Early Structural Steel in London Buildings


    A discreet revolution
    Early Structural Steel in London Buildings large image 1

        Publication Date

        15 Feb 2014


        This richly illustrated book takes a refreshing new look at Victorian and Edwardian architecture, examining how mild steel - which superseded cast and wrought iron - was put to use in theatres, hotels, clubs, offices and many other building types.

        Main Summary

          At its heart, this book is an examination of how a new structural material – mass-produced steel – came to be first applied to the buildings of one of the world’s great cities. The focus is evolution and change in London’s buildings and architecture in the late Victorian and early Edwardian period; its emphasis is unashamedly constructional. A great deal has been written about the shape, style and ornament of metropolitan buildings of the period, but comparatively little on their structural anatomy and physiology.

          The first part examines the technological developments and economic forces that brought structural steel into being. Central to this was the invention of the Bessemer and Siemens-Martin processes which revolutionised steelmaking and enabled the mass production of a metal which outmatched both cast and wrought iron. Steel became the pillar of a new phase of industrialisation and urbanisation throughout the world, and London, where Henry Bessemer had conducted his initial steelmaking experiments, was one of the first cities to make use of it.

          The second part of the book is an examination of how structural steel was exploited in different types of London building before 1910. As steel construction developed, and buildings became larger and more complex, structure was forced back onto the architectural agenda. Techniques of framing evolved to make buildings more open, better lit, more stable, or to give them stronger floors or wider roofs.



          Additional Information


          Jonathan Clarke

          Publishing Status




          Number of Illustrations


          Number of Pages







            Part 1: Technological preconditions and other contexts

            1. Towards a structural steel    

            2. Constructional steelwork and its iron inheritance  

            3. The Continental dimension

            4. The London Building Regulations

            5. Philosophical concerns about iron, steel, and framed construction

            6. Professional conflicts: architect-engineer dynamics    

            7. American influence    

            8. The evolution of the fully framed building

            Part 2: Steel into London buildings, and iron precedents

            9. Theatres and music halls  

            10. Clubs and hotels

            11. Banks and offices

            12. Shops, houses, churches, pools, fire stations and tube stations

            13. Industrial buildings    

            14. Conclusion: a revolution realised





              Jonathan Clarke's book provides an unprecedented overview of an important era in construction history - the birth of the modern construction industry.
              Bill Addis
              Construction History, Spring 2016
              ... this book contains material to delight anyone with a more than passing interest in theatre design and construction. ... Read the full story in Jonathan Clarke's splendidly illustrated, delightfully readable pages.
              John Earl
              Theatres Magazine, Autumn 2014
              There is an abundance of photographs and drawings, mostly in colour, that make browsing a pleasure but also complement the narrative. ... It is no exaggeration to say that this book is a ground-breaking study that encourages us to look at many London buildings in a different way.
              Michael Bussell
              GLIAS Newsletter, 272, June 2014
              It is one of the most important books to be published on the history of structures in the last 50 years, filling an enormous gap in the literature.
              Institute of Civil Engineers Newsletter, May 2014
              Another sumptuous book from the English Heritage stable! ... We must therefore be thankful to Jonathan Clarke for assembling and illustrating such a comprehensive selection of significant steel buildings.
              Keith Falconer
              Industrial Archaeology Review, 36, 2, 141-147, November 2014
              Not only is this a book with resonances belied by its title, but a handsomely produced and generously illustrated one as well.
              Andrew Saint
              English Heritage Historical Review, Volume 9, 2014
              The book is a very well researched, interesting read.
              Clive Dawson
              SPAB, Summer 2015
              English Heritage have done the author proud and the book is a splendid object in itself, well designed and superbly illustrated. ... Clarke writes clearly and well and sets out the technical issues with admirable clarity. His book will certainly be required reading for anyone interested in construction history, but really it deserves to ve ready by anyone interested in 19th and 20th century architecture.
              Steven Brindle
              Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society, 2015
              ... The quality of production is excellent throughout. ... this book ... deals thoroughly and very readably with a subject that has not hitherto received the attention it deserves.
              Michael Bussell
              International Journal for the History of Engineering and Technology, 85, 1, January 2015 159-66
              The detailed and yet very readable text is supported by over 350 excellent illustrations in black and white and colour. This valuable book fills an important gap in our understanding of Victorian and Edwardian design and construction.
              Ken Moth
              Context 137, November 2014
              Jonathan Clarke does what too few architectural historians manage to do - that is, get behind the building's facade and really confront its structure. To do this one needs, as well as plans, good sectional and construction drawings, and those this book has in quantity ... it offers a rich review of an architecture that, for all its historicist expression, was as modern as the dated building regulations would allow.
              Neil Jackson
              The Victorian, March 2015
              This is a fascinating story which he tells and illustrates superbly. ... this book will undoubtedly remain the key text on its subject, for both historians and anyone concerned with the structure of existing buildings.
              Robert Thorne
              The Structural Engineer, June 2014
              This fascinating, profusely illustrated book on early steel structures will enable the reader to look at the important legacy of late Victorian and Edwardian buildings in London in a totally different light.
              Harriet Devlin
              The Historic Environment, Vol 5, No 3, November 2014