Survey of London: Volumes 43 and 44, Poplar, Blackwall and Isle of Dogs. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1994.
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Gazetteer of Permanent Developments in the Live Architecture Exhibition
Central Housing Site
The scheme was designed by Bridgwater & Shepheard (Peter Shepheard, principal; Gordon Michell, assistant), the main contractor was A. E. Symes of Stratford, and it was completed in 1952 at a final cost of £116,990 (£523 per room). (fn. 3) The density (dwellings per acre) on the 2.2-acre site is 42.2 (flats), 17.6 (houses), 25.9 (overall). (fn. 4) The principal materials are yellow Uxbridge flint bricks and Poilite asbestos cement roofing tiles. (fn. 5) Nos 60–80 (even) Canton Street and Nos 1–8 (consec) Pekin Close are two-storey, three-bedroom terraced dwellings (1,010 sq.ft in area), designed to provide a terraced house on a frontage of 20ft, with all access on the road side. (fn. 6) In Pekin Close the terraced houses are ranged along the two opposite sides of a paved square, which is protected from Pekin Street by a row of castiron bollards brought from the City of London. (fn. 7) In 1964 Ian Nairn was particularly enthusiastic about the close, 'this is what building for people, real people, means'. (fn. 8) Nos 1–8 (consec) Pekin Street are two-storey linked houses, with hipped roofs and frontages of just over 25ft, (fn. 9) and were said to be 'a conversion of a plan not uncommon in Victorian days in which all the main rooms of the house are in one semi-detached block with the bathrooms and we's forming a link between the blocks' (fig. 78). (fn. 10) Stanley and Thompson Houses are three-storey blocks of 21 and 9 flats respectively; the name Nankin Street was revived in 1954 for the small cul-de-sac between them. (fn. 11)
An extension scheme, designed by the same architects at a density of 37 dwellings per acre on a 1.22-acre site, was completed early in 1954, with Thomas & Edge of Woolwich as the contractors, at a final cost of £95,800 (£731 per room). (fn. 12) Colborne, Northcote, Playfair, and Spearman Houses are similar to Stanley and Thompson Houses, but are in yellow London stock brick, and provide a total of 45 flats. All six blocks of flats are called after Commissioners or committee members of the Great Exhibition of 1851. (fn. 13)
West Housing Site
This was designed by the LCC Housing Architect (Sidney Howard, succeeded by S. Pinfold; architectin-charge, M. Rowlinson). (fn. 14) The main contractor was Tersons Ltd of Finsbury, and the total estimated cost of erection was £204,000 (c£611 per room). (fn. 15) A mixture of three- and six-storey blocks (the latter with lifts) provides a total of 146 flats. (fn. 16) The first part, comprising Baring, Gladstone, Granville, Overstone, and Pusey Houses was fully completed by the second half of 1951 (Plate 132d). (fn. 17) The second part (Russell and Hopkins Houses) was completed in 1952. (fn. 18) These two blocks are in yellow Uxbridge flint bricks, but otherwise London stocks are used. Again the names are those of Commissioners of the 1851 Exhibition. All the blocks have pitched roofs, although in some cases they are set behind flat parapets. The most striking Festival-style features are the trellised, rendered-brick porches and sun-balconies (with their similar trellised parapets, although here the openings are filled with clear glass). The blocks are set within ample and informal landscaping, with trees, shrubs, grassed areas, rose bushes, and a pergola running eastwards from Hopkins House.
North Housing Site
This scheme was not sufficiently advanced to be included in the marked tour round the Live Architecture Exhibition, but was completed early in 1952. (fn. 19) It was designed by Norman & Dawbarn, and the main contractor was C. Miskin & Sons of St Albans, at a tendered price of £37,874 (for the housing). (fn. 20) Mild London stock and plum-coloured bricks are employed, with random Welsh slates for the roofs. (fn. 21) Nos 30–70 (even) Saracen Street comprise twelve houses and nine flats, which are arranged rather unusually, in what is, in effect, a terrace of twostorey houses with flats above (Plate 132a, 132b; fig. 79). Because the party walls of the houses and flats did not correspond, those of the flats had to be carried on deep beams, which rose above floor level and were concealed in the thickness of the party walls. (fn. 22) Also included in this scheme was the Chimes public house, built and paid for by the brewers Mann, Crossman & Paulin. The architects were Stewart & Hendry, but Norman & Dawbarn acted as consultants for the elevational treatment, and Miskin & Sons were the main contractors, at an estimated price of £14,258. (fn. 23)
East Housing Site
This development was designed by Geoffrey Jellicoe, (fn. 24) the main contractor was Tersons Ltd of Finsbury, and the estimated cost of erection was £278,357. (fn. 25) The first dwellings were completed in the spring of 1951, but the whole scheme was not finished until about March 1952. (fn. 26) The 166 dwellings on the 4.4-acre site are a mixture of flats, houses, and maisonettes of different sizes, with 16 different plan-types, plus variations within each type. There are no more than 17 examples of any one type. (fn. 27) The blocks are faced in London stock bricks and mainly have pitched, slated roofs. The door-surrounds are of reconstituted Clipsham stone, there are concrete string courses, and, in several instances, fluted asbestos panels. (fn. 28) The style is 'intended to be urban and classical in character, although there is no specific classical detail', (fn. 29) but J. M. Richards considered the architectural treatment too restless, coarsely detailed, and half-hearted in its imitation of Georgian features. (fn. 30)
Nos 14–32 (even) Grundy Street, Nos 15–25 (odd) Duff Street, and Nos 12–20 (even) Rigden Street are two-storey, three-bedroom, terraced houses (Plates 129b, 137c). (fn. 31) Nos 34–44 (even) Grundy Street is a threestorey block of six flats, with a flat-topped parapet (concealing a flat roof) and balconies at either end – this comes closest to being 'urban and classical'. Nos 1–7, 8– 14, 15–21 Chilcot Close, and Nos 1–10, 11–18, 19–28 Elizabeth Close are three-storey dwellings, ranged around grassed rectangles; a mixture of three-bedroom houses, intermixed with one-room, ground-floor flats and threebedroom maisonettes above. Nos 1–107 (odd) Ricardo Street are two, linked, four-storey blocks, with hipped roofs hidden behind flat-topped parapets, and recessed second-floor access balconies. They contain a mixture of two- to four-storey maisonettes and bed-sitters and onebedroom flats. Nos 2–36 (even) Bygrove Street is a threestorey, flat-roofed, stepped terrace, with six two-bedroom flats above twelve three-bedroom maisonettes. Shepherd House, on the corner of Grundy Street and Annabel Close, is a two-storey, L-plan block of 18 bed-sitter flats for the elderly, situated opposite the Lansbury Lodge old people's home.
