The School of Navigation

Flo Laino

November 26, 2014


building facade

The Georgian buildings of the Crescent, Circus and America Square survived up until the 1940s, when like so much of London they suffered severe bomb damage. Indeed, much of Minories was wrecked. In the years following the war, whilst the remnants of the Crescent (about half!) were ‘restored’ to preserve its geometry, the rest of the land around Vine Street was developed from 1966-1970 into the City of London Polytechnic School of Navigation, and readdressed as No. 100 Minories.

Designed by GLC’s Department of Architecture and Civic Design (Architect Sir Hubert Bennett, and Education Architect Michael Powell) in a brutalist style. Pevsner (1973, 269) describes its structure as ‘L-shaped, four and five storeys, simple concrete bands and mullions, white and grey details’. The Polytechnic development did little to reflect the historic legacy of the site, with the Circus completely demolished, and only the opening in the Minories frontage from Hammet Street to the Crescent preserved as a through route. Indeed all that remains of the Circus to this date, is a round cobbled pavement to the West of Tower Hill station.

In the 2012 evaluation of the 100 Minories site, involving five deep test pit excavations, team members Colleen Morgan and Dan Eddisford also did some documentary photography work prior to demolition, to capture the last slightly haunting days of this classic post-war 1960s brute, and to investigate what material aspects of the life of the building as the School of Navigation may have remained (although it should be noted that the Polytechnic became a part of the London Guildhall University and subsequently London Metropolitan University).

This photo essay presents some of the images from this work.

100 Minories evaluation photograph.

The facade of the building at 100 Minories, prior to demolition.

 

100 Minories evaluation photograph.

View of the building from Tower Hill Station.

100 Minories evaluation photograph.

Walking through the wall. Shows the proximity of the 100 Minories site to the edge of the walled City of London.

100 Minories evaluation photograph.

The termination of Vine Street. This course would have once connected Dance’s Circus, to the Crescent. All that remains is the pavement and circular outline.

100 Minories evaluation photograph.

A photograph of the outside of the building, taken from a North-West facing position. Photo shows the position of the Navigation School on the corner of Minories, and Tower Hill.

100 Minories evaluation photograph.

The remains of Hammet Street. Would have once have framed a vista of the Georgian-period Crescent court.

100 Minories evaluation photograph.

No 1 the Crescent, temporary address for the 100 Minories archaeological evaluation.

100 Minories evaluation photograph.

The original placement of the Georgian No. 1 was in fact on the opposite side of the street (Vine Street).

100 Minories evaluation photograph.

Concrete building facade as shown from south-facing position. Image shows the L-shape, cutting off the arch of the Crescent. The first pedimented doorway of the preserved Crescent now starts from Number 6.

100 Minories evaluation photograph.

View of the Tower of London from the top of the Navigation School.

100 Minories evaluation photograph.

A flag pole for practising signals.

100 Minories evaluation photograph.

View of Tower Gateway Station from the roof of the Navigation School, looking out onto the DLR.

100 Minories evaluation photograph.

More roof…..

100 Minories evaluation photograph.

The Navigation School planetarium from the roof.

100 Minories evaluation photograph.

The inside of the planetarium dome.

100 Minories evaluation photograph.

Chalkboard within an empty classroom.

100 Minories evaluation photograph.

View looking out from an empty classroom onto the Tower of London. A good thing the chalkboard was facing away from this beautiful view – what a distraction!

100 Minories evaluation photograph.

Gymnasium.

100 Minories evaluation photograph.

‘White soled plimsoles or bare feet only!’

100 Minories evaluation photograph.

Across the corridor….

100 Minories evaluation photograph.

…and down the stairs.

100 Minories evaluation photograph.

A canteen servery and parquet floor.

100 Minories evaluation photograph.

Canteen menu.

100 Minories evaluation photograph.

A hollowed out lecture theatre.

 

The construction of this building in the 1960s involved the pouring of concrete foundations up to 3.3m deep, and such is the way that so much of the archaeology of London was destroyed through this type of post-war activity. Nonetheless, as archaeologists, we often forget to recognise the contemporary past as a past that is equally worth exploring and documenting. There is so little information, or extant contemporary accounts detailing the life of the Navigation School. It would be great to hear from any who studied, taught or worked there.

 

References

Pevsner, N. (1973). The Buildings of England. London: Volume One, The Cities of London and Westminster. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Image Credits

London Metropolitan Archive. 1944 photograph by Author Cross and Fred Tibbs of America Square, showing bomb damage – accessed from the Commuter Consultant .

Photograph of the Crescent showing bomb damage in 1940s – accessed from City of London Draft Area Strategy (2007, 20).

Please note

All images within this article are © L – P : Archaeology, Colleen Morgan and Daniel Eddisford.

If you would like to cite these images, please reference them as:

L – P : Archaeology. (2012). [Title]. [Photography].

Available at: http://100minories.lparchaeology.com/the-london-school-of-navigation/

[Accessed:[date accessed]].