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Furnival House

A Grade II Listed Building in Highgate, London

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.571 / 51°34'15"N

Longitude: -0.1435 / 0°8'36"W

OS Eastings: 528762

OS Northings: 187422

OS Grid: TQ287874

Mapcode National: GBR DT.QJ0

Mapcode Global: VHGQL.GSJ2

Entry Name: Furnival House

Listing Date: 7 October 2008

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1392904

English Heritage Legacy ID: 505648

Location: Haringey, London, N6

County: London

District: Haringey

Electoral Ward/Division: Highgate

Built-Up Area: Haringey

Traditional County: Middlesex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: St Michael Highgate

Church of England Diocese: London

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East Finchley

Listing Text

800/0/10130 CHOLMELEY PARK
07-OCT-08 HIGHGATE
Furnival House

II

Hostel for domestic staff of the Prudential Assurance Company, latterly student accommodation. 1916-1919 by Joseph Henry Pitt (b. 1871), with later-C20 modifications internally. Edwardian Baroque style. Red brick with rubbed red brick dressings; timber sash windows; stone quoins, entrance block, cornice, banding and balustraded parapet. 'U' plan above ground floor.

EXTERIOR: The entrance bay features a circular stone portico with Ionic columns and stone face, the date 1916 in Roman numerals and a mosaic floor, and two-storey canted bay window, capped by the semi-circular pediment that features the company crest. There is a continuous stone balustraded parapet. An announcement of the Prudential's patronage is found in the stone segmental pediment that completes the advanced entrance block. Here, in a circular cartouche, is the company's coat of arms (featuring three embattled bars, an allusion to Holborn Bars), under a smiling female head and flanked by decorative swags. The return elevations continue the rubbed red brick dressings, stone band and cornice and parapet, and the gradient to the east reveals a rusticated stone lower-ground floor, reached by stone steps with a balustrade and urns. The rear and inner elevations are similarly detailed with stone quoins and banding, and rubbed brick headers.

INTERIOR: Inside, the entrance hall is the most ornate interior space: it features a square hall with plastered ceiling and cornice, and black and white marble floor tiles. To each side is an open pediment doorcase, leading on the left to a waiting room with original cornice, partly modified; to the right, the door case has been partly in-filled to form a reception window to the office, with similar modifications to the cornice. Beyond this is a pair of elliptical entrance arches, the first with Ionic columns, the second framing the stairwell and with consoles on pilasters. These are both decorated with plasterwork heralding the Prudential patronage through the coat of arms and the motto ('Fortis qui Prudens'- Strength to the prudent) amongst elaborate swags, as well as the date stone (1917 here, as opposed to 1916 on the portico).

The stair has been much interfered with through the late-C20 insertion of a lift and beyond this point the interior interest is much diminished through continued institutional use. However, the original plan remains legible and the main dining room is an exception, this retaining its grid of a deeply beamed and plastered ceiling with four circular skylights (allowing light from the centre of the 'C' plan) with decorative leadwork. The large columns survive as does a stretch of dado paneling, although the room has clearly been made smaller than its original footprint. Other rooms around the perimeter reveal the original high ceilings with similar deep plastered beams, although there has been much subdivision and insertion of dropped ceilings. The upper floors are similarly much modernised but the original plan is legible, with some simple coved cornices in rooms but no original joinery or features of interest were noted on the inspection. The character of the upper floors has been compromised through these modernisations and the special interest of the interior is concentrated in the entrance hall and the surviving parts of the dining hall.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: Fronting Cholmeley Park is a red brick wall with stone plinth and coping and a pedimented entrance gate with rubbed red brick arch, and a pair of tall, stone-capped piers to the vehicular entrance with a curved wall holding another pedestrian entrance. Between the entrance in the wall and the house are a flight of stone steps with vase balusters and a wide low handrail; a similar set of steps leads from the entrance down to the lower east side.

HISTORY: Furnival House was under construction in 1916 but work was suspended due to war restrictions at the end of 1917, and the materials were stored on site; it was 'practically complete' by November 1919. The hostel built for the Prudential company's staff of domestic servants, a large and essential group that served the enormous company headquarters at Holborn. The scale of the task was set out in the Journal of the Prudential Clerks' Society, 'Ibis', in 1916: 'Apart from the necessary domestic duties incident to a building extending over an area of more than two and a half acres, the fact that upwards of 2,000 meals are provided daily on the premises is ample evidence of the extensive operations of this domestic service corps.' The company decided to build Furnival House, 'a hostel for their residential and recreative accommodation' for well over one hundred amid healthy and attractive surroundings. The hostel remained in similar use until at least 1930, although the Victoria County History suggests that it was later used to house nurses from the nearby Whittington Hospital.

The building was designed by Joseph Henry Pitt (b.1871), a little known architect who was articled to an Eastbourne architect and commenced a practice in London, at Holborn Bars, in 1902. He designed a number of public and commercial buildings including a handful of Prudential Approved Societies Buildings.

