Survey of London: Volume 26, Lambeth: Southern Area. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1956.
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'Myatt's Fields, Denmark Hill and Herne Hill: Denmark Hill and Herne Hill', in Survey of London: Volume 26, Lambeth: Southern Area, (London, 1956) pp. 146-154. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol26/pp146-154 [accessed 1 March 2024]
DENMARK HILL AND HERNE HILL
Denmark Hill is said to have acquired its name from Queen Anne‘s husband, Prince George of Denmark, who hunted there. (fn. 42) No example of the name Herne Hill has been found earlier than 1789. (fn. 43) The greater part of the land on the west side of the roads now known as Denmark Hill and Herne Hill was bought in 1783 (fn. 15) by Samuel Sanders, a wealthy timber merchant whose will contained bequests of over £100,000. (fn. 44) Shortly afterwards he built himself a large house at Denmark Hill, (fn. 45) and began to grant long leases of the land fronting the road. By 1843 an almost unbroken line of large houses stretched from St. Matthew's Church, Denmark Hill, to the south end of Herne Hill. (fn. 44) Only three of them survive in a recognizable form.
Nos. 150–154 (even) Denmark Hill
Formerly Nos. 156–160 (even) Denmark Hill, in 1875 No. 158 was called The Elms, and in 1938 Pentamar.
These three houses, which are now occupied by King‘s College Hospital, are important examples of late 18th century suburban development; they are illustrated in Plates 52, 53 and 54, and fig. 47. Details are shown in Plate 69c and figs. 48 and 49. No.150 was erected in 1785–6, and No. 152 in 1787–8; (fn. 47) the first occupier of No. 152 was John Christian Schreiber, a wealthy merchant engaged in the Hamburg trade, (fn. 48) whose offices were in Budge Row, Cannon Street; (fn. 49) after his death his widow Louisa continued to live there until 1816. (fn. 50) No. 154, which is perhaps the finest house in the area reviewed in this volume, was built in 1785–6, (fn. 47) and was designed by William Blackburn (fn. 45) (1750–90), a native of Southwark and architect of the Unitarian Chapel, Lewin's Mead, Bristol, and of a number of prisons. (fn. 51) It was first occupied by Edward Henshaw, a linen draper in Southwark, (fn. 52) and later by Richard Lawrence, who may perhaps be identified with Richard Lawrence, broker, of Throgmorton Street. (fn. 53)
No. 150 Denmark Hill is a house of three storeys, raised on a semi-basement and flanked on the south by a large addition of two lofty storeys with an angular bay projecting from the front. The original portion of the house has a stock brick front of simple design, its two stages defined by the wide bandcourse above the semi-basement, the sill-band below the first-floor windows, and the crowning mutule cornice with its blocking course. The first stage contains the doorway, flanked by one window on the left and two on the right. The upper stage has two tiers of four evenly spaced windows, corresponding to the ground-floor openings. All the windows are rectangular and without architraves, their heights being proportionate to the three storeys. The wooden doorcase is of unusual and interesting design, the six-panelled door being flanked by attenuated Doric columns that support an architrave, its outer fascia being returned down each side. Above is a frieze panel with a Flaxmanesque relief of classical figures, and the cornice is returned on each side round scroll-shaped brackets that rise from pilasters to support an open segmental pediment-hood (Plate 69c).
No. 152 Denmark Hill consists of a central block of three storeys, flanked by narrow wings each originally of one storey, the whole being raised on a semi-basement. The stock brick front has many points of similarity to that of No.150, the central block having four windows to each storey and the wings two. Again there is a basement bandcourse, a first-floor sill-band, and a crowning mutule cornice. The coarsely detailed entrance porch, placed left of the centre, is certainly a later addition and fronts an arch-headed headed doorway, but the elegant wrought iron balustrade of the double stair approach is probably original. The right-hand Wing has been heightened by one storey, and each wing bears in the centre of its parapet an ornamental vase. The garden front is remarkable for its fine verandah in the Chinese taste (fig. 48b) and the interior still retains some fine decorative features in the refined Grecian style of the period.
