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Sue Donnelly

July 9th, 2015

Printing presses and science labs – the story of St Clement’s


Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Sue Donnelly

July 9th, 2015

Printing presses and science labs – the story of St Clement’s


Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

For 60 years LSE shared Clare Market with two significant neighbours: the St Clement’s Press and the Government Laboratory. LSE Archivist Sue Donnelly investigates.

Government Laboratory

The government established the Government Laboratory in 1842. Based in the City of London the Laboratory’s initial role was guarding against the adulteration of tobacco and protecting the government’s revenue. Following the 1875 Sale of Food and Drugs Act the Laboratory’s role focussed on protecting the consumer from adulterated foodstuffs rather than protecting government revenue.

Government Laboratory, Clements Inn Passage, c1965. IMAGELIBRARY/26. LSE
Government Laboratory, Clements Inn Passage, c1965. IMAGELIBRARY/26. LSE

In 1897 the Laboratory moved from Somerset House to the east side of Clement’s Inn Passage, to a new building designed by the Government Chemist, Sir Thomas Edward Thorpe. The new building cost £25,000 and its entrance was on the corner of Grange Court and Clement’s Inn. The main laboratory was on the first floor and was 50 feet high, 42 feet wide and 48 feet long. The Laboratory’s Annual Report declared that “The new laboratory has not only conduced to the comfort and healthier condition of the staff but also to the expediency, efficiency and economy with which the work can be conducted”. Relations with the Government Laboratory were very friendly. The Laboratory used LSE rooms and lecture theatres for events and their staff were allowed to use the refectory.

St Clement’s Press

In 1898 St Clement’s Press built a printing works and editorial offices on the north side of Clare Market. The building was designed by Emden, Egan and Company, who had previously worked on hotels and cinemas. The Press printed the Financial Times and from 1907 also printed Votes for Women for the Women’s Social and Political Union based in Clement’s Inn.

St Clement's Press exterior c1959
St Clement’s Press exterior c1959. Credit: LSE Library

Squeezed between the Press and the Laboratory were the small offices of St Clement Danes parish vestry until 1926 when the Press bought the offices and integrated them into the main building.

St Clement's Press interior c1959
St Clement’s Press interior c1959. Credit: LSE Library

There was some rivalry between the School and St Clement’s Press over the space in Houghton Street and Clare Market. For some years the Press owned the building on the corner of Houghton Street and Clare Market, crucial to the School in its plans to expand space for the Library. In 1932 the Director, William Beveridge, persuaded the press to sell the building to the School and also to make a donation towards the site’s development.

Expanding the School

By the late 1950s both the Press and the Laboratory were becoming outdated. In 1955 the School acquired the lease for St Clement’s Press and in 1959 the printing works relocated to Cannon Street.

Clare Market 1971
Clare Market with St Clement’s mural 1971. Credit: LSE Library

With the support of the University Grants Committee the School commissioned its architect R C White-Cooper to adapt the building for School use. The building was stripped back to its frame and acquired a modern exterior.

St Clement's main entrance 1964
St Clement’s main entrance 1964. Credit: LSE Library

The building came into use in October 1961 when geography, statistics and psychology moved in. The Students’ Union occupied the basement and ground floor (apart from the area occupied by the Economists’ Bookshop) and part of the first floor.

St Clement's Building review - Beaver 12 Oct 1961
St Clement’s Building review. Credit: Beaver 12 Oct 1961

The School commissioned the stained glass artist, Harry Warren Wilson, to design two artworks for St Clement’s. He produced a set of doors decorated with etched glass illustrating various School activities represented by compass dividers, a valve, and diagrams representing geography, mathematics and statistics. The doors are no longer in use.

Harry Warren Wilson's mural on LSE St Clement's building on the corner of Portugal Street and Clare Market. Credit: LSE
Harry Warren Wilson’s mural on LSE St Clement’s building on the corner of Portugal Street and Clare Market. Credit: LSE

Warren Wilson also designed a mosaic decoration for the corner of St Clement’s overlooking Portugal Street which remains in situ. Warren had to cope with some detailed involvement from the subcommittee assigned to oversee the artworks but eventually produced a panel of vitreous mosaic 38 feet high and 7 feet 6 inches wide depicting the Thames from the docks to Battersea. Standing proud of the mosaic are aluminium frets suggesting fields of study of the School.  Law is the figure of justice from dome of the Old Bailey, Finance the facade of the Royal Exchange, Government is the Palace of  Westminster, Commerce an 18th century clipper ship,  Industry is Battersea power station and Transport  a plane.

The mosaic did not meet with unanimous approval – indeed a motion requesting its removal was presented to Academic Board. However after investigation it was decided that the cost of removal and re-placing with windows was too high so the mural remained.

The Government Laboratory left Clement’s Inn Passage in 1959 and the St Clement’s extension was part of the 1966-1968 project which included the development of Clare Market.

This post was published during LSE’s 120th anniversary celebrations

LSE 120th anniversary

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About the author

Sue Donnelly. Credit: Nigel Stead/LSE

Sue Donnelly

Sue Donnelly is formerly LSE's Archivist, where she specialised in the history of the School.

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