Charles Rowan House, London WC1

From the Historic England entry:

“ISLINGTON, MARGERY STREET (South side), Charles Rowan House & attached iron railings


Includes: Charles Rowan House WILMINGTON STREET Finsbury. Includes: Charles Rowan House AMWELL STREET Finsbury. Includes: Charles Rowan House MERLIN STREET Finsbury. 

Former flats for married policemen, now council flats, on a steeply sloping site bounded by roads on all four sides. 1928-1930. G Mackenzie Trench architect and surveyor for the Metropolitan Police Authority.

History: Nos. 22-24 Wilmington Square, formerly on this site, were demolished in order to build the austerely impressive Charles Rowan House Police Flats block. As early as 1904 the Metropolitan Police Authority planned housing for 500 married policemen. Records indicate that this early goal was not reached; a concerted effort at building police accommodation did not occur until the 1950s. Plans for those in Wilmington Square survive in the Public Records Office but they appear to be the only ones. At least three other police flats by Trench are extant: Crawford Street, Marylebone, 1925;

Kintyre House, New Park Road, Lambeth,

and Cornwall Street, Waterloo, but Charles Rowan House is the least altered and most architecturally assured of the group. Stylistically it is also unusual for this country and exhibits a powerful, Expressionist manner most often associated with continental design of this period.

Red brick laid in Flemish and English bonds with moulded brick dressings to street elevations, and multi-coloured stock bricks to courtyard elevations; roofs obscured; projecting, picturesque red-brick stacks demarcate breaks in the roofline where the blocks step up the hill. 

Expressionist style. Four massive facades parallel to four roads: great arches lead into the central courtyard from Merlin and Margery Streets. Five storeys with basement; six bays (each of three-window range to Amwell Street) and (2:3:4:4:3:2 to Wilmington Street); eight bays (2:3:3:2:2:3:3:2 to Margery and Merlin Streets). Powerful, rhythmic street elevations with bays articulated by full-height moulded brick stacks treated as pilasters that create strong skyline. Decorative extradoses and dressings to great arched entrances.Metal casement sashes separated by narrow full-height moulded brick pilasters that become a decorative feature to brick parapets; decorative brickwork above top floor sashes. Stacks and intervening parapets read as battlements. Attached iron railings to exterior elevations. 

INTERIOR: Ninety-six two and three-bedroomed flats were originally provided on five floors, with a covered playground in the basement. Minor alterations have occurred.”

From the website of the Charles Rowan House Tenants and Residents Association:

“Sir Charles Rowan was one of the first Commissioners of the force when it was formed in the 1820s…

The Charles Rowan House Tenants and Residents Association works to improve the quality of life for CRH tenants and leaseholders and meets on a monthly basis in Flat 88. It is made up of volunteers who give their time for free on behalf of the CRH community, including gardening and maintenance of the courtyard. The TRA has helped CRH overcome recent challenges including long and protracted ‘improvement’ works by HFI and has campaigned successfully to retain the use of Flat 88 for the community.”

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