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Completely London

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/ by Oliver Bennett

London's architecture: Neo-Georgian

Kennington SE11 is a bit of a revelation. Never lionised as much as Islington, say, it nevertheless has terrific Georgian terraces and squares, sits in Zone 1, and is so close to Parliament that properties are often marketed to new MPs as being ‘within the sound of the division bell’. There’s the Imperial War Museum, the Oval cricket ground, and the early 20th-century Duchy of Cornwall Estate.

As part of an effort to improve the area during World War I, the Duchy of Cornwall – a serious landowner, then as now – set out on a development project. Architects Stanley Davenport Adshead, Stanley Churchill Ramsay and JD Coleridge were mustered to lay out Kennington’s streets – among them Courtenay Square, Courtenay Street, Cardigan Street, Denny Street and Denny Crescent – in which Neo-Georgian houses were built to create the perfect urban experience. The Duchy’s building programme continued through the interwar period with architect Louis de Soissons designing more Neo-Georgian houses in the 1930s.

They’ve weathered well. In yellow brick and with quaint touches like Regency porches, parapets and specialist sash windows, the Duchy homes have a sense of being somewhere apart: as if a small spa town had landed amid the south London bustle.

Much of the Duchy’s estate was sold in 1990, although it still owns flats and houses in Kennington. But these houses offer an interesting historical symmetry as the Duchy of Cornwall in the early 20th century anticipated the tastes of the future Duke of Cornwall, our own Prince of Wales, whose work with Neo-Georgian architect Quinlan Terry in the Dorset town of Poundbury has continued the Duchy's taste for residential architecture of the classical sort.  

Elements of Neo-Georgian style: flat-faced terraces in yellow stock brick; high parapets hiding tiled roofs; cast-iron entrance porches; sash or casement windows; curved bars to windows and porticos.

Illustration: Mister Mourao

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Oliver Bennett Freelance journalist

Journalist, Oliver Bennett lives in a late Victorian house in central London and specialises in property, architecture and the built environment. He has worked on several newspapers including the Independent, Telegraph and the Sunday Times, and has contributed to many more magazines from Grand Designs to Homes and Gardens.