Pilaster to Post
Heading south from Kennington Park, sandwiched between the road to Clapham and the road to Brixton, lies Stockwell Park Conservation Area. Designated in 1968, it includes speculatively built residential development dating mainly from the late Georgian to mid Victorian periods in a sylvan setting. The streets around Stockwell Tube Station may still be a bit dodgy; the Conservation Area avenues are not. Flat conversions of the 20th century have gradually been amalgamated back into full houses. Recent infill apartment developments have been designed to resemble their neoclassical neighbours in a spot the difference competition. Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner describe Stockwell Park Conservation Area in in their 1983 guide to South London as being “a pleasant enclave of restrained stucco villas and terraces”.
Stockwell Green to the south of the Conservation Area became a popular address for wealthy merchants in the 18th century. The Conservation Area land was farmed until the early 1800s. Regency townhouses were followed by ‘rus in urbe’ detached and semi detached villas with long rear gardens. Stockwell Park Conservation Area is an important example of this early form of suburbia. The layout of Stockwell Park Crescent is shown on an 1841 map. St Michael’s Church fronts onto Stockwell Park Road and backs onto Stockwell Park Crescent. Its stone spire pierces the sky above the residential apron. The Pevsner guide (his name stuck) states that William Rogers’ pinnacled spire is “rather spindly”. The architect made additions to the medieval St Mary’s Church to the north of Stockwell on Albert Embankment, now the Garden Museum.
The largest public open space in the Conservation Area is Slade Gardens, named after the family who purchased nine hectares in the Manor of Lambeth in 1804. Just over three decades later, much of the land was developed for housing. After World War II, the London County Council began buying up properties to create a new public open space. The steeply pitched gables of the pairs of mid 19th century Gothic meets Tudor brick houses on Lorn Road peer over the trees of the park. The Pevsner guide calls them “fanciful Gothic villas”. Isolated on an island site surrounded by the verdant stretches of Slade Gardens is a row of white flat roofed two storey modernist houses on the cul-de-sac Ingleborough Street.
Osbert Lancaster’s 1938 ‘pocket lamp of architecture’ Pillar to Post illustrates styles of architecture starting with Egypt and ending with 20th Century Functional. The cartoonist declares, “Architecture, therefore, by reason of its twofold nature, half art, half science, is peculiarly dependent on the tastes and demands of the layman.” At least three of Osbert’s categories feature in Stockwell Park Conservation Area: Regency, Gothic Revival and Kensington Italianate.