Chimneys and subsidence

Another very warm day. The weather forecast was for a temperature of 20° C (68° F) but it felt warmer than that. We kept to the shade and enjoyed the occasional breezy gusts. The air was quite hazy, as you will be able to see in the photos.

Old River Head buildings
Old River Head buildings

Our walk took us past the New River Head, the terminus of Hugh Myddelton’s New River. The site is fenced off, of course, and one can see the old buildings only from a distance. The site is being considered by the Council for planning permission and so its future is uncertain though, in my view, it is worth preserving as a site of important historical interest.

Charles Rowan House
Charles Rowan House

This building is called Charles Rowan House and it is currently owned and run by the Council as a residential block. What do you think of it, stylistically? I am in two minds myself by incline to finding it “interesting” though not beautiful. It might surprise you to learn that Historic England has given it a Grade II listing.

Gateway, Charles Rowan House
Gateway, Charles Rowan House

Designed in Expressionist style by G. Mackenzie Trench, architect and surveyor for the Metropolitan Police Authority, it was built in 1928-30 as accommodation for married police officers and named after Sir Charles Rowan, one of the first Commissioners of the force when it was formed in the 1820s.

Passage between gardens
Passage between gardens

This pleasant passage between gardens seems not to have a name – at least, no name is shown on my maps. It links Lloyd Square with St Helena Street. It forms a convenient short cut and without it one would have a long walk round.

Georgian style with Classical overtones
Georgian style with Classical overtones

I photographed this pair of houses because I liked their solid but elegant form, topped with a Greek style triangular pediment. They are wider than some of the more typical Georgian style houses in the area, suggesting larger rooms and a more commodious layout.

Roses, Cumberland Gardens
Roses, Cumberland Gardens

We passed through Cumberland Gardens, some of whose roses I photographed the other day (see White roses and white lions). Today they were putting on a fine show, glowing with pristine whiteness in the sunlight.

Multiplicity of chimneys
Multiplicity of chimneys

This time I noticed this impressive line of chimneys silhouetted against the sun. How many do you make it? The reason for this multiplicity is because when these houses were built, the coal fire was the only form of domestic heating available and there would have been a fireplace in most rooms, including the kitchen where a coal-fired kitchen range would have been used for cooking. The housed were built in mirror-image pairs with the chimneys of both aligned along the top of their common wall. So we can see here the chimneys of two houses.

Signs of subsidence
Signs of subsidence

These two houses are are more in the typical Georgian style but they are not the usual mirror-image pair: both are oriented the sane way round. Houses in this row show minor differences between them, perhaps different patterns of ironwork or windows that are rectangular or arched. I did notice one little detail: look at the shape of the partly open window above the right-hand front door. Here is a close-up.

Window showing signs if subsidence
Window showing signs if subsidence

If you look at the top of the window, you will see that the top of the frame is not square but tapered. The top of the window frame and the window sill are also out of kilter in sympathy with it: they all slope down towards the right.

London is notorious for subsidence and in modern times building regulations require deep foundations to guard against this. Builders in times past were not always so careful with the result that many buildings have over time suffered subsidence. This has sometimes been treated by underpinning the building but this would not necessarily set the building straight again. In that case, a reshaping of doors and windows might be necessary to make them fit their respective frames! I wonder whether the floors also slope in this house as that was sometimes a result of subsidence.

As usual, our last port of call was Myddelton’s where we collected our coffee before hurrying home to enjoy it.

About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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