Saturday, May 16, 2015

Pimlico, London


I always look out for examples of model dwellings (see an earlier post here) built in the Victorian period by enlightened landlords who want to provide decent accommodation for the working classes. In London, many of these were built by the Peabody Trust, which did a huge amount of work to provide improved housing after its foundation in the 1860s. Peabody flats are often built in pale brick and sometimes with access balconies like these, the Coleshill Flats in London SW1, dating from 1871. On the ground floor are shops, and between the pairs of shops are entrances that lead to stairs to the balconies above. Pale brick with a bit of restrained polychromy in the form of narrow red brick bands, plus sash windows, completes the picture as far as the street facade is concerned.

Except, not quite. Looking up, one sees that the building has very decorative French-style pavilion roofs, each topped with ornate iron creating. It’s a surprising touch on what otherwise looks like a rather basic building, a roofing style that’s more at home on grand hotels or big office blocks. And the accommodation up there must, I’d have thought, be quite small (indeed the one Peabody flat I’ve been in had very small rooms, but was no less convenient and admirable for that). How interesting that the builders of these flats gave them this touch of grandeur, as if signalling that these dwellings were better – lighter, more hygienic, more spacious – than the accommodation its tenants were probably used to. As if, also, anticipating the upward mobility of the area a century later.


Chel @ Sweetbriar Dreams said...

It's surprising just how small some of the flats in London are, and for such extortionate sums of cash. We moved out quite a few years ago from London as we felt squeezed out, but when we visit now we smile at the space we have compared to back then. From the outside though, they look so regal and elegant (never judge a book by its cover). So glad I found your blog. Take care.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Chel: Thank you so much. Yes, I too left London and was pleased to escape from its feverish property market. Now my son is coping with paying most of his income to live in a tiny space. So it goes on.