Muswell Hill is largely characterised by low-rise Edwardian housing and the later dwellings which followed in a similar vein during the subsequent decades of the first half of the 20th century. Whitehall Lodge is therefore a rare example of a very different approach to housing during the interwar period.
Completed in the modernist idiom, Whitehall Lodge is of significant historical value to the borough and a landmark building within the Muswell Hill area, a fact rightly recognised in 1976 by its official recognition as a ‘building of merit’ by Haringey Council(1). On a national level, its use of a then novel method of construction (monolithic reinforced concrete over a steel frame) and its distinctive Streamline profile were uncommon in British domestic architecture.
The building is much-loved and admired by local residents. The merits of the original design, by architect Henry W. Binns(2) of the notable partnership of Binns & Scarlett, are in 2020 now greatly amplified by the building’s remarkably original condition, giving this asset significant communal value. That Whitehall Lodge has provided the same recognisable silhouette to local residents since 1937 should not be undervalued.
Even the famous academic and critic Nikolaus Pevsner, not a man known to be positive about much modernist architecture, took pause during his pre-war survey of Muswell Hill to note its ‘white and austere’ presence on Pages Lane. Enthusiastic national and international support for protecting and preserving the building in its current form has also been expressed in many objections to this proposal received from members of the public, and rightly underlines the evident fact that this is no ordinary building, and one of significant value to the community.
Whitehall Lodge was constructed in 1936-37 by the property developers English and Scottish Cooperative (E&S)(2), and designed in the ‘Streamline Moderne’ style, an emergent architectural style of the mid-1930s; which, as an evolution of the modernist and art deco styles, placed great emphasis on the clean lines and sweeping sculptural forms which could now be achieved through the use of reinforced concrete and Crittall style steel windows placed flush against the exterior surface.
Streamline buildings were deliberately made free of surface detail and decorative elements in order to draw the eye to the rhythm and proportion of the whole, and the wave-like façade of Whitehall Lodge, with its multiple planes and curves held between a striking pair of cylindrical towers, is typical of the style.
Indeed, the heritage statement rightly acknowledges that Whitehall Lodge, ‘has retained much of its original aesthetic to its elevations from which the property derives its primary significance.’ It is precisely this unified whole, and the fine balance its monolithic concrete structure provides, which cannot be added to, extended or subtracted from, without a calamitous loss to the Streamline aesthetic. Reinforced concrete was still a new method of building in the 1930s making Whitehall Lodge an exceptional example of its use in a suburban setting.
That Whitehall Lodge survives remarkably intact today, both externally and internally, is again worthy of note. Indeed, this fact is acknowledged by the heritage statement which states, ‘following a site visit to the property on Tuesday 24th September 2019 it is evident that the exterior of the property retains much of its original intended aesthetic and a number of original features.’ Additionally, the block is surrounded by landscaped grounds which likewise retain their original layout and which are now reaching close to a century of maturity.