The City Four Square
Kennington has some of the best Georgian architecture in London. And some of the best neo Georgian. Take the Duchy of Cornwall’s estate in Kennington. In 1911, architect Stanley Adshead was commissioned to design this residential scheme. He partnered up with fellow architect Stanley Ramsey.
Prince Charles is a fan of his family’s commission: “Courtenay Square – a subtle reinterpretation of a Regency square, carried out in a ‘progressive spirit’ to use King George V’s own description. The architects Adshead + Ramsey were renowned pioneers of ‘planning’ in this country. They created a civilised architecture employing the simplest of means. The houses in Courtenay Square of around 1914 are not of the finest materials, nor richly decorated, nor on a grand scale. The Square works because of its proportions and straightforward detailing.”
A pair of three storey red brick apartment blocks mark the entrance to the estate off Kennington Road. Each has a concave quadrant angle gracefully gesturing towards the two storey yellow stock brick terraced houses beyond. The apartment blocks are more flamboyant than the understated terraces, with an ensemble of Roman cement dressings. Prince of Wales’ feathers feature in the capitals of the apartment block pedimented porches and the mid terrace attic pediments. Each terraced house is treated to a delicate timber trellis porch topped by a swept lead hood. A Greek key patterned Roman cement first floor cill band wraps around the terraces.
Architectural historian Andrew Saint observed in his 2018 European Commission Lecture, “The persistence of classicism continued throughout the 20th century. In 1900 it was there and is still going today.” Studying Courtenay Square it’s as if Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts never happened. Adshead + Ramsey didn’t rest on their Grecian laurels or stick to their neo Georgian guns though. In the 1930s they designed the Romanesque St Anselm’s Church in Kennington and the modernist block of flats John Scurr House in Limehouse.