Old Kent Road

These stuccoed houses were built by John Lamb, a timber merchant, in 1815. They are remarkable for having giant fluted pilasters terminating in rare ammonite capitals supporting segmental arches over the first floor windows. The design has been attributed to Brighton architect Amon Henry Wilds, who favoured this device.

The Ammonite Order was invented by George Dance who first used it on Alderman Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery in Pall Mall in 1798. Ammonite capitals were also used in an adjacent terrace Nos. 868-884 Old Kent Road, but only Nos. 880-884 are now extant, obscured behind shops, as were Nos. 862-864. The remaining houses were demolished in 1865 to make way for the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway. The nearby Carlton Cottages (Nos. 6-12 New Cross Road) have also been attributed to Amon Henry Wilds, and are illustrated here.

Nos. 862-864 were scheduled for demolition, as was the fate of so many listed buildings in Southwark in the late C20. They had been disfigured and mutilated by the addition of shops in the 1890s, but the measured survey showed that enough of the original structure existed to confirm their importance.

A vigorous campaign to have the houses spot-listed was successful, and Southwark Council was presented with a full scheme showing how the houses could be retained. The Council was eventually persuaded to ditch its habitually hostile attitude towards listed buildings, and it subsequently restored the houses, using the land released by the demolition of the shops to widen both the adjacent pavement and road. The failure to reinstate moulded hoods and cills to the ground floor windows (as on Carlton Cottages) is a pity, as is the addition of municipal balustrading to the principal windows. However, the survival of these houses was against all odds, and so is to be welcomed.

© Nicholas Keeble Associates // Historic Building & Planning Consultants