No. 154 Denmark Hill is a detached villa consisting of a three-storeyed central block flanked by two-storeyed wings, that to the south having been demolished, the whole raised on a semibasement.
Before maltreatment, the front towards Denmark Hill was a design of great charm and distinction, carried out in stock brick with stone dressings. The three-storeyed centre projects slightly forward from the two-storeyed wings and its ground storey has a wooden portico-verandah of three bays, approached by stone steps at each end. The four equally spaced columns have stone pedestals and bases, slender wooden shafts, and composed capitals of Ionic derivation. The delicately moulded entablature has a frieze decoration of husk-festoons linking vases and paterae The stucco-faced wall behind the colonnade has pilasters responding to the columns and in each bay is a tall rectangular opening, respectively a door and two windows. The three tall rectangular windows of the first floor, and the three almost square windows of the second floor are equally spaced in the brick wall face, without architraves but underlined by narrow sill-bands. Above is a triangular pediment with a mutule cornice and a plain brick tympanum. The brick face of the surviving wing has a slightly recessed centre, containing on the ground storey a tall rectangular window dressed in wood with Doric pilasters and a triangular pediment. The sill-band continues below the plain first-floor window, and the crowning cornice is moulded. The cast-iron balustrade to the verandah is probably Victorian.
Inside, the house has been considerably altered, but some of the original decorative features remain. Most noteworthy is the staircase, of charming form and design, its iron balustrade of vase-profile standards supporting a mahogany handrail with the newel terminals inlaid with ebony stars (fig. 49). Some of the rooms retain their plaster cornices and chimneypieces of wood and composition.
No. 164 Denmark Hill
Formerly No. 180 Denmark Hill
South of No. 154 the only survivor of the original houses is No. 164, a two-storey house which has been refaced but retains its original Greek Doric porch.
Houses on Denmark Hill and Herne Hill now Demolished
When John Ruskin was four years old his parents went to live at Herne Hill and later moved to Denmark Hill. Ruskin's account of his childhood there goes far to explain the urge which seized so many wealthy Londoners to move out into the country in the early 19th century (see page 11). In 1823 Ruskin's father took a long lease of a semi-detached house at Herne Hill. (fn. 54) The house was later numbered 28 and was demolished in or shortly before 1923. Its site is now occupied by Nos. 26 and 28 Herne Hill, and a tablet commemorating John Ruskin's association with the place stands in the garden of No. 28. In 1842 the Ruskin family moved to a larger detached house at Denmark Hill, whose site—for it too has been demolished—was in the parish of Lambeth but is now in the borough of Camberwell, and is occupied by a block of flats. This house remained Ruskin's home until 1871. In the latter part of his life a cousin lived at 28 Herne Hill, and John Ruskin frequently stayed there. (fn. 54)
Eight of the original houses facing Denmark Hill were demolished for the formation of Ruskin Park. There are photographs of all of them in the Photographic Library of the London County Council.
No. 162 was 18th century house which in size, general form and some details, closely resembled No. 152. The body of the house contained a basement and three storeys, and was flanked by narrow one-storey wings. The stock brick front was three windows wide with the doorway on the left, while each wing contained a single window. All the windows were rectangular and without architraves, their heights being proportionate to the three storeys. There was a plinth-band to the ground storey, a sill-band to the first-floor windows, and a crowning mutule cornice with a blocking course, while each wing had a parapet with an open balustrade of equal width to the window below. The chief ornamental feature was the Coade-stone surround to the arch-headed doorway, consisting of vermiculated rustic-blocks and a mask-keystone, the door being flanked by side-lights and surmounted by a finely detailed radial fanlight.
Nos. 164 and 166 were detached houses of late heavy Victorian design, very similar and of small interest.
