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Rossetti Studios, Kensington and Chelsea

Description: Rossetti Studios

Grade: II
Date Listed: 23 September 2010
English Heritage Building ID: 508343

OS Grid Reference: TQ2748477853
OS Grid Coordinates: 527484, 177853
Latitude/Longitude: 51.4853, -0.1653

Location: Kensington, London SW3 5TT SW3 5TF

Locality: Kensington and Chelsea
Local Authority: Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council
County: Greater London
Country: England
Postcode: SW3 5TF

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Listing Text

249/0/10300 FLOOD STREET
23-SEP-10 72
Rossetti Studios

Artists' studios, built by Edward Holland and dated 1894. Although apparently built by 1890, they were not occupied until 1896.

MATERIALS: main elevation in soft red brick with rubbed brick and rich terracotta and stone dressings, a pebble-dash rendered upper floor to the circular projecting turret which marks the corner; south and north elevations in stock brick with red brick dressings; the eastern gable wall is clad in white/grey glazed tiles, to reflect light onto the adjacent buildings; slate roofs.

PLAN: a group of seven purpose-built artists' studios to the rear of 72 Flood Street, reached by an archway under the right-hand bay of the street frontage. The studios are served by a central corridor, with four single-storey studios to the north and three two-storey studios to the south, designed so that each has north light.

To the south,against the boundary wall, is a separate single-storey block formerly the caretaker's house and now studio 9, while a further two-storey studio (8) occupies the south-west angle of the site.

EXTERIOR: the main entrance, into the single-storey range, has a round-arched doorcase, with a Gibbs surround (where the architrave is interrupted by pronounced blocks, a device commonly used by early-C18 architect James Gibbs), under a small pediment, flanked symmetrically by nine-over-nine-pane, horned sashes, all under a moulded cornice. The moulded cornice continues as a storey band to the asymmetrical two-storey range where it is enriched with a swagged terracotta band above it which continues as a plain band in herringbone brick on the oriel bay. The ground floor of the two storey range is also of red brick, with the date stone set into it, inscribed 'Rossetti Studios erected by Edward Holland 1894'. The upper floor is pebble-dash rendered, while an octagonal brick attic storey turret rises from the oriel bay and next to it a flush, stepped brick stack. The oriel bay is supported on a moulded stone base. Windows are horizontal three-light casements, one with glazing bars, one set into the curve of the oriel, and a single nine-over-nine-pane sash. The southern elevation has twelve-over-twelve-pane horned sash windows with heavy moulded glazing bars in deep reveals. Each two-storey studio has an unusual, narrow, vertical slit door on the first floor, for passing canvasses into the upper floor studios, avoiding the narrow stairs. The north elevation has large timber-framed windows with angled top lights. At the western end of the site a single bay two-storey wing has similar sash windows.

INTERIOR: the front doors and pairs of doors to each studio are panelled, some with upper small-paned glazed lights, of which some retain their leaded glazing. The corridor, which is top-lit, retains most of its moulded dado, cornices, polychrome tiled floor and drainage channel.

The two-storey studios are laid out with living accommodation at ground floor level and a large studio above, reached by an internal staircase with turned balusters in early- to mid-C18 manner; each studio, which is open to the roof, has a balcony or canvas store. One studio fireplace, in coarsley jointed brick, remains in the larger of the former Chelsea Art School studios (5), while a ground-floor fireplace has a moulded timber chimneypiece with an overmantel panel, cast iron grate and de Morgan tiles on the hearth (7). Cornices and internal doors remain in most studios, of which No. 7 is least altered and has cyma moulded cornices in the small living room. Roofs are exposed steel trusses except in the largest upper floor studio (5) where they are clad in timber.

The single-storey studios are a single space with small bays at the rear containing a WC and kitchen, which open onto small, enclosed, shared yards at the rear. Internally, each studio has a small changing room at upper level, reached by stairs, with turned balusters, from within the studio and with an internal window overlooking the studio. These upper rooms are supported on moulded shafts, have exposed chamfered joists on the soffit, and diagonal boarding on the outer face; each has or had a small fireplace.

HISTORY: an inscription on the building states that Rossetti Studios were built in 1894 by Edward Holland; while research (Walkley, 237) suggests that the studios were built by 1890, although they were not occupied until 1896. Holland is also thought to have been linked to the construction of Rossetti House which forms the street frontage, and nearby Rossetti Garden Mansions. To the south,against the boundary wall, is a separate single-storey block, and now studio 9, while a further two-storey studio (8) occupies the south-west angle of the site.

