History in Structure

36 Crescent Grove

A Grade II Listed Building in Lambeth, London

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Latitude: 51.4596 / 51°27'34"N

Longitude: -0.1377 / 0°8'15"W

OS Eastings: 529476

OS Northings: 175051

OS Grid: TQ294750

Mapcode National: GBR FZ.7Y

Mapcode Global: VHGR5.KKKX

Plus Code: 9C3XFV56+VW

Entry Name: 36 Crescent Grove

Listing Date: 6 April 2018

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1449438

ID on this website: 101449438

Location: Clapham, Lambeth, London, SW4

County: London

District: Lambeth

Electoral Ward/Division: Clapham Common

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Lambeth

Traditional County: Surrey

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Tagged with: Building


An attached two-storey private house,1965, by the architects John and Ann Kay, for themselves.


An attached two-storey private house, 1965, by the architects John and Ann Kay, for themselves.

MATERIALS: London yellow stock brick walls over a Canadian hemlock timber frame, timber structural panels, with a zinc-edged flat bitumen felt roof. Timber-framed, double-glazed windows and doors.

PLAN: the house is built on a corner site which gently slopes from north-west to south-east. The front elevation of the house faces north-east, and the rear elevation faces in to a garden to the south-west. The ground floor has the main entrance to the north-western end, and an internal garage and a secondary entrance to the south-eastern end. Internally, the ground floor is made up of domestic rooms, with the kitchen and dining room running front to back towards the south-eastern end, and opening out on to a sunken patio in the garden. On the first floor there are four bedrooms, a study, spare room, two bathrooms, and a central sitting room with windows facing onto the garden. On both floors, the room levels step-down to reflect the drop in the site level.

EXTERIOR: the road-facing elevation is of two storeys and characterised by its yellow London stock brick walls in a stretcher bond, horizontal zinc edging to the flat roof, and a small number of rectangular, vertical and horizontal timber or metal-framed casement windows. It is designed to offer privacy to and from the houses opposite, and made up of three sections which step down the gently sloping site. This characteristic is made more obvious by the change in height of the flat roofs on each section. The north-western section has a central timber entrance door with a horizontal rectangular light above. The door stands under an open, flat-roofed canopy supported by two timber posts, and is reached via steps to the north-west. On the first floor above, there is a single, small rectangular casement window. The broadly central section projects towards the road and appears to be blind, however windows with timber spandrel panels below, and serving both floors, are hidden in the returns facing north-east and south-west. The south-eastern section houses the secondary entrance which stands within a recessed open lobby, and a timber garage door with three horizontal rectangular lights above. On the first floor there is a narrow horizontal and rectangular casement window above the entrance lobby.

The rear elevation is also of London stock brick but has much more fenestration both in terms of size and quantity. The main feature is a centralised square and projecting first-floor bay which has large fixed windows to all three sides and a two-pane sash to the north-western side. Below, there is an open undercroft with a timber garden door and glazed screen. To the western end the house also projects at ground floor level, and includes a large square fixed window with a pair of horizontal vents above, and a timber spandrel panel below. To the side of the projection there is a glazed single-panel door. The two windows above are vertically orientated and rectangular. The most easterly section has a glazed two-panel back door and again, a large square, fixed window with a pair of horizontal vents above, and a timber spandrel panel below. The two windows above are also vertically orientated and rectangular.

The western end of the house is joined to the neighbouring single-storey house (which is not included in the listing), and at first floor level has two windows which are vertically orientated and rectangular, with timber spandrels below. There is also a single example of the same window at ground floor level. The eastern end of the building has similar fenestration, but all at first floor level.

INTERIOR: the interior is characteristic of its date, with plain finishes and many built-in cupboards. Ceilings and walls are either timber-boarded, or plastered and covered with William Morris wallpaper. The doors are flush panelled, with some having glazed inserts. Throughout the house there are a number of fitted circular light fittings and rectangular roof lights, some designed by Kay.

From the main entrance, there is a small rectangular entrance lobby with adjacent cloak-room, and a corridor stepping down to the middle of the house. The dog-leg stair rises from here, and has a curved and rounded hardwood hand rail and stick balusters, in C19 manner. In the centre of the house there is the former children’s playroom, now a studio, with fitted timber furniture, an architect’s workstation and a carpentry workbench. This room also has an exposed upright timber post which denotes the size and form of the timber frame. At the eastern end of the house there is a combined kitchen and dining room. The kitchen is fitted out with the original timber base units underneath a reconstituted granite work-top. A narrow timber pelmet runs around the kitchen at head-height, concealing the lighting behind. The kitchen and dining area are partially separated by a built-in unit of timber base units above which are open wall units suspended from the ceiling. This arrangement allows some separation, whilst allowing an open aspect to the garden. To the eastern side of the dining area there is a fitted unit which is reminiscent of a C19 fitted kitchen dresser, with open shelves over half-height cupboards. Beyond the kitchen, there is a single integral garage, behind which is an integral workshop, larder store with marble shelves, and access doors to front and rear.