No. 168 was a large detached house of late 18th century date, with a wide-fronted centre of three storeys and one-storey wings fronted by colonnades of three bays. The stock brick front was a balanced design in which paired windows flanked the central porch and an elaborated first-floor window, the windows generally being rectangular and without architraves, their heights proportioned to the three storeys. There was a continued sill-band to the first-floor windows and a crowning mutule cornice with a blocking course. The wide entrance porch had two pairs of slender columns, with water-leaf capitals, supporting a triglyphed entablature. Single columns of the same design were used for the wing colonnades where the entablature was surmounted by a balustrade. The middle first-floor window, set in a wide segmental-headed opening, was divided into three lights by attenuated columns supporting an entablature and a lunette adorned with an outer ring of fan ornament. The garden front, to which considerable additions had been made, was faced with stucco and adorned at ground-floor level by a long verandah of “Gothic” design.
No. 170 was nearly identical to No. 168. The columns of the porch, however, were more widely spaced and the doorway was arch-headed, while the entablature of the central first-floor window was replaced by a simple transom. The ground storey of the garden front projected from the body of the house, having at its centre a recessed portico.
No. 172 was again similar to No. 168, the variations here being chiefly confined to the design of the porch which had single Doric columns supporting a plain entablature, while the mutules of the crowning cornice were spaced at very wide intervals. This house also had plain single-storey wings.
No. 174 was a late Georgian house with a plain stucco-faced front. The central portion, three storeys high and three windows wide, was flanked on the right by a segmental bow of the same height, and on the left by a wing of two lofty storeys, two windows wide. The ground-storey windows in the central portion and bow were arch-headed and set in recesses, while a cumbrous porch projected on the left of the bow. The simply moulded crowning cornice was surmounted by a blocking course. The garden front, of stock brick, was of no architectural interest.
No. 176, another late Georgian house, had a wide front of two storeys, faced with stucco. The pedimented central feature, three windows wide, was flanked by unequal wings, the left being one window wide and the right two. A Doric porch projected from the central feature. On the garden front both wings projected well forward from the pedimented centre.
No. 18 Herne Hill was demolished shortly after the war of 1939–45. It was a large detached house with a stucco-faced front of Regency Greek design. The central block, three storeys high, was flanked by single-storey wings. The projecting ground storey consisted of a Doric porch centred between flanking faces each containing a single window, framed by an eared architrave, the whole finished with an entablature having a frieze decorated at wide intervals with wreaths. Each upper storey had three widely-spaced windows framed by architraves, the middle first-floor window having in addition a cornice resting on scroll consoles. The crowning cornice was surmounted by a blocking course.
In the absence of contrary evidence, it is suggested that William Blackburn might well have designed Nos. 168, 170 and 172, Denmark Hill, for details in their elevations can be matched in Blackburn‘s authenticated works. For example, the three-light window treatment occurs in his Unitarian Chapel at Lewin‘s Mead, Bristol, while the attenuated Delicacy of the porches recalls the portico at No. 154 Denmark Hill.
St. Matthew‘s Church, Denmark Hill
In 1792 many of the inhabitants of the Camberwell Green area “found it very difficult or impracticable to procure Seats or accommodation to attend Divine Service in the Parish Church of Camberwell”; (fn. 55) they therefore decided to build a proprietary chapel. A committee was elected and in 1794 Claude (later Sir Claude) Champion de Crespigny granted a 99 year lease of the site now occupied by St. Matthew's; the land formed part of four acres which de Crespigny had bought from William Man Godschall in 1783. The chapel accommodated 750 people and was built between 1792 and 1794, the cost being met by twenty to thirty subscriptions of between £100 and £150 each. Each subscriber was entitled to a pew for six persons; part of the remaining accommodation was allotted to the use of the poor. (fn. 55)
In 1814 a surveyor reported that the chapel required “very considerable repair & that the roof was in danger of falling in”. (fn. 55) After several of the subscribing proprietors had refused to contribute towards the cost, a majority of them apparently bought the shares of the more reluctant minority at £30 each. The repairs were then presumably carried out for the chapel continued in use until 1846. By that time the chapel was inadequate for the needs of the growing population of the neighbourhood, and there were 250 applications for sittings which could not be provided. In 1848 both the freehold and the leasehold interests were freely conveyed to the Church Building Commissioners. The chapel was rebuilt at a cost of £6,547 (excluding the tower and spire) and was consecrated on July 15, 1848, A. D. Gough being the architect (Plate 14b). An Ecclesiastical District was assigned shortly afterwards. (fn. 55) The tower and spire were completed by 1858. (fn. 56) The building was destroyed by enemy action in 1940.
