Listed Buildings.


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The listed buildings protection system has been in force since 1947 and operates under  The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 and is administered by English Heritage now renamed Historic England.

  • The test for listing is the building’s architectural or historical interest.
  • If a building is to be listed the decision is taken by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

The older a building is, the more likely it is to be listed.

  • All buildings built before 1700 which survive in anything like their original condition are listed, as are most of those built between 1700 and 1840.
  • The criteria become tighter with time, so that post 1945 buildings have to be exceptionally important to be listed.
  • A building has normally to be over 30 years old to be eligible for listing.

Categories of listed buildings.

  • Grade 1 buildings are of exceptional interest, sometimes considered to be internationally important; only 2.5% of listed buildings are Grade I.
  • Grade II* buildings are particularly important of more than special interest; 5.5% of listed buildings are Grade II*.
  • Grade II buildings are nationally important and of special interest; 92% of all listed buildings are in this class.
  • In England there are in excess of 374,000 listed building entries.

In the paragraph above it points out that only 2.5% of the 374,000 are classed as Grade 1.   They include the visually spectacular Tower of London and St Paul’s Cathedral but the one that I’m about to tell you about is somewhat smaller and fractionally less spectacular.

Its a dog kennel.


P1000636 (Large)Small in comparison to other listed buildings it’s large for a dog kennel.  It had to be. In 1891 it was home of a St Bernard named Dido.  Dido was followed by two smaller occupants, a Pekingese pair called Ping and Pong.

How on earth does a dog kennel become a listed building?

The kennel is fixed to a wall of Ightham Mote (pronounced ‘Item Moat’), itself a fourteen century moated manor house, which qualifies easily to be a listed building.

As the dog kennel was there and attached to the main building when it was listed in 1952 it qualifies for the same Grade I designation.


Blessing the River Thames


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On Sunday 10th January, 2016 congregations from Southwark Cathedral and St Magnus the Martyr walked from their respective places of worship and met in the middle of London Bridge where their parishes meet.



(Clergy from Southwark)


(Clergy from St Magnus the Martyr.)

There they held a ceremony where prayers were said for those who live and work on the Thames and those who have died on the river, especially those lost on the Marchioness and those who ended their own lives in the Thames.


At the end of the service The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, cast a wooden cross into the Thames.

The ceremony on London Bridge is of recent origin and has only been carried out since 2005.

However it follows the custom of touching a cross into water as a symbol of Christ’s baptism which is celebrated on the Sunday after Epiphany.







Fires in Tall Buildings


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London has many tall buildings. A high number of them are solely for business use but more and more, especially the newer buildings and those at the planning stage are designed to be solely residential.

The highest solely residential building in London and the UK with 49 storeys and a height of 592 feet is The Tower, One St George Wharf, Nine Elms Lane, SW8 2BW.   According to a publication entitled ‘London’s Growing Up’ published by New London Architecture in 2014 it is about to be joined by 230 towers, all over 20 storeys,in the Greater London Area.

Why? The profit from residential buildings is four to six times greater than that from office buildings.

How high is a building of 20 storeys?   The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat have a chart with various formulae to determine the height of a building when only the number of storeys is known but a rule of thumb is that the distance from the floor of one apartment to the floor of another is 3 metres.   The height of a 20 storey building is therefore more than 60 metres as the ground floor will probably be taller than the others and the top floor may be a double height penthouse.

Let’s settle for 60 metres or 197 feet.

Rescue from that height is not possible using a turntable ladder and remember that 20 storeys is less than half the height of The Tower at St George Wharf. The tallest turntable ladder with a height of 150 feet was built by Leyland in 1936 for Hull Police and Fire Brigade which was a single unit at the time. That machine is now in the hands of a collector.

What’s the answer?

Since AD60 when it was razed to the ground by the Iceni the City of London has suffered a series of fires of which the best known is The Great Fire of London of 1666.   Following that fire The Rebuilding Act of 1667 improved fire safety in a number of ways including.