The first floor has four bedrooms, a study, a spare room, and the main sitting room, all opening off a spinal corridor which is lit at the top of the stair by a roof-light with a purpose-built shade. The sitting room is located centrally to the rear. This room is on two levels with the upper shallow stage having fitted shelving, and cylindrical ceiling mounted light fittings. Most of the bedrooms have fitted timber desks, and most look out to the garden. The spare room has bi-fold doors on to the corridor and a bed which folds into the wall space. The two bathrooms have reconstituted stone window cills.


36 Crescent Grove is a private house, designed in 1965 by John and Ann Kay in association with Pat Tindale, and built during the following two years. The house is timber-framed in Canadian hemlock which was imported by the British Columbia Timber Frame Housing Group. The frame and panels were built in England, and assembled on site. It is probably the first structurally timber-framed residential building to be built in London since the Fire of London in 1666.

It is located in Crescent Grove at the end of a terrace of Georgian houses which were constructed from 1824-1827. In 1963 the Kays acquired a lease on a small portion of land which backs onto Crescent Lane, which was being sold by the freeholders of Crescent Grove in order to raise money to tarmac the private road. John Kay was at the time an architect in the Ministry of Education. The Kays combined on the development with Pat Tindale, a close friend who had worked with John Kay at the Ministry of Education before joining the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in 1960. She took part of the site for a single-storey house (which is not included in the listing), and it was her background in the research of pre-fabrication and timber building in the United States which both influenced the construction principles at 36 Crescent Grove, and Ministry of Housing policy which she oversaw. The house was faced with brick to provide the fire protection then required by building and fire regulations for timber house construction in London, but also to be in keeping with the Georgian character of Crescent Grove.

The timber-frame reduced the construction time, and provided roof cover early in the construction process, even before the facing brickwork was completed. In designing the house the Kays moved away from the idea of an open plan living area, which was the fashion of the moment. With a young family they felt it was important for each member to have their own private space with the kitchen and dining at the family epicentre. The more generous upstairs sitting room was aimed at the adults of the household. The inclusion of plentiful storage, two bathrooms and a playroom for the children was also a conscious decision. John Kay designed and built the internal fittings, and designed the natural and artificial lighting solutions.

John Kay (1927-1999) studied at the Architectural Association (AA). After national service in the Royal Engineers, he worked at the Building Research Station until he joined the Architects and Building Branch of the Ministry of Education in 1956. During this period he worked as part of the development group responsible for designing the partially steel-framed Eveline Lowe school, Southwark (National Heritage List for England reference 1391693, listed at Grade II). He became chief architect to the Department of Education and Science in 1984, retiring in 1987. Kay was an expert in the lighting of buildings, both by natural and artificial light, and wrote extensively on schools as well as designing them. He was also influential in promoting the importance of research and development to practice in the design of schools.

He was also a socialist, initially a member of the Communist Party, and later as founder of the Democratic Left. He was also closely involved with the William Morris Society, of which he and Ann Kay were co-founders, and for whom he designed premises in the basement of Kelmscott House and the adjacent coach house. He was chairman of the Kelmscott House Trust from 1985 until his death. Ann Kay is a qualified architect who had studied at the Bartlett. She later changed career to teaching, but nevertheless she had an active role in the design and decision making at 36 Crescent Grove.

Pat Tindale (1926-2011) trained as an architect at the AA, qualifying in 1948. She initially worked at the Ministry of Education as part of its development group from 1951-1960. In 1961 she became the founding member of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government’s Housing Research and Development group, focusing on how to best deliver homes for the post-war population. Tindale had a specific interest in timber-framed buildings and spent a sabbatical year in the USA researching them. In 1982, she was made chief architect at the Department of the Environment, later retiring in 1986.

Reasons for Listing

36 Crescent Grove, Clapham, an attached two-storey private house, built in 1965, by the architects John and Ann Kay, for themselves, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* a thoughtfully designed 1960s private house in the modern idiom, designed by the architects John and Ann Kay, for themselves;

* structural interest in the rare and innovative use of a timber-frame in post-war London;

* the design uses simple materials, which along with the low massing, pays respect to its historic setting;

* the external elevations, internal plan, and finishes are intact and virtually unaltered;

* for a plan that intimately reflects the need of the architects' family, and that utilises a specialist knowledge of lighting.

Historic interest:

* a private house that references the architectural techniques and innovation being developed by John Kay and Pat Tinsdale in the 1960s, at the Ministries of Education, and of Housing and Local Government.

External Links

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