(formerly York Market and York Square)
Munster Square, which is now destroyed, is shown as York Market
on Cary's Plan of London (1818) and was the southernmost of the three
markets laid out by Nash to serve the Regent's Park district. The leases of
the sites date, however, from 1823 and 1824. It was surrounded by stuccofronted houses of three storeys (and basement) designed with fastidious care.
Osnaburgh Street cut through it obliquely from north to south but did not
disturb its continuity. The storeys were divided by plain horizontal bands
and above the second floor was a moulded cornice and parapet. The ground
floor was rusticated by deep channelled joints which also marked the voussoirs
and key-blocks to the arches over the doors and windows, one of each to each
cottage. There was only one window to each dwelling on the upper floors,
that on the first being framed in a bold architrave, with mitred ears above
and the jambs battering outwards towards sill level, and having a balcony of
a standard type common at the period. Each window had a pair of casements
reaching to the floor and the second-storey windows, also with architraves and
casements, rested on the upper string-course at sill level. This further
enhanced the importance of the first storey in the elevation. The areas to the
basements were protected by well-designed cast-iron railings with spearhead
tops and cast vases to the standards. The roofing was in a series of hipped
units, the valleys being over the centre of the dwellings and the party walls
and chimney-stacks marking the ridges. (Plates Plate 71, Plate 78.)
The above treatment was continuous except the house on the north
side at the western corner of Osnaburgh Street. Here, coupled pilasters with
ornate anta-capitals, the height of the two upper floors, were introduced, and
the return elevation in the street repeated the pilasters between two pairs of
windows, but with panelled pilasters at each end. This return treatment
included the corner house and two others with a range of eight pilasters
supporting an entablature as fascia. The parapet was here carried higher with
balustrading between pedestal blocks having circular wreaths, the spacing of
the blocks being carried out independently of the pilasters on the return front.
The architectural qualities of Munster Square never received the
attention they deserved while the square was in existence, but they were very
remarkable. We quote here an extract from a letter (fn. *) written by a Polish
officer who resided near the square during the war of 1939–45.
"I saw [Munster Square] in the Blitz, and in the black-out: in rain
and snow, in sunshine and in the shade of street-lighting. Maybe it is not an
architectural jewel . . . but I loved its square entity, the harmony of its
small fronts, the delicate ironwork of its balconies . . . and it gives the
peculiar feeling of an immense room, with the skies as the roof: the same
feeling you have in evenings on the Piazza San Marco in Venice: a ballroom."
The eastern part of the southern section is occupied by the Church of
St. Mary Magdalene (see next section).
||Written 19th June, 1946, by Capt. S. Reychan, M.B.E., to Mr. John Summerson, who has
contributed this extract with Capt. Reychan's permission.