York Road

Pages 40-44

Survey of London: Volume 23, Lambeth: South Bank and Vauxhall. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1951.

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[See plates 25, 26 and 27.]

The first Waterloo Bridge Act contained a clause for the continuation of Stamford Street across Waterloo Road to Westminster Bridge Road. The new road, which was for several years called Stamford Street, but which ultimately became York Road, was made across demesne land of the Arch bishop's manor of Lambeth. Except for a fringe of cottages along Narrow Wall and for Phelps' soap factory, (fn. 5) which stood east of Narrow Wall (i.e. on ground between Belvedere Road and York Road and adjoining north on Waterloo Road) the land was undeveloped. It was divided by open ditches into fields, Float Mead, The Twenty-one Acres, and The Seven Acres. In 1807 the Archbishop obtained an Act (fn. 6) authorizing the development of this ground for building. The road was cut in 1824, and between 1825 and 1830 practically the whole frontage on either side was let on building leases. The turnpike, which stood approximately opposite the present entrance to the tube station, was taken down about 1848. (fn. 7)

West Side

Nos. 2–16 (even)

In 1824 Henry Warburton obtained from the Archbishop a building lease of ground described as being partly in Float Mead and partly in the “seven acres of Sowters Lands,” (fn. 8) and including the site of Phelps' soap factory; Tenison Street and Howley Terrace, named after Archbishops, were formed on the western part of the site.

Nos. 2–16 (formerly 88–81) York Road were built circa 1830. (fn. 1) Nos. 6–16 form a uniform terrace with a rusticated stucco ground storey and a cornice to the continuous parapet. All the window arches are picked out in red brick. Nos. 2 and 4 have an additional storey and ground floor shops.

Nos. 2 and 4 were for many years occupied by members of the medical profession. Nos. 6–14 are now used as a nurses' home for the Royal Waterloo Hospital.

Nos. 18–28 (even)

These houses, which were similar to Nos. 6–16, were built on part of Float Mead leased to Alexander Tillett in 1825. (fn. 4) They were demolished in 1949 for road improvements in connection with the Festival of Britain.

East Side

Waterloo Station

The whole of the ground east of York Road between Waterloo Road and Vine Street and extending east nearly to Lower Marsh was let on building lease to John Field, wax chandler, and Agnes Bazing (see p. 28) in 1824–29. (fn. 4) Part of this land was sold to the London and South Western Railway in 1848 when the line was extended from Nine Elms. Waterloo Station, which was raised above the marshy ground on a series of arches, was designed by William (afterwards Sir William) Tite. (fn. 9) It was opened on 11th July, 1848. In 1864 the South Eastern Railway extended their line from London Bridge to Waterloo and Charing Cross, Waterloo Junction being linked with the main station by a bridge across Waterloo Road. Substantial alterations and additions were made at various times during the 19th century, and in 1872 the South Eastern Railway Company bought the eastern part of the ground originally leased to Field, (fn. 4) which had by then become a disreputable slum.

Owing to its piecemeal construction the lay-out of the station was by the end of the century confused and unsatisfactory, and in 1900 an extension and complete rebuilding of the old station was begun. It was finished by the erection of a building linking the new offices with those lining the approach from York Road, including the great arched entrance to the station which formed a staff war memorial. The Times, in describing the opening of the new buildings in 1922, remarked that “nothing of the original structure now remains except the arches upon which the new station has been built.” (fn. 3)

Nos. 3–13 (formerly Nos. 91–96)

These houses were erected on the York Road frontage of Field's property circa 1829. They form a simple terrace in stock brick having a continuous dentil cornice to the parapet above the second storey. The individual houses are, however, emphasized by the rectangular recesses in the parapet over each and by the narrow vertical inset panels separating them. Nos. 3–9 have balconies, those to the remaining houses having been removed when shop fronts were inserted.

In the 19th century these houses were largely used by dramatic agents and as lodging houses for members of the theatrical profession who were in low water; they earned the sobriquet of Poverty Corner.

Nos. 15–23 (formerly Nos. 97–101)

These houses were similar in character to Nos. 3–13 though they were built a year or two later. They were demolished in 1950 for road improvements.

Nos. 57–69 (formerly Nos. 1–5 Commercial Place and Nos. 132 and 133 York Road)

These houses, dating from 1843–5, were among the last to be erected in the road.

