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Blocks to Choose From


Towers

Cromwell Tower (completed in January 1973) is the eastern-most Barbican tower and sits at the Silk Street end of the Barbican estate, next to the entrance to the Barbican Centre. It’s the Barbican tower nearest to Moorgate. Cromwell Tower is 43 storeys high.

The connection with Oliver Cromwell is that Cromwell got married at St Giles Without Cripplegate (the church beside the Barbican lake) in 1620. This one afternoon excursion appears to be his only connection with the Barbican.
Cromwell Tower. Click to enlarge

This section applies to all three towers


There are three flats on each floor, each with a different shape and layout.  The architects’ designated the Barbican tower flats as being an ‘A’, a ‘B’ or a ‘C’ flat depending on which way they face.  The City didn’t use the same system for numbering the flats when built – instead, they used numbers. But flat numbers ending in ‘1’ are ‘A’ type flats, ‘2’ are ‘B’ and ‘3’ are ‘C’.

This is useful information when it comes to looking at original Barbican tower flat plans. The architects created flat plans for Barbican tower flats showing the three types together on a sample floor. If you are viewing a flat and you know the flat number ends in a 1, 2 or 3, then you know whether it is an A, B or C flat on the sample flat plan. For this you need to look at the flat plans for Barbican towers shown on Barbican Living.  
That is not quite the end. The Barbican tower plans do not show the three sides only as A, B or C. The letters are preceded by a number. So it may be ‘1A’ or ‘8B’ for example. 1A, 1B, 1C is a standard layout in Cromwell Tower and Lauderdale Tower, and 8A, 8B, 8C is the standard layout in Shakespeare Tower.

But a few Barbican tower flats have different starting numbers. For example, there are 2A, 2B or 2C types, which are simply 1A, 1B and 1C flats, but with one room omitted from the standard layout to give a larger living room. These are found on floors 34 to 38 of those Barbican tower blocks. Different numbers in front of the letter on the plan mean other changes from the standard layout. You will find it all explained in more detail on Barbican Living.

Also please be warned: don’t take the sample plans for Barbican tower flats as gospel. The actual layout of the flat you are viewing may not exactly match the drawing: first, because Barbican layouts differ from this standard layout on some floors; second, because some Barbican tower flats may have been built differently; and third, because some people have changed the original layouts – e.g. by knocking down walls between living rooms and bedrooms.

How the numbers and types work on Cromwell Tower


Flats with a flat number ending in ‘1’ (‘A’ flats) are on the side of the tower with most of the rooms looking east towards Spitalfields, and with the living room balcony facing north, in both cases away from the Barbican estate. The ‘2’s (‘B’s) have the bedroom windows looking north-east and the living room balcony facing west across the Barbican estate towards Smithfield. The bedrooms of the ‘3’s (‘C’s) face west, and their living room balconies give a view south, again across the Barbican estate, towards the river.
Lauderdale Tower (completed in October 1974) is the western-most tower in the Barbican estate and sits right on the corner of Aldersgate Street and Beech Street, diagonally opposite the Barbican tube station. It is 44 storeys high (garage level, Barbican podium level, 40 storeys of flats and two of penthouses). It contains 114 flats and three penthouse maisonettes. The main entrance is at street level, but there is a subsidiary entrance off the pedestrian walkway at north Barbican level. There is a large forecourt in front of the tower, containing the Barbican Estate Office and a shop for food and drink, and round the back is a hair-dressing salon.
Lauderdale Tower. Click to enlarge

This section applies to all three towers


There are three flats on each floor, each with a different shape and layout.  The architects’ designated the Barbican tower flats as being an ‘A’, a ‘B’ or a ‘C’ flat depending on which way they face.  The City didn’t use the same system for numbering the flats when built – instead, they used numbers. But flat numbers ending in ‘1’ are ‘A’ type flats, ‘2’ are ‘B’ and ‘3’ are ‘C’.

This is useful information when it comes to looking at original Barbican tower flat plans. The architects created flat plans for Barbican tower flats showing the three types together on a sample floor. If you are viewing a flat and you know the flat number ends in a 1, 2 or 3, then you know whether it is an A, B or C flat on the sample flat plan. For this you need to look at the flat plans for Barbican towers shown on Barbican Living.  

That is not quite the end. The Barbican tower plans do not show the three sides only as A, B or C. The letters are preceded by a number. So it may be ‘1A’ or ‘8B’ for example. 1A, 1B, 1C is a standard layout in Cromwell Tower and Lauderdale Tower, and 8A, 8B, 8C is the standard layout in Shakespeare Tower.

But a few Barbican tower flats have different starting numbers. For example, there are 2A, 2B or 2C types, which are simply 1A, 1B and 1C flats, but with one room omitted from the standard layout to give a larger living room. These are found on floors 34 to 38 of those Barbican tower blocks. Different numbers in front of the letter on the plan mean other changes from the standard layout. You will find it all explained in more detail on Barbican Living.

