With all the attention on London’s growing skyline, it’s easy to forget that chunks of it have been deleted over the years, too. In the month when the Market Towers building in Vauxhall is finally flattened, we take a look at some of London’s lost behemoths.
Market Towers, 88 metres
This cream and brown cackbastard has loomed large over Vauxhall since 1975. Demolition crews have gleefully clawed away at the brute for a year, and it’s now down to ground level. Before too long, the towering One Nine Elms residential development (right) will climb 200m into the Vauxhall skies, forming a centrepiece of what we’ve dubbed the Nine Towers of Nine Elms. You can’t afford it.
20 Fenchurch Street, 91 metres
Before the Walkie Talkie, there was the Snorey Snorey. Actually, that’s a bit unfair to this 1963 building, designed by William H Rogers, for the old lump had as many fans as detractors. Its replacement, by Rafael Viñoly, stands 70m prouder, contains a top-floor skygarden and fires concentrated heat rays at passing motorists. That’s progress.
New London Bridge House, 94 metres
This building was designed by Richard Seifert, whose other comely landmarks include Tower 42, Centre Point and that funny old pirate’s castle in Camden Lock. The concrete monotony was disrupted by a subtle, sagittal kink. The building thus resembled a monstrous hinge on the gateway to Southwark. This one lasted from 1963 to 2010, and is now replaced by the Shard-licking office complex once known as The Place, now called The News Building.
Great Wheel of Earl’s Court, 94 metres
Now we have the London Eye, then we had the Great Wheel. If you wanted to construct a rubbish pun, you could say that these things go round in circles. The giant rotating structure was assembled in 1894/5 for the Empire of India Exhibition, and presided over west London until 1907 (the same year as Watkin’s Tower, a stalled attempt to surpass the Eiffel Tower). It didn’t always run like clockwork. In 1896, some 70 people were trapped onboard for 15 hours after a mechanical failure.
Drapers’ Gardens, 100 metres
Another Seifert design. Fans of Wolf Hall might recognise this location as Thomas Cromwell’s city home. Yeah, it’s changed a bit since the doomed statesman owned the plot in the early 16th century. His land was acquired by the Drapers’ Company, whose hall can still be found out of shot, to the right on Throgmorton Avenue. Part of the garden was developed after the Second World War, culminating in the 1967 concrete sandwich shown above. It lasted 40 years (1967-2007), and was replaced by a series of glass blocks also called Drapers’ Gardens.
Southwark Towers, 100 metres
This is the broad-shouldered beast that occupied the site of the Shard between 1975 and 2008. At 100m tall, it was jointly the tallest building ever to be demolished in the UK. It was brown and mirrory. Not much else you can say about it, really.
Old St Paul’s Cathedral, 150 metres
Did you know that London once had the tallest building in the world? The spire of Old St Paul’s was the Burj Khalifa of its day, until the completion of slightly loftier Lincoln Cathedral in the early 1300s. No one is sure of the precise height, but figures of 150m are often quoted (Wren’s post-Fire replacement is a mere 111m). The spire came down following a lightening strike in 1561, followed by the rest of the cathedral in the post-1666 clear-up.