The Victorian Terrace and it’s influence on East London. (Dissertation Abstract and Reflection)

Abstract

Victorian London was a period of new developments, technologies, industries and rapid expansion, on a city, country and global scale. London was changing fast, as Summerson discusses, “The mechanics of this movement were exactly those which had been moving London for a hundred years – estate development and the leasehold system.”[1] The rapidly expanding population of the Victorian era drove estate development around the outskirts of the city. This surge in population was primarily middle-class, as new industries brought with them opportunity for upward social mobility.[2] New jobs and professions were created in engineering and manufacturing industries. These industries also created a vast financial sector for accountants, clerks, book-keepers and secretaries.[3] Victorian London witnessed the widespread establishment of the middle classes. Social pretensions were paramount for this ‘new’ class.[4] Their financial status and their job titles only set them marginally apart from the working classes of the city. Their home, family, church and education would define them on an elevated social strata. Elitism in communities emerged as interaction with lower class would not only compromise your family’s place in society but your community’s standings.[5]

In the eighteenth century landowners began planning streets and squares, establishing an urban fabric on their once rural land. Blocks of land on these sites were subsequently leased to speculative developers or builders, who constructed houses and estates that they were then entitled to lease for 99 years.[6] This process of land development was sustained by the extension of mortgages. This became a highly attractive means of investment for the middle-classes. It is through this means of development that a vast number of middle-class quarters were created during the nineteenth century.[7] As the land would eventually revert back to the landowner, he had a vested interested in how the land was developed, often stipulating the size, style and standard of housing, while dictating the type of occupant that was acceptable.[8] This desire to optimise rent prices lead to the widespread development of estates aimed at the top end of the market. Towards the end of the nineteenth century many estates were opened to multiple tenants and rented to working-class occupants in an attempt to make a return on the initial investment.[9]

Summerson discusses how the presence of a church or the potential to develop one was a vital component in the development of these middle-class Victorian estates.[10] The church was regarded as a highly respected body of power. Through the placement of a church in an estate development, a religious figure and air of prestige was placed on the residents. The development of a church was, in general, the responsibility of the builder. It is from the provision of the infrastructure that brought with it the committee and clergy to run the establishment.[11] It was through this strategy that developers added value to their lands by instilling a sense of power, prestige and authority that allowed for the rapid development of churches across London in the Victorian era.[12] This religious infrastructure would then follow on to host the vestries and district boards that became responsible for the maintenance and management of local housing standards and the alleviation of overcrowding among working class. [13]

The Anglican church declined in numbers and attendance through-out the eighteenth Century. The emergence of the middle-class and the development of the outskirts of the city in the nineteenth Century  were seen as an opportunity for the church to expand its reach, and instil a religious tradition in the new communities of London.[14] Bishop Bloomfield the Bishop of London from 1828-56 oversaw the creation of two hundred new churches during his period as bishop.[15] We can see from them ‘The Ecclesiastical Gazette’ from  November 1839 that the Holy Trinity Church of Tredegar square was one of those, shown in fig.10.[16] Bloomfield believed that a material church must be provided from the outset of a new development. This activity of creating physical churches, for the congregation to follow, was conceived to improve the church’s quantitative position within English society. “These Victorian church builders secured the survival of credible parochial system and created landmarks and points of community focus in a sometimes drab cityscape.”[17] Schools were often established along-side the church to instil a faith in the young population, which would infiltrate and filter into family living and establish strong ecumenical roots within family units.[18]

