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Former Squash Court at Rivercourt House

List Entry Summary

This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

Name: Former Squash Court at Rivercourt House

List entry Number: 1412206

Location

Latymer Prep School, 36 Upper Mall, Hammersmith

The building may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Greater London Authority

District: Hammersmith and Fulham

District Type: London Borough

Parish: Non Civil Parish

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: II

Date first listed: 14-Mar-2013

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Building

Squash court and garage, now drama studio, early 1930s, by JEM Macgregor for Naomi and Dick Mitchison.

Reasons for Designation

The squash court at Rivercourt House, built in the early 1930s to the designs of JEM Macgregor for Naomi and Dick Mitchison, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: a small but exquisitely detailed building notable for its subtly expressive forms and sensitive handling of materials; * Artistic interest: sculptural embellishments by the distinguished artist and Hammersmith resident Gertrude Hermes; * Historic association: with Naomi Mitchison, the original client, a prominent mid-C20 writer and social activist; * Group value: the building has a carefully-judged relationship with Rivercourt House (Grade II).

History

The squash court at Rivercourt House was built during the early 1930s by the architect JEM Macgregor, his clients being the writer and social activist Naomi Mitchison and her husband, the lawyer and Labour politician Gilbert Richard [Dick] Mitchison. The Mitchisons lived in Hammersmith between 1923 (the year in which Naomi Mitchison's first novel, The Conquered, was published) and 1939, and their house was at the centre of a literary and artistic set that rivalled Bloomsbury: guests included Aldous Huxley, Wyndham Lewis and WH Auden. In 1951 Rivercourt House was acquired by the Latymer School; the house is now the Latymer Prep School, and the squash court has been converted into a drama studio.

John Eric Miers Macgregor (1891-1984), architect, was the son of the artist and sculptor Archie Macgregor, and served in the Artists' Rifles during WWI. He was primarily known for his work in historic conservation, repairing numerous churches and serving for many years as technical adviser to the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. He was also associated with the British Concrete Federation, with whom he worked to develop new construction techniques for mass housing - as seen at Lennox House on Cresset Road in Hackney, an experimental A-frame block whose stepped sections anticipate developments in post-war architecture.

Gertrude Hermes (1901-1983), sculptor and printmaker, was born in Kent of German parents, and studied at the Beckenham School of Art and at the art school run by the sculptor Leon Underwood at his studio in Hammersmith. She lived in Hammersmith during the late '20s and early '30s, and became a close and lifelong friend of the Mitchisons. Much of her work was in two dimensions - mainly wood engravings and colour linocuts - but she also worked in bronze and other media, producing a noted series of portrait busts of Naomi Mitchison and other members of their circle.

Details

MATERIALS: brown brick and in-situ cast concrete.

PLAN: a two-storey rectangular building, approximately 9m x 6m on plan, with garage, garden room, store-room and open loggia below, and squash court above accessed via an external staircase.

EXTERIOR: the tall upper storey contains the squash court and is a windowless brick box, its starkness relieved by the serpentine profile of the walls to south, east and west, and by a subtle diaper pattern of black bricks. On the long south (garden) front is a loggia with four sharply-fluted concrete columns between square brick end piers; the curving lintel above has bas-reliefs depicting waves, vines, ears of wheat, a ship, a horse and a cockerel by the sculptor Gertrude Hermes. (The large concrete flower boxes that filled the gaps between the columns have been removed.) The loggia ceiling has a stepped profile, and a niche on its inner wall contains a bronze snail sculpture by Hermes which originally served as a fountain. Metal-framed windows and doors open into the garden room and garage; the latter has been slightly enlarged and its main doors renewed. To the west is an external spiral stair with concrete treads of curving profile set into a cylindrical brick newel and supporting a decorative wrought-iron handrail. The upper flight rises to the viewing gallery, which is contained in a cantilevered segmental projection high up on the west wall. A large bronze weather-vane in the form of a seahorse, again sculpted by Hermes, crowns the newel.

INTERIORS: the squash court interior is plain and functional, with hard plaster walls, a sprung wood floor, a timber viewing gallery and a large skylight. (Since conversion to a drama studio the walls have been painted black and the floor covered over.) The garden room no longer has its seating and panelling, but retains its unusual coved ceiling.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Watson, N, Latymer Upper School: A History of the School and Its Foundation , (1995)
'Architect and Building News' in Squash racquet court with garage and room under, Rivercourt, Hammersmith; Architect: JEM MacGregor, (13 March 1942), 193-195
'RIBA Journal' in Obituary: John E M Macgregor, (April 1984), 113
Websites
‘Mitchison , Naomi Mary Margaret, Lady Mitchison (1897–1999)’,

, accessed from http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/50052, accessed 12 Nov 2012
Other
James Hamilton, ‘Hermes, Gertrude Anna Bertha (1901–1983)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.,

National Grid Reference: TQ2253378355

Map

Map
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End of official listing