The Peabody Whitecross Street Estate, London EC1

Michael Barrett writes at

“…In 1883, Peabody built two estates on either side of Whitecross Street. The estate on the east side of Whitecross Street was called ‘the Whitecross Street Estate’. It consisted of 21 blocks of flats on a site between Roscoe Street, Errol Street, and Dufferin Street. The estate on the west side of Whitecross Street was called ‘the Roscoe Street Estate’. This consisted of 11 blocks on the west side of Whitecross Street, as well as a single block ‘X’ on the east side.

The Roscoe Street Estate was completed in 1883 and consisted of 11 separate blocks. An interesting reflection of the social priorities of the time – there was no bathhouse, but the estate provided 32 pram sheds.

The blocks were designed by Henry Astley Darbishire (1825-1899)…

(Wikipedia): Henry Astley Darbishire (15 May 1825 – 1899) was a British architect, best known for working on philanthropic schemes – including those of Angela Burdett-Coutts – and was the architect for the Peabody Trust from 1863 until 1885, when he was succeeded by Victor Wilkins.
He was of Mancunian origin, the son of James Darbishire and his wife Mary Roberts. He qualified as a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1856, and finally retired from practice in 1894.
Darbishire married Eliza Paget in 1858, and they had three children.

…The blocks near Whitecross Street were constructed round courtyards and were generally five or six stories high. Darbishire used light coloured bricks. The design was regarded as being a severe form of Italianate style. It was used in most of the other Peabody estates in London.

The two Whitecross Street estates were known as ‘Peabody Town’. The various blocks were designated with capital letters. The Roscoe Street Estate contained blocks lettered ‘A’ to ‘L’ (omitting ‘I’). The blocks of the Whitecross Street Estate ran from ‘A’ to ‘W’ (omitting ‘I’ and ‘U’). When they were finished, the combined estates housed 4,000 residents and were the largest of the Peabody estates.

None of the blocks of the Roscoe Street Estate have survived. Eight of the original blocks of the Roscoe Street Estate were destroyed by German bombing in the Second World War between 1940 and 1941. The blocks which survived the War were too badly damaged to repair and were later demolished. The last four were pulled down in 1972 to make way for Banner House.

The only original Victorian buildings to survive the War were in the Whitecross Street Estate on the east side of Whitecross Street. But some of the original blocks there too were destroyed by bombing. Blocks C, O, P, Q and W were lost. After the War, Peabody decided to construct entirely new blocks rather than rebuild in the traditional Peabody style. In the Whitecross Street Estate, new blocks ‘P’ and ‘Q’ were constructed in 1956. The Victorian blocks on the Whitecross Street Estate were renovated in 1993. Blocks ‘H’ and ‘K’, which were dedicated to sheltered accommodation for elderly people, were renamed Alleyne House (after the promoter of the 16th century Fortune Playhouse and creator of Dulwich College).”

From: London Borough of Islington Historic environment assessment (December 2015):

“…Buried heritage assets that may be affected by the proposals comprise:
 Remains of the Fortune Playhouse (1600–56). Edward Alleyn’s Shakespearean playhouse lay between Golden Lane and Whitecross Street in the western part of the site (Area A): Fortune Street was laid out through the former ‘Playhouse Yard’. There is high potential for remains of the playhouse which, if extensive, might potentially be of very high significance.
 Post-medieval burials. A former burial ground, the Cripplegate Poor Ground lies entirely within the southern half of Peabody Court in the western part of the site (Area A). The north- eastern extent of Area B extends into the western part of a former Quaker burial ground. It is considered likely that human remains, of high significance, are still present in these areas.
 The footings of post-medieval buildings. The site was developed from the 16th century onwards for shops and tenements, and industrial activity. There is high potential for associated remains, probably of low or medium significance.
 Later medieval remains. Whitecross Street is of medieval origin, and led towards the city gate at Cripplegate. There is moderate potential for evidence of medieval settlement fronting the road, of medium significance, and of agriculture and quarrying, of low significance.”

74Mex wrote at

“We moved to Peabody Buildings, Whitecross Street in spring 1960…The whole of block R (10 flats in total) was rented by the Metropolitan Water Board to house its supervisory workers responsible for the City of London area. I would often accompany my dad on his weekend ’round’ to check repair jobs in progress (apart from major water main failure, the roadworks had to be carried out when the streets {no roads in The City} were empty of traffic) and so developed an intimate knowledge of ‘The Square Mile’ and an abiding affection for it…”

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