Thursday 20 October 2011

History of Albury Street. Part 7.

Thomas Lucas, the Deptford Bricklayer, emerges as considerably more than a local craftsman. He was a man of marked architectural sensibility, surprisingly ready to introduce innovations. It is no wonder that writers on architectural history have considered that, on stylistic grounds, Union Street dates from about 1725, a generation after the street was begun. Lucas was an architectural-entrepreneur, and as such, the prototype of the speculative builder who dominated the rest of the century and much of the next. Speculation in Lucas’s day involved more risk, and this makes it the more remarkable that so much of Union Street was completed. His roll was a double one in that he owned the land on which he built his street as well. In his later career, Thomas Lucas reverted to his original trade, being employed as a bricklayer by the Commission for Fifty New Churches.

This work began in 1713, when he was commanded to build a wall round the newly purchased site for St Paul’s, Deptford. The same month he was appointed ‘to do the bricklayer’s work’ for the church and prices and specifications were drawn up with Lucas providing the bricks. He immediately began by digging out the foundations for the church. In October the Commissioners ordered that ‘Mr Hawksmoor view and measure Mr Lucas’s brickwork at Deptford and report the value thereof’. The bricks do not appear to have met the Commissioners standards and a new contract was drawn up in 1714 with bricks now supplied by them.
St Georges in the Field
St Anne
Payments to Lucas exceeding £3000 were made by the Commissioners from 1713 until 1718 when, the brickwork of the church being completed, Lucas built a wall about the burial ground and built the Minister’s house, again to Archers design. He was paid £658 for the latter work. Lucas never worked on Thomas Archer’s other church, St John, Westminster, but he was employed by the Commissioners for part of the brickwork on St Anne, Limehouse,  St Georges-in-the-East, Wapping and Christchurch, Spitalfields, all of which were designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor. At Spitalfields, not only was he employed in 1725-6 on Christ Church, but he also built the carcass of the Rectory, for which he was paid £298. The Thomas Lucas, bricklayer, described as of St Giles-in-the-Fields, and later as of St Andrew, Holborn, who built a few houses in Soho in the 1720’s and who became bankrupt in 1727 was someone else and conceivably his eldest son of the same name and who predeceased him. No other work by Lucas is known for certain and it is likely that he retired in 1726 to live his last ten years in Deptford in the house on the south-west corner of Union Street. Being ‘ancient and infirm in body’ he wrote his last will in February, 1734/5 and died in January 1735/6.

Part 7 extract from A Quiney's paper on Albury Street 1979.