The London County Coucil Bomb Damage Maps, 1939-45
These invaluable maps were made by the London County Council immediately after the Second World War. It became the basis for the Abercrombie Plan for the Rebuilding of London.
Coloured areas show the widespread bomb damage while the different colours indicate its severity. Some houses were repaired; others patched up temporarily. Even those houses not bombed, deteriorated because there could be little maintenance during the war and were in need of care an attention.
The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945.
Comparing these coloured Bombing Maps
Over forty years ago I found these maps in the lower basement at County Hall, where the sharks now swim. The Architects Department kindly made me black and white photocopies and I used them in several books. Architects, alerted by my bomb maps, have used them to explain why houses built on forgotten bomb sites, have begun to subside, so the photocopies have been of practical use. In one case an architect, who contacted me, called in to explain a subsiding house, was fifteen feet down and still bringing up complete window frames. Clearly the site had become a huge bomb crater which had been used as a rubble tip, levelled and forgotten.
However, I now realise that my maps can tell a false story. The originals are coloured and unfortunately the old photocopiers did not copy the reds. They showed red as white. Therefore areas which were;-
came out on the photocopies as white. The centres of damage are marked on the maps in Black, Purple and Dark Red, with rings of lighter colours around them. Areas which I have been ignoring for years because they were white, had been, in fact, very badly damaged. Often the coloured maps give a completely different account of any particular bombing incident from my old black and white copies.
The new book called The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps, 1939-1945, ISBN 0 902087 51 7, pub. 2005, is a splendid production and will be consulted as long as London lives. The area on the map around any particular school is only a few centimetres square, but explains the old and new houses on the school doorstep as no other map or writing can do. Walking along the road becomes a never-ending detective story.
The Bombing of Albion Road
The whole area was very heavily bombed from September 1940. Incendiary bombs and high explosives early on, and a land mine fell on Albion Road at the junction with Hawkesley Road. Later, between 23 rd June 1944 and 10 the January 1945, there were no fewer than ten flying bombs and three V2s in the Finsbury Park to Albion Road area alone. Three local flying bombs fell on Defoe Road, Londesborough Road and the triangle by the shopping parade in Albion Road. The damage from these and other smaller events spread blast damage to other houses nearby, so that few houses escaped some effect of the bombs. Many houses were patched up and later repaired properly, but the major incidents led to the building of completely new blocks and even new estates. This bombing map is a key to the reason for many later developments.
The Flying Bomb on Albion Road Triangle
The Local Bombing Map of Albion Road
This bombing map shows that almost half of the houses around the Albion Road Triangle and south along Albion Road suffered some form of damage during the Second World War. This varied from Total destruction (Black) and ‘Damage beyond repair’ (PURPLE) to ‘Blast damage, minor in nature (YELLOW). The colour key describes the different levels of damage.
The two flying bombs, in Albion Triangle and Albion Grove were particularly devastating. The following account describes in some detail the effects of the Flying Bomb which fell on Albion Triangle.
Albion Road Triangle and the Flying Bomb
The flying bomb which landed in the Albion Road triangle created devastation all round it.
Albion Road c1950
The last undamaged house on the west side of Albion Road was just outside the picture, to the left. The ends of Clissold Crescent and Carysfort Road had been demolished. The only recognisable thing in the picture is St Mary's steeple. The small white houses in the bomb site are Prefabs in which families would have lived for a number of years before the rebuilding started.
This view shows the cut-off end of the old Clissold Crescent houses, with the backs of the Carysfort Road houses beyond. The last undamaged house in Clissold Crescent can be seen in the background below the branches of the large tree on the left. The backs of the houses in Carysfort Road seen between this and Medway House.
A Description of Flying Bombs
In the wartime section of his huge novel ‘The Music of Time’, Anthony Powell has this passage.
In 1944 Nicholas Jenkins, his narrator throughout the sequence of all twelve books, was an Army Captain based on fire watching duty in the City of London.
