77 St John St EC1M: the ASLEF building

Next time you are walking along St John St, look out for this dome, with the elephant wind vane. It’s on the West side, just a bit further North than the White Bear pub.

77 St John St EC1M, 9″ x 7″ in Sketchbook 13, 17th March 2023

I can’t find out anything about why there’s an elephant up there. The wind vane is on number 77 St John St, currently occupied by, amongst others, ASLEF the train drivers union, and “Liberation – Justice for Colombia”

JFC was set up in 2002 by the British trade union movement to support Colombian civil society in its struggle for human rights, labour rights, peace and social justice.

All JFC work is carried out in response to the demands of our partners in Colombia: the political activists, trade unionists, peasant organisations, human rights defenders, and other civil society groups who are on the front line in demanding peace and social justice.

JFC promotes links of solidarity between British and Irish trade unions and organisations in Colombia and gives a political voice internationally to Colombian civil society through our work in the British, Irish and EU Parliaments

“Justice for Colombia website: https://justiceforcolombia.org

The building in the centre of my drawing is numbers 69, 71 and 73 St John St. These buildings are listed Grade II, list entry no: 1195730.

In 2015 there was an application to build another floor on top of number 69, for residential use. As part of the planning submission, the applicant commissioned a detailed historical study from Paul Edwards, Dip Arch (Oxford) IHBC, Historic Environment Specialist. His 15-page report provides fascinating information about the houses. For example:

Nos 69-73 are depicted in Tallis London Street View, drawn 1838-1840,
… There were three bays, at the centre an alley leading to an internal yard flanked by buildings of
three storeys and attics, each with two windows each side of the alley.
The facades had classical Georgian or Regency proportions, with tall
sash windows at 1st and second floor levels and continuous small pane shop windows at ground floor level. A gambrel roof was set behind an eaves parapet.
The northern house was leased by John Newton a cork manufacturer
who took over the whole premises and whose firm remained there
until the First World War.
The ground floor front of No 69 was re-modelled in the mid-19th century with arched openings and Ionic pilasters in stucco. The shop front of No 73 dates from 1884. There had been a fire in the cork
warehouse in 1882 which was then partly rebuilt with No 69 being extended over the alley between the two houses. In 1896 the two buildings were made into one.

Paul Edwards, 69 St John Street, Islington, Historic Asset Assessment (Version 1) February 2015.

The proposal was rejected by the Islington planning officer in 2018, after appeal.

Here is a sketch map showing where I was standing and my view-line:

St John Street is a fascinating area, with layers of history, and still evolving. I’ve sketched here a number of times.

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