The Spell + Roupell Street London

A Street Named Desire

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London Aerials View © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Gazing at a house on Roupell Street, any house, lucky number seven, luckless number 13, before a visit to The King’s Arms (crammed Monday to Friday; only the fireside cat for company at the weekend), after a visit to The King’s Arms, summer and smoke, makes us think of that part in Alan Hollingsworth’s novel The Spell when, in the grips of his first ecstasy experience, Robin Woodfield realises why house music is so called: “Because you want to live in it.” Or there’s the picture of a house in the photographic journal Camera Lucida which Roland Barthes captions, simply and perfectly, “I want to live there.” It’s a shortcut to The Cut; thespians acting at the Old Vic, acting up at the New Vic.

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London Chimneys © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

A grid, a toast rack, a tightknit urban grain, a bacchanalian bout of Augustan nostalgia, a traditional survival in an otherwise redeveloped postcode. Roupell Street runs parallel with both Theed Street and Whittlesey Street to the north and Brad Street to the south – all traversed by Windmill Walk. The early 19th century terraced houses, once unremarkable by their compact ubiquity, now listed for their intact rarity, a lesson in brick for planners and architects and citizens. The original artisan workers have long gone, replaced by harrumphing gazumping bankers, boorish bourgeoning bourgeois, collars swapped from blue to white. Modest houses bought with immodest bonuses. All too apropos, the property developer Mr Roupell moonlighted as a gold refiner.

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London Gables © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Ian Nairn where else but in Nairn’s London wrote: “Here is true architectural purity… nothing but yellow London brick and unselfconscious self respect. Whittlesey Street is… two storeys made into three with a blind attic window concealing a monopitch roof of pantiles. Roupell Street answers with a wavy pattern. On one level there is no finer architectural effect in London.” Stock brick darkened by soot over the passage of time, closer in colour now to the Welsh roof slates – accidental homogeneity. Originally the frames of the timber sash windows holding mouth blown hand spun glass would’ve been painted black; they’re all white now. Solid to void relationships are perpendicularly predictable, correctly so. A pleasing wallage to window is maintained.

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London Bollards © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London Terrace © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London Wittlesey Street © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Roupell Street Waterloo © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley_edited-1

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London Theed Street © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London Flank © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London Shopfront © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London House © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Who says repetition is monotonous? Who says repetition is monotonous? It creates rhythm. And order. Strength and safety in numbers, arithmetical progression. Ah… the terrace. That arrangement of buildings enjoying continuity intimacy, expressing conscious couplings by the noblest concepts of civic design. The two bay houses of Roupell Street coincidentally correspond to the height and width of the arches of the massive railway viaduct which ponderously plods its elephantine progress across this patch, carrying wistful commuters longing to live in this coveted corner of SE1. Each house has a butterfly roof with two pitches nosediving into a central valley gutter that drains to the rear. The gables on the grander three bay Theed Street and Whittlesey Street houses are hidden behind one continuous high, no make that very high, stone coped parapet with three blind mice windows. Mono pitched roofs descend into cat-on-a-hot-tin-slide returns.

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London Yard © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Character is derived from uniformity and regularity of appearance. Regimented form contributes to cohesive sense of place, place having lost its definite article. Come closer. Character is also derived from the quiet details. Draw nearer. Stucco cornices and pediments, arches over openings, half moon fanlights, iron knockers, tall chimneys holding slender pots shrouded in a spider’s web of aerials, striped bollards guarding granite kerbs like Lilliputian lighthouses.

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London Door © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“The period of domestic architecture from which of all others we have most to learn is the Georgian,” ponders Trystan Edwards in his textbook Architectural Style. “The essential modernity of the Georgian style should be widely recognised. If we do not derive full benefits from this tradition, the failure will certainly be justified by the extremely disputable suggestion that such a manner of building is unsuitable to our present social circumstances. Its reliance on the virtue and dignity of proportions only, and its rare bursts of exquisite detail, all expressed as no other style has done, that indifference to self advertisement, that quiet assumption of our own worth, and that sudden vein of lyric affection, which have given us our part in civilisation.” Houses built to last. Roupell Street – so Georgian; so English; so reticent, gentlemanly and polite; abstracted; understated classical authority; so not suburban; so not Poundbury; so real. Hark, it’s the architecture’s Camino Way to Santa Barbara.

Roupell Street Conservation Area Waterloo London Bootscraper © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

About Lavender's Blue

Snappy Wordsmith
This entry was posted in Architecture, Developers, People and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Spell + Roupell Street London

  1. Janice Porter says:

    Interesting article

  2. Robert Jennings says:

    Appealing photos as ever. I case you don’t know it, another good south of the river estate is the Trinity estate, mainly 1820s. Trinity Street, Trinity Church Square and the later Merrick Square. A unexpected enclave between Elephant and Castle and Borough, which I only discovered by chance on lunchtime walks when I did jury service at the nearby courts. As with the Courtenay Estate the unity of architecture is due to single ownership, in this case by Trinity House.
    Robert

    • Good Afternoon Robert, many thanks for your very informative comments. Trinity estate sounds like it’s worth investigating! Thanks for the tip. Best, Lavender’s Blue

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.