Galway House is one of the two Towers on the Pleydall Estate just North of Old Street. The other tower is Grayson.
I drew this from behind Grayson House. There was a ferocious cold wind. I seemed to have picked the place where all the winds met. Here are maps showing the direction I was looking.
Here are the blocks in the picture. It almost looks as though the Atlas Building continues the march of these majestic 1960s blocks. But it doesn’t, not really.
In the drawing you can see the scaffolding on the Atlas Building, and the external lift that was going up and down as I was drawing.
I was interested to see that the inhabitants of Galway Tower made use of their flower beds.
I’ve seen the same arrangement of raised flower beds next to the flats in Rahere House, where the beds were more exposed, and not used.
This whole area underwent huge changes in the twentieth century, although the street layout is unchanged.
From 1751, on Old Street, there was a huge hospital for the mentally ill: St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics.
This hospital was closed in 1916 and the residents moved out. The building was acquired by the Bank of England and used for printing bank notes.
Here is the area in 1940: map from http://www.maps-of-london.com, click to enlarge.
You see Galway Street on the crease of the map, in the centre about a quarter of the way down. Below it, to the right is the “Bank Printing Works”.
In 1959 the London County Council sought to purchase the Printing Works site and use it as an annexe to Covent Garden. This was opposed by Michael Cliffe, MP for Finsbury and Shoreditch, on the grounds that it would create unacceptable traffic congestion, especially at the Old Street Roundabout.
Mr Cliffe is quoted in Hansard:
“…London County Council (General Powers) Bill, …. The Council, through the Bill, sought powers to acquire and redevelop St. Luke’s Printing Works as an annexe of Covent Garden Market….. I would ask the Minister what is the point of spending millions of pounds in trying to solve the problem of congestion in Central London if we are to convert the St. Luke’s Printing Works as an annexe to Covent Garden in an area where we know it must inevitably cause the kind of congestion that we are trying to avoid and which we are discussing every day. As the number of vehicles increases, further problems will have to be solved. Surely we do not want to create further difficulties after our experience gained in the past?” [Hansard: HC Deb 17 December 1959 vol 615 cc1738-47]
Mr Cliffe must have prevailed. I feel an affinity with him because earlier this week I drew Michael Cliffe House.
The Printing Works building was demolished in 1963. At around that time Finsbury Council was building council houses, including the 4 tower blocks in the area: Gambier House, Grayson House, Godfrey House and Galway House. So somehow the Council must have acquired the Print Works site. I can’t find the history online so I’m going to visit the London Metropolitan Archives and the Islington Museum.
The Towers also were allocated to different Estates: Galway is in the “St Luke’s Estate” which includes the Printing works Site, Gambier is in the City Road Estate and Grayson and Galway are in the Pleydell Estate.
From “Streets with a story, The book of Islington” (1986) by Eric A Willats FLA I learn that: “Messrs. Emberton, Franck & Tardrew were the architects of Galway House (Pleydell Estate)”.