Survey of London Monograph 12, Cromwell House, Highgate. Originally published by Guild & School of Handicraft, London, 1926.

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'Preface', in Survey of London Monograph 12, Cromwell House, Highgate, (London, 1926) pp. 13-14. British History Online [accessed 4 March 2024]


THE issue of this, the twelfth monograph of the London Survey Committee, affords an opportunity for setting forth anew the scope of the Committee's activities, with which some of the readers of this book may not, as yet, be fully acquainted. Until the present series of volumes was begun, there had been no attempt at a systematic record of the ancient buildings of London, although few of them were altogether free from risk of destruction. The Survey Committee was, therefore, founded in 1894 to attempt this important duty, and its little band of voluntary workers set themselves the task of surveying London parish by parish, making and collecting full architectural and photographic records of all the buildings and other important vestiges which dated back to a period before 1800 and which were in being in the year of the Committee's foundation.

Through the generosity of our supporters, and, in later years, with the timely assistance of the London County Council, the Committee has been enabled to publish a series of volumes containing historical records of the various parishes with their principal buildings. The parish volumes constitute one series, issued by a joint Committee of the London County Council and ourselves, each body undertaking the preparation of a volume alternately. The following parishes have thus already been surveyed :—Bromley-by-Bow, Chelsea (Parts 1–3), Hammersmith, Shoreditch, S. Giles-in-the-Fields (2 vols.), S. Helen Bishopsgate (Part 1) and S. Margaret Westminster (Part 1). In the various volumes everything of interest in the parish finds a place, all the buildings and fittings being described and illustrated in detail.

A second series of publications, to which this account of Cromwell House belongs, is made up of special studies of particular buildings which have merited a rather more extended and detailed record. In these monographs the Committee has already issued accounts of the beautiful Trinity Almshouses, in the Mile End Road; Crosby Hall, Bishopsgate, before the removal from the City of its stone and timber and re-erection in Chelsea; the Old Palace of Bromley-by-Bow, represented to-day by the panelled room in the Victoria and Albert Museum; the Great House, Leyton (since destroyed); Brook House, Hackney; Sandford Manor House, Fulham; East Acton Manor House, and Eastbury House, a beautiful 16th century building, happily preserved for the nation.

The present volume has been in preparation for some years. Cromwell House has always been regarded as a building of exceptional interest from the architectural point of view and a perusal of the Committee's record will show that this reputation is thoroughly deserved. Its fate was for some time in the balance. In 1917, when it was occupied by the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children as a convalescent home, there was no small risk of its destruction at the end of their long lease, or at any rate of some of the valuable fittings going elsewhere. All fears, however, for the safety of the building were removed when the remainder of the lease was bought by the Mothercraft Training Society, together with the freehold. In adapting the house to their requirements they have admirably responded to the general wish that, as far as possible, every feature of architectural and historical interest should be preserved, and we believe that it is now safe for generations to come.

The name by which the house is known will be shown in the text of this book to have been given to it without due cause, and it has been responsible for several misapprehensions on the part of the public. Some few years ago the present author, at the request of the Governors of the Great Ormond Street Hospital, prepared a short account of the building which, though hastily produced and therefore very incomplete, corrected for the first time two or three of the chief errors which had for long been accepted by the public as gospel. As the result of further research still more information has come to light and appears in these pages for the first time.

In the preparation of this volume the author would acknowledge especially, in addition to the work done by the body of active members, the valuable help he has received from the researches among the old Court Rolls by Mr. W. McB. Marcham and his brother Mr. F. Marcham. He would also like to make special mention of the admirable drawings of the staircase by Mr. William Dean, A.R.I.B.A., reproduced by permission of the Architectural Press, Ltd., from Mr. Mervyn Macartney's " Standard Examples of Architectural Details," and the assistance rendered towards this particular volume by Mr. Edward Pady, Mr. F. S. Morden Green, and that good antiquary, the late Maj. Victor Farquharson, F.S.A.