Survey of London: Volume 21, the Parish of St Pancras Part 3: Tottenham Court Road and Neighbourhood. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1949.
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(Formerly John Street, Upper John Street and Hertford Street)
Whitfield Street, named after George Whitefield who founded the chapel in Tottenham Court Road, runs north and south and now reaches from Windmill Street to Warren Street traversing the three estates described in the introduction to this section of the parish. It was formerly John Street (from Windmill Street to Howland Street), Upper John Street (between Howland Street and Maple, formerly London, Street) and Hertford Street for the remainder which lay in the Fitzroy estate. The numbers of the houses now proceed from south to north, with the odd numbers on the west and the even on the east side. The street has suffered severely from the air-raids during the war and most of the west side has gone from Windmill Street as far as Grafton Way. Nos. 79–85, however, between Chitty Street and Howland Street, although damaged by raids, present four houses of uniform design, except for some subsequent alterations. The usual variation in size is shown by the greater width of No. 79 but the plain brick fronts, finished by a parapet and mansard roofs, with their attic dormer windows, reduce street architecture to its simplest elements. The entrances are the only "features" and they are recessed in the plainest manner within an arch formed alternately of blocks of 3 courses of brick, and cement quoins of similar size, which are repeated round the arch as key block and voussoirs. No. 79 has had its ground floor facing rendered in cement, No. 81 was raised an additional storey, while No. 85 was given a pleasant shop front with well designed fascia and sash-bars to the window. All the houses except the shop retained their wrought iron railings which guarded the basement areas and ramped to a higher level on each side of the entrance thresholds. Much the same treatment could be seen in Nos. 91 to 111. These houses (also much damaged) were less well proportioned owing to their being five storeys in height above the basement. In the case of Nos. 95 and 97, the first floor windows had been lowered to floor level and were no doubt provided with balconies which have disappeared. Nos. 91 and 97, had the popular ground floor rendering in cement and excellent wrought iron railings. No. 107 was almost entirely demolished.
At the northern angle where Maple Street (formerly London Street) joins Whitfield Street stood Fitzroy Chapel, later St. Saviour's Church, which is separately noticed below (p. 48). North of this came Nos. 119–129 of which No. 119 is wrecked, Nos. 121–127 rebuilt and No. 129 which alone retains its original facing of stock brick.
The west side of the northernmost part of Whitfield Street, north of Grafton Way, comprising Nos. 131 to 163, is remarkable for its interesting series of shop fronts dating from the early years of the 19th-century. The houses are of the same plain character as those already described and are four storeys in height. At No. 131 there is a square shop window each side of the central double door. Over each window is a row of five rectangular panels of glass and the whole including the private door to the house (on the right) is crowned by a plain fascia with shaped ends and a modillion cornice. The shaped and moulded divisions between doors and windows support the fascia in lieu of pilasters. Beneath the windows are solid panels and the whole is skilfully framed in the wrought iron railings which are here retained in front of the windows and returned each side of both doors at different heights. No. 133 has no shop and the entrance is beneath a plain brick arch with a fanlight of radiating glazing bars in the tympanum. The shop to No. 135 is arranged each side of a central door, with the house door to the left. The shop front and its fascia are slightly bowed, the detail being beautifully designed including the five slender panelled pilasters with palm leaf capitals. No railings are used below but there is evidence that there have been balcony rails above the fascia.
The shops to Nos. 137, 139 and 141 appear to have been designed as one scheme, with carved brackets in the fascia, which carries a balcony having an elaborate cast iron balustrade with honey-suckle ornament. No. 137 has lost its balcony and has been somewhat altered, the brickwork of the house being painted white. No. 143 has been modernized, the house being rendered in cement, with a cornice at third floor level and cement frames to the windows. Nos. 145, 147 and 149 all exhibit interesting examples of shop fronts; that to No. 145 has a bowed window carried on a central shaped bracket; No. 147 has a square bay window, five panes wide, and flanked with single lights, the left-hand one having an additional light on the return adjoining the door; No. 149 is a very complete specimen of the bowed shop front with a window each side of the central door and the house door beneath a metal cobweb fanlight. The fascia is skilfully contrived with a dentil cornice, plain frieze and moulded architrave, the supports being slender pilasters with corbel-like caps, the projection of which is adapted to the shape of the front (Plate 7). The remaining shops Nos. 151 to 163 are mostly later insertions.
The east side of the street now presents very little of its original frontage as it has been much rebuilt and its old houses have been destroyed by the raids. Opposite the end of Scala Street there still stands the Literary and Scientific Institution which is separately noticed. Between Tottenham Street and Howland Street most of the area was taken up by Whitefield's Chapel and Burial Ground (see p. 67), and a new school occupies the northern half of the space between Howland Street and Maple Street. Nos. 72 to 80 and (north of Maple Street) Nos. 94 to 108 were of a character similar to the houses described opposite (Nos. 91–111) and have now either disappeared or are being demolished since they were too seriously damaged to survive. The site between Grafton Way and Warren Street is almost wholly cleared. Here stood originally Fitzroy Market, one of the little shopping centres that were frequently planned in connection with new residential schemes. Next to the corner of Warren Street stands a stock brick house (No. 122) with a good entrance door having pedimental and arched casing with pilasters (Plate 8).
The Scientific and Literary Institution
On the east side of Whitfield Street, almost opposite Scala Street, is a building with a stucco front of three storeys divided by plain horizontal bands (Plate 10). In the centre is a porch with twin columns of square section each side, and above this two pilasters traverse the first and second floors with a plain entablature and an embryo pediment. Directly over the porch on the first floor is a window within a pedimental frame and side pilasters and on the second floor an opening that may have had an inscription panel. Each side of the centre there are single sash windows to the upper floors, spaced unsymmetrically. This building was designed as a Scientific and Literary Institution, and at the time of the Chartists' agitation was used by them for their meetings. An account of their meeting here on 15th April, 1848, is given inSt. Pancras Notes and Queries (No. 284). They met, prior to their assembling at Kennington Common, and were addressed by their leader Feargus O'Connor. He dissuaded them from taking part in the procession, in support of the great petition which was being presented to Parliament, and his advice, repeated at Kennington, resulted in the procession being abandoned. The meeting was reported in the Illustrated London News of the same date, where there is a drawing of the interior of the building—a spacious hall with a large organ at one end and galleries on each side. (See above.)
According to a further note contributed to St. Pancras Notes and Queries (No. 297) by Mrs. Willingdale, (fn. n1) whose parents lived for 44 years at 25 Pitt Street (now Scala Street) opposite, the building was used later by the Davenport Brothers, illusionists. She remembered seeing 'General' Tom Thumb arriving in his carriage. Later still it was the Albert Rooms Dancing Academy. It is now used for commercial purposes.
Mention should be made of a row of eleven small houses that formerly stood at the southern end of Whitfield Street, on the west side from Colville Place, southwards. They were built some years after the rest of the street on the site of the Brewery mentioned on p. 27. (See also Tompson's map, Plate 1.) These houses were numbered 5 to 25 (odd numbers) and exhibited an unusual design. From the above sketch it will be seen that the ground floor had a continuous line of shops (including an entrance to the rear) beneath a long unbroken entablature. The superstructure of two storeys was set out in bays between broad projections of brick, carried up to the parapet with plain capping courses. The three end bays on each side and the three centre ones had a sash window flanked by single lights on the first floor, the two intermediate ones having single sashes. On the top floor each bay had a single window, the parapet being adorned with elongated dentils formed of pairs of bricks set upright. The whole effect was very simple and invested this row of houses with marked dignity. They were destroyed by a flying bomb on 19th June, 1944.