• Outlawing the practice of jettying or oversailing. That is where subsequent storeys overhang the one below.
• Dictating that buildings must be built of fireproof material.
• Limiting the height of buildings.

The principles in that Act, particularly the height limit, were enshrined in subsequent legislation including the London Building Act of 1894.   When the first motorised telescopic ladders were introduced in 1905 they could only reach a height of 82 feet.

The height limit was only removed in 1956.   London had a low rise skyline until that time.   Buildings became progressively higher until 1980 when the National Westminster Tower now Tower 42 was completed with a height of 183 metres (600 feet).

Fire safety, particularly evacuation, was paramount in the mind of the architect Colonel Richard Seifert.    So much so that the building is spatially ineffective.   The offices, with narrow floorplates, are wrapped round a concrete core.   The core contains two fire escapes with their own air systems.   In case of fire air would be pumped in so fast that smoke would be driven out.  The fire precautions, the most advanced in the world predate the proposals following 9/11 by thirty years.

By the time the first of the next set of tall buildings appeared in the City of London in 2004 in the form of 30 St Mary Axe (The Gherkin) new techniques and materials were available.

Many modern buildings are being built elsewhere in the world.

I recently attended a lecture by Sir Norman Foster where he said, ‘More buildings will be built in the first thirty years of this century than have ever been built before’.

Amazing.   By the way we are now into the second half of that thirty year period.

This article is entitled ‘Fires in Tall Buildings’ and I would like to concentrate on one particular fire.

The one that occurred on New Year’s Eve, Thursday 31st December, 2015 at the Address Downtown, Dubai which is a 63 storey hotel and apartment complex.

I have no specific knowledge of the event and I am relying on television footage and reported facts which are available in the twenty four hours following the outbreak.

Apparently the fire started on the 20th floor when a curtain caught fire. The fire was reported as being confined to the cladding.

Cladding is the outer covering which makes a building weatherproof and can include glass.  In some cases the cladding is only decorative and not responsible for weather proofing .

The fire engulfed the exterior of the building within 10 minutes.

It was reported that fire alarms and sprinklers didn’t work.

Nevertheless all the occupants were evacuated safely.

From the television footage it seemed that the flames at their lower level had penetrated the rooms and debris including what appeared to be windows was falling to the ground.   At the upper levels the flames appeared to be confined largely to the balconies.

It’s time for the analysis.

Why did the curtain catch fire?    Even with a substantial ignition source it should not have caught fire.
I know someone who imports carpets from America. He showed me a sample which looked and felt like an expensive thick pile wool carpet and explained that it was made from recycled plastic bottles!   Bearing in mind what it was made of I asked how it could comply with fire proofing regulations. He explained that it had to pass the ‘hot metal test’ to confirm its fire resistance. (BS 4790) applies.  The test involves dropping a metal nut which has been heated to 900C on to the material and then determining how much of the area around the nut has been affected.

The curtain appears to have ignited combustible material on the balcony above and each subsequent balcony.    The flames seem to have had a plentiful supply of combustible material and I wondered whether there was a fuel or gas pipe in the cladding as there will a plant room or rooms above the 20th floor.    I quickly discounted both theories. If a fuel pipe had been involved burning fuel would fall to the ground. That did not happen.

If a gas pipe had fractured then there would have been a flare of gas at or near the fracture.

The heat from the burning curtain would set off the fire alarm.

The security staff’s first priority is to save life and the 20th floor would be evacuated first, followed by the two floors above and one below. It is normal to have a controlled evacuation and an evacuation as described is exactly what would happen if there is a fire at The Gherkin.

Fire alarms would not necessarily sound on other floors although they would as further evacuation occurred especially from the floors above the seat of the fire.

Once evacuation has taken place standard practice is to confine the fire and allow it to burn itself out.   The apartment should contain very little of a combustible nature.