Also please be warned: don’t take the sample plans for Barbican tower flats as gospel. The actual layout of the flat you are viewing may not exactly match the drawing: first, because Barbican layouts differ from this standard layout on some floors; second, because some Barbican tower flats may have been built differently; and third, because some people have changed the original layouts – e.g. by knocking down walls between living rooms and bedrooms.

How the numbers and types work on Lauderdale Tower


The No. ‘1’ flats have rooms along the west-facing side, and balconies looking north. The No. ‘2’ flats have rooms along the north-facing side, and balconies looking east. The No. ‘3’ flats have rooms along the east-facing side, and balconies looking south.
Shakespeare Tower (completed in February 1976) is right in the middle of the Barbican estate, just to the west of the Barbican Centre. It is 44 storeys high (consisting of garage level, Barbican podium level, 40 storeys of flats and two of penthouses). It contains 113 large flats and three penthouse maisonettes. Shakespeare Tower was featured in the Guinness Book of Records as the highest residential building in Europe for many years.

The tower was named for William Shakespeare who lived in the Barbican area. Before working at ‘The Globe’ on the other side of the Thames, Shakespeare worked as an actor and playwright at ‘The Fortune’ theatre in Golden Lane, and he lived in the Barbican with the Mountjoy family (who are themselves commemorated in the name of a Barbican terrace block on the south side of the Barbican estate).
Shakespeare Tower. Click to enlarge

This section applies to all three towers


There are three flats on each floor, each with a different shape and layout.  The architects’ designated the Barbican tower flats as being an ‘A’, a ‘B’ or a ‘C’ flat depending on which way they face.  The City didn’t use the same system for numbering the flats when built – instead, they used numbers. But flat numbers ending in ‘1’ are ‘A’ type flats, ‘2’ are ‘B’ and ‘3’ are ‘C’.

This is useful information when it comes to looking at original Barbican tower flat plans. The architects created flat plans for Barbican tower flats showing the three types together on a sample floor. If you are viewing a flat and you know the flat number ends in a 1, 2 or 3, then you know whether it is an A, B or C flat on the sample flat plan. For this you need to look at the flat plans for Barbican towers shown on Barbican Living.  
That is not quite the end. The Barbican tower plans do not show the three sides only as A, B or C. The letters are preceded by a number. So it may be ‘1A’ or ‘8B’ for example. 1A, 1B, 1C is a standard layout in Cromwell Tower and Lauderdale Tower, and 8A, 8B, 8C is the standard layout in Shakespeare Tower.

But a few Barbican tower flats have different starting numbers. For example, there are 2A, 2B or 2C types, which are simply 1A, 1B and 1C flats, but with one room omitted from the standard layout to give a larger living room. These are found on floors 34 to 38 of those Barbican tower blocks. Different numbers in front of the letter on the plan mean other changes from the standard layout. You will find it all explained in more detail on Barbican Living.

Also please be warned: don’t take the sample plans for Barbican tower flats as gospel. The actual layout of the flat you are viewing may not exactly match the drawing: first, because Barbican layouts differ from this standard layout on some floors; second, because some Barbican tower flats may have been built differently; and third, because some people have changed the original layouts – e.g. by knocking down walls between living rooms and bedrooms.

How the numbers and types work on Shakespeare Tower


Flats with a ‘1’ at the end of the flat number are on the side of the tower with most of the rooms looking south towards the river, and with the living room balcony facing east. The ‘2’s have the bedroom windows looking east and the living room balcony facing north. The bedrooms of the ‘3’s face north, and their living room balconies give a view west towards Smithfield and the West End.
Blake Tower is the newest addition to the Barbican Estate known as the 4th Tower. It is a listed building and was formerly the YMCA. It was redeveloped to residential flats by Redrow Homes in 2015/2016. There are 74 flats in total.
 Blake Tower. Click to enlarge 

South Barbican

Andrewes House (completed in July 1969) is the terrace block in the Barbican estate which runs along the south side of the Barbican lake, opposite Speed House and Garden. It backs onto Fore Street.

The six storeys from first to sixth floors have living rooms which overlook Fore Street, and bedrooms which overlook the Barbican lake.

The block is named for Lancelot Andrewes, who was vicar of St Giles’ Church, (the church opposite the Barbican Centre) in the early 17th century. Andrewes is famous as one of the authors of the King James Bible.
Andrewes House. Click to enlarge

This section applies to Andrewes, Defoe, Speed and Thomas More Houses


These four Barbican blocks are very similar (and different from other blocks on the Barbican estate). They stand on either sides of the Barbican  lake and the gardens, and they are parallel to each other. They are sometimes referred to as the Barbican’s ‘east-west’ blocks. This means they are positioned with the ends of the blocks facing east and west. They are also called ‘front to back’ blocks because the flats above Barbican  podium level run through the building from ‘front to back’ which means they have windows on the north and the south sides of the building.

