Large Blocks of Flats for the Middle Classes

These red brick mansion flats with white facings were very popular with the more prosperous from the 1880s. They wanted roomy flats with porters in attendance to service the property and protect it. They wanted property on long leases, but without the responsibility of looking after it.

St Mary's Terrace

Similar blocks of flats in red brick with white dressings were built all over London up to the First World War.

Locally they can be found in Marylebone Road, next to the Library, in Chapel Street and in St Mary's Terrace. All are similar and solve their problems in a similar way.

Light wells in St Mary's Terrace,
1916, Ordnance Survey

Small Map Show Light Wells
Big Map Show Light Wells

The outsides of the buildings are complicated patterns of imposing entrance porticoes, with pillars of bay windows rising to different heights and balconies between the bays. Corner bays are capped with decorative octagonal domes sheathed in copper or zinc. The roof itself often consists of alternate Mansards and Dutch gables. Walls are in good quality red brick, with narrow bands of white limestone, or painted plaster. These horizontal bands hold the building down and stop the eye from flying upwards. Five storeys high, with lively elevations yet the buildings do not look too massive.

These are very big buildings, long and tall, but also very deep. They are the equivalent of at least five rooms deep and often more. By law every room must have a window direct to the open air. The Bye-Law houses solved the problem by building on back additions. These blocks used a different method. Here, outside windows can open all round the block, but the inner rooms of each flat have to open into central light wells. These are deep shafts built at intervals all along the blocks and faced with white glazed bricks which reflects the light down to the bottom. The light wells are shown clearly in the map of the St Mary's Terrace flats.1

A moulded brick panel in Oxford & Cambridge Mansions. These panels are typical of the period, attractive, hard-wearing, and saying that this building is a cut above the rest

The Goad Fire Insurance map of Oxford and Cambridge Mansions, Edgware Road. These were large buildings with multiple flats so they had to be treated as any other industrial fire risk and a Goad map would have been necessary.

Christchurch House
19-20 Shroton Street

This was once the centre of all the social activities run by the church. Dozens of clubs for parishioners of all ages met here weekly.



Picture Westminster City Archives
ref CW 090272 81  144


  1. See the Isabel Watson article on buildings like these in Finchley Road and elsewhere, and the Cave family. Camden History Review No. 24, pp. 26-31.

Page 142
Page 144
Updated July 5, 2011