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Early Structural Steel in London Buildings

Front cover for Early Structural Steel in London Buildings

A discreet revolution

Hardback by Jonathan Clarke


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At its heart, this book is an examination of how a new structural material - mass-produced steel - came to be first applied to the buildings of one of the world's great cities. The focus is evolution and change in London's buildings and architecture in the late Victorian and early Edwardian period; its emphasis is unashamedly constructional. A great deal has been written about the shape, style and ornament of metropolitan buildings of the period, but comparatively little on their structural anatomy and physiology.

The first part examines the technological developments and economic forces that brought structural steel into being. Central to this was the invention of the Bessemer and Siemens-Martin processes which revolutionised steelmaking and enabled the mass production of a metal which outmatched both cast and wrought iron. Steel became the pillar of a new phase of industrialisation and urbanisation throughout the world, and London, where Henry Bessemer had conducted his initial steelmaking experiments, was one of the first cities to make use of it.

The second part of the book is an examination of how structural steel was exploited in different types of London building before 1910. As steel construction developed, and buildings became larger and more complex, structure was forced back onto the architectural agenda. Techniques of framing evolved to make buildings more open, better lit, more stable, or to give them stronger floors or wider roofs.


  • Acknowledgements
  • Part 1: Technological preconditions and other contexts
  • 1. Towards a structural steel
    2. Constructional steelwork and its iron inheritance
    3. The Continental dimension
    4. The London Building Regulations
    5. Philosophical concerns about iron, steel, and framed construction
    6. Professional conflicts: architect-engineer dynamics
    7. American influence
    8. The evolution of the fully framed building
  • Part 2: Steel into London buildings, and iron precedents
  • 9. Theatres and music halls
    10. Clubs and hotels
    11. Banks and offices
    12. Shops, houses, churches, pools, fire stations and tube stations
    13. Industrial buildings
    14. Conclusion: a revolution realised
  • Notes

Additional Information

  • Printed Price: £75.00
  • Series: Architectural History
  • Publication Status: Completed
  • Format: Hardback
  • Physical Size: 276 x 219 mm
  • Pages: 408
  • Illustration: 357, Colour and Black and White
  • Product Code: 51664
  • ISBN: 9781848021037


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Early Structural Steel in London Buildings

Please click on the gallery images to enlarge.

  • Interior of Birkbeck Bank, dome
  • St. Thomas's Hospital, Lambeth (1868-71). The 1,200 tons of wrought iron used to support the floors came from Belgium
  • Hand-coloured view of the vast nave of the Crystal Palace
  • Tiers at the Garrick Theatre, Charing Cross
  • An Edwardian view of the Stand and Aldwych, showing the New Gaiety Theatre. Within there lay substantial amounts of steel, including giant girders that supported the tiers.
  • The Westminster Palace Hotel, Victoria/Tothill Street, one of London's first 'Grand Hotels'
  • The Ritz Hotel, Piccadilly. German steel, American structural engineering and Parisian chic combined in Britain's best known early steel-framed building
  • Caird & Rayner's works at 779-783 Commercial Road, Limehouse; London's only surviving 19th-century steel-framed engineering workshop
  • Lots Road Power Station, Chelsea, upon completion in 1905
  • The steel skeleton of Spicer Brother's office and warehouse, (Blackfriars House), New Bridge Street

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