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Friday, 20 February 2015

The First in a Stream of Wandle Treasures

Following the launch of The Wandle Treasure Hunt project, various treasures from our volunteer-researchers have been flowing in.

During sessions in December 2014 at the Croydon Archives and the Sutton Local Studies & Archives Centre, the participating volunteers were given free training in archival research. Themes being explored include: people’s histories, flora and fauna, objects, listed buildings and industrial heritage artefacts as we try to discover the forgotten and overlooked ‘treasures’ along  and associated with the River Wandle.

The rich history of the area has made for some interesting discoveries so far, and we'd like to share these with you across the project.

Once such recently uncovered 'treasure' is the Grotto located in Carshalton Park. 

During the 18th Century, the Scawen Family were lords of Cashalton Manor, and owned the much of the surrounding land, which included the present day Park area. The Grotto was built in 1724 to represent the aims and ambitions of the family. It was designed by Thomas Scawen and was originally adorned with Griffin statues, which represented the Scawen Family badge. The Grotto was also decorated with seashells and coloured glass, which have now disappeared leaving only the brick wall structure. However, some of the original floor tiles have survived to this day!

The Grotto is now owned by the London Borough of Sutton, and is a Grade II listed building of national importance because it provides an early example of the grotto form within landscape architecture – one of few constructed before 1700 that have survived.

It also represents a rare and significant means of marking the start of the Carshalton branch of the River Wandle at the head of the formal canal. A channel from the canal originally fed into the mill pond for the Grove Mill which had the only overshot water wheel on the Wandle.  

This historic structure was chosen by one of our volunteers because despite now missing some of its original features and grandeur, the Grotto continues to be an impressive structure and an important part of the history of this branch of the Wandle.

More examples of uncovered Wandle treasures will be posted soon! 

*The Wandle Treasure Hunt is a volunteer-led local heritage project where we identify lost treasures along the course of the River Wandle, which spans four London boroughs (Wandsworth, Merton, Sutton and Croydon). The final selection will then be drawn by artist Stephanie Theobald and uploaded to a website with an interactive map.

This project is delivered in collaboration with Living Wandle Landscape Partnership Scheme as part of the Industrial Heritage Recording Project.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Recent Highlights from the New Year

2015 has kicked off here at The Building Exploratory with several exciting events for the Senior BEEs and the Islington History & Architecture Group, including a trip to the Royal College of Physicians, and a visit to architect Bill Hodgson’s House and Studio. 

On Wednesday 21 January, the Islington History & Architecture Group Visited the Royal College of Physicians for their first session this year. As it was such as special opportunity, the Senior BEEs also joined, and both groups were treated to an engaging exploration of the building guided by Emma Shepley, curator at the RCP Museum.

Emma gave a fantastic tour celebrating and bringing the architect behind the building, Denys Lasdun, to life. Emma shared stories about how Lasdun had designed the unique building, and the group particularly enjoyed how the interior felt: the quality of the materials, the extraordinary attention to detail, and the views out over the Nash Terraces. 

There was also the opportunity to see the Anatomy of a Building exhibition, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the RCP building.

Many of the group are keen to make a return visit in the summertime to see the garden and the building with sunlight. The visit provided great insight into this highly inspiring modernist architectural masterpiece. 

Then on Friday 30 January, the Senior BEEs had the opportunity to visit architect Bill Hodgson’s house and studio at 115 Kingsland Road.

Bill Hodgson himself gave the group a guided tour, providing insight into the building’s design, which won commended at the 2014 Hackney Design Awards. This small residential/studio building, which houses the office of Hodgson Gabb Studio, is located on infill site between two listed buildings. The front fa├žade is made from Corten steel cladding, and complements the red brick of the neighbouring Victorian buildings.

The Senior BEEs were particularly interested to learn how Bill had designed the building to wrap around an existing tree at the rear of the site, which also provides a natural light well in the centre of the house as well as a courtyard garden.  

The group were inspired by Bill sharing his knowledge and experience of this self-build project, which cleverly integrates roof planting and blends materials to create separate living and work spaces.  

And finally, on Wednesday 4 February, the Islington History & Architecture Group also visited the Mildmay Community Centre, an award-winning Passivhaus building in Newington Green. 

The group met with Justin Bere of bere:architects for an inspiring talk and tour about how the practice converted the community centre into this high standard sustainable building, unique for its energy saving design. 

The group were particularly interested to learn technical details about how and why a Passivhaus works, and why this German-approach to building design is growing momentum. The talk provided much food for thought with regard to making homes more efficient, and prompted reflection on existing building practices here in the UK. 

The building is hired out for various events, training and community projects; and is managed by the Mildmay Community Partnership

So far, it's been an active and inspiring start to 2015! And we’re looking forward to many more exciting events throughout the year ahead!