Esoteric London

No. 851: Boleyn Road, N16

Posted in Architectural, Housing by esotericlondon on June 3, 2013

© Roger Dean RED_0886 copy

Boleyn Road, London, N16. Photo © Roger Dean 2013

Gaslight and Daylight, with some London Scenes they Shine Upon – George Augustus Sala, 1859:

The first peculiarity that will strike you on entering the Rents is the tallness of the houses. The blackness of their fronts and the dinginess of their windows will not appear to you as so uncommon, being a characteristic of Blitsom Street, Turk’s Lane, and the whole of the neighbourhood. But, Tattyboys houses are very tall indeed, as if, being set so closely together, and being prevented by conservative tendencies from spreading beyond the limits of the Rents, they had grown taller instead, and added unto themselves storeys instead of wings. I can’t say much, either, for their picturesque aspect. Old as the Rents are, they are not romantically old. Here are no lean-to roofs, no carved gables, no old lintels, no dormer or lattice windows. The houses are all alike – all tall, grimy, all with mathematical dirty windows, flights of steps (quite innocent of the modern frivolities of washing and hearthstoning), tall narrow doors, and areas with hideous railings. One uncompromisingly tasteless yet terrible mould was evidently made in the first instance for all the lion’s-head knockers: one disproportioned spearhead and tassel for all the railings. I can imagine the first Tattyboys, a stern man of inflexible uniformity of conduct and purpose, saying grimly to his builder: ‘Build me a Rents of so many houses, on such and such a model,’ and the obedient builder turning out so many houses like so many bricks, or so many bullets from a mould, or pins from a wire, and saying, ‘There, Tattyboys, there are your Rents.’ Then new, painted, swept, garnished, with the mathematical windows all glistening in one sunbeam, the same lion’s-head knockers grinning on the same doors, the regularity of Tattyboys Rents must have been distressing: the houses must all have been as like each other as the beaux in wigs and cocked hats, and the belles in hoops and hair powder, who lived when Tattyboys Rents were built: but age, poverty, and dirt have given as much variety of expression to these houses now, as hair, whiskers, wrinkles, and scars give to the human face. Some of the lion-headed knockers are gone, and many of the spear-headed railings. Some of the tall doors stand continually open, drooping gracefully on one hinge.

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