The flats are mainly one- or two-bedroom flats. Above Barbican podium level the flats are virtually the same in all four Barbican blocks (although each block has its differences). Generally speaking, two flats are formed round a staircase. One flat takes the space behind the staircase and has a second bedroom, while the other takes the space between the staircase and the front of the building and has an extended living area and one bedroom. On the seventh floor, there are penthouse flats. (There are larger flats at each end of the block.) At below-podium or Barbican garden level there are flats looking out onto the Barbican gardens or (in the case of Andrewes House) the Barbican lake.

Lakeside flats of Andrewes House


Andrewes House contains sub-podium level flats which are among the most interesting flats on the Barbican estate. There are two storeys of flats below the Barbican podium or highwalk level and they look out over the Barbican lake. The lowest storey of flats have striking ‘U’ shaped windows, almost level with the Barbican lake a few feet away. Some of these flats also have their own private gardens or patios at the other, Fore Street, side. It’s the only terrace block in the Barbican estate where flats have individual gardens.
Defoe House (completed in December 1973) is a terrace block in the Barbican estate running roughly between Lauderdale Tower and the Barbican Centre. Defoe House forms the northern side of Thomas More Garden, which it overlooks at the front. From the back (the bedrooms) it overlooks Shakespeare Tower and Defoe Place at Barbican podium level.

Defoe House is named after Daniel Defoe, the author of ‘Robinson Crusoe’ and ‘Moll Flanders’, who lived much of his life in the Barbican area. In fact, some of the action in ‘Moll Flanders’ takes place in Smithfield.

Defoe House. Click to enlarge

This section applies to Andrewes, Defoe, Speed and Thomas More Houses


These four Barbican blocks are very similar (and different from other blocks on the Barbican estate). They stand on either sides of the Barbican  lake and the gardens, and they are parallel to each other. They are sometimes referred to as the Barbican’s ‘east-west’ blocks. This means they are positioned with the ends of the blocks facing east and west. They are also called ‘front to back’ blocks because the flats above Barbican  podium level run through the building from ‘front to back’ which means they have windows on the north and the south sides of the building.

The flats are mainly one- or two-bedroom flats. Above Barbican podium level the flats are virtually the same in all four Barbican blocks (although each block has its differences). Generally speaking, two flats are formed round a staircase. One flat takes the space behind the staircase and has a second bedroom, while the other takes the space between the staircase and the front of the building and has an extended living area and one bedroom. On the seventh floor, there are penthouse flats. (There are larger flats at each end of the block.) At below-podium or Barbican garden level there are flats looking out onto the Barbican gardens or (in the case of Andrewes House) the Barbican lake.

Flats of Defoe House


In Defoe House there are 178 flats and maisonettes. There are six storeys of one and two bedroom flats, and one-bedroom penthouse flats on the top floor. Living rooms of all flats have a view over the Thomas More garden or the Barbican lake, and the bedrooms at the back look out over the garden square at Barbican podium level between John Trundle Court and Bryer Court at the western end of Defoe House, or Shakespeare Tower at the eastern end. Defoe House has very different ‘garden’ flats from the other similar Barbican blocks; they occupy two sub-podium levels (but not right along the block), and they have no access to the Barbican garden.
It would be hard to beat Gilbert House in the Barbican estate (completed in August 1969) for a dramatic location. Right in the centre of the Barbican complex, it straddles the Barbican lake on tall stilts. Underneath it, runs Gilbert Bridge, the marvellous suspended walkway across the lake from the Barbican Arts Centre in the north to the City in the south.

Flats face either west or east. The west-facing flats have sun most of the day and look out over the Barbican lake and the terrace in front of the Barbican Centre. The east-facing flats get sun in the morning only, but they look out over the more attractive and peaceful half of the Barbican lake with the waterfall at the end.

S=Gilbert House. Click to enlarge
Like Willoughby House and Seddon House, Gilbert House is a ‘north-south’ (or side-to-side) Barbican terrace block. These buildings all have flats only above Barbican podium level – there are no sub-podium levels of flats. There are two main entrances off Gilbert bridge.

Gilbert House contains 88 flats and penthouses. There are five storeys of mainly one-bedroom flats with a living area and a dining area which can be separated by a shutter or opened out as a single living area. There are some larger and differently shaped flats at the ends of each floor. With entrances on the sixth floor, there are two-storey duplex (or maisonette) penthouses at the top of Gilbert House. The seventh floor contains two additional bedrooms, but it doesn’t cover the whole sixth floor; it forms a gallery round the sixth floor living room, which is, therefore, double-height. (There are different-shaped one storey penthouse flats at either end of the block.)

