A terrace of three houses and a flat, built 1976-79 to designs by Stout and Litchfield.
Reasons for Designation
Numbers 50-56 Ferry Street by Stout and Litchfield, 1976-79 are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* as an ensemble which skilfully translates the architects' distinctive use of skewed angular geometries into the constraints and vertical emphasis of the urban terrace typology;
* for their formal interest, most strikingly in the jettied upper floors and complex, deeply-pitched roof;
* for their planning interest, maximising the exceptional views and presenting their most dramatic elevation directly to the river.
* in the careful use of traditional materials, monochromatic white brick and slate to the exterior, and timber within;
* for the particular interest of Number 56, its sophisticated plan and extensive, little-altered interior scheme.
* as a terrace born of an ambitious, socially-minded vision for self-built private housing;
* as one of a small number of private domestic works by a talented but not very prolific architectural practice;
* as the product of an unusual and close collaboration between architect and driven, hands-on client/developer.
Numbers 50-56 Ferry Street is a terrace of three houses and a flat built to designs by Stout and Litchfield between 1976 and 1979.
The houses were the brain-child of Dr Michael Barraclough, a consultant physician at St Thomas’s Hospital, London. Barraclough spent much of his childhood in India where he developed an interest in building. He had considered studying architecture and though opting instead for medicine, he never lost his desire to build, later helping others who shared this ambition. Number 56 Ferry Street is Barraclough’s own house and he oversaw the construction of the rest of the terrace at Ferry Street.
As a young doctor, Barraclough and his wife Jenny, a documentary film-maker, restored a terraced house in Narrow Street, Limehouse. But with a road on one side and the river on the other, they began looking for a site on which they could build a house with a garden for their growing family. They found this site on the opposite side of the river on the Isle of Dogs, amongst the then derelict industries of the docklands. The local authority would not give permission for housing on a site bounded by industrial buildings however, so in about 1969 they secured options on two further sites to the east. One of these was a former marine paint manufacturer, and included a house of about 1845, then being used as offices (now listed Grade II). It was this site that they were eventually able to buy, living in the C19 century house and restoring it while they pursued the ambition of building a new house for themselves. Owning one site and with development options on the other two, their intention was to get together a group of would-be self-builders and build collectively.
The Barracloughs invited Stout and Litchfield to produce a plan for the site, having met Roy Stout at a New Year’s Eve party in 1969-70. The plan comprised up to 44 terraced houses, the front plots overlooking the river available at £6,000, and plots on the landward side available for £2,000, set around a boat basin and with views through to the south overlooking the Cutty Sark. The plots were advertised in the personal columns of the Sunday Times and The Times, and got a few takers, but never enough to realise the scheme.
Instead, the Barracloughs found a development partner to take on the site, but this fell through when the market collapsed in 1973-4. In the end, most of the site was finally developed as flats and maisonettes by Levitt Bernstein for Circle 33 Housing Trust in 1979-83, leaving Stout and Litchfield to design a terrace for just three owners: the Barracloughs, the Farrands (who owned a double plot) and one other, the latter selling his option to Barraclough before moving into the house. Barraclough acted as his own contracts manager; building began in 1976 at the east end of the terrace with his house, and the others followed. The Barraclough house reused pitch pine timbers from the warehouses previously on the site and the skewed angles of the building maximises the number of rooms with views of Greenwich across the river. Mature pine trees were brought from Epping Forest and planted at ground level, the building appearing to have been built around them and giving an unexpectedly wild character to the tight urban site. The Farrands were also closely involved in the development of their plot, opting to build a house and a self-contained flat tucked within the footprint, reading externally as a pair of houses.
As a fervent believer in the benefits of community engagement in local development and housing, Barraclough later became involved in several East End community projects. He was instrumental in establishing the Great Eastern Self-Build Housing Association in 1985, which realised Maconochie’s Wharf, claimed to be the largest self-build scheme in the UK. It comprises 89 homes built between 1985 and 1990 to designs largely by Roy Stout in collaboration with each self-builder. Barraclough served as chairman of the Old Ford Housing Association and was involved in the Mudchute Park and Farm, founded by the local community in 1974, becoming its second chairman in 1987. He also started Riverside Youth Clubs to develop water sport on the Thames and the disused docks, initiating the rescue of Shadwell Basin in 1974 and setting up the East London Marine Venture.
Roy Stout (1928-2018) and Patrick Litchfield (1931-2002) met at the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol, where they studied between 1948 and 1953. On graduation Stout joined the London County Council Architect’s Department, working under Colin Ward (formerly of Colin, Ward and Lucas), while Litchfield worked for Richard Sheppard and Partners. As friends and would-be practice partners, the two men spent evenings and weekends working on competition entries. The practice of Stout and Litchfield was eventually formed in 1962 with the commission of a weekend house for barrister, Milton Grundy; with income supplemented by two days a week teaching at the Architectural Association. The house for Grundy in Shipton-under-Wychwood (now listed at Grade II*) was to establish an architectural language of strong three-dimensional geometry which threaded through the practice’s subsequent domestic work. Based in a small London office with never more than six staff, the practice worked on many town house conversions as well as newly built private houses. From the mid-1970s and through the 1980s the practice was largely preoccupied with housing for local planning authorities and housing associations, as well as teaching at Thames Polytechnic.