Furnival House left little architectural doubt about the identity of its patrons. It was built under the patronage of AC Thompson, who worked for the company from 1872 until 1928, the last sixteen years serving as general manager and then Chairman. Thompson was known for his particular attention to staff welfare. Mrs. AC Thompson laid the stone on 12 May 1916, recorded under the Prudential crest.

In the early C20, the Prudential Assurance Company was at the forefront of social welfare, both in facilitating benefits to the nation and also tending to its own considerable workforce. Following the introduction of the National Insurance Act in 1912, essentially a forerunner of the welfare state, benefits for sickness and unemployment were paid through approved societies regulated by private insurance companies. This system brought with it the necessary administration of vast numbers of records nationally, and the Prudential company responded by introducing punched card machines. It was just this sort of work, along with the newly emerged telephone exchanges, that created new opportunities for women to work in cities. The success of the Prudential in the late-C19 and early-C20 meant that it was supported by a massive workforce, including domestic staff for its main office, in the cathedral-like Holborn Bars office, begun by Alfred Waterhouse in 1885. On the laying of the foundation stone, the local press noted that Prudential, while 'laudably known for their generous treatment of their clerical staff, have not thought it outside their province to provide also for the comfort of their domestic staff.' Prudential was one of the first City firms to employ women, doing so from 1871, and it ran a self-sufficient Ladies Department for many years.

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION:
* Special historic interest as a purpose-built hostel for domestic staff of one of the nation's major financial institutions, built at a time when accommodation for emerging groups of women in cities was being defined, and reflecting the attention to staff welfare to which the Prudential Assurance Company was particularly committed;
* Special architectural interest as a handsome institutional building in the Edwardian Baroque style built with quality materials and craftsmanship, making rich use of the patron's motto and crest through architectural detail;
* While the interior has been much institutionalized, the special interest can be clearly identified in some areas, particular the elaborately plastered entrance hall and the remains of the dining hall;
* The good-quality brick and stone entrance boundary wall and composite stone balustrades in the grounds reflect an awareness of its sensitive Highgate location. It has also a group value with the Grade II Cholmeley House next door, a moderne apartment block of the 1930s, and an associational group value with the Grade II* Prudential Assurance headquarters at Holborn Bars by Alfred Waterhouse.

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

Description

800/0/10130 CHOLMELEY PARK
07-OCT-08 HIGHGATE
Furnival House

II

Hostel for domestic staff of the Prudential Assurance Company, latterly student accommodation. 1916-1919 by Joseph Henry Pitt (b. 1871), with later-C20 modifications internally. Edwardian Baroque style. Red brick with rubbed red brick dressings; timber sash windows; stone quoins, entrance block, cornice, banding and balustraded parapet. 'U' plan above ground floor.

EXTERIOR: The entrance bay features a circular stone portico with Ionic columns and stone face, the date 1916 in Roman numerals and a mosaic floor, and two-storey canted bay window, capped by the semi-circular pediment that features the company crest. There is a continuous stone balustraded parapet. An announcement of the Prudential's patronage is found in the stone segmental pediment that completes the advanced entrance block. Here, in a circular cartouche, is the company's coat of arms (featuring three embattled bars, an allusion to Holborn Bars), under a smiling female head and flanked by decorative swags. The return elevations continue the rubbed red brick dressings, stone band and cornice and parapet, and the gradient to the east reveals a rusticated stone lower-ground floor, reached by stone steps with a balustrade and urns. The rear and inner elevations are similarly detailed with stone quoins and banding, and rubbed brick headers.

INTERIOR: Inside, the entrance hall is the most ornate interior space: it features a square hall with plastered ceiling and cornice, and black and white marble floor tiles. To each side is an open pediment doorcase, leading on the left to a waiting room with original cornice, partly modified; to the right, the door case has been partly in-filled to form a reception window to the office, with similar modifications to the cornice. Beyond this is a pair of elliptical entrance arches, the first with Ionic columns, the second framing the stairwell and with consoles on pilasters. These are both decorated with plasterwork heralding the Prudential patronage through the coat of arms and the motto ('Fortis qui Prudens'- Strength to the prudent) amongst elaborate swags, as well as the date stone (1917 here, as opposed to 1916 on the portico).