High buildings are required to be fitted with sprinklers.    A pressurised water system is usually concealed between a ceiling and the floor of the premises above.   It is designed to come into operation before the heat of the fire becomes life threatening.   The pressurised water is held back by a plug covered with a decorative cap.   At 57 degrees Centigrade the decorative cap falls off and at 65 to 70 degrees a glass phial shatters unplugging the water which will continue to spray until shut off manually.    This will tackle the fire and limit smoke.

It is important that windows should be made of fire proof glass. Fireproof glass is designed to withstand flames on one side and cold water on the other for a period of two hours.    If the windows are not fireproof they will shatter when sprayed with cold water and will allow the ingress of oxygen in the form of a draught which will feed the fire.

From the television footage I watched there appeared to be windows falling.   The reason for that has not been established yet.

On that building there was no system to spray water on the outside but there is at least one building in the City of London where that could happen.   The building, completed in 1976, is Bush Lane House next to Cannon Street Station.    As a result of physical constraints it was difficult to provide a simple conventional means of evacuation in case of fire.    The answer was to provide it with an exoskeleton (a frame) which operates in much the same way as a sprinkler by spraying water on the cladding of the building.

Since writing this article I’m indebted to Andy Bartlett who has pointed out that the exoskeleton does not in fact spray water but acts much like a car radiator and will absorb heat in the case of fire.  If the water boils it will escape as steam at roof level.


Bush Lane House

Bush Lane House


It appears on my guided walk, ‘Modern Architecture in the City’ which shows how architects overcome problems.    The emphasis on this walk is on constructional detail.

My other walk ‘The Rise and Rise of London’ covers the development of buildings from Roman times to buildings which are not yet built.    The emphasis of that walk is about high buildings but it also covers fire prevention.   That walk is also available as an illustrated talk.

Shoreham Air Crash – The Hawker Hunter.


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It was sad news to hear of the loss of life at the Shoreham Air Show on Saturday, 22nd August 2015 when a Hawker Hunter aircraft crashed while looping the loop.

Early reporting said that the Hawker Hunter had only been withdrawn from service in 1993.  I thought that that can’t be right as I remember Neville Duke breaking the world air speed record in one when I was a child still reading Biggles.  Biggles was a fictional airman who carried out daring deeds and was depicted in books and a comic strip.

Squadron Leader Neville Duke DSO,OBE,DFC&two bars,AFC was a real life Biggles. He was the most successful pilot in the Mediterranean Theatre in WWII credited with the the destruction of 27 enemy aircraft despite being shot down twice himself.

After the war he became Hawker’s chief test pilot and flew a Hawker Hunter at Farnborough Air Show on 6th September, 1952 in spite of the fact that an aircraft at the same show had just broken up in the air killing the crew and 28 spectators on the ground.

There have been no fatalities involving spectators on the ground and within the confines of an airshow since that day.

In 1953 he became the holder of the World Air Speed Record when he flew a Hawker Hunter at 727mph.

At one time he was a member of the Black Arrows, the predecessors of the Red Arrows.   In 1958 the Black Arrows looped the loop in a formation of 22 Hawker Hunter aircraft and that is a record that is still unbeaten.

Another feat unlikely to be beaten occurred on 5th April, 1968 when Flight Lieutenant Alan Pollack flew his Hawker Hunter through Tower Bridge.  It was a protest that the Royal Air Force had failed to celebrate 50 years since its foundation with any flying displays.

P1020216 (Large)An Air Investigation Branch enquiry will determine the cause of the crash at Shoreham but they will be unable to draw on the expertise of Neville Duke who died in 2007.


Open House – Lloyds Register of Shipping.

On Saturday 19th and Sunday, 20th September,2015 many buildings that are not generally open to the public let you see inside their walls.

Some buildings are only open on one of the days.

