site unseen The old Doulton factory, Lambeth

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The Independent Culture
Badly damaged in the Second World War, badly damaged in the Sixties by brutal redevelopment, badly damaged in the Eighties by unemployment and "inner city blight"... who in their right mind would visit Lambeth for pleasure?

Me, for a start. Take one corner of Lambeth, starting at the top end of Lambeth High Street. Across the road is old St Mary's church, now the Museum of Gardening History. Warm, friendly, with a cafe and Captain Bligh of Mutiny on the Bounty fame buried in the garden. Behind the church is Lambeth Palace and Archbishop's Park.

The High Street leads into Black Prince Road. Glance right across the river at the Tate and the new headquarters of MI5. Glance left towards the Queen's Head pub that was owned by Charlie Chaplin's uncle, and the site of the famous Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, so popular that in the 18th century, coaches would queue up for admittance.

But the piece de resistance is behind you, on the High Street corner. Here is the Victorian headquarters of the famous pottery firm, Doultons, a dazzling terracotta creation.

In 1815 John Doulton invested his savings in a small Lambeth pothouse. Success came with the hygiene revolution in the 1840s and the consequent demand for drainpipes, which Doulton duly manufactured.

When the firm diversified into art pottery in the 1860s, it signalled its hard-won prosperity by erecting this building, completed in 1878. Particularly impressive is the relief over the entrance that shows potters at work.

The firm gradually shifted its activities, and in 1956 Doultons of Lambeth came to a sad end. But the building triumphantly survives.

The former Doulton factory stands on the corner of Lambeth High Street and Black Prince Road, SE1

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