This public garden covers just over one acre on the north side of East India Dock Road. It was designed by the LCC's Parks Department. To expedite matters, Cecil C. Handisyde, the architect of the adjacent Trinity Church, took responsibility for the construction works (including the walled terrace beside the church), (fn. 32) and they were carried out by the contractor for the church, Tersons Ltd of Finsbury, at an estimated cost of £8,821. Grassphalte Ltd laid out the garden and did the temporary surfacing. (fn. 33) Time was very short if the garden was to be completed for the Festival, especially as some exchange of land with the church authorities was necessary so that part of the old Trinity Congregational Church's burial ground could be utilized. Plans were only approved in August 1950, (fn. 34) and a number of buildings had still not been demolished by March 1951, (fn. 35) while the ornamental pool – designed as a centrepiece and enhancing some of the early views of Trinity Church – came into being only six weeks before the Festival exhibition opened. (fn. 36) The pool soon began to leak and, because it could not be repaired at a reasonable cost, was filled in after the Festival and grassed over. (fn. 37)
All the remaining monuments in the old Trinity churchyard were removed, except for the table tomb of George Green, which was repaired and kept. (fn. 38) Constructed of stock brick and stone, it is situated towards the northern edge of the grassed area and is surrounded by railings topped by leaf-spears. The tomb bears memorial inscriptions not only to Green himself but also to his wife, Elizabeth, and son, Richard.
Trinity Garden, once described rather flatteringly as a 'Japanese garden', (fn. 39) remains a pleasant open space, despite the continuous noise of the heavy traffic along East India Dock Road. However, the terrace is overgrown, and two pairs of feet on a plinth are all that remains of 'The Dockers', a fibreglass sculpture depicting two dockers heaving a load, executed by Sydney Harpley in 1962. (fn. 40)
Trinity Methodist Mission (formerly Trinity Congregational Church), East India Dock Road
Plans for the new Trinity Congregational Church to replace the old bombed church were drawn up by Cecil C. Handisyde and D. Rogers Stark and were dated October 1949. (fn. c1) Some exchange of land between the LCC and the church authorities was needed before the new church and manse and the Council's own development plans could proceed. (fn. 41)
The main building contractor was Tersons Ltd of Finsbury. (fn. 42) The foundations of the church had been laid by September 1950, making it possible to hold an open air dedication service. (fn. 43) Although the building was substantially complete for the Festival exhibition, (fn. 44) it was not officially opened until 29 September 1951 (Plates 130c, 131a). (fn. 45) The estimated cost of erecting and furnishing the church was £80,000, towards which the War Damage Commission contributed £49,000, while the Congregational Union of England and Wales contributed a further £15,000. (fn. 46)
The architects were required to provide a very light and airy church capable of seating up to 400 people (only just over a quarter of the capacity of the old church), but so arranged as to provide comfortable accommodation for a smaller congregation when necessary. (fn. 47) The church was therefore designed with a gallery round three sides, projecting on the outside, so that the supporting columns form 'a kind of cloister' (fig. 80). This gives a compact ground floor for occasions when there is only a small congregation. Daylighting comes mainly from a number of small dome-lights in the flat roof, and to prevent any glare from these, high-level windows throw light on to the ceiling. Also at a high level, on either side of the chancel, angled windows, invisible to the congregation, are designed to focus attention on the east end of the church, with those on the south side amber-coloured to give a sunny effect. In the body of the church smaller side windows at ground-floor level below the gallery are there principally to give a feeling of space at this level; those on the south side, to the noisy East India Dock Road, are double-glazed, while an etched window from the old Trinity Church designed by A. L. Moore & Son of Southampton Row, to the memory of H. T. and G. E. Nye (both killed in the First World War), has been incorporated into the north side. The chancel floor and steps are of polished Hopton Wood stone.
The roof is suspended from an exposed, reinforcedconcrete portal frame, which provides the main structure. This design was arrived at in close consultation with the structural engineer, Felix J. Samuely. The end walls of the church are in textured concrete panels made from a crushed London stock brick aggregate. The exposed framework has a bush-hammered finish, the columns to the 'cloisters' are in light-grey terrazzo, and the sloping sides of the church are sheathed in copper sheets. The square tower is faced in London stock brick and topped by an aluminium cupola. The exterior brickwork is a mixture of hard stocks and 25 per cent picked dark stocks, with darker bricks for headers in a bond of two stretchers to one header in each course, to give a slight overall texture. The tower contains the ship's bell from the old Trinity Church.
The new church had to continue the role of a community and social centre for the area and so there is a two-storey, flat-roofed club-room block, with glass and panel walls screening a reinforced-concrete frame. It is positioned at right-angles to the church, with its entrance set between the church and the tower. Returning at rightangles to the club-room block and running parallel with the church is the main hall (the George Green Memorial Hall), which has a similar suspended concrete roof and a south wall largely of glass.
Such a strikingly modern building was bound to cause some controversy. At the planning stage, the LCC's officers were concerned that the tower seemed too small in proportion to the other buildings and that the suspended roof would look rather odd and ungainly. (fn. 48) These reservations were shared by others, after the building had been completed. J. M. Richards was especially critical of the cupola, (fn. 49) and Punch thought the church looked like 'an unfinished ball-bearing factory', (fn. 50) while John Summerson, rather unkindly, summed it up as 'a clever but too emaciated church with a toy tower'. (fn. 51) In contrast, Gordon Stephenson thought that 'as a composition the building is fresh and interesting'. (fn. 52)
The new church had been built in the belief that the congregation would continue to thrive and even expand, but as numbers dwindled it became increasingly difficult to maintain the buildings. (fn. 53) In June 1976 the Poplar Methodist Mission on the opposite side of East India Dock Road moved across to Trinity Church (although ownership remains vested in the United Reformed Church, of which the Congregationalists were joint founders in 1971). (fn. 54) The church became known as Trinity Methodist Mission.