A terrace of three houses and a flat, developed 1976-79 by Dr Michael Barraclough to designs by Stout and Litchfield.
MATERIALS: structural pre-cast concrete faced in white flint lime brick. The roofs are covered in Westmorland slate. Windows are a mixture of timber and aluminium.
PLAN: the houses back directly onto the River Thames to the south. They are approached from the north, off Ferry Street, through a gate in a high yellow stock brick wall.
Although it reads as a terrace of four (including the larger and more irregular number 56 to the east), there are three houses in total, number 50 having a double-width plot above the ground floor, and number 52 being a self-contained ground-floor flat beneath part of number 50.
Each house has a different plan but they are all arranged over three principal floors, with rooms under the roof at the top of the house and the stair against a side wall. In numbers 50 and 54 the principal living areas are on the first floor and are largely open-plan, with kitchens to the front and living rooms to the rear, overlooking the river and Greenwich beyond. The bedrooms are spread over the ground and second floor, and under the roof.
The plan of number 56 is complex, comprising several double-height spaces and mezzanines. It has a deep footprint which cuts in and out to the east, maximising the views and varying the accommodation on each floor. The main living spaces are arranged over the ground and first floors at the back of the plan, directly facing the river, and the bedrooms are spread over all three floors, and a garret-like attic room, towards the front of the house. The front and back parts of the plan are linked at ground floor by a single-storey range, the roof of which provides a first-floor terrace across which a glazed link (now replaced with uPVC) connects the double-height stair hall at the front with the double-height living room to the rear.
The living room, and the kithchen/dining area below, are irregularly shaped, with the corner cut back to create outside terraces, and an angled wall to the east giving the rooms a wide river view without obscuring the view from rooms behind at the centre of the plan.
EXTERIOR: perhaps the most distinctive external characteristic of the terrace is the roof form. The roofs have a diagonal split-pitch arrangement: opposing pitches meet at a skewed ridge and continue up to form two opposing apexes with triangular clerestory windows beneath. Number 56 has two such roofs to the front and one large, stepped variation at the rear, adding complexity to the angular geometry of the whole composition. Numbers 50 and 56 have chimneys: slender, square stacks with angled caps giving a strong vertical counterpoint to the angles of the roofs.
The river frontage of the terrace is broken into five bays by strong vertical concrete and brick cross-walls and the storeys are expressed horizontally by tall full-width bands of glazing. There is an undercroft beneath each house and the first floors are jettied out over the river. The westernmost bay of number 50 steps back slightly from the rest, creating a balcony at ground floor which is now enclosed by a conservatory.
Number 56 occupies the two east bays, the end bay stepping back from the river. As the house turns the corner to the east, the composition breaks down into an intricate series of angular brick volumes partially screened by mature pine trees brought from Epping Forest during the house's construction. The first-floor conservatory which links the front of the house to the living area at the back has been rebuilt in uPVC.
The houses are entered from the north. The elevations of numbers 50 and 54 are articulated by brick cross-walls with horizontal bands of glazing in-between on the first and second floors, the latter being jettied out over the floors below. Beneath the windows are smooth rendered spandrel panels. On the ground floor each address has a glazed hardwood timber door inset from the brick wall-face to create a small porch, and a full-height window lights a room to the front. The steeply-pitched roof of each bay is punctuated at the diagonal ridge by a pointed apex with clerestory window.
Number 56 has the same basic character but the front elevation is of two storeys, broken down into three irregular bays with the first floor partly jettied. The roof has two pointed apexes with clerestory windows. A glazed, off-centre entrance screen with timber-framed door leads to an inner porch.
INTERIOR: the interiors vary, a result of being built for different clients, the different planning configurations and subsequent alteration. Number 54 retains much of its original kitchen, a more compact version of that found in number 56; the cupboard doors are panelled within a mitred frame. The stair has chunky softwood joinery with open treads and horizontal plank balustrades whereas the original stair at number 50 has more slender joinery, with square stick balusters. The attic rooms of both houses have mezzanine levels with timber boarded ceilings, open to the pitch of the roof. There are varying levels of built-in cupboards and joinery.
The interior of number 56 is characterised by the dramatic use of double-height space, and a simple, consistent palette of materials, notably exposed brick and chunky varnished softwood joinery including reused timbers from earlier industrial buildings. Floors of the living and circulation spaces are generally timber or tile and detailing includes the use of timber boarded ceilings, exposed floor joists and square rope netting as balustrading. The planning of the house creates series of spaces which range from enclosed and intimate, to large, dynamic and light-filled.
Arguably it is the interior of the first-floor living room that captures the character of the house at its most striking. A double-height space, open to the underside of the angular roofs, it has a timber mezzanine under the highest part, reached via an open stair and high-level walkway. There is a sitting area below, enclosed overhead by the deep exposed floor joists of the mezzanine, and an elevated office above. Light floods in through glazed walls to the south and large triangular clerestory windows at the apexes of the roof. There is a brick chimney with raised tiled hearth and book shelves set into the side. The undersides of the ceiling are faced in narrow timber boards, the floors are timber, and all joinery, including the stairs up to the mezzanine and down to the kitchen and dining area is varnished softwood.
The details and palette are consistent throughout the house, and there is a quantity of original built-in storage and joinery. This includes the kitchen units, with panelled doors set in mitred frames and built-in bedroom cupboards.