Tuesday, 12 May 2015

A Year in Pictures – 12 May 2015 – Nightmare on Seething Lane

OK, so what we are looking at here? We are standing just to the north of the gateway (visible in profile at camera right) into the churchyard of St Olave Hart Street, looking south along Seething Lane. The hoarding advises us that the building on the left is Ten Trinity Square, largely hidden in this image behind the boxy structure with its parapet of green glass.

The area surrounded by the dark hoarding has the status of public garden, maintained by the Corporation of London, but the plants and trees (including mature mulberries) were removed a couple of years or more ago to enable the garden area to be used, albeit temporarily, to site construction cranes and equipment needed to convert Ten Trinity Square to a six-star (I kid you not) hotel and apartment block with two levels of basement carpark. Excavation revealed 19th-century vaulted cellars that had belonged to the East India Company, which once was based here, while at the southern end an extensive stretch of 16th-century brick wall was uncovered.

The garden is due to be replanted and something better than what was there before has been promised. So it had better be, because the boxy thing with the green parapet—presumably access to the underground carparks—is an oppressive eyesore and a pretty nasty bit of construction to place so close to listed buildings. Ten Trinity Square was opened by Prime Minister David Lloyd George in 1922 as the headquarters of The Port of London Authority and is Grade II listed. The building hosted the inaugural meeting of the United Nations in 1946 and more recently, before the current conversion works, was the European headquarters of the insurance brokers Willis. St Olave Hart Street meanwhile is listed Grade I, as are all the churches in the City of London.

Yes, but what are we looking at? The name of the street entering Seething Lane at camera left gives a clue, for it is Pepys Street. The box has been plonked on nothing less than the site of the 17th-century Navy Office, where Samuel Pepys lived from 1660 until 1673, when the building was destroyed by fire. All but the first few months of his peerless Diary were written while he was living in Seething Lane and attending St Olave's, which is where he was buried alongside his wife Elizabeth, who died in 1669, and his brother John. The fame of Pepys has spread across the world and interest in him is not confined to the English-speaking countries.

Ten Trinity Square is not yet occupied as further fitting out is being carried out, but the exterior stonework has been restored to dazzling effect. All the more surprising then that the box has been allowed into this prestigious space, although the sort of cars that will be parked beneath Ten Trinity Square can be imagined from the fact that a one-bedroom apartment in the converted building will be priced at £5 million.

No comments:

Post a Comment