This church, of which only the steeple and part of the east end remain, was a Victorian Gothic building of ragstone with Bath stone dressings. The design had one unusual and ingenious feature, for while the east end presented in effect a five-sided apse with a narrow ambulatory, the latter formed in fact a pair of entrance passages leading left and right from the high gabled entrance arch. The elongated windows of the apse clerestory were surmounted by elaborate hoods and placed between thin buttresses with crocketed pinnacles. The tall and slender steeple, standing against the north side of the church, has a French flamboyant character and consists of a two-stage square tower surmounted by an octangular spire.
Nos. 136–142 (even) Denmark Hill
These houses stand on a small piece of land which formerly belonged to the de Crespigny family; they were erected between 1810 and 1824. (fn. 37) They form two plain pairs of semidetached houses, built in stock brick, of three storeys with semi-basements. Their entrance wings, set back slightly at the sides, are a storey less in height. The ground-floor windows are recessed in round-headed arches linked by plain imposts. Each entrance has fluted pilasters, a mutule transom and a simple fanlight of circular pattern. No. 142, now serving as a temporary church for St. Matthew's parish, has a later ground floor bay window.
Denmark Place Baptist Church, Coldharbour Lane
In 1802 a small Baptist chapel was erected at the junction of Coldharbour Lane and Denmark Hill. (fn. 57) By 1823 the congregation had almost dwindled away, but under the leadership of a new minister, Dr. Edward Steane, its fortunes revived so quickly that a larger building was needed. (fn. 58) The present church, which was designed by Mr. Burrell (fn. n1) and built by Mr. Humphries, cost £3,700, and was opened on June 29, 1825. (fn. 57) Side galleries were added in 1832, and further alterations were made in 1869. (fn. 59)
The church is a plain stock brick building, and has a front with three round arches supporting a pediment. The arches have keystones, the centre one being incised “A.D. 1823”, probably in commemoration of the renewal of the chapel by Dr. Steane. There are four entrances, each of which has a segmental or triangular pediment borne on consoles.
Nos. 125 and 127 Coldharbour Lane
Formerly Nos. 3 and 4 Adelphi Place
These houses stand on a piece of freehold land formerly in the possession of Susannah Vaughan, and are the survivors of Adelphi Place, a row which was probably erected between 1830 and 1834. (fn. 60) The easternmost house, which was numbered 119 and was formerly known as White Cottages, was a detached two-storey stucco villa. It has now been demolished, but is illustrated in a supplement to The Architect and Building News of December 2, 1932. Nos.125 and 127 are a pair of houses now very much mutilated. Built of stock brick with slated mansard roofs they are three storeys high with a semi-basement, and an attic in the roof. The party wall is marked by a recession in the wall face and each house is one window wide, the entrance being at the side. The windows are square-headed, there is a sill band at first-floor level and the simple cornice is finished with a blocking course. On the side elevation of No.125 a semi-circular patterned fanlight of a former front door remains.
Nos. 121 and 123 were probably similar.
Herne Hill Railway Station
The decline of Denmark Hill and Herne Hill as wealthy residential areas began in the 1860s when the railways invaded the neighbourhood. Herne Hill became the junction of the two arms of the Metropolitan Extensions of the London, Chatham and Dover Company. The whole scheme, of which Herne Hill Station. (Plate 39a) forms part, was completed in 1863, Cubitt and Turner being the engineers, and Peto and Betts the general contractors. In 1866 a loop line connecting Victoria and London Bridge Stations was built through Denmark Hill. With quick and cheap access to London, large numbers of small houses were soon afterwards built in the neighbourhood.
