Wednesday, 25 November 2015

No.4 Gipsy Hill & No.75 Anerley Road

It's an omission which I aim to put right eventually, that I've still not featured the Upper Norwood Library on this blog, although the campaign to save it has been mentioned, as have some of those who have championed its cause. One of the library's supporters is local developer, Neville de Souza. His connection with the library began as a schoolboy, for although he grew up in SW19, as opposed to SE19, he often spent afternoons doing his homework in the library at the end of trips to Crystal Palace to take part in sporting fixtures at the NSC. 
When the ground floor space of one of Neville's local developments, No.75 Anerley Hill, formerly known as the Thicket Tavern, housed a gallery, a percentage of all sales was donated to the library in lieu of paying rent to the gallery space, which was provided entirely free by Neville's company, Lightbox. The company also gets involved with other local initiatives such as West Norwood food bank, and the Dog Kennel Hill Adventure Playground, where they are helping to replace a rundown building with new facilities.
The company's latest project is an early Victorian terraced house, a couple of doors down from Willie Smarts the hairdresser. No.4 Gipsy Hill had been in a pretty poor state, consisting of several bedsits, while the ground floor and basement were used as commercial premises. Initially they thought they'd convert it into 2 apartments, but in the end it was felt that the best way to do justice to such an elegant period building, was to turn it back into a single dwelling. With every project, Lightbox tries to avoid being formulaic, so each one is unique, and considered within its context, whether that be a converted pub or shop, a new build or a traditional terraced house. So at No.4, you won't find endless magnolia walls, but something a little more imaginative. Here's a peek behind the grey front door.

The strikingly dark walls are painted in Farrow & Ball's Stiffkey Blue.

Much of the distinctive midcentury furnishings were sourced locally through the many vintage shops, and the large canvasses were lent by local artist Michael Burles, and are for sale.

Across the Triangle, and a distance down the hill towards Anerley, is the handsome building which was once the Thicket Tavern. Earlier this year I was commissioned by Lightbox to photograph the recent transformation of the ground floor and basement into a stunning apartment. Now, I know it's sad that so many pubs have closed and/or been converted to other uses, but when it was put up for sale in 2009 or thereabouts, there were apparently no offers. I understand the pub had a bit of a reputation which may have dampened any interest. There was a real danger that a developer might have chosen to demolish it entirely and start again. After all it's often cheaper to do this as there is 0% VAT on new build, unlike refurbishment. However, Neville's passion for architecture, and desire to listen to the locals, meant that on buying the building, he was determined to restore and adapt it, and to include a commercial element at ground level. Removing layers of paint from the exterior, revealed not only the fine London brickwork, but also some beautiful Victorian tiling panels. The restored building has made a big difference to the street. The upper floors and rear of the ground floor were all converted into apartments, and for a while the ground floor and basement served as a temporary gallery, as mentioned earlier. Sadly commercial tenants were not forthcoming, and eventually it was decided to seek change of use to residential. It has to be said the resulting duplex apartment is breathtaking, and takes full advantage of the grand scale of the former pub.

Neville de Souza