By 1904 Augustus John and William Orpen had taken studios 4 and 5 where they set up Chelsea Art School, with one studio for girls and one for boys. Both John and Orpen had been students at the Slade, whilst John had already proved a very successful teacher at Glasgow School of Art. Their aim was to raise enough income to pay off their debts, but despite its success, in 1907, bored with teaching, they sold the studios, and Orpen bought the house next to Chelsea Town Hall which became Chenil Galleries (recently assessed and not listable). Students and regular visitors to the school included Henry Lamb, the potter Bernard Leach and sculptor Joseph Epstein. The studios drew in a wide net of artists and intellectuals such as Gwen John and poet and artist Wyndham Lewis.

The following generation of artists to occupy Rossetti Studios included Anthony Devas who lived and worked at No. 7. He was married to the daughter of a great friend of Augustus John, Nicolette Macnamara, whose sister Caitlin was wife of Dylan Thomas. Nicolette described life at Rossetti Studios just before and during World War II in the book that she wrote about her father.

In the 1950s and 1960s the studios continued to attract inspirational and successful artists, photographers and theatre impresarios such as actor and theatre director, George Devine and photographer Ronald Traeger. The latter was noted for his portraits for leading magazines such as Vogue, and for fashion photography, particularly for iconic images of Twiggy. The studios have continued to be used by photographers and designers.

The later C19 saw a dramatic rise in the number of artists' studios in London particularly in Camden, Hampstead, St. Johns Wood and in Kensington and Chelsea. Studios fall loosely into two types: the individual and usually architect-designed buildings seen, for example, in Holland Park Road, Melbury Road and Tite Street; and the multiple studios, often speculatively built and often set behind the street frontages. Rossetti Studios is of the latter type, built on a small enclosed site.

Speculative studio development of this kind started in the late 1860s in Camden, moving to Kensington in the 1870s, with the Avenue, Fulham Road built by Charles Freake (Grade II), and reaching a peak in the 1890s and 90s. By 1914 when the market virtually dried up, there were some 150 properties of this type in London ranging from pairs to groups of as many as thirty. Of these, approximately sixty multiple studios in Kensington and Chelsea contained 293 individual units. Consequently the number of artists recorded in these studios is extraordinarily high, counting many artists of great merit.

In plan these multiple studios vary from the single storey arrangement at Pembroke Studios (1891), to the stacked five storey block at 77 Bedford Gardens (1882) and flatiron site at Thurloe Studios (1885-7), to the mass of Lansdowne House by William Flockhart (1900-1, Grade II), and from the richly detailed to the functional. Some blocks reflect social change, notably the increase in female artists, and included a custodian's flat.

The design of later C19 studios was consciously pursued, to accommodate the needs of the client, the model and the artist, and likened to the medieval hall house. While the single studios were often opulently finished, the speculative, multiple developments usually aimed for the provision of high density utilitarian space often behind an architecturally enriched façade echoing the aesthetic trend of the day.

Many of the multiple developments in Kensington and Chelsea also date from the early 1890s, for example: Pembroke Studios (1891) and Scarsdale Studios (1891). Scarsdale Studios advertise their crafts on the sculpted panels over the entrance but are otherwise without decoration, while Pembroke Studios are carefully designed to achieve maximum light on a tight site by chamfering the corners of each block. At 43-45 Roland Gardens (1891-2), the asymmetrical facade fronts high density studios, which are set out so that they do not deprive each other of north light. Cheniston Gardens Studios (1883) were also noted for their spacious ground floor living accommodation and upper floor studios, but Rossetti Studios is probably the most architecturally accomplished small group of this date, combining tight planning with good Aesthetic form and detail.

Walkley G, Artists' Houses in London 1764-1914 (1994)
LB Kensington & Chelsea, Special Planning Guidelines, Artists' Studios (2004)

Rossetti Studios, built by Edward Holland and dated 1894, are designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: the studios, in late-C19 Aesthetic manner, are designed and built to a high standard, uncommon in speculatively built, multiple studios;
* Intactness: the layout of the site, internal studio plans and fittings clearly describe the hierarchy within two types of studio;
* Rarity: survival of working studios, in an area where these were once common, with rare surviving features including unusual slit doors providing access for canvasses, galleries for storing canvasses, living accommodation, changing rooms;
* Historic interest: Chelsea Art School, founded at the studios by Augustus John and William Orpen in 1904, attracted a wide range of literary and artistic figures; notable post-war tenants have included notable theatre director George Devine and photographer Ronald Traeger.

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.

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