A programme of refurbishment was carried out at this time under the direction of the architect Edward D. Mills of Westminster, who had written sympathetically about the church in an article published in 1951 (fn. 55) and in his book The Modern Church (1956). The first floor of the club-room wing was converted into two flats and four bed-sitters. (fn. 56) In 1980 further alterations were carried out to plans by John Brunton & Partners of Bradford, Headingley, and Manchester, involving the conversion of the caretaker's accommodation into a seven-bedroom community house, plus a self-contained flat. (fn. 57) The Methodists brought with them a number of items from their old premises and installed them in Trinity Church. They include the round stained-glass window showing Christ the burden-bearer by Frank O. Salisbury (1933), set at the west end above the gallery and lit by artificial light from behind, the metal royal coat-of-arms on the front of the west gallery, and the altar table and two Gothic-style chairs in the chancel. (fn. 58)
Market Square and Shopping Precinct, Lansbury
For much of the inter-war period Chrisp Street, with its shops and thriving street market, had been the main shopping centre for the Borough of Poplar. However, in the later 1930s the transfer of civic offices to Bow saw the focal point of the borough move northwards. During the war, as a result of the bombing, the population of the community served by the Chrisp Street traders was halved. Finally, the closure of the nearby railway line to passengers in May 1944 severely limited access by public transport from the north. (fn. 59) The new square and precinct at Lansbury were not only intended as a focus for the new estate, but also as a shopping centre, reviving the role formerly played by Chrisp Street and serving the whole of the 'Poplar Community' (which was to consist of three neighbourhood units) and the Isle of Dogs, (fn. 60) as well as providing a new location for the stalls from the Chrisp Street market. (fn. 61) Ironically, the 1943 County of London Plan had argued that street markets ought to remain, whereas Poplar Borough Council had suggested that they would be better housed in 'well-designed market halls sited adjacent to shopping areas'. (fn. 62) The removal of the street market also opened up the possibility that at some stage Chrisp Street could be made into the main north-south road to connect the centre of Poplar with the centre of Bow and Bromley. (fn. 63) As a result, market square and shopping precinct were included in the original master-plan for the area, (fn. 64) and Frederick Gibberd, with J. B. Forrest acting as assistant architect, (fn. 65) must already have been at work on designing them before his formal appointment in July 1949. (fn. 66) The first stage was to consist of the square itself, two public houses, 38 shops, with 39 maisonettes and four flats above, 28 garages (intended for commercial vehicles), a kiosk, a covered market, and public lavatories. (fn. 67) It was intended to extend the shopping centre as far north as Cordelia Street at a later date, with Market Way leading into a smaller square and linking up with a pedestrian route running all the way to Bartlett Park; on the south side of the square a cinema and shops flanking a wide footway leading from the square to East India Dock Road were proposed; and eastwards further shops and offices were planned on the opposite side of Chrisp Street. (fn. 68)
To bridge the gap between the demolition of the old shops and the completion of the new, 16 demountable shop units were designed by W. J. Durnford of the LCC's Architect's Department, and erected by John Harrison of Camberwell, at a cost of £19,771 6s 5d. An integrated row of 12 temporary shops (mainly clad in asbestos sheeting) was erected on a site at the corner of Ellesmere Street and Giraud Street, while the other four temporary shops were placed on sites in Chrisp Street. Each unit had a frontage of 18ft 10in. and a depth of 30ft; the rear portion was partitioned to form a store, w.c., and washing facilities. (fn. 69)
Building work on the square and precinct began in May 1950, with Leslie & Company of Kensington as the main contractor, at a tendered price of £188,320. (fn. 70) The permanent shop premises were to be finished by the LCC in shell form only, (fn. 71) so that fitting out could not take place until the shops had been let, and although the first five shells of shops were completed in October 1950, the LCC's Director of Housing and Valuer had difficulty in negotiating tenancies. (fn. 72) Mindful of previous opposition, the Director was anxious to maintain good relations with the Joint Committee of the Stepney and Poplar Municipal Alliance. Thus, while it was the LCC's aim to create a 'well-balanced' shopping centre to meet the needs of the locality, priority was given to existing traders in the area who had been displaced, and to those whose premises had been destroyed during the war. The Council worked closely with a liaison committee set up by the Municipal Alliance, and in November 1950 Herbert Morrison stated that on the Lansbury site 24 people had had to give up their shops, but 22 had been, or would be, offered alternative premises. (fn. 73) In fact, many of the traders were reluctant to move at all. (fn. 74) The first group of leases for the Lansbury shops were not agreed until March 1951, (fn. 75) and it was not until July that the first shop, No. 15 Market Way, was opened, the tenant having previously had a shop nearby at No. 101 East India Dock Road. (fn. 76) All the flats and maisonettes were completed by November 1951. (fn. 77)
Although all the 38 shops of the first phase were completed by 1952, nine were still empty and unlet three years later. These were mostly at the northern end of Market Way where, it was thought at the time, they were unlikely to attract any passing trade while the adjoining sites remained undeveloped. (fn. 78) However, in view of the fact that the scheme was intended to link at that end with a major pedestrian way, Gibberd, almost from the first, thought that 'it may be doubted whether the latter will be busy enough to keep the north end of the precinct alive'. (fn. 79)
The shops – with maisonettes and flats above in two storeys – were set back to provide a colonnaded arcade for wet-weather shopping (Plate 130a). (fn. 80) Most of the shops were 50ft to 60ft in depth, which was about the size normally used by the LCC for shops on its housing estates. (fn. 81) Reinforced-concrete columns carried beams over the shops to support the load-bearing brick walls of the maisonettes. The floors were hollow tile at first-floor level and timber for the second floor and roof. Although shopkeepers were given first opportunity to rent maisonettes, the shops were really intended to be lock-up ones and were quite separate from the living accommodation above. Along Market Way, according to Gibberd, 'the shop fronts are brought as closely together as possible, so that opposite show windows do not become dissociated, and to give an intimate sense of enclosure in contrast to the open market space'. (fn. 82) The ground-floor columns or piers are covered with blue faience tiles; the maisonettes and flats are faced in London stock brick, laid in double Flemish bond, with some headers projecting to give a textured pattern; and the roofs (more steeply pitched than on the rest of the estate) are covered in grey-green Penrhyn slates from North Wales. (fn. 83) Along the Market Square and Market Way elevations, at first floor level, the dwellings have shallow bow windows and one private balcony, somewhat Regency in style, with a spindly steel balustrade and concave zinc canopy. The maisonettes are mainly two-bedroomed, but a few have three bedrooms. (fn. 84) To the rear, over the back of the shops, private terrace gardens form the main approach to these dwellings from the service road; these were divided from each other and the access way by flower boxes. (fn. 85)
The large three-storey shop on the corner of the square and Market Way was intended by Gibberd to be 'a visual fulcrum to the shopping spaces' and mark the beginning of the precinct. (fn. 86) To distinguish it further it was clad in light-grey faience (fn. 87) and adorned with a heraldic device in ironwork, incorporating the enamel badges of the LCC and Poplar Borough Council. It was originally envisaged as a municipal restaurant, but the LCC's Restaurants and Catering Department had earmarked another site away from the centre, in East India Dock Road, for this purpose, and so it initially became a furniture shop. (fn. 88) By 1987 this taller block was in a poor state – the LCC badge had disappeared and many of the facing tiles were missing – but in 1990 it was refurbished by the Poplar Neighbourhood of Tower Hamlets Borough Council. The facing tiles were replaced by smooth-finished panels painted dove grey and with maroon retaining strips, although the ground-floor columns were left as exposed concrete. The missing LCC badge was replaced by that of Tower Hamlets Borough Council.