Loughborouch Park Congregational Chapel, Coldharbour Lane
This chapel, whose foundation stone was laid in 1860, is a plain building built in grey brick with stone dressings and designed in quasi-Norman style. It has long lancet windows at the sides and a large wheel window set in the north front. There are vigorously carved foliated pilasters flanking this window and at the corners of the building, and machicolations to the north gable and the eaves as well as to the tower. The latter, built some years after the rest of the chapel, is sited at the north-west corner and is capped by a sharply-pitched chisel-type slated roof. The main roof, also of slate, is punctuated by ventilating dormers. There is a small entrance porch in the centre of the north front. The chapel is used for storage purposes at the present.
St. Saviour's Church, Herne Hill Road
In 1864 a temporary church to serve this neighbourhood was erected on the north side of Coldharbour Lane. Shortly afterwards the Ecclesiastical Commissioners offered a site for a permanent church at the corner of Coldharbour Lane and Flaxman Road, but the plans drawn up by the local church building committee were rejected by the Commissioners. Owing to lack of money the whole project was abandoned. In 1865 James Lewis Minet offered to present an acre of ground in Herne Hill Road and fifty pounds towards the cost of building a church there. In 1866 the land was freely given to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who contributed £500 to the building fund. The foundation stone was laid by Melicent, wife of William Henry Stone, M.P., on June 29, 1866. The church accommodated 938 people and was consecrated by the Bishop of Winchester on June 25, 1867. The architect was A. D. Gough, (fn. 61) the chancel and south transept being added later to the designs of W. Gibbs Bartleet (Plate 15a). (fn. 62)
St. Saviour's is an uncouth Victorian building of ragstone dressed with Bath stone. The aisled nave of four bays, a hybrid design with late Norman and Early English characteristics, is the earlier portion to which were added double transepts and an apsidal-ended chancel, more consistently Gothic in style with Geometrical and plate tracery in the windows. The tower at the north-west corner has five offset stages, the topmost being arcaded and surmounted by a pyramid roof, and there is a tall round pinnacle at the north-west angle. The interior calls for little comment-the nave arches are Norman in style, there is no chancel arch, and the windows of the eastern apse have two lights with a six-foil above.
St. Saviour's C.E. Primary School, Herne Hill Road
This school was built in 1868, shortly after the completion of St. Saviour's Church. The cost was £1,550 of which £1,062 was raised by local voluntary contributions. (fn. 39) The school was enlarged in 1892. (fn. 63) It occupies a stock brick building designed in the Gothic style.
Carnegie Public Library, Herne Hill Road
In 1901 the Lambeth Borough Librarian, F. J. Burgoyne, applied to Andrew Carnegie for financial help to build a library in the Herne Hill area and so complete the library system of the borough. In the following year Carnegie promised to grant £12,500. (fn. 64) A site was then acquired and H. Wakeford and Sons were appointed architects. (fn. 65) A tender for £11,316 from Messrs. Holliday and Greenwood was accepted, (fn. 64) and the library was opened by Lady Durning Lawrence on July 9, 1906. (fn. 66)
The library consists of an imposing formal group of buildings of two and three storeys designed in free Renaissance style. It stands on a sloping site and is built of red brick, brown unglazed terracotta also being used extensively as a facing material. The central entrance is slightly set forward and has a broken pediment and gable above. The pavilion ends, which are similarly detailed, are flanked by coupled Ionic columns. The three-storeyed wings each have two pedimented gables and their entrances are hooded. All the roofs are of green slate and each wing is surmounted by a small octagonal lantern.
