Above: The Concrete House in Lordship Lane, taken in March 2015.
The picture above shows what looks like a large, normally-built attractive Victorian house. It carries the name ‘The Ferns’ on the gateposts and stands at No 549 Lordship Lane, SE22. Although it looks like a ‘normal’ Victorian house, nothing could be further from the truth.
The house was built in 1873 by Charles Drake of the Patent Concrete Building Company. For its time, it was quite revolutionary. Today it is one of the last remaining domestic concrete buildings from this era.
Southwark Council took possession of the property, by Compulsory Purchase Order, in December 2010 after it had lain empty for at least 20 years. The Council then worked with an architectural practice to renovate the derelict building, nicknamed ‘The Concrete House’, to provide affordable housing for up to five families.
Above: A view of the house, taken a few years ago, before renovation.
There were serious structural problems, including much of the roof missing due to neglect, but a building preservation trust set to work on the restoration of the grade II listed house. The design by the Regeneration Partnership won an English Heritage Angel Commendation. The restored house is being administered by Hexagon Homes.
This is a real success story. Right across London are many similar large houses, mainly brick-built rather than concrete, which are being torn down at an alarming rate so that developers can build several smaller residences on the site of the house and its garden and return a healthy profit for their company. As the developers get rich, London is losing the houses that make areas interesting and often beautiful as well. Before long whole suburban areas will be reduced to mundane architecture dating from the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The very thing that gave an area its character is being demolished in order for the developers to make a quick profit. This house proclaims to everyone who sees it that all you need is a little ’tender loving care’ and what was once an eyesore can enrich many people’s lives once again.