Wednesday 5 November 2008

Fox & Hounds & High Street Buildings

An application was recently submitted to English Heritage asking that they consider listing the Fox and Hounds and the adjacent High Street Buildings, 134-150 Kirkdale. Although we were delighted that English Heritage agreed to list High Street Buildings grade II, it was disappointing that they felt unable to list the Fox and Hounds.

The EH advisors were enthusiastic about High Street buildings, noting the “special architectural interest of their attractive, free Queen Anne style architecture, dramatic roofline, and presence in the streetscape” and remarking on the survival of “original features including three of the five late C19 shop fronts” (a couple of years ago the Sydenham Society successfully objected to plans to remove these shopfronts).

High Street Buildings was erected in about 1896 to the designs of Alexander Robert Hennell, a local architect born in Mayow Road in 1872 and still living in Forest Hill 40 years later. Several other buildings by Hennell have been listed including the Jews Walk fountain and Forest Hill Library. The EH advisor commented that High Street Buildings displays Hennell’s “skill for quirky use of a variety of architectural motifs”.

The name “High Street Buildings” reflects the fact that for more than 100 years Kirkdale, between Wells Park Road and Fransfield Grove, and Dartmouth Road as far as the police station was officially “High Street, Sydenham”. The earliest buildings in the High Street were built during the 1820s, mostly small artisans’ cottages. The area became the centre for shopkeepers and tradesmen, and was Sydenham and Forest Hill’s very first shopping centre. The fortunes of the High Street began to decline when Lawrie Parade, a rather more fashionable group of shops, was built at Cobb’s Corner. Walter Cobb had a small drapers shop in Lawrie Parade (where the Citizens’ Advice Bureau now is) that he called “Regent House”. He gradually took over other shops in the parade and eventually created perhaps the most fashionable store in SE London.

The fortunes of the High Street shops went into further decline with the building of Grand Parade in Sydenham Road, between Queensthorpe and Mayow Roads, in the early 20th century. By 1936 “High Street, Sydenham” had become quite inappropriate, and so it was renamed.

Unfortunately, the EH advisors felt that the criteria for listing the Fox and Hounds were not fulfilled, although they remarked on its “handsome exterior which contributes to the streetscape” and added “there are some attractive details in the two principal elevations; it is also of some historic interest”. The Fox and Hounds was first licensed in 1826, and was thus one of the earliest buildings in the High Street. The present building was erected in about 1891, to the designs of Thomas Haliburton Smith, and the “historic interest” refers to the fact that it was one of the first pubs to have a “saloon bar”, a novel feature in the 1890s. Unfortunately, that was removed some years ago.

The listing of High Street Buildings means that, in this part of Sydenham, the Jews Walk fountain, Farnborough House, High Street Buildings and the adjacent group of buildings (124-128 Kirkdale) are all now listed grade II, as are most of the Victorian buildings in Jews Walk and the buildings in Westwood Hill down to, and including, St Barts. There are, of course, other significant buildings that enjoy no protection whatsoever and we must do what we can to protect those.

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