October 2020 Update – Urgent call to action!

Following the rejection of earlier plans, a revised application has now been submitted to extend Whitehall Lodge by adding an additional four flats to the roof. Please help support our opposition to by submitting an objection to Haringey Council by 20/11/2020. Further details of the planning application are provided at the bottom of this page.

Whitehall Lodge is an apartment building located on Pages Lane, Muswell Hill in north London. It was constructed in 1936-37 by the property developers English and Scottish Co-operative (E&S)(1).

Whitehall Mod Tourists 3 photo

The flats were designed in the ‘Streamline Moderne’ style, an emergent architectural style of the mid-1930s; which, as an evolution of the modernist and art deco styles, placed great emphasis on the clean lines and sweeping sculptural forms which could now be achieved through the use of reinforced concrete and Crittall-style steel windows placed flush against the exterior surface. Streamline buildings were deliberately made free of surface detail and decorative elements in order to emphasize the rhythm and proportion of the whole; the wave-like façade of Whitehall Lodge, with its multiple planes and curves held between a striking pair of cylindrical towers, is a fine example of the style. Reinforced concrete was still a new method of building in the 1930s, making Whitehall Lodge an exceptional example of its use in a suburban setting.  Even the famous academic and critic Nikolaus Pevsner, not a man known to be positive about much modernist architecture, took pause during his post-war survey of Muswell Hill to note its ‘white and austere’ presence on Pages Lane.

Whitehall Lodge 2

Whitehall brochure cover
Whitehall Lodge as seen on the cover of the original sales brocure (1937)

The architect responsible for the design of Whitehall Lodge was Henry W. Binns of Binns & Scarlett(1). Both Binns and his partner Frank Scarlett had significant experience in designing in the modernist and art deco styles, and had already made notable contributions to the emerging modernist school in Britain prior to being commissioned to design Whitehall Lodge in 1935. Binns’ earlier work include the art deco Gas Showrooms in Wandsworth and Chalfont House apartments in Belgravia. Binn’s partner Scarlett had produced one of the earliest modernist houses in the country, Starlock in Rye, at the remarkably early date of 1929-30, and only the third building in Britain to be built in the international modern style. Binns’ T-shape plan was further enhanced by English & Scottish to include the distinctive tower detail in a manner comparable to those at Ruskin Park House (Champion Hill, South London), then also under development with English & Scottish to designs by Watkins Gray architects.

WHL stairwell windows
Detail of patterned glass in the glazing bar, front elevation
Whitehall Lodge
Whitehall Lodge as it stands today

WHL from the air 1947 kings avenueWhitehall Lodge from the air (1947) ©Britain from Above

Early residents of Whitehall Lodge were provided with a uniformed porter service and various technologically-advanced facilities, including an all-electric laundry and drying room on the roof, central heating, and an art deco style lift, the latter remaining in service today. The period doors to each of the 36 flats still retain their original decorative glass panels and are flanked by a set of discrete ‘trade hatches’ originally provided so that foodstuffs, household rubbish and coal could be delivered or collected without disturbing the occupants. The lobby is wood-panelled at ground floor level and a luxurious brass balustrade leads to the generously proportioned upper landings which are lit by natural light from a distinctive leaded-glass window bar. This vertical glazing bar runs the entire height of the building and features thousands of varying textured and coloured glass pieces. Internally, the apartments boasted early examples of fitted kitchens and bathrooms, the latter being half-tiled in cream, green and black, and scheme closely resembling that at nearby Highgate underground station. Many examples of the original bathrooms remain in situ. The original sales brochure indicates that the kitchens were supplied with Ismay Zeros electric refrigeration units(2). A private air raid shelter was added at the outbreak of WW2, during which period the flats were marketed as ARP safe due to their concrete structure(3). Notable former residents of the building include Rajani Palme Dutt, founder of the Communist Party of Great Britain and a leading political thinker and author.