The two public houses were designed and erected under the supervision of the brewers' appointed architects, with Gibberd retained as consultant for the elevations. The shells of the public houses were erected by the LCC's main contractor and the Council's appointed quantity surveyor was used, but the brewers entered into direct contracts for their part of the work (the contractors for the interiors of both public houses were Fassnidge, Son & Norris). (fn. 89) At the west end of the shops is the Festival Inn (No.71 Grundy Street) opposite the junction of Kerby Street and Grundy Street. It replaced two nearby public houses, the Grundy Arms and the Enterprise. (fn. 90) The architect was R. W. Stoddart, acting on behalf of the brewers, Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Company, and it was officially opened on 2 May 1951. Like the rest of the shops and maisonettes, it is of three storeys and finished externally in London stock brick, with a slated roof. However, the ground floor was faced in quartzite tiles to give, so it was said, 'an architectural emphasis which will distinguish it from its neighbours'. The Architects' Journal was particularly unimpressed with the interiors. Musing on the relationship between the new public house and the old Grundy Arms, it observed:
'Grundyism, you will remember, is a term used to describe conventional prudish propriety. How well the old name fits the new interiors.' (fn. 91)
A mirror bearing the Festival of Britain symbol remains inside, but the particularly striking and amusing freestanding inn sign has unfortunately not survived (Plate 130b). It consisted of a tall post with a curved seat around its base; at the top it supported a ring of carved figures representing 'typical' Londoners dancing round a model of the Skylon (the vertical feature at the Festival's main South Bank exhibition) as though round a maypole. (fn. 92)
At the eastern end of the shops is the other public house, the Festive Briton (now Callaghans), No.55 Chrisp Street, which replaced the Prince of Wales in Chrisp Street. (fn. 93) Stewart & Hendry were the architects for the brewers, Mann, Crossman & Paulin. (fn. 94) The building is faced with London stock bricks and has a slated, pitched roof. Because of difficulties in clearing this part of the site, work did not commence until January 1951. Although the carcase of the building was finished by August 1951, it was not until July 1952 that the Ministry of Works granted a Building Licence for the completion of the interior. (fn. 95)
While the LCC had powers to build and maintain shops, Poplar Borough Council was responsible for the provision and management of the market place. The layout work was carried out by the LCC on behalf of the Borough Council, which met the costs and eventually leased the Market Square for 80 years at an exclusive rent of £250 per year. (fn. 96) In the first instance the Borough restricted applications for the new market stalls to those who held an annual licence to trade in Chrisp Street, and when it opened on 31 August 1951 it was fully occupied. (fn. 97)
The whole of the square and shopping precinct was set out on a grid of 18ft, based on the normal width of the shop frontages and of the maisonettes above. The grid lines were extended over the whole of the square and pedestrian way by the pattern of the variously coloured reconstructed stone pavings. This paving pattern set out the positions for the erection of the market stalls (provision was made for 136 stalls), and the same grid, broken down into smaller areas of paving of different textures, was used to create a small formal garden next to the Clock Tower. (fn. 98) This decorative paving failed to withstand damage from traders' barrows and soon had to be largely replaced. Gibberd considered that it would be attractive to set the shopping precinct a step below the street-levels, but, according to Percy Johnson-Marshall, he was forced to think again 'after three women broke their ankles in three days'. (fn. 99) It was felt that the old street market in its new setting might not be able to compete with the adjacent shops and would probably eventually close down, (fn. 100) but despite such gloomy prognostications, it continues to thrive.
The covered market towards the south side of the Market Square was requested by the Ministry of Food for the hygienic sale of food, especially fish and meat, and was also opened on 31 August 1951. (fn. 101) The least festive of buildings, it was designed with rows of stalls along both external and internal sides of the building, a total of 48 stalls in all. (fn. 102) It was never likely that so many meat and fish stalls could be maintained here and from the outset it was simply a general covered part of the market, (fn. 103) with many of the food stalls continuing to be in the open-air section. The building was clad externally with blue glazed faience tiles along its side elevations and, inside, the stalls were largely faced with white glazed tiles. (fn. 104) It was demolished in 1993, (fn. 105) to be replaced by a concrete, steel and glass construction covering much of the central part of the Market Square (architects Colin Buchanan & Partners). To the east, the original public lavatory block still stands and has been refurbished. At the western side of the square, near the approach from Grundy Street, there was an octagonal newspaper kiosk, which no longer survives. (fn. 106)
The Clock Tower, at the south-east corner of the square, quickly became the most easily identifiable feature of Lansbury. In the original scheme for the square, Arthur Ling, the LCC's Senior Planning Officer, had included such a tower, but it seemed that it might have to be omitted when none of the bodies involved was keen to accept financial responsibility for its construction. Gibberd, on his own initiative, proceeded to redesign the tower, simplifying it and reducing its size, and succeeded in lowering the estimated cost from £17,000 to about £9,000. (fn. 107) Eventually the LCC agreed to pay for the construction of the tower, and Poplar Borough Council accepted responsibility for its maintenance. (fn. 108)
Work began in June 1951 using the same contractor, Leslie & Company, (fn. 109) at a total estimated cost of £10,750, and it was officially opened on 16 May 1952. (fn. 110) The £700 for the clock had to be paid by the Borough Council, because it alone was statutorily empowered to provide public clocks in the borough. (fn. 111) In fact Gibberd designed the feature not only as a clock tower but also as an outlook tower with a viewing platform from which to survey the surrounding area. The tower was so placed as to close the vista from Grundy Street and was also intended to provide a contrast to the comparatively low shop buildings. (fn. 112) It stands c75½ft high and the structure is formed by a pair of reinforced-concrete staircases (one for ascending, the other for descending). They are arranged in scissor formation, starting together but not meeting again until the viewing platform, c55ft up. The prototype for this ingenious arrangement, according to Gibberd, was the famous double staircase at the Chateau of Chambord. On the long sides of the tower, the staircase beams are exposed to reflect the structural system and form central diamond-shaped openings. (fn. 113) Only in August 1958, after safety measures and improvements to the clock faces and their illumination had been carried out, did the Borough Council accept responsibility for the tower. (fn. 114)
Though the pedestrian precinct was not a new idea, Lansbury was recognized, and generally applauded at the time, (fn. 115) as a pioneer of what was to become a commonplace feature in so many cities and towns in postwar Britain. On a more modest scale, countless municipally built shopping parades are to be found all over the country – with arcaded shops, flats or maisonettes above, and a pedestrian area in front – which closely imitate the prototype of Lansbury. The Market Square was the avowed model for Gibberd's larger and more complex market square at Harlow New Town. (fn. 116)
Most observers were happy with the overall planning conception of the centre; (fn. 117) Lewis Mumford applauded the market square as 'a little masterpiece of planning', (fn. 118) and the approach from Grundy Street was generally praised. However, there were considerable reservations about the architectural details. (fn. 119) J. M. Richards complained that 'the whole effect is that of an arbitrary assembly of elements rather than a coherent piece of design, giving a casual effect completely out of character with the traditions of orthodox brick and tile architecture, which demands an intelligible, well-organized relationship of parts'. (fn. 120)
In 1949 there had been abortive discussions between the LCC and Poplar Borough Council regarding tentative plans to include a new central library for the borough on the Lansbury Estate. The site offered by the LCC in Upper North Street was not considered sufficiently central, while the Borough's suggestion that a library should be built on East India Dock Road between Kerbey Street and Vesey Street was not acceptable to the County Council because it was part of the area earmarked for the southern extension of the Lansbury shopping centre. (fn. 121) In the end Lansbury got only a branch library, when, in 1957, the central library in Poplar High Street was closed and the Borough Council took over Nos 23 and 25 Market Way (at the unfavoured northern end) as the Lansbury Branch Library. (fn. 122)
When the shopping centre was extended, as originally envisaged, southwards towards East India Dock Road (see below, page 243), the better-known firms, such as Boots the Chemist, moved from the older shops to the newer ones, and this increased the isolation of the northernmost shops. To the east, on the opposite side of Chrisp Street, the proposed shops and offices were not built; instead there was a two-storey line of lock-up garages with their backs turned blankly on the Market Square.
