St Olaf House, London

  • 27 Tooley Street, London, SE1 2PR
  • Designed by: Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel
  • Built: 1928 - 1932
  • Tags: Art Deco, Commercial

Standing on Tooley Street, near to HMS Belfast and on the south side of London Bridge in central London, St Olaf House was built between 1928 and 1932 for the Hay's Wharf Company. The Hay's Wharf Company was founded in 1867 ane operated warehouses and wharves on the Thames in London. St Olaf House was built on the site of the former Church of St Olave. The company commissioned the architect Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel to design a London headquarters for the company.

Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel was born in Cambridge in 1887. As well as an architect Goodhart-Rendel was a soldier, composer, pianist and writer. In 1913 he inherited the ancestral family home, Hatchlands Park, near Guildford in Surrey. Hatchlands was beuqeathed to the National Trust in 1945 and was handed over to the Trust on the death of Goodhart-Rendel in 1959.

St Olaf House is a steel-framed building, clad in white Portland stone. The building footprint is a T-shape with the 'arm' of the T facing onto the River Thames. The building is six storeys high with a wide entrance bay at the Tooley Street frontage. The entrance bay is lit by two large decorative bronze light fixtures. The building name is carried above the entrance bay in tall, slender gilt lettering. Steel columns divide the entrance bay area, with a entrance hall set to the rear. With the exception of the outside corners at ground floor level, the corners of the building are chamfered. To the right of the entrance bay at the ground floor level are a set doors.

The next four stories all feature a wide central oriel bay window above the entrance bay. To the either side are three bays of tall, slender windows. The windows to the right are progressively stepped downwards away from the centre of the building. The fifth storey features five square windows set in a square-moulded architrave. Between the three central square windows are two smaller lozenge-shaped windows. The fifth storey is surmounted by a parapet with two ocatagonal pinnacles either side of the central bay.

The river frontage in seven bays wide. At ground level the building is supported by six evenly spaced columns. The central three bays from the first to third floors are pierced by three tall, narrow windows surrounded by thirty-nine gilded and terracota panels edged in black granite. The panels were designed by British artist and sculptor Frank Dobson (1888-1963) and depicted scenes from the dockside, entitled 'Capital, Labour and Commerce'. The remaining windows on the lower three storeys and the two 'bands' on the fourth and fifth storeys are black-metal framed. The top storey features gilded lettering spelling out 'Hay's Wharf'.

Other notably external decoration to the building are on the Tooley Street frontage. These are a figure of 'St Olave, King of Norway' in black and gold mosaic, also by Frank Dobson, and a carved inscription explaining the history of St Olave's Church that formerly stood on the site.

St Olaf House now houses the London Bridge Private Hospital's consulting and administration rooms.

The building was awarded Grade II*-listed status on 13 May 1971.

Posted on Saturday, May 14, 2011

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