Southbank House

Every month CabbieBlog hopes to show you a little gem of a building which you might have passed without noticing.

This Building of the Month is tucked behind the London Fire Brigade’s headquarters. Standing on the corner of Lambeth High Street and Black Prince Road this Victorian gem is easily overlooked, now renamed Southbank House it once was the powerhouse of Victorian art pottery.

[W]hen England was at its industrial zenith the shores of the Thames that now has the busy Albert Embankment running along its edge. One of the potteries’ most famous products appear regularly on the BBC’s Antique Road Show where delighted owners of Doulton salt glazed stoneware pieces designed by George Tinworth or Hannah Barlow are told to their delight the high value of their possessions.

Lambeth ware

To meet the demand for hygiene by Victorians John Doulton started making pipes and sanitary ware, but by 1860 had diversified into art pottery and by 1878 had built his charming factory in dazzling terracotta.

At its peak 370 artists and 2,000 people worked within its walls, employed making these decorative pieces.

The surviving part of the Doulton pottery factory is a single corner block, most ornate at the corner, where the original entrance once was located. To my mind, this is one of the most excellent examples of terracotta work in London.

A round steeple protrudes from the corner of an Italianate tower. Complex designs in red, pink, and orangeish shades of terracotta encrust this corner, with scrolling, dark blue tiles with flower and semi-abstract patterns, and blue half-spheres.

Above the closed-off corner entrance is a sculptured plaque by the aforementioned George Tinworth of potters and traders at work, signed GT.

The side of the building down Black Prince Road is less ornate, but high up are gargoyle type dragons and some sculptured details – pillars and ideal heads in niches.

Top picture: Tympanum, Southbank House, Lambeth High Street by Jessica Mulley

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