By the 1970s, the original part of the Lansbury shopping centre and square was in a poor state of repair: many of the tiles on the columns and shop fascias were missing, the clock was not working, the Clock Tower was firmly locked and protected by spiked railings, and the garden at its base was a wasteland. (fn. 123) In the early 1980s, following public consultation, architects Kelly Williams were appointed by Tower Hamlets Borough Council to carry out a series of improvements to the estate, jointly funded by the Borough and the GLC. By 1984 the clock was going again; (fn. 124) improvements to the landscaping in the square and precinct were completed by the Poplar Neighbourhood Committee of the Borough Council in January 1987; (fn. 125) and in 1988 the two-storey garages along Chrisp Street were demolished. Further improvements were completed in April 1989, funded by Poplar Neighbourhood Committee and the London Docklands Development Corporation. This involved the area fronting East India Dock Road, and included new paving and street furniture, planting new trees, and the provision of a fountain. (fn. 126) Thus, the square and the shopping precinct still provide, as they were intended to do, a focal point and an informal meeting place for the local community.
Susan Lawrence Primary School and Elizabeth Lansbury Nursery School
The Susan Lawrence Primary School and the Elizabeth Lansbury Nursery School were both designed for the LCC, by Yorke, Rosenberg & Mardall (YRM), with F. R. S. Yorke as principal architect and K. W. Grieb as assistant. (fn. 127) Situated on the north side of Ricardo Street, between Bygrove and Kerbey Streets, the two schools were initially referred to as the Ricardo Street Schools. The site embraced that of the old Ricardo Street School, which had been built by the London School Board and opened on 1 June 1874. Rebuilt in 1913–14 to accommodate 1,152 children in three departments, it received a direct hit on 1 November 1940, when a bomb seriously damaged the eastern end. Although temporary repairs were carried out, further war damage was suffered in 1944. (fn. 128)
A tender for building the primary school, at £82,191 7s 6d, from Tersons Ltd was accepted, and work on site began in December 1949, the very first building work to commence on the Lansbury Estate. (fn. 129) In November 1950 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth planted two trees in the grounds of the school, (fn. 130) but these no longer survive. The primary school was officially opened on 26 April 1951 by Gerald Barry, the Director-General of the Festival of Britain. It was called after a Labour colleague of George Lansbury. Susan Lawrence (1871–1947) had been a Poplar representative on the LCC and MP for East Ham, and was described as 'a zealot in the cause of education'. The cost of the school, at £120,000, was actually rather higher than the original estimate and worked out at £170 per place (much higher than that laid down by the Ministry of Education). Children and staff were transferred en bloc from the nearby Alton Street Schools which were to be demolished under another clearance scheme. (fn. 131)
The design of the school was strongly influenced by three interrelated sources: Denis Clarke Hall's winning design in the News Chronicle competition for an ideal school, held in 1937, the Wood Report of 1944 on the post-war rebuilding of schools, and the pioneering postwar school-building efforts of Hertfordshire County Council. (fn. 132) Indeed, the school at Lansbury is closely related to the Barclay School at Stevenage, Hertfordshire, of 1947–51, also designed by YRM. (fn. 133)
The classroom block is a long two-storey range running parallel with, but set back from, Ricardo Street (Plate 133d). (fn. 134) It is constructed using the Hills' prefabricated system, developed for the Hertfordshire schools and manufactured by Hills of West Bromwich, with a view to speeding up and economizing on construction work. A light welded steel framework is faced externally with spar-faced concrete slabs 8ft 3in. by 1ft 4in. by 2½in. This system imposes a grid of 8ft 3in. on the design of any floor-plans. (fn. 135) The floors and roots are formed of units of precast concrete spanning between beams, and all ceilings were of wood wool. The ends of the classroom block are stopped by walls of yellow stock bricks. The block is so designed that the first-floor classrooms are approached by bridges across a light-well. This allows both ground- and first-floor classrooms to have crossventilation and natural light from both directions, though the main light comes from the south, through the large windows which run almost continuously along both floors of this elevation (fig. 81). This layout is based on Clarke Hall's 1937 design, and had been used by YRM for the Barclay School. (fn. 136) The five classrooms on the ground floor were intended for infants and the remainder of that floor was occupied by the large dining hall, kitchen facilities, and an entrance hall. On the first floor of this block were eight classrooms for juniors. All the classrooms were heated by floor panels. (fn. 137)
Set at right-angles to the classroom block, at its eastern end, towards Kerbey Street, the Infants' and Juniors' assembly halls were placed one above the other in another two-storey block. The assembly halls are of reinforcedconcrete and steel, faced with London stock brick and Hornton stone. Unlike the rest of the school buildings, which have flat roofs, the halls have a low-pitched roof of steel trusses covered in copper. This block is linked to the classrooms by a further entrance hall with a flyover staircase above it. J. M. Richards thought this hall had an interesting spatial quality, while the tiled wall in it, designed in the Festival style by Peggy Richards (nee Angus), (fn. 1) represented 'a real contribution to the problem of introducing colour and richness into surfaces'. (fn. 139) More generally, a local paper commented on 'the imaginative use of bright red paint', which made a striking decorative interior feature. (fn. 140) This, and the introduction of the mural, again followed the example of the Hertfordshire post-war school building programme. (fn. 141) A small administration block of load-bearing stock brick projects northwards from the junction between the classroom and assembly hall blocks, with a third storey providing a small flat and roof garden for the caretaker. This was an innovation for the LCC, which had previously always provided a house for school caretakers. (fn. 142)
Separate paved playing 'areas' or 'spaces' (not, it should be noted, 'playgrounds') were provided, on the north side for infants and on the south for juniors. The south side was also landscaped with grass and trees, and included a 'quiet garden' and outdoor teaching areas. Noteworthy features at the time were the dwarf walls surrounding the site, which enabled passers-by to enjoy the landscaped views of the school.