Gilbert House is named after Sir Humphrey Gilbert, who was another of the Elizabethan equivalents of today’s Somali pirates, who lived in Barbican when he wasn’t out waylaying Spanish treasure ships.
Mountjoy House (completed in April 1971) is the Barbican block which runs south at right angles from the eastern end of Thomas More House, heading in the direction of the Museum of London. It is supported on unusually tall columns on the Barbican lake side. Mountjoy House is a ‘north-south’ (or ‘side-to-side’) Barbican terrace block, which means that Mountjoy House has a central corridor along each floor. The east-facing flats have great views over St Giles’ Church in the Barbican estate, and over the landscaped areas around the preserved ruins of the old City Wall and the Bastion on the edge of the Barbican estate near Wallside. The west-facing flats overlook the landscaped area used by the pupils of the City of London School for Girls. There are entrance doors at the north and south ends of the building.
Mountjoy House. Click to enlarge 
If you have ever seen D W Griffith’s silent masterpiece ‘Intolerance’, set in ancient Babylon, with a huge procession descending dramatic ceremonial stairs, you will immediately recognise the wide stairs under Mountjoy House leading down to the Barbican lakeside. But the strange thing is that they are completely cut off. They are ceremonial stairs leading to the lakeside, but from nowhere. No one has any idea what they were originally intended for. Mind you, the Barbican is full of stairs that seem to lead nowhere. If you take the obvious stairs in the Barbican Centre to the library, you find yourself instead on a separate landing, with a ten foot leap across a stairwell as the only way to reach the library. (It’s usually best to go back down and start again.)

Mountjoy House is very similar to two other Barbican terrace blocks: Gilbert House and Seddon House. It contains 64 flats and penthouses ranging in size from two to five rooms. The flats are more or less identical to the flats in Gilbert House. There are five storeys of flats, and penthouse maisonettes at the top, but no sub-podium or garden flats.

Mountjoy House is named after an immigrant French Huguenot tailor who lived in Monkwell Street in Cripplegate. He would surely be astonished to learn that he has earned undying fame, due to letting his spare room to a penniless actor who was performing nearby at ‘The Fortune’ theatre in Golden Lane and ‘The Curtain’ theatre in Shoreditch – William Shakespeare.
Seddon House (completed in May 1974) is a Barbican terrace block sitting between Thomas More House and Lauderdale Tower. The block is similar in form to two other Barbican  terrace blocks: Gilbert House and Mountjoy House, but has slightly fewer flats on each floor. It is a north-to-south terrace block.

The main entrance to the building is at Barbican podium level on Seddon Highwalk. There are two entrance doors at either end of the building.
Seddon House. Click to enlarge
Seddon House has 75 flats and maisonettes, ranging from one-room studio flats to five-room penthouse maisonettes. There are five storeys of flats above Barbican podium level with penthouse maisonettes above that. An access corridor runs through the middle of the block, with lifts and staircases at each end. The flats are identical on either side of the corridor – but are very different in aspect. The occupier of flats on the east side enjoy a view of Thomas More Garden in the Barbican estate , while those on the west probably don’t derive quite so much pleasure from their view over Aldersgate Street.

The terrace block is named after Thomas Seddon, who set up an 18th century’s ‘Harrods’ in Aldersgate Street.
Speed House (completed in July 1969) is the terrace block in the Barbican estate which forms the northern boundary of Speed Garden, and which sits between Willoughby House and the Guildhall School of Music inside the Barbican  estate. It was the first terrace building in the Barbican estate to be completed.

At the front, Speed House overlooks its own very attractive garden inside the Barbican estate with swings and a slide for children. That is the way the living rooms face. At the back of Speed House is Speed Highwalk at Barbican podium level, with round concrete tubs full of flowering plants, and some wooden benches. Otherwise, the outlook from bedrooms is over the office buildings in Silk Street and the new block of flats, The Heron.

John Speed was a famous 17th century map maker who lived in the Moorfields area and was buried in St Giles’ churchyard.
Speed House. Click to enlarge

This section applies to Andrewes, Defoe, Speed and Thomas More Houses


These four Barbican blocks are very similar (and different from other blocks on the Barbican estate). They stand on either sides of the Barbican  lake and the gardens, and they are parallel to each other. They are sometimes referred to as the Barbican’s ‘east-west’ blocks. This means they are positioned with the ends of the blocks facing east and west. They are also called ‘front to back’ blocks because the flats above Barbican  podium level run through the building from ‘front to back’ which means they have windows on the north and the south sides of the building.

The flats are mainly one- or two-bedroom flats. Above Barbican podium level the flats are virtually the same in all four Barbican blocks (although each block has its differences). Generally speaking, two flats are formed round a staircase. One flat takes the space behind the staircase and has a second bedroom, while the other takes the space between the staircase and the front of the building and has an extended living area and one bedroom. On the seventh floor, there are penthouse flats. (There are larger flats at each end of the block.) At below-podium or Barbican garden level there are flats looking out onto the Barbican gardens or (in the case of Andrewes House) the Barbican lake.

