“The site at the moment has the appearance of a desert, laid waste during the war, traversed by the pattern of the still existing roads.”
Chamberlin, Powell & Bon, Architects “Barbican Redevelopment” April 1959
The site is shown on the plan on the right which gives the pre-War road layout – a typical decaying industrial warehouse area.
Most of the demolition work was performed by the Luftwaffe, who levelled most of the site in a single night of incendiary bombs in 1940. The buildings which survived the bombing were St Giles’ Church, the London Fire Brigade station in Redcross Street, the Parcels Depot between Redcross and Whitecross Streets, the City Greenyard next to Whitecross Street, a London Electicity Board transformer station in Beech Street and a scattering of old buildings, some of which were still occupied in the early 1960s.
They were all compulsorily acquired and knocked down, except for the church which became a centrepiece in the development.
One major cock-up was that, before the Corporation had made its mind up to include the area north of Beech Street in the development, they had given permission for the construction of Murray House in Beech Street. As a result, the podium behind Ben Jonson House has to take an awkward leap round this particularly wretched building, designed by Frank Scarlett and completed in 1958.
The Corporation had to pull down remaining buildings, remove nearly every existing road on the site, as well as all sewers, gas and water mains, electricity and telephone conduits.
The Circle Line between Barbican Station and Moorgate had to be rerouted.