Clifton House 75-77 Worship Street EC2

This is the building on the corner of Worship Street and Clifton Street, on the northern edge of the City of London.

Clifton House, 75-77 Worship Street, EC2, 13 September 2021, 7″ x 10″ in Sketchbook 10
Location of the drawing

Holywell Street is to the left of the drawing. I sketched this from a bench in the little pedestrian square that now exists where Clifton Street meets Worship Street.

What is this building? Well, now it is inhabited by an organisation called “NEL NHS” according to the notice on the door. From what I can discover online, NEL stands for “North East London” and the organisation is an in-house consulting organisation for the NHS (the UK National Health Service). They are a “Commissioning Support Unit (CSU)” which means they supply services to, for example, GP practices, and area administrators of parts of the NHS. Computing projects and change programmes amongst the service offerings listed on their website. NEL is quite a big organisation. LinkedIn records it as having 967 employees of whom 457 work in London.

Clifton House circa 1920, from the website of the Tony and Sheelagh Williams Charitable Foundation.

That’s who’s there now. But the building has a history. It was built in 1900, for the printers Williams Lea. Williams Lea printed stamps, newspapers, and foreign language material. In the 1939-45 conflict, they printed UK government propaganda in German, which was dropped into Germany. They also printed the first copy of the Radio Times, in 1923, probably in this very building. Williams Lea has itself undergone various transformations, and is now called Perivan. The Perivan website has a history section which helpfully provided me with this information. (Note 1)

In 1978 Tony Williams took over the family business of Williams Lea. Under his leadership the business flourished. He took the decision

“to establish Williams Lea as a Financial Printer serving the City community with its specialist printing needs. This move coincided with the privatisations of many state-owned industries and utilities and in 1990 Williams Lea was awarded the printing for the privatisation of the electricity industry, one of the largest and most complex jobs of its type.” [https://www.tandswilliams.org/]

It did well. He sold the business in 2006, and with the money established a charitable foundation which exists today.

My drawing took 90 mins on location, with colour added later at my desk.

I spent a long time looking at this building. There are the large windows, which are also doors, so that large items can be lifted out from the different floors. Some of the windows have louvres for extraction fans.

There are many textures in the brickwork. Some cobwebs have been there a while.

Here is a 1945 map showing the location:

Map from “www.maps-of-london.com”

I sketched this location as a “microsketch” earlier this year:

Note 1: History of the building: references.

Pevsner LONDON 4: NORTH, page 525 refers to “Clifton House, at the corner of Clifton Street and Worship Street, another printers, (WIlliams Lea & Co) built 1900, five storeys, with handsome red brick arched windows.”

Perivan website: https://www.perivan.com/about-us/our-history/ Perivan say:

A Mr J E Lea became a partner of the business in 1864, and it was promptly renamed to Wertheimer Lea & Co. When John Wertheimer passed away in 1883, Mr J H Williams purchased his share (great grandfather of Philip Williams, who works within Perivan today). Over the years, J H Williams acquired the rest of the company and in 1899, Wertheimer Lea built a new factory in Worship Street, London, to consolidate 5 production sites. Now central London, at the time the new factory was built, it was possible to see fields from the top floor. The biggest USP was that all the machines were powered by electricity. The business was renamed in 1914 to Williams Lea to reflect the existing founders. A fun fact – Williams Lea printed the first edition of the Radio Times in 1923!……Throughout the wartime years, Williams Lea survived the blitz where many other printers did not. With its specialism in foreign language printing, this was understandably in very high demand at this point in history, and Williams Lea was heavily involved in the printing of propaganda materials in German which bombers distributed by throwing them out of aeroplanes over Germany – containing messages encouraging the enemy to give up. Williams Lee also printed newspapers for governments in exile in London, including Poland and Norway, and stamps for the Post Office.”

On a specialist postage stamp collectors site http://www.bermudastamps.co.uk/info/stamp-printers/ there is a reference to Williams Lea printing stamps:

“Williams Lea & Co
Contractor to De La Rue after their premises were bombed on 29th December 1940. William Lea & Co printed the Bermuda high value stamps during 1941.

Other historical information came from the website of the Tony and Sheelagh Williams Charitable Foundation.

2 thoughts on “Clifton House 75-77 Worship Street EC2”

    1. Thank you! The amazing thing was that I didn’t “choose” this location particularly. I was due to meet someone in the area, and arrived early, so sat in the square to wait. I just sketched what was in front of me, little knowing that it had such a rich history. It was a fascinating building to sketch : all those windows. Somehow, looking at it, it seemed to “be” something. I was thrilled to learn about Williams Lea, and how the business has flourished and continues, in different forms. Even researching the current occupiers, “NEL NHS” gave me an insight into a new area. So the building prompted explorations: what lies before, what lies beneath, and what lies ahead!

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