulevard proportions containing a wide range of architectural forms from 1818 until the present day with Span houses and listed houses and is at the heart of one of London’s first conservation areas. The Park is at the centre of a community of exceptional quality known to its residents since the early 19C as the Blackheath Cator Estate.

Details

Address Meet: Sat/Sun 10.30am at Forecourt, Blackheath Concert Hall, 23 Lee Road SE3 9RQ

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Details of the proposed Piazza Square

Buildings to be removed in the Blackheath Square Piazza proposal

Buildings to be removed in the Blackheath Square Piazza proposal

Following the fuss on the previous post about the plans to develop the car park behind the library, I thought I’d try and take a look at the proposals.  Four times I’ve tried to get into the Blackheath Halls, and every single time they were closed!  I’ve finally managed, and thought I’d put the photos and captions up here, so that more people can see them.  They don’t appear to be on the Blackheath Society’s website, which is unfortunate, as it seems to have led some commenters to suspect a “stitch up”.

I’m putting the photos up here, as I think they have public benefit.  If the copyright holders want them removed, I will take them down.

The proposals seem to have many good points, but it is such a shame that they aren’t pushing ahead for the original plan – to cover a large proportion of the railway next to the chip shop and turn it into a large, pedestrian only space.  It would have been brilliant.  I can understand the concerns that have been raised about new buildings – the site is “underused”, as they describe it (I’m still not sure I agree with that concept – the trains certainly aren’t “underused” in the mornings – increasing population density has many knock-on effects).

In the end, it seems that the proposals have a sense of a “pact with the devil” about them – property developers are good at pushing for what they want, whereas local societies (even effective ones, such as Blackheath’s) will never be a match for their professional bargaining skills.  What they need is do find a wealthy local benefactor, who would fund the original plans, and suggest naming the square after him/her…  Ferrari Square? :)

They’ve asked for comments on the proposals – so please do give them, firstly to their email address blackheath.soc@lineone.net and also here if you have time to do both.  If anyone knows anything about the area (B) “owned by a family trust”, I’d be interested – it seems a very discreet way of writing about the ownership of the land.

Anyway – here’s the best I could do with my blurry camera-phone:

History of the site:

The site where Blackheath Village Library now stands was from 1863 until 1845 occupied by a much larger building – the 1,000 seat Methodist church with 120ft tower and a Sunday school to the north.  In 1945 a WW2 bomb destroyed the church and many surrounding buildings.

1920s map of how the carpark area looked

Ordnance Survey plan of about 1920 showing the Methodist church and Sunday school.

In 1961 the present “library block” filled the gap, but from several points of view filled it unsatisfactorily.  At two storeys, it is dwarfed by the neighbouring Barclays Bank, stylistically it is weak and unappealing.

In development terms, the building and the private and public car parks behind it represent a gross under-use of a key site in the heart of the Village.

To the north and east of the site, houses which had been damaged beyond repair at the western ends of Wemyss Road, and Blackheath Grove were replaced by five and four storey blocks of flats in the 1950s.  These were joined in the 1990s by a four storey block “The Point”, with basement car parking on the site of the former Express Dairy bottling plant.

Proposals:

The idea of a “piazza” in the heart of Blackheath Village sprang from public consultation on the Blackheath Society’s 2001 proposals for improving the Village.  Our initial ideas were ambitious: a huge raft over the railway stretching from the bridge to the post office, paid for by accompanying development.  But the amount of development needed to pay for such a raft would have dwarfed existing buildings.

What we are now suggesting – our “Plan B” – is more modest but in many ways better.  It demolishes the present library block and substitutes a new development, set further back and partly on the site of the existing public car park.  It would be taller than the existing building but comparable in height to its neighbours Barclays Bank and the Grove House flats.

The Blackheath Society would not, of course, undertake the development.  Our role is to show what is possible, likely to receive planning permission, and acceptable to Blackheath people.  We would then, with the owners of the site – Lewisham Council and a family trust – seek a developer or development partner to carry the scheme forward.

Ownership of the land on the proposed Blackheath Square Piazza

The current proposal focuses on the public cark park (A) owned by Lewisham council, and the library block and its private car park (B) owned by a family trust. Part of Blackheath Grove (C) would be incorporated into the new square.

Railway wall plan

Despite the acknowledged costs and difficulties of building over the railway cutting, we believe that a good case can be made for a small, prefabricated, lightweight pedestrian deck by the chip shop. Together with a ramped footpath down towards the Post Office, the deck would ease pedestrian movement between the Village and the Square. The could be combined with the redevelopment of the chip shop to provide a three-storey (unreadable - #### ###) building fronting the deck. The existing parapet wall would be partially removed to give access and a clearer view through to the square.

Initial design for Blackheath Square Piazza

Initial ideas looked at a wider area including the yard to the north and the railway cutting to the south. The illustration shows how buildings and a deck over the railway could have looked.

Blackheath Square piazza railway cutting

Photo showing the railway area, part of which would be covered.

A dissenting view of the plans for the square in Blackheath

A dissenting view of the plans for the square in Blackheath

Another plan of the area

Another plan of the area, hopelessly blurry, sorry...

The exhibition at the Blackheath Halls

The exhibition at the Blackheath Halls

An artist's impression of how the Blackheath Square could look

Where is the post office?!

The idea of a “piazza” in the heart of Blackheath Village sprang from public consultation on the Blackheath Society’s

2001 proposals for improving the Village.  Our initial ideas were ambitious: a huge raft over the railway stretching

from the bridge to the post office, paid for by accompanying development.  But the amount of development needed

to pay for such a raft would have dwarfed existing buildings.