Sub podium or garden flats of Speed House


Where Speed House differs from its brother buildings in the Barbican estate is in the configuration of its sub-podium or garden flats. In Thomas More and Andrewes Houses, there are two or three storeys of single-level flats. Speed House contains a row of two-storey maisonettes below the Barbican podium level. They are spacious with a living room and kitchen on the upper level, and a bedroom and bathroom below, with both living room and bedroom windows facing south over Speed Garden and the Barbican lake.

There are entrance doors at Barbican podium level on Speed Highwalk for each staircase. There are stairs to some of the garden flats by separate entrances between the pillars on the Barbican podium.
Thomas More House (completed in September 1973) is a terrace block in the Barbican estate running east to west along the southern side of Thomas More Garden, the largest of the Barbican gardens. The block runs from Seddon House, to which it is joined, as far as the City of London School for Girls.

The living rooms of the flats above Barbican podium level look south across the Barbican estate’s tennis courts and the landscaped area behind the City of London School for Girls, while the view north is over Thomas More Garden, whose other sides are formed by Lambert Jones Mews on the left and Defoe House opposite.

Thomas More’s rather tenuous Barbican connection is that he was born in Milk Street, near Cheapside.
Thomas More House. Click to enlarge

This section applies to Andrewes, Defoe, Speed and Thomas More Houses


These four Barbican blocks are very similar (and different from other blocks on the Barbican estate). They stand on either sides of the Barbican  lake and the gardens, and they are parallel to each other. They are sometimes referred to as the Barbican’s ‘east-west’ blocks. This means they are positioned with the ends of the blocks facing east and west. They are also called ‘front to back’ blocks because the flats above Barbican  podium level run through the building from ‘front to back’ which means they have windows on the north and the south sides of the building.

The flats are mainly one- or two-bedroom flats. Above Barbican podium level the flats are virtually the same in all four Barbican blocks (although each block has its differences). Generally speaking, two flats are formed
round a staircase. One flat takes the space behind the staircase and has a second bedroom, while the other takes the space between the staircase and the front of the building and has an extended living area and one bedroom. On the seventh floor, there are penthouse flats. (There are larger flats at each end of the block.) At below-podium or Barbican garden level there are flats looking out onto the Barbican gardens or (in the case of Andrewes House) the Barbican lake.

Sub podium or garden flats of Thomas More House


Overlooking Thomas More Garden inside the Barbican estate, there are three storeys of sub-podium or garden level flats. The flats on the lowest garden level are studio flats. Above, are two upper levels of larger flats. All have living rooms facing onto Thomas More Garden, as opposed to the flats above the Barbican podium which are oriented the other way round so the living rooms face south. The lowest sub-podium flats have almost direct access, via shared steps, onto the garden itself.
Willoughby House (completed in April 1971) is a terrace block which forms the eastern edge of the Barbican Estate. It joins Andrews House in the south and Speed House in the north. It has views over Speed Garden and the Barbican lake, but it is set back somewhat from them, and looks at them over the transparent plastic domes of the Brandon Mews houses. At the back, its views are outside the Barbican estate: it overlooks commercial buildings in Moor Lane and the spectacular Britannic Tower.

Willoughby Highwalk (the section of the Barbican podium surrounding Willoughby House) is exceptionally well served with ornamental boxes of flowers and bushes. At the back of the block, there are attractive log boxes full of shrubs and bushes. At the front, the boxes have an exotic Torquay look, with palm trees and pretty flowers in the base. The main entrances are on the Willoughby Highwalk at Barbican podium level.
Willoughby House. Click to enlarge
Like all terraces running north to south, there is a central internal corridor running down the middle of the building on each floor. In all the other north to south blocks, flats are on one side of the corridor or the other, and all their windows face either east or west. But the Barbican architects thought that the view over Moor Lane was too awful for living rooms to face that way. So the majority of the accommodation is planned on what they call the ‘Scissors’ or the ‘Up and Over’ principle. In other words, you go ‘up’ to your living area and then ‘over’ (the corridor) to your bedroom area. (Alternatively, you go down and under.) The result is that all the living rooms of maisonettes look west over the Barbican lake and all the bedrooms face east over Moor Lane. The complexity of squeezing the typical east-west flat arrangement into a north-south building meant that flats are rarely the same.

Willoughby House contains 148 flats and maisonettes. There are six storeys of single-level flats with two-storey penthouse maisonettes above. Willoughby has almost as many penthouse types as flat types. Generally they have the living room, a bedroom and another bedroom stacked on top of each other, with the kitchen bathroom and WC located according to the dictates of space.

The Willoughbys were a noble family who inherited the lordship of the manor of Barbican by marrying into the Brandon family.

North Barbican

Ben Jonson House (completed in March 1973) is the longest terrace in the Barbican Estate and it dominates the Barbican’s north podium area, running from Bryer Court west almost as far as Cromwell Tower. Flats are accessed off a long central corridor, and there are lifts at either end and in the middle of the block. At the front at Barbican podium level, it faces south towards the Barbican Centre. At the back, it looks down on Finsbury and a local school playground. It spans Golden Lane in the middle.

