Letters have recently been released under the ‘What the heck it’s going to get hacked anyway’ Act 2015. This exchange between the City Planning Dept and one individual throws light on the early stages of the Barbican Estate development. There is also an up-to-date twist at the end and a footnote.
1st March 1957
From S Perkins, Director of Perkins Ironmongery
160 Aldersgate St
‘Cutlers to the Gentry’
As a wide area around St Giles’s Church still lies devastated, have you thought of taking the opportunity to create a parkland with the Church as the centerpiece? There are so few open spaces around the City and this would be a wonderful opportunity to grasp the nettle – literally in the case of some of the plants – and create a spacious parkland for all to enjoy. Might I also suggest that some part of the wild flowers, so typical of a bomb site, are left to remind us of our tragic recent history.
The Planning Dept writes: Thank you for your suggestion. The good news is that there will be some parkland as you suggest – although no wild flowers – but it will be surrounded by a residential estate of some 2000 properties – with regrettably no public access to these lawns. It may not be quite the solution you were looking for but, on the bright side, I imagine that some of these residents will need cutlery.
September 1959 S Perkins writes: You said that Seddon House, the building planned to be immediately opposite us, will be 7 storeys high and therefore shouldn’t be too overwhelming opposite the smaller commercial properties in Aldersgate St. What you did not say was that Seddon House would be on stilts, as indeed will all of the estate, except for the Tower blocks which, as you say, are probably tall enough all ready. The sun rising in the East, and glinting off our range of teaspoons in our window display will be a thing of the past. Why stilts?!
No reply recorded on file. Although, a ‘How are we doing?’ feedback form had been sent to Mr Perkins but, again, no return has been recorded.
October 1963 S Perkins writes: Oh…. please… please….don’t tell me that you will be bush hammering the concrete surfaces across the whole estate. The construction of the Barbican is noisy enough without this. That is over 200,000 squares metres of bush hammering! 200,000 sq metres……….
April 1971 The City Planning Dept writes: Sorry to hear that your premature deafness isn’t improving. What was the chance of that! We have noted your concerns that the signs around the estate are about is as helpful ‘ as a drowning man being thrown both ends of the rope’ . People do look a bit lost – it must be said … and that did include a Lord Mayor and two Sheriffs attempting to take a short cut recently. But Good News we are thrilled to get the services of the mastermind behind the signs in the Second World War, which was designed to confuse the invading German Army. We hope that, of course, he won’t be using the same logic to do his work here. After all we don’t want visitors arriving at Barbican Station over the next 50 years with no idea how to get to the Barbican Centre.
S Perkins writes August 1974 writes: A Museum of London … on the roundabout! I am no trafficologist, but I wouldn’t have thought that the ideal design of a roundabout isn’t high brick walls obscuring the view of oncoming traffic. Not to mention, of course, the school parties……
Re the Museum: Two pieces of good news – the fascia will be white tiles (not my personal favourite!) so no bush hammering (which I know, from the files, is not your personal favourite!). You will also be reassured to know that the Museum won’t have any entrance at street level and this may cut down visitor numbers as a result, although it may increase the number of visitors, who having arrived in the vicinity, will have no idea of how to get in. I accept your general point that not many visitors are likely to take the opportunity to stop at your shop and buy cutlery, particularly schoolchildren. Have you thought of offering goods which might tempt them such as detailed maps of the local area (and ice creams for the school parties!)?
Oct 1977 Dear Mr Perkins Good news your concerns about the Barbican may soon be a thing of the past! The Bad news we are redeveloping the West side of Aldersgate St to turn it into offices etc. I am hereby serving you your notice to quit….
April 4th 2015.
S Perkins – Resident: Rest-a-while Homes to the Gentry, Hatton Garden
I live in the City, just on the edge of Hatton Garden and I have been affected by a persistent drilling over the Easter Weekend. (You may remember that I was particularly affected by years of bush hammering many years ago). They are at it day and night. Surely they are breaking a planning regulation?
April 5th 2015
……..They have even set a security alarm off. I would normally call the Police but if the burglar alarm hasn’t enticed them to leap into action. What can I do.? Also we are being constantly reminded not to waste police time. Can you help?
April 7th. The drilling has stopped (hurrah) …..the alarm has stopped (hurrah) but the street is now full of police cars with sirens blaring. While I welcome this long overdue response to my complaint about the noise, it does seem a little over the top (and is very noisy) and I pointed out the irony of this to one of the officers (the one with the loud hailer) and he practised some Anglo-Saxon and suggested I stop wasting police time. It struck me that the biggest wasters of police time are the police themselves, who always turn up in force once the horse has bolted, but I thought I would keep that thought in reserve.
5th May 2015 Dear Mr Perkins. Sorry you were disturbed by the recent Hatton Garden Heist and for the delay in replying. This has given us the chance to review your file and you will be pleased to know that your wish to have some part of the Barbican sporting the types of wild flowers and plants you would see on a bombsite has now been realized. It is called Beech Gardens and is open to the public! You may also be pleased to know the Museum of London, which I believe you were interested in, in the past, will be moving to close by you in Smithfield in 2020.
September 2015 A Seddon Resident writes: I would like to protest most vigorously at the plan to add another floor to 160 Aldersgate St. The size will be out of proportion to the general area and as for the inconvenience and the noise…………