This article is taken from the October 2021 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issue for just £10.
The frontage of The Critic’s new home, 11 Tufton Street, bears the name “J. Wippell & Co.” in spacious gold lettering. Wippell’s have been purveyors of ecclesiastical textiles since at least the 1830s, with a grocery and textile business bearing the name in Exeter dating back to the 1780s. They are one of a handful of continuously trading firms to have presented their wares at the Great Exhibition of 1851.
The Wippells commissioned Samuel Arthur Spear Yeo to build their first custom-built London premises on Tufton Street, which opened in 1929. Yeo’s offices were at 2 Charterhouse Street in Holborn, and he spent most of his career working on unpretentious neo-Georgian projects around London. Number 11 Tufton Street had previously been home to a firm of stonemasons, and before that, it was purportedly a home for fallen women.
Compared to the boisterous neo-Georgianism of Lutyens’s Faith House along the street, Yeo’s Number 11 owes more to the commercial architecture of the Regency townscape, with artfully subtle bow windows and discreetly arched, spiritedly rhythmic first floor windows.
To the left there is a low-relief carving of a Roman woman holding a spindle with which she presumably weaves liturgical clothing, despite her pagan garb. On the right stands a proud mason, bearing a Corinthian capital, an allusion to Wippell’s hard-won reputation as restorer of church fabric, stained glass and metalwork. A brass plaque on the frontage declares “Established in the 18th Century” and a handsome blue sign overhangs the street, naming the sadly defunct metalworkers “Gawthorp & Sons”, who shared the premises.
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