There’s a staggering choice but I would recommend Lloyds Register of Shipping    71 Fenchurch Street, EC 3 which was completed in 1901 by Thomas Colcutt in the style of a 16th century Italian Palazzo with interior decoration of a standard which is difficult to see elsewhere in London.

P1030322 (Large)

P1000095 (Large)P1000106 (Large)P1000107 (Large)Attached to it is the modern part completed in 2000 by Rogers, Stirk, Harbour which has allowed Lloyds Register to expand considerably.

037 (2) (Large)Lloyds Register’s sole purpose is to assess risk.  When it was founded it originally assessed the risk of losing a ship due to its condition.  The assessment gave a letter to the condition of the ship’s hull using only the vowels (A,E,I,O,U) and its masts and superstructure using the figures 1,2,3.

If a ship gains the coveted assessment A1 at Lloyds it will be cheaper to insure than one with a lower category as a ship with a lower category is deemed to be a higher risk.

Time has moved on and Lloyds Register assesses the risk, to airliners, oil refineries and nuclear power stations.

If you have to queue before entry there will be stewards (I will be one on the Saturday afternoon) handing out fact sheets about the building.

I’m sure that the fact sheets will be comprehensive but are probably unlikely to mention that the great-grandfather and grandfather of T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) both worked for Lloyds Register.

New book ‘Westbourne’ by Stephen Tourish


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Why am I mentioning/promoting a new e-book on my blog?

In June 2014 the author e-mailed me to ask about a tree at 93 Knightsbridge. During his research he had found that I have a walk called ‘Hidden Knightsbridge’ and the previous City Ranger Walks website had a section about street trees.

I was able to provide the information. He thanked me saying that it was very important for his book but he couldn’t tell me more at that time.

This week he e-mailed me again telling me that his e-book ‘Westbourne’ was available on Amazon Kindle.

Sure enough in chapter 6 is what I told Steve. Mick points up ‘’Tree roots. He’s got an Alder tree outside his shop by the clock. In 2010 it was subject to a planning enquiry when it was proposed to remove it as it had outgrown its current location, and replace it with a silver birch.”

If it all sounds a bit mysterious it’s not quite as mysterious as the contents of the book.

Here’s how it’s described on Amazon;

‘A London black taxi driver picks up a customer by the Harvey Nichols department store and the Park Tower hotel and casino in Knightsbridge. As they start their journey the driver is able to overhear the passenger’s conversation on his mobile phone. The passenger is a diamond smuggler and serial rapist. It turns out that the taxi driver knows his latest victim and her granddad.
Westbourne takes you on a journey as Tammar the taxi driver and granddad Alfie plot their revenge using Tammar’s vast knowledge of London.
Using photos and maps Tammar takes us through a realm that very few Londoners get to see or even know exists beneath their feet.
They can’t get away with it – can they?’

As the, title, cover picture and text show, the underground river Westbourne is important to the plot and is described in detail. I think the detail will be factual as was the information that I supplied and I liked the combination of fact and fiction.

The Anglo-Canadian thriller writer, Arthur Hailey, used this style in the 60’s and 70’s in his books including, Airport, Wheels and the Moneychangers.

I don’t read much fiction but I found it interesting when the main character addresses the readers with his thoughts and plans.

It‘s quite a short book (114 pages) but it kept me fascinated to the end.

Painted Houses part 2

Do you remember the red and white painted house that featured in one of my previous posts?

P1030187 (Large)Well, it features in today’s Telegraph and apparently it’s painted in that fashion as a protest about the rejection of a planning application.

The Telegraph claims that it was the owners intention to demolish the £15 million house and replace it with a five storey building with a swimming pool and a cinema.

The normal format is that the building would retain its roof line and the additions would be subterranean.  Such houses are often referred to as iceberg houses and it is the policy of both Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea to oppose such applications.  There have been protests about the colour scheme but even although the house is in the Kensington Square conservation area no rules appear to have been broken.

By coincidence as I walked past it yesterday while planning a new walk from South Kensington to Kensington Palace there was a photographer there with his model who was dressed in red trousers and a white blouse.

