The Back of Waterloo #2

This is a follow up to the original Back of Waterloo post covering the history of those streets I wrote about in October last year, these being Roupell/Theed Streets, Cornwall Road etc. These historic thoroughfares are just a minute or two from the main Waterloo Station, whilst Waterloo East station itself passes over the bottom of Cornwall Road.


Waterloo East station is quite an imposing structure south of the historic area

Roupell Street was built in the 1820s on Lambeth marsh. This land was easily indunated by the floodwaters of the Thames. There was once a network of small rivers and streams – now long forgotten – which helped to drain this land.

Some of these waterways were artificial drains or canals, and one was alleged to be the course of Canute’s canal. Some accounts say it went from Rotherhithe to Patricksey (Battersea.) As I have written elsewhere, this canal didn’t even get far enough to cross Lambeth Marsh.

In the early years of the industrial age, Lambeth Marsh was largely used for allotments, gardens, and recreation and it was not until the 1820s any sort of proper construction began. One of the first buildings in this area was noted St John’s Church. It still forms an imposing presence on the road in front of Waterloo station. To facilitate its construction a considerable amount of piling was necessary to stablise the ground.


Some dwellings in the area still have these nice old enamel house number plates

Soon after St John’s, the first houses were built in Roupell Street. These first houses, as yet incomplete, suffered a major fire, and were rebuilt. By the middle of the 1830s all five streets in the locality had been completed with cottages available for rent to workers and owned by John Roupell.


Roupell Street looking west – with the King’s Arms on the corner to Windmill Walk

Theed Street was previously known as John Street – after John Roupell) and Whitteseley Street after Richard Roupell. Cornwall Street was formerly known as both Green Lane and Neptune Place (although the latter may be a cartography error) and one of the earliest roads in the area. Clearly it would form the western side of the land that was purchased by John Roupell. On some maps of this part of the world in the 1820s, by the corner of the newly named Cornwall Road and Roupell Street formerly had the name Curtis Row/Halfpenny Hatch.

There were numerous Halfpenny Hatches in this part of South London. This particular piece of ground was known as Glover’s Halfpenny Hatch. Philip Astley, the circus entertainer, apparently used the land hereabouts for a riding school before moving it to a site known as Astley’s Royal Amphitheatre, nearer Westminster Bridge. Astley’s school at Glover’s was established in 1768, and contemporary accounts describe the area as “a boggy grove between Blackfriars and Westminster Bridges.” There was a sign that declared ‘Philip Astley’s Riding School’


The location of Curtis’ botanical garden. Source: Jstor

It is not generally known what happened to the area between 1769 (the year Astley moved out) and the 1820s, however maps between 1779 and 1789 show the land was part of Curtis’ Botanical Gardens. Curtis bought it immediately Astley moved out. Further proof for this comes from the fact the road past the Halfpenny Hatch was later known as Curtis Row.


Many houses in the area have these unusual brick cut-outs to accommodate door bells.

Ultimately the land was bought in part by John Roupell (1761-1835) and his son, Richard Roupell (1782–1856). John had the southern part which along with his other land purchases, became the main Roupell Street estate whilst the northern part, Richard’s ultimately became Theed and Coin Streets.

Major changes to the area occurred in the 1860s when the railways came to Waterloo. One can consider it most fortunate the railway companies did not require any part of the Roupell Street area although the lines that were built do come within a whisker of the area. The older houses in Brad Street had to be knocked down to make way for the railway station. The Brad Street houses had been the most northernmost extent of residential dwellings on Lambeth Marsh until Roupell came on the scene.

Both Coin Street and Windmill Walk once constituted part of a longer north south road in the area (as can be seen on Cross’ map of London 1844) known as Princess Street. It is clear to me the origin of Coin Street lies in the fact Princess Street was split in half and St Andrews Church built within the dividing bit.


New buildings at the top of Windmill Walk where St. Andrews church once stood

The reason for this division is interesting, its clear Richard Roupell sold off his ownership of the northern part of the Roupell estate just before his death and the church was built on what was seen as a space that had potential for the Commissioners for Building New Churches to immediately build a venue at this very spot.

The older industrial units on the north side of Theed Street were once a saw mill and timber yard, again known as Crown. It may have been that these were part of the former Crown Linoleum Works further along Theed Street. One must remember the northern part of Theed Street was in separate ownership (under Richard Roupell) and was not developed in unison with the rest of the area.


Close up of the ghost sign denoting St. Andrews church

The ghost sign in Windmill Walk (formerly Windmill Street) opposite the King’s Arms, says ‘To St. Andrews Church’ with an hand pointing towards Theed Street where the church was sited. (See main picture.) The church was opened in 1856, had a spire and seats for a congregation of 900. It was bombed in WWII and remained a ruin until pulled down in the sixties. This ghost sign at least 70-80 years old!


The faded hand pointing in the direction of the erstwhile St. Andrews church

According to history St Andrews was too built on land formerly part of Curtis’s Botanical Garden. The land was so marshy and still affected by tides that piles had to be driven to ensure the church’s stability. St Andrew’s church was officially in Coin Street and the church entrance was right at the bottom of this road, so perhaps the ghost sign was one to inform travellers from both the Waterloo stations the location of the church and there must have been a rear entrance in Theed Street.


The ghostly hand outlined

There is another ghost sign opposite the St Andrews one, however its so faded even I cant see what it says! The first letter seems to be a G.


Ghost sign in Windmill Walk opposite the St Andrews sign

The corner of Cornwall and Whittlesey Street, opposite the White Hart, was once a presbytery.  It belongs to St Patrick’s and is now the headquarters, or Curia House, of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual in London.

St Patrick’s is a 1897 church built in a neo-romanesque style. It was once part of the adjacent school which explains the strong associations seen on the notices outside the church.

The west side of Cornwall Road, between Exton and Secker Streets, was once a row of workmen’s cottages similar to the others throughout the Roupell Street estate. These were pulled down in the late 19th Century and St Patrick’s church and school built on the northern part of the site whilst The Union Jack Club in nearby Sandell Street had an annexe built on the southern half by Exton/Secker streets just before WWI.

Old photographs of the Union Jack club annexe appears to show St Patrick’s – the church behind the premises – once had a spire. In fact this is the spire belonging to St Andrew’s in Theed Street.


Early photograph of the Union Jack club showing St Andrews’ church spire

The boundary wall at the rear of St John’s church, facing onto Waterloo Road, appears to be original and is, apart from the church itself, perhaps the oldest remaining structure in the area, being 1822-24. The early arrival of this acclaimed Greek Revival church clearly predated John Roupell’s plans for the area. The church was built by Francis Octavius Bedford.


Rear of St John’s church with the old boundary wall

Like St Andrew’s, St John’s too had problems with its foundations because the area was still marshy and stability was an issue. Extra deep wooden piles were driven into the ground to give the structure extra stability. This additional strengthening proved its worth because the church survived the WWII bombing far better than St Andrew’s.


The chocolate shop in Roupell Street. Note the road signs – three different eras!

The area is heritage and listed so its character cannot be immaterially changed. However one issue of contention is the controversial modern frontage frontage planned for the former St. Andrew’s school at the eastern end of Roupell Street. This is now part of the EF Language School. For more details please see the Roupell Street website. The latest on this is it seems the plans were approved and the streets’ association are quite upset because it means the historic fabric of these lovely streets will be compromised by the construction of a modern structure.

2 Comments

  1. I love this article, so interesting

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