No. 33 Charterhouse Square EC1

This is a little white building I always enjoy walking past. It is the westernmost end of a thin terrace of warehouses and showrooms, lodged in a triangle between the road and the railway. As I passed it the other day I saw that the tree which has taken root above the door was putting out leaves, and flourishing in its unlikely place.

On the bottom right is Hayne Street, which forms a bridge over the railway lines. There is a dark deep gap. The buildings on the right are the other side of the railway. The railway lines are the Hammersmith and City, Circle, and Metropolitan underground lines, which emerge briefly into the open air at this point . This is good to know, in case you are trying to send a text message from the tube train.

33 Charterhouse Square (left) and Hayne Street EC1. 10″ x 7″ in sketchbook 9. 19 April 2021

Recently this building has been used as some sort of office or headquarters of the Farringdon Crossrail development which is now completed. The construction workers have left, and this building looks vacated and rather sad, but noble in its sadness.

Here are some maps1 (click to enlarge):

Here are some photos of the location and work in progress.

The drawing was done at about 17:30 at the end of a gloriously sunny day. The colours here are: Transparent Brown Oxide, Fire Gold Ochre, Phthalo Blue Turquoise, Buff Titanium, Mars Yellow. There is Transparent Pyrrol Orange for the road sign and the leaves of the tree are Green Gold. The paper is Arches Aquarelle 300gsm.

This building was completed in 1875-6. The architect was the aptly named Coutts Stone. This and other fascinating and detailed information is in the scholarly “Survey of London” 2008 edition.

Here is their entry on the row of houses on the South side of Charterhouse Square. I have drawn number 33, the westernmost section.

Nos 33–43

The Metropolitan Railway acquired the whole of the south side of Charterhouse Square and emptied the properties in order to construct their extension from Farringdon to Moorgate in 1864–5. The cutting of the railway entailed the demolition of Nos 32–38 on the south side of the square, along with the whole of Thomas Neale’s Charterhouse Street. Nos 39–43 were briefly left standing, but the operation left the whole south side as an awkward set of narrow sites whose amenities were further diminished by the new east—west thoroughfare completed in front of them in 1873–4 (Ill. 338).

In 1875 the railway company sold the whole frontage to Tubbs, Lewis & Co., manufacturers of elastic fabric, silk throwsters, warehousemen and ‘smallware agents’, with premises in the City, Birmingham and Manchester, and a manufacturing base in Gloucestershire. The firm also had a line in the speculative building of warehouses at this period, on which they spent about a quarter of a million pounds. The row which they erected here was one of several local developments they carried out during the mid-1870s, including Charterhouse Buildings at the corner of Goswell and Clerkenwell Roads . The company chose as its architect Coutts Stone, a friend of George Devey. Early drawings suggest there was some thought of rebuilding from No. 38 eastwards with houses , but in the event the whole block became warehousing. Construction took place in 1876–7. Andrew Killby was the builder for Nos 33–42, with interior structural ironwork provided by H. Young & Co.; Scrivener & White took on the separate No. 43.

Nos 33–42 (Ill. 341) stand four storeys above a basement protected by heavy iron railings. The block is divided into three sections. The front elevation, faced in red brick, has a strong horizontal emphasis, with broad banks of mullioned windows relieved by some minor brick detailing. No. 43 has a narrower frontage and an extra storey topped by a pediment, while its main windows are of iron and flanked by decorated pilasters.

Tenants for these warehouses were mainly involved in the textile trades. At No. 41 one of the original occupants was Griswold & Hainworth Ltd, early specialists in portable knitting machines for domestic use.  In the early 1890s the whole of No. 40 was occupied by David Marcus, importer and agent of Eastern manufactured goods: ‘The basement is reserved as a show-room for Oriental carpets and furniture; the ground floor is divided in front into a splendid show-room, and at the rear forms the wellappointed office; while the upper floors are fully utilised as show and stock-rooms’. In 1917 No. 42 became the first premises of J. Collett Ltd, ladies’ hat makers; they gradually took in Nos 41 and 43 and spread elsewhere in the square. The projecting clock which survives at No. 43 was put up by them in 1930. Though there were still four clothing firms here in the mid-1970s, there had been a shift towards printing, illustration and white-collar work. Since then most of the row has been fitted out as offices and studios, including No. 41 by Campbell Zogolovitch Wilkinson Gough (CZWG) in 1980 for the pop artist Allen Jones. “

1 Citation for text above and map:   BHO  Chicago  MLA ‘Charterhouse Square area: Introduction; Charterhouse Square’, in Survey of London: Volume 46, South and East Clerkenwell, ed. Philip Temple (London, 2008), pp. 242-265. British History Online [accessed 20 April 2021].

Update: here is a tweet from @nicholas_sack, (4th Sept 2021) with a wonderful photo of the same building, 20 years ago.

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