Treasure House, Hatton Garden

From Historic England entry:

“Office block with ground floor shops. c1905. By David Niven and Herbert Wigglesworth. For jewellers Stewart Dawson & Co. Portland stone. Tiled mansard roof. 4 storeys 5 windows. Symmetrical design in neo-Renaissance style. Ground floor has 3 shops, 2 with original fronts, separated by pilasters with carved figurative panels. Entrances in outer bays round-arched with channelled voussoirs, fanlights and enriched cast-iron gates; part-glazed inner doors in Art Nouveau style and having mask pediments. Giant Ionic pilasters rise through 1st and 2nd floors to support a heavy modillion cornice crowned by a cast-iron balustrade with stone dies having cast-iron standards. Architraved sashes, the 1st floor lugged cornices forming sills to the 2nd; central bays tripartite, outer bays single with cast-iron balconies to 1st floor. 2nd floor have keystones with flanking enrichment; 3rd floor keystones. INTERIOR: entrance halls timber panelled with inset glass; marble stair.”

From the website Ornamental Passions:

“…Hatton Garden is still the headquarters of the diamond trade, and most of the shops are jewellers, so the architectural references to the trade remain potent.

Treasure House, built in 1907 to designs by Niven & Wigglesworth, has a particularly nice set of carvings illustrating the getting, making and uses of gold.

They are not in any particular sequence, unusually…

(In image above, carvings on far left (goldsmith with a press behind him and holding a hammer) and far right (girl admires herself with a mirror) are not shown.)

The carvings between are, left to right as seen:

  • “a rather self-satisfied woman gloats over her jewellery – note the box on the seat next to her, overflowing with tom (rhyming slang: “tomfoolery”=”jewellery”.)
  • a foundryman kneeling in front of a furnace, holding a cauldron of molten metal with a pair of tongs.
  • the miner is holding a prybar, looking for a seam in the stratified rock to the light of a Davy lamp.
  • a military-looking gent holds a huge gold vase of the type that grateful insurance companies used to give to victorious admirals and generals.

The sculptor does not seem to be recorded, and there are no signatures on the works themselves. On stylistic grounds I think it may be by Charles Doman, who in 1907 was assisting the elderly Albert Hodge, who did other work for Niven & Wigglesworth. Another candidate would be L.F. Roselieb…”

From: the Dictionary of Scottish Architects:

David Barclay Niven was born in 1864 and educated at Dundee High School: his family was said to have had a Kirriemuir connection. In April 1880 he was articled to Charles and Leslie Ower, a training he quickly regarded as of negligible value, ‘although he did,’ as Herbert Wigglesworth tactfully put it, ‘acquire a thorough knowledge of building as a vivid manifestation of humanity’…in April 1888 he moved to the London office of Aston Webb where he quickly became chief assistant…

in 1893 he entered into partnership with another Scottish-trained architect, Herbert Hardy Wigglesworth, who had been articled to Alexander Marshall Mackenzie and was shortly to become his brother-in-law when Niven married his sister Sarah.By 1895 the practice was obtaining major domestic commissions, and by 1900 when Niven became FRIBA and had visited the USA the office moved to Gwydir Chambers, 104 High Holborn, with Niven residing at ‘St Monan’s’, Walton on Thames…

Niven and Wigglesworth’s London office was a mecca for aspiring architectural assistants from Scotland. Niven took a particular interest in architectural education, attending RIBA Council and Committee meetings and serving on the Board of Architectural Education: Wigglesworth recalled that ‘he enjoyed direct contact with those seeking qualification… they always aroused his most sympathetic interest.’

Much of the attraction of the office was Niven’s personality. Of him Wigglesworth wrote: ‘David Barclay Niven was one of those militant beings whose ardent and earnest enthusiasm contributed generously to architecture. His energy was untiring, he worked at high pressure and at furious speed. His power of acceleration was amazing. Neither in the office nor on the job was the pace allowed to slacken. Buildings were completed ahead of time more often than not and difficulties were overcome with joyous ease and efficiency. Complacency and inability he incontinently brushed aside. The physical and mental fatigue which ensued were to him a small price to pay for the exhilaration so thoroughly enjoyed.’

Although the practice recovered quickly after the First World War, after the building of Hambro’s Bank in Bishopsgate in 1925 there were no significant new commissions in view and, partly because of illness Wigglesworth’c contribution to the partnership’s income was less than it had been. The partnership was dissolved in the following year to enable Niven’s interest in the practice to be sold to Arthur Kenyon who had been an assistant since 1906, with an office at 7 John Street, Bedford Row, Wigglesworth merging his practice with the London office of Alexander Marshall Mackenzie & Son. These arrangements were acieved amicably. the Niven and Wigglesworth families remaining as close as they had been. In those later years Niven became particularly interested in town and garden planning issues in London and was a founder of the London Society, of which he was the first chairman of the executive committee. In 1919 he produced a scheme for the architectural improvement of Charing Cross with T Raffles Davison, and in 1921 he published his vision for the city, ‘London of the Future.’

Niven would not leave London during the air-raids and stayed in his South Kensington home until a land-mine wrecked almost the entire property, he being found untouched in the only safe corner of the house. The shock was too much for one who had drawn heavily upon his nervous system, and he gradually declined, dying in his son’s home, Green Trees, Cobham, Surrey on 9 January 1942.”

Herbert Hardy Wigglesworth was born in Belfast in 1866, the son of Alfred Wigglesworth who started out as a ‘warehouseman fancy’ and his wife Selina. The family moved from Northern Ireland where all the children were born to Aberdeen at some point after 1873 and before 1881 when his father was the manager of a linen works there. By 1901 the family business had moved to Dundee and imported jute and sisal from West Africa. There was still a company trading under the name ‘Wigglesworth’ in about 1915…

…Wigglesworth retired from his partnership with the Mackenzies in 1931 to devote himself to watercolour painting, mainly in Sussex. He died on 24 August 1949. A G R Mackenzie described him as ‘a man of charming personality; to his assistants and to those who had the privilege of working with him he was a constant source of inspiration whether by enthusiastic appreciation or kindly, if sometimes drastic, but always constructive criticism… He was a connoisseur and collector of objets d’art [and] had wide interests in many countries.’ “

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s