The part of the Barbican podium around Ben Jonson House is called Ben Jonson Place. At the front, it has its own mini-gardens. Some are raised about a foot above Barbican podium level with tiling up the side all round (much beloved by skateboarders). Some are in large brick-walled rectangles. There is a mixture of wooden benches and brick seats so you can enjoy the flowers. There are similar gardens at the back also at Barbican podium level. There is a striking dolphin fountain at the front of Ben Jonson House and a miserable school-project-standard fountain at the back.
Ben Jonson House. Click to enlarge
There are seven residential floors above Barbican podium level, including 66 two-room flats, 88 three-room maisonettes, 4 four-room maisonettes, 44 four-room and 2 five-room penthouse maisonettes.  As with all north Barbican buildings, there are no flats below Barbican podium level.

The standard design for Barbican blocks running east-west was that there would be a central corridor running along each floor like a spine, with flats on one side or other. If you had corridors on each floor, flats would all be quite shallow (from the front to the central corridor, or from the back to the central corridor). But in Ben Jonson House, as in Bunyan Court on a smaller scale, the architects made much better use of the available space by not having a corridor on every floor. Instead, they designed for central entrance corridors only on the second, third and fifth floors. This meant that, on these entrance floors, there would indeed be a row of shallow flats, with their rooms side-by-side, on one side of the central corridor. But the flats on the other side of the corridor could be on two floors. These two-storey maisonettes have internal stairs up or down to the non-corridored floor, where they can then take up the whole depth of the floor from front to back.

Ben Jonson House is named after the famed Jacobean playwright and friend of Shakespeare, who lived and worked nearby.
Breton House  (completed in November 1972) is the Barbican block which runs north from Ben Jonson House on the northern-most part of the Barbican Estate. Flats either face east (and overlook Whitecross Street) or west (and overlook the beautiful Cripplegate Free Library building and Golden Lane).

Breton Highwalk (the section of Barbican podium surrounding Breton House) has quite extensive flower beds built into the surface, with raised bricked walls. On the west side of Breton House, the bushes often grow into a virtual jungle. On the east side, the Barbican flower beds are more orderly but they seem to surround anti-tank pillboxes.

Breton House. Click to enlarge
In many ways, Breton House is a mirror image of John Trundle Court on the west side of the Barbican estate. They share virtually the same basic structure, with raised entrances to the buildings up flights of stairs from the Barbican podium at the front. They have virtually identical flat types once you get inside as well. There are four lifts and staircases, each serving a cluster of five flats on each floor. The flats are almost exclusively studio flats on the lower floors and dinky two-room penthouse maisonettes at the top with spiral staircases to connect the two levels.

The City named this Barbican building after Nicholas Breton, a completely unmemorable Elizabethan writer, who lived in the Barbican area. Yet they ignored William Blake, who lived locally and was buried in Bunhill Fields nearby (who has been belatedly honoured by lending his name to the converted Barbican YMCA building).
Bryer Court (built in February 1973) is the Barbican terrace block which runs north to south on the north podium of the Barbican estate and makes up three sides of a square with John Trundle Court and Bunyan Court. If you stand on the open side of the square, Bryer Court is the block on your right. Bunyan Court and John Trundle Court are connected, but Bryer Court stands slightly apart from them, on its own. Bryer Court backs directly onto the building called Bridgwater in Bridgwater Square.

Unlike any other block on the Barbican estate, Bryer Court has its own charming little lake at the front, partly under the upper floors of the building, with gently bubbling fountains and lots of plant life and moor hens in the Summer.
Bryer Court. Click to enlarge
It is the narrowest block on the Barbican estate, and it is made up entirely of studio flats. There are 56 virtually identical studios on seven storeys, starting above Barbican podium level. The flats all face west into the Barbican  estate. The architects decided that none of the flats would have a back view because of the presence right behind Bryer Court of Murray House (built in 1956) which sticks incongruously into the back of the Barbican site. Instead, all the flats are entered off corridors running along the back, which take up that rear side.

Bryer Court has an unusual entrance arrangement. Instead of lifts at both ends of the block, there is just one entrance at the southern (Ben Jonson House) end at Barbican podium level.

Bryer Court was named after a firm of goldsmiths who used to trade in the Barbican area.
Bunyan Court (completed in December 1972) is a terrace block in the Barbican  estate which joins John Trundle Court at right angles above the slope leading down towards the Barbican’s launderette and out of the Barbican estate. It makes up one side of a square shared with two other Barbican blocks: John Trundle Court and Bryer Court. If you stand on the open side of the square, Bunyan Court is the Barbican block straight ahead of you. At the front, it looks over Beech Garden and towards Defoe House at Barbican podium level; at the rear it overlooks the YMCA and the ‘Wild Garden’, as it is called.