WHL Lobby
Original wood panelling in lobby of Whitehall Lodge, the lift car is to the left of the stairs

In 1976, just 40 years after work commenced on Whitehall Lodge, the building was listed by Haringey Council as a ‘building of merit’ in recognition of its architectural significance and valuable contribution to the character of the local Conservation Area. By 2020 its historical significance has also naturally increased, as has the public’s appreciation of the merits of modernist and art deco architecture. The entry for Whitehall Lodge in Haringey’s current Conservation Area Character Appraisal (Area 3 – Muswell Hill, 9.5) reads as follows:

Whitehall Lodge is an impressive ‘T’ shaped six storey block of flats built in the 1930s in an international ‘Modern’ style set well back from the street frontage in landscaped grounds. It is included in the Council’s local list of buildings of merit. The elevation is white painted render stepping forward in a symmetrical series of curved and flat planes from the central full height glazed entrance door and staircase tower surmounted by a small penthouse on the flat roof. The outer, most forward, projections are in the form of full height circular towers. All of the windows retain their original characteristic Crittall metal window frames with horizontal glazing bars.

WHL upper landing eg and lift
Typical upper landing

Whitehall Lodge also features strongly in a group of valuable local buildings within the Conservation Area constructed in the art deco and Expressionist styles. These include George Coles’ Grade II* listed former Odeon Cinema and a terrace of white-painted streamlined houses at nos. 70 to 78 (even) Tetherdown.

The Current Threat to Whitehall Lodge

A revised planning application has been submitted by the freeholder, Swanlane Estates Ltd., which proposes to extend the existing rooftop structure to create four new luxury flats. The area shaded in red in the artist’s renderings below shows the proposed extension when viewed from Pages Lane. An extension of similar scale is proposed for the rear section of the roof which will be visible from the surrounding houses.

WHL extension low res

Following a firm rejection by the local council of the initial plans, with heavy criticism coming in from across Britain and overseas, the revised plans are reduced in scale yet are no less damaging to the building. The proposed extension still threatens to permanently spoil a historic structure by altering its distinctive and restrained silhouette and adding a poorly-designed box on top of it. The extension would also require the partial demolition/obscuring of parts of the original structure, including the former laundry rooms on the roof. Internally, the carefully considered and sculptural landing area of the top floor will be ruined by the clumsy and awkward addition of a new staircase to the rooftop, one which neither matches the style nor follows the pattern of the originals.

WHL from the air cropWhitehall Lodge from the air (1947) ©Britain from Above

If you can spare a moment to object to the plans by leaving comments via the Haringey Council Planning Portal the residents would be extremely grateful of your support. Anyone may object, there is no need to be a Haringey resident or even a UK resident and the form is very simple. The new case number is HGY/2020/2588 and the deadline for comments is 20/11/2020*.  (*comments may still be made after after this up until the date a decision is reached, but it cannot be guaranteed they will considered by the council).

Street View of Extension rev low res

Rear extension

We believe this is an entirely damaging and flawed proposal and one which would have a permanent negative effect on an important heritage asset:

  1. Given the evident architectural merit and well-preserved nature of the original structure, which has remained unchanged since 1937, the proposed additions will cause irreversible damage to the integrity and aesthetic of the building, permanently disfiguring its outline and distorting the architectural readability of the whole.
  2. The building has significant historical interest within the borough. As a unique architectural example within Haringey, it makes a very positive contribution to the local Conservation Area and is rightly designated as a heritage asset. Whitehall Lodge should therefore continue to receive the protection from poor-quality interventions that it deserves.
  3. The proposed new flats will extend over the majority of the roof of the current building and will substantially increase the scale and bulk of the building when viewed from street-level.
  4. The proposed extension would require the partial demolition of the rooftop’s original laundry rooms and lift house, resulting in the loss of several original windows and doorways.
  5. New contemporary-style features, such as the frameless glass ballustrades surrounding the rooftop terraces, are alien to the character of the original building. They would also draw unwelcome attention to the new extension by reflecting light.
Whitehall Current Isometric
Architects’ isometric drawing of current building4  ©Emergent Design Studios Ltd.

Revised isometric Whitehall Lodge

Architects’ isometric drawing revised plan5 ©Emergent Design Studios Ltd.

References

  1. Haringey Council Building Control, record no. 10,718.
  2. Original Sales Brochure, English & Scottish Cooperative, 1937.
  3. Advertisement, The Times, issue 48720, Friday, Sept. 13, 1940.
  4. Haringey Council Planning Application, ref number HGY/2020/0665.
  5. Haringey Council Planning Application, ref number HGY/2020/2588.