Saturday, 26 July 2014

Avery Hill. Pevsner. London 2: South


AVERY HILL COLLEGE, Bexley Road, Eltham. The College of Education established here in 1906 occupies the remains of an amazingly sumptuous, mostly one storied late Victorian Italianate in large grounds. Colonel J. T. North, who had made a fortune speculating in nitrate, engaged T. W. Cutler to enlarge an older house here in 1888. By 1891 Cutler had provided 'the most luxurious mansion, replete with marble staircases, picture galleries, sculpture, winter garden and every possible convenience' as it were described in the lawsuit which took place after the architect was dismissed, having spent over £100,000 instead of his estimated £65,000. The house is a spreading asymmetrical composition, whose main feature is a central steep hipped roof with cupola over the domed central hall which Cutler added in front of an older building. In front is a generous semicircular Porte-cochère with paired Tuscan columns. To the l. was the service wing (boringly rebuilt after war damage) originally with two towers; to the r. is a a tall clerestory-lit picture gallery, a rather gaunt affair looking like a squash court, relieved by a balustraded balcony in front of the roof. Inside something remains of the lavish but not very original appointments in expensive materials. Some ornate plaster ceilings and, especially in the entrance hall and former sculpture gallery leading to the picture gallery, carved and inlaid wood and marble panelling (the British Architect refers to Spanish mahogany, Mexican onyx, Australian Padeaux wood, and to carving by Aumonier, plasterwork by Jackson's etc.) the enormous WINTER GARDEN (100 ft square), flanked by fenery and conservatory, the best survival in London of such Victorian extravaganza. Brick and stone exterior; internally of riveted steel, with Corinthian columns supporting a domed centre. In their E wing marble SCULPTURE of Galatea, 1882 by L. Ansiglioni. Contemporary outbuildings also on an extravagant scale (the stables were originally panelled in teak and centrally heated), now rather overwhelmed by the extensive but undistinguished C 20 college buildings, the earlier post-Second-World-War parts with restless honeycomb-patterned brick cladding. The main LODGE on the Bexley Road (which was moved to improve the approach) is a picturesque piece with French château roof and archway.


The Buildings of England

London 2: South

Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner

Published with the aid of the Greater London Council 1983