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Behind The Facade

November 2, 2019
by the gentle author

Book designer, David Pearson

To launch THE CREEPING PLAGUE OF GHASTLY FACADISM, I am giving an illustrated lecture behind one of the facades in my book, the former Whitechapel Public Baths of 1846, now part of London Metropolitan University.

It is at 7pm next Monday 4th November at The Wash Houses, The Cass, 25 Old Castle St, E1 7NT.

Click here to book your ticket

Presented with the gracious support of The Cass, London Metropolitan University.

12–13 Greek Street, Soho, W1

Built c.1683, this was originally the largest house in the street and known as Portland House. From 1774–97, it was Josiah Wedgwood’s London warehouse, showroom and enamelling rooms with five show- rooms on two floors, where a famous dinner service made for the Empress Catherine of Russia was displayed in July 1774. Repairs were carried out in 1786 by T.Freeman of Great Pulteney Street who made a valuation of the fixtures in 1790 – listing a hall, a counting house and a shop on the ground floor, and a great room, another room, a flowerpot room and a gallery on the first floor.

The White Hart, 121 Bishopsgate, EC2

‘Its history as an inn can be of little less antiquity than that of the Tabard, the lodging house of the feast-loving Chaucer and the Canterbury pilgrims, or the Boar’s Head in Eastcheap, the rendezvous of Prince Henry and his lewd companions,’ wrote Charles Goss, Archivist at Bishopsgate Institute in 1930.

The White Hart was a coaching house and tavern dating from 1246, positioned on Bishopsgate just outside the gate of the City of London. Rebuilt in 1470 and 1827, it retained its medieval cellars and was constantly busy until it was bought by Sir Alan Sugar’s company, Amsprop, in 2010 and reduced to a façade with a cylindrical office block on top, creating a monument to one man’s ego.

Former Unitarian Chapel, Stamford Street, Blackfriars, SE1

Designed in 1821 by Charles Parker, architect of Hoare’s Bank in the Strand, the Chapel was demolished in the sixties apart from the portico and part of the ground floor, which stood in front of a car park for many years.

The Grade II listed Doric hexastyle portico has a triglyph frieze and a pediment over. Its central door has a shouldered architrave and iron gates. Each of the walls on either side has three blank windows with shouldered architraves.

465 Caledonian road, Islington, N7

Mallett, Porter & Dowd constructed this modest yet handsome utilitarian building for their warehousing, storage and removals business in 1874.

Redevelopment by University College London for student housing was turned down by Islington Council in 2010, citing ‘adverse visual impact’ and inadequate daylight, due to the windows of the new building not aligning with those in the façade. This judgement was overturned by the government’s Planning Inspectorate on the basis that ‘due to intensive daytime activities taking place at the university campus,’ the absence of both light and view ‘would not be unacceptably oppressive.’

The development was winner of Building Design’s Carbuncle Cup for 2013.


“As if I were being poked repeatedly in the eye with a blunt stick, I cannot avoid becoming increasingly aware of a painfully cynical trend in London architecture which threatens to turn the city into the backlot of an abandoned movie studio.”

The Gentle Author presents a humorous analysis of facadism – the unfortunate practice of destroying an old building apart from the front wall and constructing a new building behind it – revealing why it is happening and what it means.

As this bizarre architectural fad has spread across the capital, The Gentle Author has photographed the most notorious examples, collecting an astonishing gallery of images guaranteed to inspire both laughter and horror in equal measure.

You may also like to take a look at

The Creeping Plague of Ghastly Facadism

9 Responses leave one →
  1. Jim McDermott permalink
    November 2, 2019

    I suppose what remained of the Stamford Street Unitarian Chapel is better preserved (even as a not-very-integrated facade) than demolished. As for the rest – get at ’em, GA, and good luck with the book. I particularly hope you get right up Alan Sugar’s nose in respect of that Bishopsgate abomination

  2. November 2, 2019

    What has been built behind Stamford Street Unitarian Chapel looks particularly offensive, especially since the portico at least was preserved for years without too much going on behind it. As a footnote to the story of Stamford Street I knew one of the last ministers of the congregation. Rev Arthur Long was principal of the Unitarian College, Manchester from 1974 to 1988. But he began his ministry at Stamford Street from 1945 to 1952. Shortly before he left he was visited by Wallace Tavener a then well-known and radical minister. He wasn’t impressed “How long do you give it?” he asked, which Arthur found a bit hurtful since he thought he was doing quite well in difficult circumstances. “I would give it about ten years” said the visitor before he breezed out. Soon after Arthur moved north but Tavener was right and in about 10 years it was closed and demolished leaving just the facade.

  3. Paul Loften permalink
    November 2, 2019

    I was a student at the Sir John Cass for jewellery making many moons ago now its part of the London Met. and now known as the ” Cass ” I hope I can make it on Monday .

  4. Leana Pooley permalink
    November 2, 2019

    I received my copy of the book yesterday. It’s sitting on the kitchen table and when I walk in and see it I love it! It’s so witty and just the right size to hold in my hands. I will be gloomy and cross when I start reading about each appalling example but just now the book is a thing of pleasure. Thanks.

  5. Jill Wilson permalink
    November 3, 2019

    Great photo of the genius book designer – and the genius book!

  6. November 3, 2019

    RE: Former Unitarian Chapel, Stamford Street, Blackfriars, SE1 I haven’t been down there since Ken was in charge of the GLC on one of his “Fairs Fair” bus rides. Was it part of the London Nautical school site? I seem to remember there was a sign up near the door saying “London Nautical School”

  7. November 4, 2019

    I read your article in the Times at the weekend and wish you every success with the book and the campaign. Thank you for drawing attention to this disgusting fob off disguised as preservation.

  8. November 14, 2019

    I find it difficult to look at such vandalism,all that is left is no more than a death mask with the same chilling feel,something that no longer lives.

  9. Kirk Taylor permalink
    November 14, 2019

    Re: Former Unitarian Chapel, Stamford Street, Blackfriars, SE1
    Great article. For a long time the land the ghastly flats behind this facade are on was the playground and parade ground of the London Nautical School which is still next door. I was a pupil there between 1990 and 1997

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