The programme of land development was initially seen in Bow through the construction of Tredegar square. Sir Charles Morgan of Tredegar, a member of the House of Lords, along with the Coborn trustees, initially began leasing plots for development in 1820,[19] the same year the Regents canal opened. On Cross’s New Map of London circa 1850,[20] we can see that Tredegar Square is complete and evidence of the Holy Trinity Church and the Grammar school, circled in red in fig.11. The Holy Trinity Church was built between 1834-9, on a site donated by Sir Charles Morgan of Tredegar. The Holy Trinity Church off Tredegar Square was initially funded by the lawyer E.A Dickenson. He ran out of funds in 1836 and the church was completed by the Metropolis Churches Fund.[21] The Holy Trinity church was consecrated by Bishop Bloomfield of London on the 27th of November 1839 as described by ‘The Ecclesiastical Gazette’ of 1839. “The Bishop was attended by a great many of the clergy of the district, and by the parochial authorities, so the whole ceremony had and imposing and dignified appearance.”[22] The adjacent Grammar School was completed in 1847 to educate the new population and supplement the teachings of the church. The establishment of the church and a prestigious educational institution established a middle class residential area in Bow in the mid-nineteenth century. Fig.11 shows a plan of Tredegar square with the church and school circled in red.

The church was built in a Gothic style, which was popular among middle-classes as a means of showcasing their wealth. Gothic architecture also accredits its roots to Medieval English churches. This style was popular with developers for its ecclesiastical associations that would reinforce the establishment of a prestigious church in an estate.[23] The House of Parliament of Westminster was also a huge source of influence at the time. Given Lord Tredegar’s position in the House of Lords, it is most likely that he played a major role in the establishment of the architectural language of not only the square but the Church as well.[24]

Architecture of the square is more accurately that of the late Georgian movement.[25] The terraces are built as units with no single house standing out with exception to the central dwelling which would have been reserved for the most prestigious family, invited to live on this site by Lord Tredegar.[26] Pitched roofs are hidden behind parapets with the ground floor being stuccoed to resemble stonework.  Doors and windows took a Romanesque arch form as seen in fig.13 of the western terraces of Tredegar Square. This architecture was originally used to portray the power and importance of great Renaissance families such as the Medici’s in Florence.[27] This style was emulated in Tredegar square again with the desire to bestow a social tone onto the community that would attract and maintain pretensions. The Northern facade, shown in fig.12, is completely rendered in stuccos work that resembles stonework, with columns embellishing entrances. This architectural language emulates that of the work of John Nash on Regent’s park and the surrounding terraces. Sir Charles Morgan would have seen this as an association with the upper echelons of society to accentuate the social status of the area to that of the West End. The street names of Tredegar Estate were also utilised as a tool to maintain the social status of the development. Names such as Tredegar Terrace, Morgan Street and Rhondda Grove capitalised on the family name of Sir Charles Morgan of Tredegar and his respectable position in high society.

We can see a typical model of development used in Tredegar Square. There is one main side to the North with the most elaborate facades on the square. These would have been the prime residential units of the estate. It was general practice at the time that tenants could have potentially been required to be invited to rent these properties at the approval of Lord Tredegar. A practice commonly utilised by developers since the eighteenth century.[28]

The development of the Anglican church to promote its faith in the dignified middle-classes of London and developers desire to capitalise on rents meant extensive measures were taken to secure this new development at Tredegar Square as a successful middle-class community. We will see later from Charles Booths poverty map of 1889, fig.35, that this initial establishment of a middle-class remained strong at the end of the nineteenth century.[29]

Reflection

The detailed analysis that I undertook for my dissertation stipulated my approach to my thesis. My heavy research on residential units has become apparent in my work. The notion of temporal continuity in the design of housing that was introduced to me by the work of Neave Brown has in fact been a driving force in the deciding factors of both my dissertation and thesis. As you can see from above that the presence of a particular architectural fabric creates perceptions in the publics of eye of a particular area. This can go against social realities or with them. The user always has an expected experience of architecture, through spatial sequence, aesthetic language or social barriers. The need to recognise these and create an architecture that is aware of its historical situation and the situation of its user is of high importance.

Through my historical analysis on my site and surrounding area. I have landed on a function that was not initially apparent to me. By the study of past architecture on the site, from Martello Towers, Norman Castles and terraced houses I have wished to land on a strategy  that is grounded temporal with the need of the site.

