London Walking Tours    with Joanna Moncrieff

Buildings without a soul

In St James’s recently with a bit of time before a walk I stopped to have a proper look at the redevelopment taking place in Pall Mall. Berry Brothers the esteemed wine and spirit retailer are expanding. One building has been demolished but the façade of no. 62 is being retained. It always strikes me that by demolishing the interior and leaving the shell the soul of the building has gone. I would hate to work in such a place.

I’ve done a search on the Survey of London and of my own books (although have temporarily lost Pevsner) but have been unable to find out why this building was so important. Can anyone help me?

A few minutes’ walk along Pall Mall you come to Schomberg House. All that is left from this historic building is the façade. At least this one is more attractive than the one above and I can see an argument for saving it although it is entirely modern within.
Schomberg House, Pall Mall
Lastly one building which still gets me a bit upset every time I pass it on my Mayfair walk is the former Red Lion in Waverton Street which used to be one of my favourite pubs until it closed in 2008. This is now well on its way to becoming a 5 bedroom house; however the façade has been retained. I’m not sure whether this is a good or bad thing. The name of the pub is remembered in Red Lion Yard so it won’t be forgotten. The interior of the pub has gone; all that is saved is the outside. I just (naughtily) hope that the new house dwellers will get occasional visitors wanting a pint.
Former Red Lion, Mayfair
The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is a qualified City of Westminster Tour Guide who specialises in food and drink themed walks in the West End. 
Details of all her walks are listed here.
To sign up to Joanna’s mailing list click here
Follow on Twitter @wwalks
or like on Facebook

6 Responses to Buildings without a soul

  • Agree with your sentiments re. soulless buildings. I noticed this one too, when I was round there just before Xmas. There's a similar behind the facade development going on in S. Audley St at the moment, former Faber building
    Pevsner isn't very informative (just checked)but I did come across the planning application if you're interested: http://transact.westminster.gov.uk/CSU/Planning%20Applications%20Committees/2008%20onwards/2008/33-28%20August/ITEM%2002-2%20St%20James%20Street%20and%202%20Pickering%20Place,etc.PDF
    (bit long but you can copy into your browser)

  • Thanks Jenny. I had looked at some of the planning applications but hadn't gone back as far as 2008. My understanding from reading pages 24-25 is that the original plan was to demolish 62 & 63 (which aren't listed) and replace with a "polychromatic brick building". This was rejected because the design didn't fit in with the conservation area so it was (maybe) decided to retain the facade of no. 62 just because it would look more in keeping.

  • I absolutely agree with you too although that facade at no 62 is rather special (I think). I wonder how creative they will be and how well the other half will match it? I don't really like the idea of what they did at Schomberg House but what they're doing at the old Red Lion seems positively ostentatious!

  • Yes, it will be interesting to see what the building next to no. 62 will look like but am sure the planning constraints will mean that it does have to blend in.

  • A lot of buildings were demolished or gutted because the fabric could not take all the modern cabling required for office work. Now that everyone has gone wireless think of all that waste.

  • So this should mean that fewer buildings will suffer a similar fate in the future. Interesting. Thanks Laurence.