The Fireplace that Survived the Blitz | Vincent Street, Westminster
It always amazes me what can go unnoticed in London, even when I’ve walked a street a few times, it’s still very easy to miss extraordinary pockets of history.
That’s exactly the case with Vincent Street, in particular beside the corner of Hide Place in Westminster.
Opposite Napier Hall (pictured above) and surrounded by ivy, is this curious sight. An interior fireplace facing the open street.
As you may have guessed, the Westminster fireplace was indeed once part of the cosy insides of a home, in fact a terrace of homes.
The former terrace of houses can be seen on the OS maps from 1893-6 from layersoflondon.org below (I’ve circled the exact spot in red).
This peaceful domesticity was disturbed during The Blitz of The Second World War, where in the Vincent Square Ward, bombsite.org records 64 high explosive bombs were dropped between 7 October 1940 and 6 June 1941.
This is brought starkly into focus when we look at the 1945 Bomb Damage maps, purple indicating damaged beyond repair and the thin black circles indicate where V-1 or V-2 rockets were dropped.
Today when you walk past, along with the fireplace, the only pre-war survivor is Napier House, its foundation stone declaring it was completed in 1904.
Next door to the fireplace is Dean Abbott House, sheltered accommodation run by Sanctuary House. Presumably named after Eric Abbott (1906-1983) a former Dean of Westminster Abbey.
Diagonally opposite is the looming Hide Tower, built 1959-1962 designed by Stillman and Eastwick-Field.
Sadly I can’t find any surviving images of pre-bomb damage Vincent Street but perhaps it’s the ordinariness of the scene that makes it so poignant, one minute you’re warming yourself in front of the fireplace and within a few minutes your entire home is destroyed.
Here’s the exact location of the fireplace on a modern map;
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