The General Lying-in Hospital

On 7th August, 1765, Dr. John Leake, known as the “man mid-wife,” (fn. 10) addressed a meeting at Appleby's Tavern in Parliament Street, Westminster, and propounded a scheme for a hospital “for the Relief of those Child-bearing Women who are the Wives of poor Industrious Tradesmen or distressed House-keepers, and who either from unavoidable Misfortunes or the Expences of maintaining large Families are reduced to real Want. Also for the Reception and immediate Relief of indigent Soldiers and Sailors Wives, the former in particular being very numerous in and about the City of Westminster.” (fn. 11)

Leake had already obtained a building lease of a piece of ground on the north side of Westminster Bridge Road. Richard Dixon, of Pimlico, was appointed surveyor of the building, and the first stone was laid on 15th August, 1765, by Brice Fisher, one of the vice-presidents of the charity, but subscriptions were slow in coming in and the centre building had to be mortgaged before it was finished. It was opened in April, 1767, as the Westminster New Lying-in Hospital, with Dr. Leake as its first physician. (fn. 11)

Dr. Leake had trained in England as a surgeon but had early become interested in midwifery and had practised it for a while in Lisbon. During the early years of the hospital he was living in Craven Street, Strand, where he gave an annual course of lectures on midwifery. (fn. 10) His ideas were not particularly advanced even for his time, but the institution he founded, one of the first of its kind, has proved of great permanent value.

The two leases of the ground on which the hospital stood were due to expire in 1821 and 1825 respectively, and early in the 1820s the governors decided to move to new premises. From Lancelot Holland, who was, at this time, developing the land between Westminster and Waterloo Bridges for the Archbishop of Canterbury, the governors acquired a building lease of a plot of ground with 100 foot frontage on the east side of York Road. (fn. 10) The new building was designed by Henry Harrison and cost about £3,000. On 22nd September, 1828, the minutes record that “On Friday Morning a Patient was delivered of a Son in the New Hospital and the Committee met this day in the new Hospital for the first time.” (fn. 11) The name “Westminister” was dropped from the title and the institution was incorporated by royal charter in 1830 as “The General Lying-in Hospital.”

Medical science made great advances during the middle years of the 19th century, and in the 1870s it became apparent that modernization was urgently required, both in the building and the management of the hospital.

In 1879 a thorough reconditioning was carried out. A new drainage system was installed, the laundry in the basement was converted into store rooms, and a new ward was added. A training school for midwives and midwifery nurses was established, and in order to accommodate the students a new storey was added to each wing. (fn. 3) Florence Nightingale took a personal interest in this training school.

It was in March, 1879, that Joseph, afterwards Lord Lister, accepted the office of consulting surgeon, and he continued to serve the hospital in this capacity and as President until 1911. In 1880 Sir John Williams and Sir Francis Champneys were appointed Physicians Accoucheurs, and under their auspices the hospital was the first to practise antiseptic midwifery in this country. (fn. 12)

In 1907 two houses adjacent to the hospital on the north side and known as the Albany Baths were taken over for a nurses’ home. (fn. 12) After the 1914–18 war the shortage of accommodation at the hospital became acute, and in 1930–33 a new nurses’ home was built on the site of the Albany Baths.

The hospital was removed to St. Albans during the 1939–45 war and the old building received some damage. It was, however, re-opened in 1946. Some further reconditioning and modernization have been carried out, but the structure remains substantially as it was built over 120 years ago (Plate 27b). Under the 1946 Act it is included in the St. Thomas' Hospital group.

Architectural Description

The hospital, of four storeys including a semi-basement, has a raised ground floor approached by a flight of steps. The entrance porch, recessed in the main front, is stuccoed and its Ionic colonnade is flanked by slightly projecting wings with corner pilasters. The attic storey above the second floor entablature returns to the side elevation which also has end wings.

Figure 8:

Ground floor plan of the General Lying-in Hospital, York Road, 1950

The Nurses' Home is a modern red brick building with basement and four storeys beneath the dormers to the mansard roof. It was erected to the designs of Mr. E. Turner Powell.

Tanswell's History of Lambeth, 1858, says the Hospital is “a neat square building of white brick, ornamented with stone.” It would appear that the brickwork derives its present colour from the application of red paint at a later date.

The York Road Chapel (the White Horse Club) was built in 1847–8 as a congregational chapel. (fn. 2) After the demolition of All Saints' it was for a time used as a hall for the congregation of St. John's, Waterloo Road (see p. 33). It was demolished in 1950 for road improvements.


  • 1. Lambeth M.B.C. Poor rate books.
  • 2. P.O. and other London Directories.,
  • 3. The Times.
  • 4. L.C.C. Solicitor's Dept., Deeds.
  • 5. Church Commissioners: Deeds, 86885, 2/2
  • 6. Local Act 47, Geo. III, Sess. 2, cap. 128.
  • 7. Turnpikes and Tollbars, by Mark Searle, 1930.
  • 8. Church Commissioners: Deeds, 86870–3.
  • 9. Waterloo Station Centenary, 1848–1948, by British Railways.
  • 10. D.N.B.
  • 11. St. Thomas' Hospital Group. Minutes of the General Lying-in Hospital.
  • 12. Extension Fund Appeal, circa 1930.