I have realised that my interest is not with the old or the historical but that it with their lasting effects. What was perviously present or potential still is has moulded the immediate and surrounding community. That social demographic and activities of a community are derived from the past and tradition. As seen by the speculative builders widespread development of Georgian and Victorian terraced houses, that the user does not always stipulate the architecture. That the application of an architectural language to a site can alter the communal perception and in turn stipulate the user. In the realisation of the power of a housing scheme, it is the duty of the architect to apply of form and language that respects and promotes the temporal continuity of the user.

[1] John Summerson, The Architecture of Victorian London, First Edition (The University Press of Virginia, 1976), 1–34.

[2] Helena Barrett and John Phillips, Suburban Style: The British Home, 1840-1960, Book, Whole (London: Macdonald, 1987), 9–92.

[3] Helena Barrett and John Phillips, Suburban Style: The British Home, 1840-1960, Book, Whole (London: Macdonald, 1987), 9-92.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Elizabeth McKellar, The Birth of Modern London: The Development and Design of the City 1660-1720. Abstract, ‘Housing the City: Tradition and Innovation in the Urban Terrace’, Book (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999), 155–187.

[6] Ricardo R. Pinto, Developments in Housing Management and Ownership, Book, Whole (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995).

[7] Summerson, The Architecture of Victorian London, 1975, 1-34.

[8] Pinto, Developments in Housing Management and Ownership, (Manchester University Press, 1995),150–200.

[9] Barrett and Phillips, Suburban Style: The British Home, 1840-1960.

[10] Summerson, The Architecture of Victorian London 1975, 1-34.

[11] Stewart, Housing Question in London 1855-1900 (The London City Council, 1900), 68-90.

[12] John Wolffe, ‘The Chicken or the Egg? Building Anglican Churches and Building Congregations in a Victorian London Suburb’, Material Religion 9, no. 1 (2013): 36–59. doi:10.2752/175183413X13535214684050.

[13] Stewart, Housing Question in London 1855-1900 (The London City Council, 1900), 68-90.

[14] Wolffe, ‘The Chicken or the Egg? Building Anglican Churches and Building Congregations in a Victorian London Suburb’.

[15] Ibid.

[16] ‘The Ecclesiastical Gazette,or, Monthly Register of the Affairs of the Church of England’ (London, November 1839).

[17] Wolffe, ‘The Chicken or the Egg? Building Anglican Churches and Building Congregations in a Victorian London Suburb’.

[18] Ibid.

[19] London Borough of Tower Hamlets, ‘Tredegar Square – Conservation Area Character Appraisals and Management Guidelines’(Tower Hamlets Council, 5 March 2008).

[20] Joseph Cross, ‘New Plan of London’ (Mapco, Circa 1850).

[21] ‘London Gardens Online’, accessed 1 December 2015, http://www.londongardensonline.org.uk/gardens-online-record.asp?ID=THM020.

[22] ‘The Ecclesiastical Gazette,or, Monthly Register of the Affairs of the Church of England’ (London, November 1839).

[23] Wolffe, ‘The Chicken or the Egg? Building Anglican Churches and Building Congregations in a Victorian London Suburb’.

[24] Barrett and Phillips, Suburban Style: The British Home, 1840-1960, 9–92.

[25] McKellar, The Birth of Modern London: The Development and Design of the City 1660-1720. Abstract, ‘Housing the City: Tradition and Innovation in the Urban Terrace’, 155–187.

[26] John Summerson, Georgian London, vol. New, Book, (London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1988).

[27] Barrett and Phillips, Suburban Style: The British Home, 1840-1960, 9-92.

[28] McKellar, The Birth of Modern London: The Development and Design of the City 1660-1720. Abstract, ‘The Developers: Noble Landlords and Greedy Speculators’, 38–53.

[29] Charles Booth, ‘Map of Poverty in East London’, 1899 1889, Mapping, Tower Hamlets History Library and Archive.

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