John Garnett House, 38 Newark Street

1864–5, vicarage, A. W. Blomfield, architect, with a plaque to J. R. Green, historian, enlarged 1869, converted to hostel use c.1997

John Garnett House (former St Philip’s Vicarage), 38 Newark Street
Contributed by Survey of London on Feb. 17, 2020

The former St Philip’s Vicarage was built in 1864–5 to designs by A. W. Blomfield. A parsonage for St Philip’s Church was intended by 1843, when ground in Newark Street was purchased for the purpose. The project lay fallow until it was revived in 1862 through the tenacity of the Rev. Alfred Blomfield, the newly appointed incumbent of St Philip’s and son of Charles James Blomfield, the former Bishop of London. Blomfield entreated the Ecclesiastical Commission for funds without success, yet was nominated for a grant of £400 by Bishop A. C. Tait in December 1863. Blomfield’s brother, the architect A. W. Blomfield, produced plans for the vicarage. A tender from Child & Son was accepted in October 1864, a low contract price probably reflecting changes necessitated by a lack of funds. The reduction of the number of bedrooms was a source of concern to Ewan Christian, who assessed the proposed design for the Ecclesiastical Commission. The Blomfield brothers were adamant that a larger plan with six bedrooms was not affordable, remarking that two bedrooms could be added at a later date. In the event Christian’s evaluation had little influence, arriving after construction had started. The completion of the vicarage in May 1865 secured a comfortable two-storey residence with an attic and basement. A narrow entrance passage leads to a hallway bordered by well-proportioned rooms. An open-well staircase with carved balusters rises to the first floor, which originally had two bedrooms. A dog-leg back staircase served the basement and the attic bedrooms. The asymmetrical brick gables, irregular elevations and polychromatic brickwork are typical of the work of Blomfield’s practice in the 1860s, including the architect’s own house in East Sheen.1

The vicarage was only briefly home to the Rev. Blomfield. Appointed to St Matthew’s, City Road, in November 1865, he was replaced by the Rev. John Richard Green, who lived in Newark Street from 1866 to 1869, when he resigned for an honorary librarianship at Lambeth Palace. Letters written by Green from the vicarage suggest that his everyday life was divided between social work, writing and the complications of an impoverished parish. Green is commemorated by a wreathed brown encaustic plaque erected under the auspices of the LCC in 1910. The inscription ‘Historian of the English People’ echoes the epitaph that Green chose for his grave. In a rare duplication, Green had been bestowed an LCC plaque earlier in Beaumont Street, Marylebone, since replaced.2

Green had considered 38 Newark Street ‘a capital parsonage’, yet it proved too small for his successor, the Rev. Alexander Johnstone Ross, a married man with a growing family. His son, Edward Denison Ross, born at the vicarage in 1871, later became a noted linguist and orientalist.3 In 1869 the vicarage was enlarged to designs by Blomfield, gaining two back bedrooms to equal the number recommended by Christian. An outbreak of typhoid fever in the household in 1880 led to work by John Hearle & Son to rectify unsanitary conditions in the basement. Further repairs and redecoration took place in 1883–4 to plans by Gordon M. Hills, the diocesan architect, with J. Jarvis & Sons as builders. The porch and the narrow gabled bay squeezed above it were probably added in these works, likely connected with forming a doorway into the adjacent schoolhouse. In the following year, a friend of the Rev. Sidney Vatcher remarked on a waiting room for parishioners in the schoolhouse ‘with a private entrance from the vicarage hall’.4

By 1924 the hospital was anxious to improve the vicarage, the incumbent of St Philip’s being committed to juggling parochial duties with the hospital chaplaincy. A series of improvements, including the provision of electric lighting, hot water, a coal cellar and a first-floor bathroom, were carried out in 1925 under the supervision of J. G. Oatley, the hospital’s surveyor. After St Augustine with St Philip’s Church was declared redundant in 1979, the vicarage closed. Around 1997, Radicle, a charity run by the Church Commissioners, adapted it into a hostel and a family centre for young single mothers, named after one of its trustees, the industrial relations campaigner John Garnett (1921–1997). The hostel closed in 2014 and the Shepherds Bush Housing Association with HTA Design converted it into four flats in 2017–18.5

  1. London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), DL/A/C/MS19224/614: The Builder, 15 Oct 1864, p. 766: Church of England Record Centre (CERC), ECE/7/1/27383/1: Judith M. Church, ‘Sir Arthur Blomfield – Victorian Architect’, Richmond History, No. 27, 2006, pp. 53–65 

  2. London City Press, 11 Nov 1865, p. 3: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB): Emily Cole (ed.), Lived in London: Blue Plaques and the Stories behind them, 2009_, pp. 323,404–5; Philip Temple and Colin Thom (eds), _Survey of London: vol. 51, South-East Marylebone, 2017, p. 441 

  3. Leslie Stephen (ed.), Letters of John Richard Green, 1901, pp. 159–60: ODNB sub Edward Denison Ross 

  4. Derby Daily Telegraph, 2 Nov 1885: CERC, ECE/7/1/27383/1: The Builder, 15 Sept 1883, p. 371: Ordnance Survey map 1873 

  5. Tower Hamlets planning applications online, Nicola de Quincey, ‘Heritage Statement’, 2016: LMA, DL/A/C/MS19224/614: Malcolm Johnson, Diary of a Gay Priest, 2013: ODNB sub John Garnett: CERC, ECE/7/1/27383/1–2 

Historic England list description for 38 Newark Street
Contributed by Amy Spencer, Survey of London on Aug. 26, 2016

Excerpt from Historic England list entry for 38 Newark Street (listed at Grade II):

1. NEWARK STREET E1 4431 (South Side) No 38 TQ 3481 15/498 II GV 2. Late C19 vicarage. Yellow brick with red brick dressings. 2 storeys, attic and basement. Mostly 4 sash windows with Gothic arches above, fish scale tiles in tympanum. Porch with flattened gable and pointed arch to entrance. Residence of J R Green historian (tablet).

No 28 to 42 (even) form a group with St Augustine with St Philip's Church, Stepney Way.1

  1. Historic England, National Heritage List for England, list entry number: 1065095 (online: entry/1065095, accessed 26 August 2016).