Saturday, 12 March 2016

155 Old Kent Road

Among the terraced buildings of the Old Kent Road is a detached house, set back from the road and looking a little ill at ease in its surroundings. This building, later known as the Rolls Estate Office and now a church, was built in 1795 by Michael Searles. He and his son and grandson lived in the house and had their office here until the latter died in 1863. 

All three Searles were surveyors to the Rolls Estate. Michael Searles was the son of a Greenwich surveyor and built developments in the Blackheath and Greenwich area as well as his work for the Rolls Estate. His surviving buildings include the Paragon in Blackheath and the Georgian houses of Surrey Square

Surrey Square, © Stephen Richards and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence.

The Rolls family were wealthy land-owners in Monmouthshire, Wales; but they also owned this valuable estate in the Old Kent Road and lived in The Grange, Bermondsey. The most famous family member was Charles Stewart Rolls, co-founder of Rolls Royce. He also has the rather less pleasant distinction of being the first Englishman to die in an aviation accident, when his plane crashed in 1910 during a flying display. 


Hels said...

That must have been one, very talented family. But luckily for Michael Searles, modern fans can still examine his Paragon in Blackheath and his Georgian houses in Surrey Square!

I love semi circular crescent homes in any case, but the Paragon is particularly unusual. Instead of fully attached homes, these appear to be semi-detached houses with a lodge house thingy next to each.

CarolineLD said...

Searles seems to have been one of the pioneers of semi-detached housing, according to this interesting discussion!

Stephen Barker said...

155 Old Kent Rd does look rather lost and in need of a bit of tlc. Very interesting discussion/oneupmanship. I am currently working in Coventry at the moment. I need to bring my camera as there are some interesting survivors from the past and of the rebuilding of the post-war city. Like many places large numbers of student blocks going up, the University is beginning to dominate parts of the city.

Greg L said...

It's a real shame to see the state of Searles' house on Old Kent Road. If you look at Google Street View it was in immaculate condition less than 8 years ago. I recall seeing workers tearing plaster off the walls a few years ago, and it looks like they didn't get so far as to re-render it! So now it looks like it's been bombed. Southwark council should really do something about it - it's unbelievable that the current owners (Light of the World Church) have been able to get away with this, especially as it's such a visible landmark on Old Kent.

Mark Hatcher said...

My wife and I walked past 155 Old Kent Road this morning, curious to see Michael Searles's house, only to find it wreathed in scaffolding and covers. It is clearly a major project of some sort of the Light of the World Church, whose notice board is prominent in the frontage. Our curiosity was stimulated by the fact that we live in a house designed and built by Searles, in Gloucester Circus, Greenwich.