Marching bricks

George Cruikshank's "London going out of town!" is a very famous satirical comic on the urbanization of the countryside during the Industrial Revolution.

What is less known is that a century earlier - early Georgian times - the same phenomenon was occurring just outside the capital.

After the Great Fire there was an extraordinary building boom where the speculative house building system helped the City to be restored and enabled the great expansion of London beyond the ancient perimeter of the medieval walls.

Once the “old town” had been reconstructed, as the demand of accommodation was still high, speculators turned their attention to City fringes areas such as Spitalfields.

As you notice walking Princelet or Fournier Street for example, most of the houses were not solidly built. Landlords and speculative builders cut corners in attempts to maximise profits by increasing density and save on materials.

They also had the short-term interest of building as quickly and cheaply as possible, get a satisfactory return on their investment and move on.

Obviously the houses had to appear sound and reasonably fashionable – both inside and outside – in order to attract the right sort of affluent occupier.

In order the appeal the market then, some elements of style and solidity had to be displayed. Therefore facing bricks were normally of good quality and key details such as brick window arches, timber door-cases and staircases were generally beautifully designed and elaborated even in modest houses.

These houses were intended for the fairly well-to-do and, in a manner typical of early-Georgian London, the builders produced a "shell" building, roofed and floored it but left the interior to the first occupier to fit out in a manner to suit taste and pocket.


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