Edward Henry House, Cornwall Road, London SE1

Oisín Hetherington wrote for Waterloofestival.com on Jun 23, 2020:

“At the beginning of the last century a programme was commenced to construct special built accommodation for Metropolitan Policemen and their families. The authorities at the time generally believed that the Police should not live with the general population and this resulted in the Building of Edward Henry House on Cornwall Road and its sister building north of the river Charles Rowan House in the 1920s.

The Authorities at the time clearly believed the general population to fear the police which has echoes of the current crisis of confidence in policing even as I write. The Towers were removed from Edward Henry House when the roof was replaced around thirty years ago but are still visible on Rowan House. The large wooden entrance doors in Edward Henry were specifically designed to allow for the passage of mounted police entering and leaving the building complex. The original building had three sides, one each on Cornwall Road and Coin Street and a transverse building joining these at the northern end. This third part was demolished when the Co-operative was formed in the late seventies as it had fallen into disrepair.”

From uk.coop:

“Edward Henry Housing Co-operative Ltd is registered with the FCA under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014 and the Housing Corporation as a fully mutual housing co-operative. It is a Registered Social Landlord, but unlike other Social Landlords it is owned and controlled by its Tenants/Members.

The Co-operative is managed by an Executive Committee of residents who are elected each year at an Annual General Meeting of the Co-operative. The Committee hold regular meetings and the Committee Members are involved in most aspects of day-to-day management of the Co-operative.”

From: Survey of London: Volume 47, Northern Clerkenwell and Pentonville, ed. Philip Temple (London, 2008):

“It was generally acknowledged that housing policemen in large barracks away from the rest of the population was undesirable, but in 1903 the Metropolitan Police began to provide purpose-built married-quarters in central districts where decent affordable housing was scarce, making it difficult to call on men at short notice.

But by 1916 accommodation for only 122 men had been provided, and in 1920 it was recommended that 800 new flats should be built. Progress with this programme continued to be slow, but in the late 1920s two big projects were realized, with ninety-six flats each: Edward Henry Buildings in Cornwall Road, Lambeth, completed 1928, and Charles Rowan House. These were the largest concentrations of policemen in London.

Gilbert Mackenzie Trench, architect and surveyor to the Metropolitan Police, designed both blocks, the Finsbury building in 1927. Its builders were T. H. Adamson & Sons, and it was named after Sir Charles Rowan, the army officer appointed by Robert Peel in 1829 as one of two commissioners to organize London’s new police force.

A massive and austere presence on a sloping enclosed site, the distinctiveness of Charles Rowan House lies in its style. The power of compressed rhythmic verticality, with patterned brickwork and chimneystacks that rise as battlements, shows awareness of recent German and Dutch architecture. Mackenzie Trench (with Charles A. Battie) had used the same idiom in the six-storey Edward Henry Buildings, of which it was said:

That the police should inspire in us the proper awe is eminently desirable, and there is something to be said for giving to a police-station a rather forbidding appearance. It is, however, carrying architectural symbolism a little too far that even the wives and families of policemen should be housed in a building of such astonishing severity. (Architect & Building News, 24 Aug 1928).”


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