St. Philip and St. James Roman Catholic Church, Poplar Walk
This church was erected in 1905 (fn. 63) and is a simple stock brick building with open pedimented east and west gables and a slate roof. A large circular west window, with transoms and mullions forming an open cross within it, is set above the entrance. A five-bay round-arched arcade built on the north side was intended to lead to an aisle but this extension has never been made. The architect was probably F. W. Tasker.
The site of Ruskin Park was acquired by the London County Council in two portions. The first portion cost £48,000, (fn. 67) and was opened on February 2, 1907; (fn. 68) the second portion cost £24,000 (fn. 67) and was opened on February 19, 1910. (fn. 69) Generous subscriptions were received from the Metropolitan boroughs of Camberwell, Lambeth and Southwark and a local committee collected voluntary contributions for both purchases. A small piece of land was added in 1929. (fn. 67) Eight of the original houses facing Denmark Hill were included in the new Park, and have subsequently been demolished (see page 149). One of these houses, formerly No. 170, was the home of Captain James Wilson, and its portico has been retained as a shelter. A commemorative tablet records that “In the house of which this shelter is a remainder lived 1799–1814 Captain James Wilson, who was born at Newcastle-on-Tyne 1760 and after an adventurous life at sea during which he was present at the Battles of Lexington and Bunker‘s Hill and was confined nearly two years in the Black Hole at Seringapatam, served the London Missionary Society 1796–98 as Honorary Commander of the ‘Duff’, the first British Missionary Ship of modern times”. Nearby is a sundial commemorating Mendelssohn's stay at Dane House (formerly No. 168), which was then the home of F. C. Benecke. An inscription on the sundial states “Here stood the house where Mendelssohn wrote the Spring Song 1842”.
King's College Hospital
In 1839 the Council of King's College, London University, realizing that facilities for clinical training for the medical students of the College were needed, took on lease the former workhouse of the parish of St. Clement Danes. This building was converted into a hospital by Sir Robert Smirke; (fn. 70) in 1852 a new building was erected near by to the designs of Thomas Bellamy. (fn. 71) By the end of the 19th century changes in the character of the locality had deprived the hospital of much of its usefulness, and the idea of removing it elsewhere was already being discussed. (fn. 72) In 1904 the Hon. W. F. D. Smith, M.P., purchased 11 acres of land at Denmark Hill (fn. 73) which he presented to the Governors of the hospital. A competition limited to six leading architects (fn. 74) for the design of the new buildings was won by William Alfred Pite, (fn. 75) and the foundation-stone was laid by Edward VII on July 20, 1909. (fn. 63) The contractors were Messrs. Foster and Dicksee of Rugby; (fn. 70) the first portion of the hospital to be completed was opened by George V on July 26, 1913.
The private patients‘ wards were erected in 1937 to the designs of Messrs. Colcutt and Hamp. The tower over their entrance was erected by Sir Connop Guthrie, bart., K.B.E., to commemorate the success of his son Giles in the 1936 Portsmouth-Johannesburg Air Race.
The hospital is arranged with the main administration block, which is five-storeyed and Dominates the group, situated at the centre of the north or Bessemer Road front. This block extends back as far as the main corridor which is the spine of the scheme and runs east-west bisecting the site. Southward at right angles from this corridor run various ward blocks of two and three storeys.
The older parts of the hospital are designed in a Classical style characteristic of the early 18th century with a particular Vanbrughian flavour in the low pedimented pavilions flanking the administration block. The hospital is built mostly of stock brick but has some red brick, and Portland stone dressings are used freely.
The Denmark Hill entrance to the private patients‘ wards, adjoining No. 150, is surmounted by a tower of modernistic design with neo-Georgian elements. At each side of the entrance, which has a cantilevered hood, there are four stone panels carved with various drug-producing flowers. In front of this entrance stands a marble statue to Dr. Robert Bentley Todd, 1809–60, who was Professor of Physiology at the hospital.
The chapel is in effect a simple basilica with round-headed windows designed to receive the good late Victorian stained glass windows removed from the former hospital; it is situated at first-floor level on the axis southward of the administration block.