On a stone bracket at the east end of the northern boundary wall is a statue in artificial stone looking very incongruous on such a modern-style building. At first sight it appears to be a roadside devotional figure. In fact the statue, believed to date from the mid-nineteenth century, is of a female holding a cornucopia, and came from the Horn of Plenty public house at the junction of Market and Giraud Streets which was being demolished at the time that the Elizabeth Lawrence School was being built. Yorke was keen to see the statue preserved and incorporated into his new building. (fn. 143)
In 1951 Gordon Stephenson, while recognizing the 'grace and lightness' of the primary school building, argued that it was 'extravagant in plan largely because it pursues the idea of lighting two sides of classrooms'. (fn. 144) On the other hand, John Summerson was moved to acclaim it as 'probably the best building' in the entire Live Architecture exhibition, and in 1964 Ian Nairn, who was generally enthusiastic about the school, was particularly taken with the street entrance, 'which is just about the best new street corner in London'. (fn. 145) The unsightly weathering of the prefabricated concrete panels – the weak spot in this prefabricated system, which has otherwise worn remarkably well – has detracted from the appearance of the building in later years. (fn. 146)
While the primary school was in the early stages of construction, the Festival authorities told the LCC that they were anxious to see the nursery school completed in time for the exhibition. Indeed, had it not been for the fact that it formed part of the Live Architecture Exhibition, the Ministry of Education would not have sanctioned its building at a time when places for children of normal school age were so desperately needed. (fn. 147) This was the first post-war nursery school to be built by the LCC, and YRM, with Julian Sofaer acting as assistant architect, based their plans on a design by C. G. Stillman included in a booklet entitled 'Planning the New Nursery School', published by the Nursery School Association in 1945. LCC and ministerial approval was quickly obtained, but there were difficulties because houses on part of the site, in Bygrove Street, were still occupied. These could not be emptied and cleared immediately, because of the already heavy rehousing commitments resulting from other exhibition schemes at Lansbury. At Ling's suggestion a slightly different layout was adopted, leaving the unavailable part to be incorporated into a play-space when possible. The estimated cost of erection (including £1,551 for the provision of facilities for school meals) was £17,024 (£212 16s per place). Because of the urgency, the Chairman of the Council authorized the existing contract with Tersons to be extended to the nursery school. (fn. 148) The building was officially opened on 24 January 1952 by George Lansbury's daughter, Mrs Dorothy Thurtle. (fn. 149)
Planned for 80 children in two units of 40, the nursery school is immediately east of the primary school and is a single-storey building with a roughly U-shaped ground plan (fig. 81). The structure is again a light steel frame, mainly faced with yellow stock bricks, although there is also some Tyrolean render. The roof is monopitched and covered in copper. The main accommodation consisted of two large and two small playrooms, all facing south. The two large ones were each designed to hold an entire class, which made one architectural magazine doubt 'the effect of forty small children cooped in one playroom during bad weather, a doubt voiced by the headmistress, who is otherwise enthusiastic about the school'. (fn. 150) The nursery building forms a partly enclosed courtyard, with the primary school building on one side, and there were areas of grass, paved play-spaces, a mound, and sandpits. (fn. 151) In the early 1970s a further nursery classroom for 40 children, together with toilets, stores, and a new entrance hall, was added to the south-west corner of the existing nursery school. This extension was designed by the GLC's Department of Architecture and Civic Design in such a way as to be scarcely distinguishable from the original block. The main contractor was A. L. Etheridge Ltd, whose tender of £14,033 was accepted by the Council in September 1970. (fn. 152)
Lansbury Lodge, on the corner of Grundy Street and Upper North Street, was the first purpose-built old people's home to be erected by the LCC. (fn. 153) Preliminary plans for the 0.9-acre site, (fn. 154) by Booth & Ledeboer (Judith Ledeboer, job architect), were accepted by the Council in December 1949. Some Councillors felt the scheme was 'ludicrously extravagant' because the construction costs were the equivalent of £420 per bed, and asked if washbasins with hot and cold water in the bedrooms were necessary. (fn. 155) The main contractor was C. Miskin & Sons, St Albans, and the estimated total cost, including equipment, came to £58,589. (fn. 156) The building was officially opened on 19 December 1951, after the end of the Festival, by the famous comedian George Robey, a close friend of George Lansbury. (fn. 157)
The main building is a two-storey, L-plan block in yellow London stock brick, with a low-pitched slate roof (Plate 133b, 133c; fig. 82). Its simple solidity, with the large chimneys providing an almost monumental feature, appealed to both J. M. Richards and Ian Nairn. (fn. 158) The accommodation consisted of 33 single bedrooms and 8 double bedrooms (for married couples, sisters, brothers, or two friends of the same sex to share), so that up to 49 old people could be housed. (fn. 159) The provision of a room for each single resident was unusual amongst this first generation of old people's homes in London. (fn. 160) Furnishing of the bedrooms was complete, even including toothbrushes and mugs. (fn. 161) Additional accommodation was provided for a resident staff of five. (fn. 162) There were five communal sitting rooms and the dining room also served as a general assembly room where religious services, plays, concerts, and film shows could take place. The needs of the elderly and infirm were catered for by the provision of non-slip cork-tile floors, handrails to corridors, and specially designed staircases to make access easier (a lift was not installed until the 1960s, however). (fn. 163) The building was centrally heated throughout and there were open fires in the communal sitting rooms.
As a result of the reorganization of London government in 1965, old people's homes became the responsibility of the London Boroughs, and Lansbury Lodge passed to the Borough of Tower Hamlets. (fn. 164) There was serious fire damage in April 1988 (fn. 165) and the whole complex was still empty and boarded up in 1994.
