Story Behind The Beautiful Southbank House, Lambeth

Over the top decoration in London always catches my eye.

Maybe it’s because most new buildings favour a sleek – glass and steel – facade? In any case, whenever I spot something elaborate I always want to know the story behind it and I was in luck with Southbank House in Lambeth.

Southbank House Lambeth

Clues In The Details

Standing on the corner of Black Prince Road, SE1 this fanciful tiled and terracotta building wears its function as its jazzy dinner jacket.

Above the entrance a group of figures admire large pots and a row of different shaped vases adorn the wall behind them.

Southbank House Lambeth

The terracotta relief carving by George Tinworth dates from around 1878, titled ‘Mr Doulton in his studio’. There’s also a seated woman to the left, thought to be Hannah Bolton Barlow, a leading female artist whose pet cat sits under her stool!

But along the side of the building we get a more straightforward clue.

(Always Look Up!)

Southbank House Lambeth

Doulton Pottery Buildings

Established in 1815, Royal Doulton produced fine ceramics from their factory site in Lambeth until the 1950s.

Southbank House Lambeth

A nearby plaque under a rail bridge (more on them later…)

Founded by John Doulton, the company began by making glazed sewer pipes. However, his son Henry had a taste for the fancier things and branched out into fine bone china and figurines. He was even awarded the royal warrant in 1901 by King Edward VII, so that’s where the ‘Royal’ in the names comes from.

This shift towards the decorative was helped by the proximity to Lambeth School of Art (est. 1854 and still going today under the name City & Guilds of London Art School in Kennington).

Southbank House Lambeth

This building is the only surviving part of the huge factory complex. It used to house the pottery’s museum, design studio and art school and was built in 1871.

“Remember that the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless; peacocks and lilies for example” – John Ruskin

But of course as well as its style, this building has substance. It serves the purpose of showing off the goods; a “living advertisement” as described by Gavin Stamp, architectural historian.

Southbank House Lambeth

Don’t Miss Under the Bridge!

Further along Black Prince Road there are more historic clues under a bridge.

Southbank House Lambeth

There are some mosaics which show the history of the Black Prince (eldest son of Edward III who died before he could inherit the throne).

And on the left hand side are a variety of ceramic plaques using motifs drawn from Doulton’s products.

Southbank House, Lambeth

Today Southbank House is a shared workspace venture with offices available to hire, including relatively affordable artist studio space. In a sense then, its gone back to its original function!

Enjoying this post? Get the latest London secrets to your email
See the City from a new angle, discovering little things you miss everyday. Once a week. No spam, just inspiration.
Your details will never be shared with any 3rd parties

More London Inspiration

  • Best Spiral Staircases

    10 Best Spiral Staircases in London

    If you're on the hunt for things to literally look up to, you can do no wrong with these beautiful sights. How many have you visited?...

  • Things to do in London

    10 Reasons Londoners Should Visit Parliament

    The oldest democracy in the world, based in a building with parts from the 11th century. If only those walls could talk. Thankfully, with the help of a Parliament guide they sort of do. Here's 10 things I learned from a guided tour of Parliament....

  • Unusual Gardens and Open Spaces in London

    10 Unusual Gardens and Open Spaces in London

    Often listed as one of the greenest cities in the world, London is blessed with 8 Royal Parks and surrounded by woodland. However, I've made a list of the more esoteric green places to visit in central London, spots with an interesting tale or simply in an unexpected place....

  • Weird London Street Names

    12 Weird London Street Names With A Story Behind Them

    Concerned by Hanging Sword Alley in EC4? Intrigued by Knightrider Street? Or tempted by Wardrobe Place? There are the best street names in the city and they each have a story to tell....

  • ondon doors

    15 London Doors With History Behind Them

    Whether it's a colour-pop Kensington townhouse or a dilapidated one in Shoreditch, they always seem to hint they've got some more to tell you....

  • London City Churches

    15 Unusual Things You Can Find In London City Churches

    There's 47 churches within London's square mile. Each with their own history and often some special quirk up their sleeve. From ancient relics to pop-up gardens and cutting edge sculpture to 17th century shoes, there's plenty of surprises to be found......

Southbank House Lambeth

4 Comments

  • gwen george

    Reply

    I used to work in Southbank House room 9A Decca Record Library. Still the best company I have worked for. Decca had a few rooms on the first floor namely The art dept, sleeve design photography studio and finance to name but a few. Also Decca radar had an office there. Upstairs were DVLA and an office belonging to the fire brigade. I was there between 1974 and 1979. Wonderful years. We thought it was haunted and record sleeves were held down in the basement.

    February 2, 2018 at 12:11 pm
  • Juliette Crane

    Reply

    I used to work in that building too. In 1988 – 89. Beard Hawkins Direct. I remember the old lift and there was a cafe downstairs that serviced toast and Marmalade. There was a design studio downstairs. I think we were on the third floor, One of my first jobs and I was 18 years old.

    May 2, 2018 at 5:19 pm

Post a Comment

eleven + eight =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.