My over active mind wondered whether he was trying to photograph an invisible woman !  If anyone spots the picture in a fashion or other publication I’d like to hear about it.

A suitable location for a photo-shoot of a more gentle nature would be Atherstone Mews

P1030709 (Large)

P1030711 (Large) P1030710cropAs you can see I had taken my faithful hound, Trixie, with me and she doesn’t seem all that impressed to be tethered while I took the pictures.

The new walk looks at mews from the near derelict to the pristine. In the mews it visits the exteriors of a classic car showroom, Francis Bacon’s former studio and Douglas Bader’s house.  It will appear on the website in the near future.

Metropolitan Police -Black Museum



The Metropolitan Police are staging an exhibition in the Museum of London in October 2015 consisting of exhibits from some of the major investigations that they have carried out.

One of the exhibits in their possession but almost certainly will not appear in the exhibition is a forged postal order for three shillings and sixpence. The forger made it payable for eight shillings and sixpence. I can understand how he changed the figure three into an eight. What is more difficult to comprehend is the time and effort required to overwrite the word three with the word eight and all for a profit of five shillings (25 pence) !!!

Perhaps that’s not one of their major crimes.

One of the major crimes which is featured in their exhibition is the siege of the Spaghetti House in Knightsbridge.

002 (2) (Large)The details of this siege feature in one of my walks entitled Flags and Fugitives

As well as the siege it includes details of two murders, espionage, the bravery of the Special Operations Executive and stories of political intrigue.

If you can’t wait for the October then you may want to check out the crime museum of the City of London Police which is inside Wood Street Police Station EC2P 2NQ

It’s quite small, a single room when I was last there, but it’s crammed with interesting things which will be pointed out to you by very competent and knowledgeable guides.

It has items relating to Jack the Ripper, The Suffragettes and the Sidney Street Siege.

It has limited opening times.   Details are on the following link.

City of London Crime Museum

Painted houses



Springtime is the time when peoples’ (certainly wives’) thoughts turn to decorating the house.

Often this involves painting the exterior.  When choosing a colour they probably are thinking of one of the restful colours that they’ve seen while on holiday abroad or at the seaside or at the seaside abroad if you prefer.

Really pleasing results can enhance the neighbourhood.

Here’s a very pretty house in Ennismore Garden Mews, Kensington.P1020580 (Large)If that colour’s not to your taste how about picking one from the virtual shade card of Bywater Street, Chelsea

P1030194 (Large)

Yes, its a pleasant little street of different colours that allow the owners to enjoy a sense of individuality yet blend together with a sense of harmony and community.

The colours indicate a certain unity.  There are no colour clashes.

I’ve just recently noticed painted office premises in South End, Kensington, part of the Kensington Square conservation area where it may be difficult for the owners of adjacent properties to decide an appropriate colour for their premises.

P1030187 (Large)

30 Cannon Street – London’s latest listed building.

P1030183 (Large)P1030184 (Large)Number 30 Cannon Street built in 1977 by Whinney, Son and Austen Hall for Credit Lyonnais has become the latest London building to appear on English Heritage’s list of protected buildings.

The protection extends to preventing the building being altered or demolished without the express permission of English Heritage.

Not everyone will be impressed by its new found status.  The building is a bit like Marmite – you either like it or you don’t.

The building occupies a triangular site at the junction of Cannon Street and Queen Victoria Street previously occupied by a fire station and the domed Wren church of St Mildred Bread Street.

Personally I like the clean, smart, symmetry of the building as its shape mirrors and empathises with triangular shape of the Victorian Albert Buildings which is on the opposite side of the junction (not pictured).

The facade is not load bearing and is the first in the world to be made of fibre glass reinforced cement.  Each floor is slightly larger than the floor below giving the impression that walls are leaning out by five degrees.

This building features on my walk Modern Architecture in the City