There is a lift and staircase at the Bryer Court end of the block at Barbican podium level. Since Bunyan Court is built over the Barbican estate’s ramp down to Fann Street, there’s no staircase or lift at the John Trundle Court end. But residents at that end can easily walk through to John Trundle Court and use its staircase and lift to get to and from the Barbican podium.
Bunyan Court. Click to enlarge 
Bunyan Court has seven storeys above the Barbican podium, containing 18 two-room flats, 33 three-room flats and maisonettes, two four-room maisonettes, 15 four-room and one five-room penthouse maisonettes. There are no flats below Barbican podium level

Bunyan Court is actually rather like a smaller version of Ben Jonson House, the Barbican block further east, in that it has some small flats just on one floor, on one side of the central corridor, and larger two-storey maisonettes taking up the width of a full floor above or below. I explain how that works precisely in the Ben Jonson House page.

Bunyan Court is named after John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, who used to preach in the Barbican area, and was buried in Bunhill Fields nearby.
Frobisher Crescent is the crescent-shaped building in the Barbican estate between Shakespeare Tower and the Barbican Arts Centre. In fact, it forms part of the Barbican Centre. It links to the Barbican Centre on its east side, and some of the Barbican Centre facilities are underneath. They share a stage lift, for example, which would be very useful for residents moving large pieces of furniture in or out, but residents aren’t allowed to use it. Frobisher Crescent also straddles the two levels or podia – north and south – of the Barbican Estate.

When the Barbican Estate was built, Frobisher Crescent was meant to be very grand, with its own Sculpture Court no less. (Some estates have gardens, some have fountains, but a sculpture court?) There was also going to be a whole colonnade of shops underneath, presumably like a City version of Burlington Arcade.
Frobisher Crescent. Click to enlarge
For some reason, back in the 1970s, the City lost its nerve and, instead of finishing the flats, it turned Frobisher Crescent into an anonymous business school. The proposed colonnade of shops instead became workshops for the Barbican estate and offices for the Barbican Centre. For nearly 30 years, Frobisher Crescent as a grand residential development was moth-balled. Literally. The City took all the fittings, kitchens and bathrooms for the flats and put them in storage. It was the great ‘might have been’ of the Barbican Estate.

But now, Frobisher Crescent has finally been reborn, at least partly, as the fabulous block of Barbican flats it always should have been. Modern flats have been created on the top three floors – the seventh, eighth and ninth floors. (The building has nine ‘levels’ in all: six above ground and three, including car parking, below ground. The other three levels above ground, but below the flats, are still offices.)

The development into flats was carried out in 2009-10 by The United House Group, and the flats were sold by the City. There are 69 flats, ranging from studios to three-bedroom apartments. This is the most exciting new development at the Barbican since … well, since the Barbican. More flats are probably to follow at some point in the future, but not for now.

There are a lot of complicated access arrangements with lifts leading to the Barbican’s south podium on Defoe Place, the Barbican’s north podium opposite Ben Jonson House, and the Barbican Centre (with out of hours access from Silk Street).

Sir Martin Frobisher was an Elizabethan adventurer who played a major part in the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Part of him was buried in St Giles Church in the Barbican estate.
John Trundle Court (completed in October 1972) is the Barbican block on the very western edge of the Barbican Estate and runs north to south, roughly from Lauderdale Tower towards Blake Tower. It overlooks Aldersgate Street and Barbican Tube Station on one side and Beech Garden at Barbican podium level on the other side. Beech Garden becomes John Trundle Highwalk near the bridge over Aldersgate Street leading to the Barbican underground station.

John Trundle Court makes up three sides of a Barbican square with Bunyan Court and Bryer Court. If you stand on the open side of the square, John Trundle Court is the block on your left.
John Trundle Court. Click to enlarge
The flats either face onto Aldersgate Street at the back, or Beech Garden at Barbican podium level at the front. Access to the building is up a half flight of steps from Beech Garden at Barbican podium level. From this raised entrance foyer, lifts and stairs go up to the flats above.

As in Breton House, which it closely resembles, the accommodation consists of clusters of studio flats grouped round the individual lifts and staircases. There are 117 one-room studio flats on six storeys. There are 16 penthouse maisonettes on the top storeys, with a living room and kitchen at the entrance level and a spiral staircase leading to a bedroom and the bathroom on the upper level. Unlike most other buildings on the Barbican estate, there are some flats on the mezzanine level.

John Trundle was a local printer in the 16th century, who used to rip off Shakespeare’s plays when they were first performed by frantically writing down the speeches in the theatre, and then rushing out printed copies for people to read. (I don’t know why the City wanted to commemorate this rip off artist by naming a building after him.)