The stair has been much interfered with through the late-C20 insertion of a lift and beyond this point the interior interest is much diminished through continued institutional use. However, the original plan remains legible and the main dining room is an exception, this retaining its grid of a deeply beamed and plastered ceiling with four circular skylights (allowing light from the centre of the 'C' plan) with decorative leadwork. The large columns survive as does a stretch of dado paneling, although the room has clearly been made smaller than its original footprint. Other rooms around the perimeter reveal the original high ceilings with similar deep plastered beams, although there has been much subdivision and insertion of dropped ceilings. The upper floors are similarly much modernised but the original plan is legible, with some simple coved cornices in rooms but no original joinery or features of interest were noted on the inspection. The character of the upper floors has been compromised through these modernisations and the special interest of the interior is concentrated in the entrance hall and the surviving parts of the dining hall.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: Fronting Cholmeley Park is a red brick wall with stone plinth and coping and a pedimented entrance gate with rubbed red brick arch, and a pair of tall, stone-capped piers to the vehicular entrance with a curved wall holding another pedestrian entrance. Between the entrance in the wall and the house are a flight of stone steps with vase balusters and a wide low handrail; a similar set of steps leads from the entrance down to the lower east side.

HISTORY: Furnival House was under construction in 1916 but work was suspended due to war restrictions at the end of 1917, and the materials were stored on site; it was 'practically complete' by November 1919. The hostel built for the Prudential company's staff of domestic servants, a large and essential group that served the enormous company headquarters at Holborn. The scale of the task was set out in the Journal of the Prudential Clerks' Society, 'Ibis', in 1916: 'Apart from the necessary domestic duties incident to a building extending over an area of more than two and a half acres, the fact that upwards of 2,000 meals are provided daily on the premises is ample evidence of the extensive operations of this domestic service corps.' The company decided to build Furnival House, 'a hostel for their residential and recreative accommodation' for well over one hundred amid healthy and attractive surroundings. The hostel remained in similar use until at least 1930, although the Victoria County History suggests that it was later used to house nurses from the nearby Whittington Hospital.

The building was designed by Joseph Henry Pitt (b.1871), a little known architect who was articled to an Eastbourne architect and commenced a practice in London, at Holborn Bars, in 1902. He designed a number of public and commercial buildings including a handful of Prudential Approved Societies Buildings.

Furnival House left little architectural doubt about the identity of its patrons. It was built under the patronage of AC Thompson, who worked for the company from 1872 until 1928, the last sixteen years serving as general manager and then Chairman. Thompson was known for his particular attention to staff welfare. Mrs. AC Thompson laid the stone on 12 May 1916, recorded under the Prudential crest.

In the early C20, the Prudential Assurance Company was at the forefront of social welfare, both in facilitating benefits to the nation and also tending to its own considerable workforce. Following the introduction of the National Insurance Act in 1912, essentially a forerunner of the welfare state, benefits for sickness and unemployment were paid through approved societies regulated by private insurance companies. This system brought with it the necessary administration of vast numbers of records nationally, and the Prudential company responded by introducing punched card machines. It was just this sort of work, along with the newly emerged telephone exchanges, that created new opportunities for women to work in cities. The success of the Prudential in the late-C19 and early-C20 meant that it was supported by a massive workforce, including domestic staff for its main office, in the cathedral-like Holborn Bars office, begun by Alfred Waterhouse in 1885. On the laying of the foundation stone, the local press noted that Prudential, while 'laudably known for their generous treatment of their clerical staff, have not thought it outside their province to provide also for the comfort of their domestic staff.' Prudential was one of the first City firms to employ women, doing so from 1871, and it ran a self-sufficient Ladies Department for many years.

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION:
* Special historic interest as a purpose-built hostel for domestic staff of one of the nation's major financial institutions, built at a time when accommodation for emerging groups of women in cities was being defined, and reflecting the attention to staff welfare to which the Prudential Assurance Company was particularly committed;
* Special architectural interest as a handsome institutional building in the Edwardian Baroque style built with quality materials and craftsmanship, making rich use of the patron's motto and crest through architectural detail;
* While the interior has been much institutionalized, the special interest can be clearly identified in some areas, particular the elaborately plastered entrance hall and the remains of the dining hall;
* The good-quality brick and stone entrance boundary wall and composite stone balustrades in the grounds reflect an awareness of its sensitive Highgate location. It has also a group value with the Grade II Cholmeley House next door, a moderne apartment block of the 1930s, and an associational group value with the Grade II* Prudential Assurance headquarters at Holborn Bars by Alfred Waterhouse.

Reasons for Listing

* Special historic interest as a purpose-built hostel for domestic staff of one of the nation's major firms, built at a time when accommodation for emerging groups of women in cities was being defined, and reflecting the attention to staff welfare to which the Prudential Assurance Company was particularly committed;
* Special architectural interest as a handsome institutional building in the Edwardian Baroque style built with quality materials and craftsmanship, making rich use of the patron's motto and crest through architectural detail;
* While the interior has been much institutionalized, the special interest can be clearly identified in some areas, particular the elaborately plastered entrance hall and the remains of the dining hall;
* The quality brick and stone entrance boundary wall and composite stone balustrades in the grounds reflect its awareness of its location of quality. It has also a group value with the Grade II Cholmeley House next door, a moderne apartment block of the 1930s, and a claim can be made for its associational group value with the Grade II* Prudential Assurance headquarters at Holborn Bars by Alfred Waterhouse.

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