Just a few months after our very popular visit to see the work of Leonard Manasseh and Partners in London, an early house by this fascinating architect came under threat of total demolition.
Designed and built in 1952-53 for Philip Manasseh (his solicitor cousin), his wife Renee and their two young children, this house was one of Leonard’s first projects, and predates both his Grade II* listed Rutherford School (now King Solomon Academy), and the architect’s own house. The family house in Campden Hill Road, Kensington (where even flats sell for over £1 million) is mentioned in our recently published monograph by Dr Tim Brittain-Catlin, and acknowledged as one of the few private houses designed by the practice. At the time of its completion, the house was published in the architectural press and played a key role in drawing attention to the firm in its early days.
Although modest in appearance, the design included a number of special features and – as Brittain-Catlin notes – it has survived better than other private houses by the practice. Although a modern house, the design was skilfully contextual: in its scale, in the arched steel hood above the front door and in a canopied terrace at the back. Built on a bomb-site when post-war restrictions were still in place, the house is clearly of historic interest too.
The Society’s reaction was swift and our objections were firmly based on current government guidance (PPS5) which stresses the responsibility of local planning authorities to consider a building’s heritage value, even if it is not listed. Our monograph of course formed part of our argument for the building’s significance, as did the house’s location in a Conservation Area. A spot-listing application was also submitted to English Heritage. EH responded rapidly and produced a very favourable assessment of the house, but the lack of Interim Protection (protection while a decision is being made) meant that the owner could legally removal key elements of the structure while it was under consideration. Not surprisingly, EH concluded that the loss of the front porch and the main staircase made the house fall short of the strict listing criteria for post-war architecture.
Although the first application for demolition was withdrawn and two subsequent applications were refused permission, the fight is far from over: a fourth planning application, again proposing total demolition, has just reached us. Whatever the outcome, one cannot help thinking how differently the case might have turned out if Interim Protection had been introduced. We will continue to press for this change in legislation.