Mews & Houses

Brandon Mews is a few steps down from Willoughby Highwalk in the Barbican estate. It contains 26 houses. Seen from Willoughby Highwalk at Barbican podium level, the houses look thoroughly uninteresting. But looks are deceptive. The real attraction of Brandon Mews is that the houses form the eastern wall of Speed Garden. Seen from Speed Garden, their attractions become abundantly clear.

The inhabitants of Brandon Mews live below Barbican podium level and both their living rooms and their bedrooms face west towards the Barbican lake. Those nearest Speed House (the north part of the mews) overlook the delightful Speed Garden. Those nearest Andrewes House (the south part of the mews) overlook the Barbican lake’s ornamental waterfall from which water cascades down in front of Brandon Mews.
Brandon Mews. Click to enlarge
The windows facing onto the Barbican lake and Speed garden are dramatic and each one seems to go right up the building, with window boxes in the middle and the distinctively Barbican “U” shape at the bottom.
There are entrance doors down from Barbican podium level on Willoughby Highwalk, each serving two houses; so, although they are called mews houses, they are more like sub-podium maisonettes. There’s no direct access from the Barbican lakeside or from Speed Gardens to Brandon Mews.

Car parking spaces are available for each house near their rear entrance doors below the Barbican podium level.

The terrace of houses has a plastic conservatory-like construction on top.  These were added after construction to deal with rain ingress. The City were going to use this space for events, but the residents objected to the potential noise, so the plastic domes remain empty.

Brandon Mews is named after Robert Brandon, who helped the young Edward III seize power and was rewarded with ‘the Lordship of the Manor of Barbican’. Two centuries later his descendent, Charles Brandon, married a Willoughby and the lordship of the Manor of Barbican passed to the Willoughby family. Someone in the City was being clever over the naming of blocks, because Brandon Mews is overlooked by Willoughby House.
Lambert Jones Mews forms the east boundary of Thomas More Garden in the Barbican estate. It sits at right angles to Defoe House and to Thomas More House, just below Lauderdale Place, where it has its own private, cobbled mews road. These are highly desirable mews houses and rarely come on the market.

The most similar Barbican properties are the houses of Brandon Mews. Brandon Mews houses are really more like maisonettes, while the Lambert Jones Mews houses are incontestably terraced houses. Wallside and Postern contain larger Barbican houses.
Lambert Jones Mews. Click to enlarge
The backs of the houses, with walls mainly occupied by windows, face onto Thomas More Garden. On the road side (which is nominally the front – since it contains the main entrance doors) each house has an integral garage which takes up some of the ground floor of the house. The road comes off Aldersgate Street. The houses also have small balconies at the front over the mews road.

The real selling feature of these Barbican houses is the living room which is double height and has floor-to-ceiling windows onto the garden, so that even when sitting in your living room you can stare contentedly over the Barbican garden and watch out for foxes. Many of the houses have back doors opening directly onto Thomas More Garden – no other Barbican properties allow you to actually stroll out of your living room straight into the garden. On the first floor, there is a gallery round the double height living room, which contains a dining area, kitchen, two bedrooms, a bathroom and a separate WC.

To cap it all, they have little terraces on the roofs, at the height of the Barbican podium, where the residents can enjoy cocktails on balmy summer evenings (which we occasionally have). These terraces are much-used in the Summer, even thought they are overlooked by people going up the steps to Defoe House, or standing on the Barbican podium there. But it is a small price to pay, and it’s a sure bet that other residents are overlooking them with envy.

Lambert Jones was a prominent Councilman of the City of London in the 19th century.
The Postern is a terrace of houses or maisonettes which have entrances off Wood Street, but also from St Giles Terrace inside the Barbican estate.  The houses also have access at a higher level from Postern Bridge, which is a covered pedestrian highwalk from the Barbican Estate heading towards the City.

There are seven houses (on four storeys with garages), a maisonette, and a flat. Most of these Barbican properties are used for commercial purposes, and one is the Rectory of St Giles’ Church in the Barbican  estate.
Postern. Click to enlarge
Wallside (completed March 1971) runs along the southern edge of the Barbican Estate and it is a terrace of sixteen four-storey town houses, a doctor’s surgery with a flat, and a dentist’s surgery (without a flat).

The front doors of the houses are in Monkwell Square outside the Barbican estate at road level. The houses have integral garages and arched entrance lobbies next to them and a storeroom at the back. There are stairs up from there. In addition, each house has a door off Wallside Highwalk in the Barbican estate at a higher level. A central staircase divides the floors. A half-flight of stairs leads to the living room, and a further half-flight to the dining room and kitchen. Another half-flight leads to a bedroom and a second bathroom and separate WC. A final half-flight goes up to two further bedrooms at the back. From there, there is access to a roof terrace.
Wallside. Click to enlarge 
Wallside runs parallel with some remains of the Old Roman Wall, from which it takes its name. At the back, below Barbican podium level, the houses overlook St Giles’ Church and Terrace, an extension of the lake which flows behind St Giles’ Church, and parts of the old City wall.