Peabody Estate, Blackfriars Road, London SE1


“The first Peabody estate was opened in Spitalfields in 1864, followed a year later by the Islington estate on Greenman Street. Consisting of four blocks arranged round a square courtyard, the architectural style of the Islington estate was Italianate, with yellow stock bricks used for the walls and slate tiles on the roofs. Each block was five storeys high, with shared laundries on the top floor. Railings separated the estate from the surrounding streets, and the gates were closed at 11pm each night.

Each flat contained between one and four rooms; it cost two shillings and sixpence (12½p) to rent a single room, and five shillings (25p) for three rooms. The flats were not self-contained, and there were shared sinks and lavatories on the landings, in a style known as ‘associated dwellings’. This enabled the facilities to be inspected regularly for cleanliness.

Our architect for all the pre-1900 estates was Henry Darbishire. The trustees believed that improving the health of the tenants was important, and so blocks were separated from one another to allow good ventilation. The central space provided a safe playing area for the tenants’ children.

Peabody was initially limited to building within an eight-mile radius from the Royal Exchange in the City of London…

…The Blackfriars estate was built in 1871, on the former site of The Magdalen Hospital for the Reception of Penitent Prostitutes. The cost of purchase was covered by George Peabody’s original donation, and the estate was the sixth to be built by Peabody. Demand for homes in the area was high, and the estate was expanded from its original sixteen blocks to nineteen, providing 384 homes.

In 1871 the Architectural Journal praised the estate. Noting its spacious layout and surrounding trees, it considered Blackfriars to be ‘more home-like and less barracky’ than some of our early developments. In 1939 it was provided with underground air-raid shelters, but the buildings suffered damage from bombing in 1940, 1941 and 1944.”

From the Historic England entry:

“Philanthropic housing. Completed in 1871. By Henry Darbishire. For the Peabody Trust. Yellow and white brick with stucco dressings. PLAN: a square and a rectangular courtyard linked at the corner to form an axis running from south-west to north-west. Comprised of 16 more or less identical blocks, each rectangular in plan and 4 storeys. The shallow pitched roofs slated. These remain largely as built but soon after completion of the group a 5-storey block of similar design and plan was built to fill the central space between the 2 blocks on the south west side of the southern courtyard, and 2 further 5-storey blocks were added to the north on Blackfriars Road. EXTERIOR: all the 4-storey blocks follow a similar pattern in their elevations. To the courtyards: 7-window range with windows having 6×6 sashes with segmental and flat arches. Elevations away from courtyards are slightly different, having 6-window ranges and a central recess for communal stair and WCs. Some returns have 2-window ranges, but this arrangement varies depending on the position of the block. The elevation of the 4 original blocks facing Blackfriars Road are different to the others in having steep broken gables and more elaborately patterned brickwork. Entrance to Peabody Square is gained by a large classical archway (see image, viewed from inside the Square) with a boldly projecting bracketed cornice and banded rustication The staircase recesses on these elevations have been altered and now contain C20 doors at ground level and casement windows on the upper floors. A number of staircase recesses of the other blocks have also been filled in but those of the south-eastern range of the southern courtyard remain as built. INTERIOR: not inspected. HISTORICAL NOTE: originally named Peabody Square, Peabody Estate is an important monument in the history of philanthropic flatted housing. The reduced scale of the blocks (relative to what had come before), their internal organisation (access by means of an enclosed stair rather than an external one) and the spacious layout of the whole which was centred on 2 planted squares, all influenced the planning of subsequent artisans’ dwellings.”

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