About the buildings


Designed by Sydney Perks (architect of four Grade II listed buildings: Bridge Master’s House at Tower Bridge 1906; Gresham College designed in conjunction with Dendy Watney, 1912; Snow Hill Police Station 1926 and the former City of London Police Headquarters Old Jewry 1926-30), Sumner Buildings was completed in 1931. Comprising four blocks of five storeys totaling 100 flats, the buildings have red brick facades with some noteworthy brick detailing; sash windows; flat roofs and balconies with iron railings facing onto a communal courtyard.
In 1905 while he was working as a surveyor to the City of London, Sydney Perks wrote a detailed survey of apartment block architecture at the beginning of the 20th Century entitled Residential Flats. Noting examples of good and bad design, Perks set out his ideals for construction of modern flats. Sumner Buildings has clearly benefited from Perks’ research. Internally the apartments boast generous amounts of natural light from large sash windows. From the exterior the decision to give the all the rooms so much light results in a uniform pattern of windows which matches the rectilinear aspects of the buildings whilst also mirroring that of the London bricks from which the fabric of the walls are constructed. The choice of concrete for roof unifies the design by matching the the rectilinear geometry. The balconies show again Sydney Perks’ democratic urge to provide access to light and air for every resident. All rooms are accessed off a central hallway which is illuminated by windows above doors. The 8.5 ft ceilings are unusually high for social housing. Each flat was furnished with parquet floors which still remain in most apartments. Sumner Buildings has a football pitch, children’s playground and garden and the blocks overlook a central unifying courtyard. Over all, the estate offers an exceptionally high standard of accommodation where every aspect of the fabric of the architecture reveals Sydney Perks’ deep commitment to his democratic ideals for public housing developments.
During the Blitz the north west block was hit by a high explosive bomb thought to be aimed at the Bankside Power Station (now Tate Modern) and was later rebuilt. There is an air raid shelter still standing on the estate.
In 2014 new security doors were added to previously open doorways at the bottom of each stairwell.