The Blessed John Roche Catholic School (originally Cardinal Griffin School)
The Blessed John Roche Catholic School (so named since 1991) is set in the north-west angle of the junction between Upper North Street and Canton Street, on the site of the old bombed-out Catholic church, and immediately opposite the new one. The school was designed for the Archdiocese of Westminster and the LCC by David Stokes (Assistant Architect, Anthony Cooper). (fn. 166)
Work began in March 1950, with C. Miskin & Sons Ltd of St Albans as the main contractor, (fn. 167) and the foundation stone was laid on 11 July of that year by Cardinal Bernard Griffin, Archbishop of Westminster, after whom the school was originally named. (fn. 168) The school received its first pupils in September 1951, but was not completed until September 1952. (fn. 169) The contract price of construction was £140,469 (at £254 per place, well under the Ministry of Education's ceiling of £290). (fn. 170)
The buildings were placed on the northern half of the site, (fn. 171) so that the southern half could be landscaped, providing a pleasant environment for the school and an additional open space for adjacent housing. (fn. 172) The school was designed to accommodate 450 children of both sexes from the ages of 11 to 15 (fig. 83). The 'finger plan' layout of the classroom blocks was a pre-war arrangement which remained popular for schools built in the immediate post-war period. (fn. 173) One novelty is the way in which the biology pool laps around the foot of part of the southeastern corner block, rather like a moat (Plate 133a). To the north-east, and set back from Upper North Street, is a two-storey detached house for the school caretaker.
A reinforced-concrete frame forms the main structure, with brick infilling which is loadbearing in some places. The internal space on both floors of the classroom wing was kept free of structural supports to give flexibility for future requirements. The first floor is of in situ concrete beams at 2ft 6in. centres, with flush uninterrupted ceilings on patent lathing attached to the underside of the beams. The dining hall block has a flat roof of similar construction, while the assembly hall roof is carried on steel trusses. With the school occupied 18 months after the contract was placed, the architect felt that the speed, economy, finish, versatility in planning, and the amount of steel used, demonstrated the superiority of in situ building over the existing prefabricated methods advocated by the Wood Report on the rebuilding of schools and used at Lansbury for the Susan Lawrence School. (fn. 174)
The bricks are London stock and Uxbridge yellow flint, with a small amount of red brick, together with painted and exposed concrete, and terrazzo. On the brick wall beside the main entrance is a statue in Portland stone of 'Our Lady, Star of the Sea' by Peter Watts of Bath, a half-sized model of which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1950. (fn. 175) Watts also carved the coat of arms by the entrance gates and the foundation stone. A sculpture of Christ in gilded fireglass, designed by Bernard and Ann Davis, mounted on a cross of African teak, has, since 1991, stood in front of the main entrance. It was originally situated on a mound in the south-east corner of the grounds, which marked the site of the High Altar in the old church of SS Mary and Joseph, where the first parish priest, Father Benjamin Barber, is said to be buried. (fn. 176) Inside the building is a mosaic of the Holy Family by Philip R. Suffolk.
In the early 1970s extensive new school buildings were added to the north of the original ones and were linked to the old classroom blocks by a covered way. They were designed by David Stokes, Cooper & Gerard Goalen of Harlow, the direct successors to the original architects. (fn. 177) The rebuilt school, by now merged with a Hackney school and renamed St Philip Howard Secondary School, received it first pupils in September 1973. (fn. 178)
SS Mary and Joseph Roman Catholic Church
The bombed sites of the old SS Mary and Joseph church and presbytery (see page 202), together with certain cottages owned by the Roman Catholic authorities, were included in the area compulsorily purchased by the LCC for the first phase of the Lansbury Estate. In return the LCC provided an alternative site for the church. (fn. 179) The architect of the new buildings was Adrian Gilbert Scott, who specialized in work for the Catholic church. (fn. 180) (fn. 2) His preliminary design, presented to the LCC's officers in February 1949, envisaged a church of the 'long-nave' type to seat 900 people. The officers were somewhat taken aback by the size: they had envisaged a small parish church as before, instead they were faced with a cathedrallike building. Scott for his part felt that the site was too small for the requirements of his clients, who wanted church and presbytery to be on the same site, with direct access between the two buildings. Scott radically altered the layout of the church, but he remained adamant that a large church was required. This meant allocating the presbytery a separate site on the opposite side of Pekin Street, but as a compromise the LCC suggested a covered way across the street to link the two buildings. Although still unhappy about the size of the church, in January 1950 the LCC's officers reluctantly agreed to recommend approval of Scott's plans, (fn. 181) which were published in June 1950 in an article previewing the Live Architecture Exhibition. (fn. 182) A description of the proposed church appeared in the official handbook to the exhibition and the site was included in the recommended route around the exhibition area. (fn. 183) However, little more than groundworks were to be seen throughout the exhibition period, while the site of the presbytery was occupied by the Festival's 'Rosie Lee' cafe. (fn. 184) The foundation stone of the church was not laid until 7 October 1951, when the ceremony was performed by Cardinal Bernard Griffin, Archbishop of Westminster. (fn. 185) (This stone, suitably inscribed, is set inside the church, below and to the left of the altar.) The consulting engineer was Burnard Geen and the main contractor was John Mowlem & Company, (fn. 186) who had worked with Scott and his brother Giles on the restoration of the House of Commons. (fn. 187)
Work continued through 1952, when a model of the new church was on public display in a glass case in Upper North Street and, despite two attempts to destroy it, the model survived to be exhibited in the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition in 1953. (fn. 188) By September 1953 the main body of the church was virtually complete, and it was formally opened in July 1954. (fn. 189) All the debts on the building having been paid off, the church was consecrated by Cardinal Godfrey in October 1960. (fn. 190) The cost of the new church and presbytery was approximately £180,000, most of the money for the church being provided by the War Damage Commission. (fn. 191)
Although the surrounding area was replanned to contain a half of its former population, the new church was intended to cater for a wider area. As built it seated 850 people, approximately the same number as the old one, and standing room was also provided. (fn. 192) Less than a year after it opened the average Sunday morning congregation exceeded 1,000. (fn. 193)
The square shape of the site and the nature of its approaches, plus the desire to have all the seats in full view of the High Altar, imposed certain conditions on the plan. (fn. 194) The altar had to be at the west instead of the east end and the ground plan was a Greek Cross with four equal arms, thus providing a large central space with an open lantern in the centre (fig. 85). From the outside this plan is translated into a series of rectangular blocks of varying size and height, all with hipped roofs, clustered around a large central octagonal drum, surmounted by a smaller octagonal brick-faced lantern, carried on steel plate girders 8ft deep and over 60ft long. The lantern is topped by a squat spire of reinforced-concrete covered in copper (fig. 84). The exterior of the church is faced in narrow two-inch, light brown bricks from Leicestershire, laid in English Garden Wall bond. The roofs are covered in brown 'Lombardic' tiles and the eaves have heavy moulded-stone cornices. On the east elevation is a tall central gabled brick porch with an elongated tapering round-arched opening protecting the main entrance (Plate 131b). On either side of this, set into the exterior angles between the narthex or vestibule and transepts, are matching low arcades, intended as shelters for storing bicycles and prams during services. (fn. 195) Inside, the central nave rises impressively to the lantern (Plate 131c). Surrounding the nave are a series of tapered round-headed arches, which support the main roof and divide the nave from the sanctuary, narthex, and transepts, all of which have lower roofs of varying heights.