The bombing map detail above and the photograph show the serious damage caused by the flying bomb. For a number of years there were pre-fabricated houses on the bomb site until eventually Avon and Medway Houses were built.
The Prefab Houses.
(from Hackney Planning Dept.)
This is the Drainage Plan for the new blocks of flats to be built round Albion Triangle. The Local Authority could have rebuilt the houses as they were in the 1870s but there was no time for that. It was done when one house had been destroyed, but these were huge bomb sites and thousands of people had nowhere to live. No time for conservation niceties. And anyway they had been Victorian villas without bathrooms, split up into floors and rooms. Who wanted that?
People wanted modern, self contained housing units. They wanted lots of them, so they had to be flats. They had to be five storeys high because they were heated by coal and nobody could be expected to carry coal higher than five floors. They had to be clean and vermin free, convenient, have their own bathrooms and kitchens, and their own front doors. Hence – five storey blocks.
Compare building flats with the time and effort that had to go into the restoration of the houses in Clissold road, which were listed Grade II. Clissold Road would be so expensive and time-consuming that it could not be tackled until 1980, thirty five years after the end of the War.
This picture of the Gainsborough Film Studios taken in 1945
Rebuilding after the War
This is South House, The plot was bought by Thomas and William Cubitt, probably so that they could control the building of Albion Road. This they did with their own surveyors and the road building arm if their firm. The houses are very plain and unadorned, somewhat like the very first Albion Road ones that they built, up near the High Street.
Look closely and you will see that there has been a change in the façade. The houses at either end have small pilasters faced with red tiles and with small pitched cappings covered with tiles. In the centre of the block, these have disappeared. The Flying bomb blew in the centre of the façade and when they restored it, the pilasters were not rebuilt. Instead, there is a plain stucco front painted white.
These were the facades damaged by the flying bomb. No doubt all the glass was broken, but that could be replaced easily. Other damage was more serious. Look at the central pair of lintels above. They are not the same as the others. The two outside pairs have stopped chamfers along the bottom edge. The centre pair have no chamfers. This shows that the blast damaged the centre wall so badly that it had to be completely rebuilt and the windows were replaced with eight pane window frames, not four pane.
The replacement windows were not new. There was no time for that. People were waiting impatiently for anywhere to live.The builders must have been salvaged an old window from some other bomb site and used that. They could not salvage lintels, so they had to cast some new ones in concrete and it was a rush job. There was no time to waste, with people clamouring to be rehoused and a shortage of skilled labour, so they cast the lintels with square edges and did not bother with the stopped chapfers. This would have taken too much time.
Houses like this used to run round the corner from Albion Road into Clissold Crescent, but the terrace was cut off abruptly by the flying bomb. The end house was repaired and the end wall was rendered to keep out the damp. The chimneys of the existing house and the one next door had been built as one unit, so that one could not be demolished without demolishing the other. Therefore so both were kept and the chimney of the house next door projects from the rest if the wall.
The other corner of Winston Road was also destroyed by the blast and a new house built on the site.
Clissold Crescent used to continue right round the curve to the corner of Carysfort Road, but it too was cut off abruptly by the flying bomb. Medway House was built on the old bomb site and one can now see the end of Carysfort Road behind it. The end of Carysfort Road also seems to have been affected by the blast as the restore facades are slightly different from their neighbours.
One of the most famous of all pictures of the London Blitz is St. Paul’s Cathedral standing undamaged, surrounded by completely devastated buildings. When Sir Christopher Wren died his son wrote the words for a memorial text which is still to be found in the Cathedral crypt.It can be translated roughly as, ‘If you want to see his memorial, look around you’. In Latin - Circumscrube.
If you want to see the effect of the Flying Bomb on Albion Road Triangle, Circumscube. There could be a plaque on the Triangle to the unnamed civilians who were killed and maimed by that explosion and the new flats would be their memorial.
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