What we are now suggesting – our “Plan B” – is more modest but in many ways better.  It demolishes the present

library block and substitutes a new development, set further back and partly on the site of the existing public car

park.  It would be taller than the existing building but comparable in height to its neighbours Barclays Bank and the

Grove House flats.

The Blackheath Society would not, of course, undertake the development.  Our role is to show what is possible, likely

to receive planning permission, and acceptable to Blackheath people.  We would then, with the owners of the site -

Lewisham Council and a family trust – seek a developer or development partner to carry the scheme forward.

plan caption:
The current proposal focuses on the public cark park (A) owned by Lewisham council, and the library block and its

private car park (B) owned by a family trust.  Part of Blackheath Grove (C) would be incorporated into the new

square.

wall plan:
Despite the acknowledged costs and difficulties of building over the railway cutting, we believe that a good case can

be made for a small, prefabricated, lightweight pedestrian deck by the chip shop.  Together with a ramped foothpath

down towards the Post Office, the deck would ease pedestrian movement between the Village and the Square.  The

could be combined with the redevelopment of the chip shop to provide a three-storey #### ### building fronting

the deck.  The existing parapet wall would be partially removed to give access and a clearer view through to the

square.

nice plan

Initial ideas looked at a wider area including the yard to the north and the railway cutting to the south.  The

illustration shows how buildings and a deck over the railway could have looked.

History of the site:
The site where Blackheath Village Library now stands was from 1863 until 1845 occupied by a much larger building -

the 1,000 seat Methodist church with 120ft tower and a Sunday school to the north.  In 1945 a WW2 bomb destroyed

the church and many surrounding buildings.

In 1961 the present “library block” filled the gap, but from several points of view filled it unsatisfactorily.  At two

storeys, it is dwarfed by the neighbouring Barclays Bank, stylistically it is weak and unappealing.

In development terms, the buidling and the private and public car parks behind it represent a gross under-use of a

key site in the heart of the Village.

To the north and east of the site, houses which had been damaged beyond repair at the western ends of Wemyss

Road, and Blackheath Grove were replaced by five and four storey blocks of flats in the 1950s.  These were joined in

the 1990s by a four storey block “The Point”, with basement car parking on the site of the former Express Dairy

bottling plant.

OSplan:
Ordnance Survey plan of about 1920 showing the Methodist church and Sunday school.

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Snow, Span, and Spam

If you haven’t seen it already, check out Blackheath’s architecture beneath the snow, in the ever brilliant Nasty Brutalist and Short blog. It’s a great piece, and unlike me, Owen actually knows about architecture… He’s written about the Span buildings in Blackheath – I’d always intended to, but never quite got around to it. He also didn’t visit The Pagoda, which is a great shame.

In other furniture-shuffling news, I’ve added a comments section on the right hand side of this blog, so that you can see which posts have been commented upon recently. Bob suggested it, and after this spectacular rant by a ticket inspector on the “How many inspectors does it take to catch a fare dodger?” story, I figured it would be useful to other readers…. The ticket inspector is right incidentally – I haven’t got a clue about how the railways work, and I definitely should get out more… Not sure he’s cut out for the service industry though…

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Blackheath Hill – the buried station

From 1871 until 1917, there was a Blackheath Hill Station, just west of the heath.  The wondeful Subterranea Britannica has some great photos of how it used to look, how it was filled in with earth, and a particularly good shot of part of the platform re-emerging out of the ground during building works.

These days the station has been replaced by an estate of houses.  I can’t help wondering if the residents of the houses built above the station sometimes wake up in the middle of the night, hearing ghostly steam trains rattling beneath their floorboards.

Have a look at the photos here.   The whole of their site is well worth a look – the mysteries of the deep level london shelters especially.

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A look inside the Hexagonal House

The strange hexagonal house in Blackheath Park has been spotted in a music video. A keen-eyed reader named “Prawntail” wrote:

This house is often used for promo shoots. I attended a shoot here for David Holmes… The lady of the house sits in a lovely summer house in the back garden and watches the ridiculous posturing go on, happy to chat about history of house. Personally I found the interior terribly male. Garden is lovely though.

Many thanks for the tip! You can watch the video by clicking on it, or click on the link here.

The song is called “Sugar Man” and is by “David Holmes presents The Free Association” (C) 2003 Mercury Records Limited.

You might be able to get in on CD from Amazon.

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Hexagonal Hedonism

10 Blackheath Park (front steps)

The Bugle had some misdelivered post today. So rather than stick it back in the post box, I thought I’d walk it to its rightful letterbox. The road in question was Blackheath Park, a beautiful private road, originally part of the Cator Estate, and full of spectacular leafy Victorian and Georgian houses.

I delivered the letter, and was walking back down the road, when I saw the most extraordinary house. Number 10 Blackheath Park looks like it has dropped down from out of space in comparison with the properties next to it, but doesn’t offend them, and actually seems to blend in (or maybe the trees around it soften the blow).

10 Blackheath Park

The front has a most peculiar spiral shaped tower of steps leading up to a raised front door, combined with a strange little water feature. I did a bit of research, and it seems to have been built by an architect called Partick Gwynne, who died in 2003. According to this article in The Telegraph, it was built in the Sixties:

The best of Gwynne’s houses date from the hedonistic 1960s: Witley Park, where the staircase seems to float; 10 Blackheath Park, where the four principal rooms were designed as hexagons because the owner thought a series of small, inter-linked rooms ideal for parties.

Pevsner described 10 Blackheath Park, with its black slate facings and horizontal bronze-tinted glazing, as “designed to shock”. Though some of Gwynne’s houses have been demolished, most have lasted well, often in the hands of their original owners or of new owners keen to value them. Four of them have already been listed, a record that few of his contemporaries can rival.

Obiturary from The Independent

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