The style is not easily defined, but is best described as 'Jazz-Modern Byzantine', (fn. 196) although it also has a suggestion of Hispanic Moorish, while the tapered roundheaded arches have been described as 'Egyptian', (fn. 197) as well as being likened to those found at Ctesiphan in Ancient Persia. (fn. 198) The design is very much transitional. It is reminiscent of Clemens Holzmeister's Vienna Crematorium of 1922, (fn. 199) and also clearly derives from Giles Gilbert Scott's brick churches of the 1930s (notably, St Alban's, Golders Green, which is also dominated by a broad, central tower rising to an octagonal top and a similar low spire, and the interior of which also provides uninterrupted views of the High Altar). (fn. 200) It has clear affinities, too, with Giles Gilbert Scott's abortive plans for the rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral (1943–5), particularly the tapered arches and free-standing altar with baldacchino. (fn. 201) At the same time it anticipates to some extent, in plan and form, the Roman Catholic cathedrals at Liverpool (consecrated 1967) and Clifton (completed 1973), where the focus on a central altar is complete, although at Lansbury the altar is still set at the liturgical east end, with the seating originally all facing towards that end, as in a conventional, naved church.
Scott designed all the interior furnishings, down to the hymn boards. The High Altar is covered by a large marble baldacchino in the manner of Westminster Cathedral, and the sanctuary is paved in marble. In order further to focus attention on the High Altar, the two side chapels in the transepts were deliberately subordinated: each consists simply of an altar set within a shallow bay (one of a series in the church) on either side of the main altar. Sacristries are provided at the rear and side of the sanctuary, although the priest's sacristry at the southwest corner of the church was converted into a permanent weekday chapel in 1979. The chapel was dedicated to the memory of Canon John Wright, parish priest from 1946 to 1970, who had been closely involved in the building of the church. (fn. 202) The altar to Our Lady, which was a memorial to Canon Bartholomew O'Doherty, parish priest from 1920 to 1946, (fn. 203) has a life-size statue of the Madonna carved in the Italian Tyrol and painted in full colour; the wooden reredos has a relief carving of a rocky cave or grotto, framed by a gilded baldacchino, also in relief. The altar of St Joseph has a similar statue of the saint and in this case the reredos has a relief of a carpenter's shop. (fn. 204) The pulpit, faced in buff-coloured Hornton stone, is placed across one of the splayed angles of the central space and raised about 8ft above floor level, so that it does not obstruct the view of the High Altar, but does give the preacher a dominating position.
The octagonal font, also in buff-coloured Hornton stone, is now in the eastern arm of the church. It originally stood in a baptistery on the north side of the narthex set below the gallery at the end of this arm. The glass screen separating the narthex from the church, a device used at the time in many American churches, was designed to allow babies to be left in the narthex, where their parents could keep an eye on them, but their crying would not disturb the congregation. (fn. 205) The gallery formerly accommodated the organ and the choir, but the organ has been brought down to the nave, and the gallery is little used. Around the inside of the church is a dado of 'Blue Hornton' stone, 8ft high, which incorporates, towards the top, stone reliefs showing the Stations of the Cross by Peter Watts. (fn. 206) Above the dado the walls are whitewashed and left quite plain up to ceiling level. The windows have aluminium frames (fn. 207) and square leading, filled mainly with clear or pale green glass, although most of the windows incorporate a stained-glass figure of a saint, while the windows to either side of the High Altar depict Christ the King and the Sacred Heart. The stained glass was designed by William Wilson, the Edinburgh glass-stainer whose works are numerous in Scotland, but who executed few commissions in England. (fn. 208) The floor is patterned with brown and cream quarry tiles. A system of floor heating and the use of large decorative fluorescent electric light pendants solved the heating and lighting problems presented by the large central space; Adrian Scott himself donated the light pendants, which were to the same pattern as those he designed for the rebuilding of the House of Commons. (fn. 209) The acoustic difficulties are solved by a system of sound amplification, with 24 loudspeakers built very neatly and unobtrusively into the walls around the nave and transepts, (fn. 210) together with areas of acoustic ceiling plaster.
Because of both its transitional nature and its very size, the church has been perhaps the most controversial building in the first phase of Lansbury. The general opinion of architectural writers from the 1950s until at least the 1970s was that it was totally out-of-keeping with its surroundings. In particular, Ian Nairn could not find a good word for it and in 1954 he published a blistering attack on it in the Architectural Review. The scale was far too big for the neighbourhood, the materials were inappropriate in the East End, and the style was alien. Nairn concluded: 'Here is a building that is both aggressive and flaccid, vulgar and genteel, pretentious and timid.' (fn. 211) Yet, by 1981, Lionel Esher had to confess that 'the fortress-like Catholic church that once seemed so old-fashioned' was 'now so functional'. (fn. 212) What sustains the building is the admirable standard of workmanship, the high quality of the materials, and the obvious attention to detail throughout the design of the church and its fittings, all of which exemplify the characteristic care shown by the architect. (fn. 213) Unlike so many Catholic churches, it needed no major re-ordering following the decisions concerning liturgy taken at the Second Vatican Council in 1962. All that was required, when mass began to be said facing the people, was to clear the pews in front of the sanctuary. At the same time, some of the side and rear pews were removed, reducing the number of seats from 850 to 550. (fn. 214)
To the south of the church, across Pekin Street and set at an angle to Upper North Street, is the presbytery, now known as the Clergy House, which was also designed by Adrian Gilbert Scott. It is a two-storey building with a hipped roof. External walling and roofing materials are the same as for the church, but the moulded cornice is of wood; the windows are metal-framed. On the north elevation there is a gabled brick porch which was intended to lead to the covered way across Pekin Street in order to link church and clergy house, but this has never been constructed, although the street has been pedestrianized at this point.