Tips of the Trade: The Survey of London

Volume 48: WoolwichThere has been much excitement surrounding the publication of the latest volume of the Survey of London. Over four years in the making, the newest edition (volume 48) encompasses Woolwich suburb, its naval dockyard and the former Royal Arsenal. The current editors are at pains to get back to the essence of the Survey‘s founder’s original intentions. Charles Robert Ashbee initially set out in 1894 to create an architectural survey of what, until 1965, was known as the County of London. Although there are still huge swathes of London yet to be accounted for, it remains the most unique and comprehensive architectural record of any capital city in the world.

Over the course of the last century a volume has been published roughly every few years on average. Each volume is an illustrated snapshot in time of the particular neighbourhood selected by the Survey’s editors – rows of houses, monumental buildings and whole streets are thoroughly researched and documented, and beautifully sketched out.

In the early volumes Ashbee was keen to emphasize the connection that each building had with its local community. He depicted aged seamen enjoying their retirement together in charitable homes, and people going about their everyday lives in the streets outside. It is this principle of context that the Survey’s editors will bring to the fore in 21st-century volumes.

Survey of London CoverageThe Survey of London has so far covered much of the West End, a select few parishes in the City, and some districts to the north and east including St Pancras, Shoreditch, Spitalfields, Clerkenwell, Bromley-by-Bow and Poplar. South of the river Lambeth and Southwark have been extensively covered, whilst Battersea is in the making.

The published Survey of London is just one of many resources we consult when researching property in the capital, but we also like to go further than that and look up the original unpublished notes and sketches compiled by the books’ authors, where those survive. You never know what gems of information you’ll find that were left out of the final publication!