Tucked away on Clement’s Inn Passage, the Anchorage, was built in the early 1800s, writes LSE Archivist Sue Donnelly. The building only became part of LSE’s estate in 1970 and was demolished in 2015.
In the early twentieth century the property was bought by the Reverend William Pennington-Bickford, rector of St Clement Danes Church, becoming the vicarage. The front of the building bore a large cast iron anchor, the symbol of St Clement who was said to have been martyred by being thrown into the sea strapped to an anchor.
Pennington-Bickford had served as curate to the previous rector John James Horatio Septimus Pennington and married his daughter, Louie. Wife and husband were very active in the parish, one of the poorest in London. In 1919 the church bells were restored and in 1920 began an annual distribution of oranges and lemons to local school children. Louie was a patron of the Covent Garden flower girls and the couple also founded a holiday home for children in the parish at Portslade near Brighton.
In May 1941, towards the end of the Blitz, St Clement Danes roof suffered a direct hit by an incendiary bomb. The wooden interior was soon alight and witnesses reported that the tower became a lantern with the flames burning inside. Although the interior was destroyed the stone walls, tower and steeple survived. Sadly the Reverend William Penning-Bickford died five weeks later – his parishioners said of shock and grief and his funeral was held in the ruins of St Clement Danes. His wife, overwhelmed by the loss and took her own life the following September.
The Pennington-Bickfords bequeathed The Anchorage to Lord Exeter as patron of the parish to use as a parish house. However, following the war there was some doubt as to whether St Clement Danes would continue as a parish. In 1953 the church was handed to the Air Council and after restoration it became the central church of the RAF and a memorial to the dead of the Allied Air Forces.
LSE remained keen to acquire all the property on the east side of Houghton Street and along Clement’s Inn Passage. In 1945 the School took out an initial lease of two years, later extended to an indefinite period at £300 per year. It was the first building that LSE occupied on its return to London after the Second World War and the School continued to lease the building throughout the 1950s as the Pennington-Bickford estate was settled.
In 1958 the Anchorage became the property of the London Diocesan Fund to serve as accommodation for the RAF Chaplain and the vicar of the merged parishes of St Mary Le Strand and St Clement Danes. However as the vicar did not wish to use the accommodation the Fund let the flat to the School as accommodation for the Director of LSE. In 1959 the School took out a lease for 21 years on the flat at £900 per year. By 1970 the Fund was ready to sell the property and a purchase price of £29,500 was agreed with the London Diocesan Fund. The building was redeveloped in 1974 to provide accommodation for the new Director, Ralph Dahrendorf. In recent years the Anchorage has provided accommodation for staff and meeting rooms.
In 1929 William Beveridge wrote to LSE Governor and joint managing director of London Underground, Frank Pick:
I am quite clear, first, that the School must determine ultimately to possess the whole of the block between Clement’s Inn Passage, Houghton Street, and the big office buildings beyond. On this we could make a really fine building …
Sitting at the top of the stairs down to the Towers on Clement’s Inn, the Anchorage was one of the buildings scheduled to be demolished to make way for the new Centre Building. The Centre Building project brings to fruition Beveridge’s vision for a fine LSE building on the east side of Houghton Street.
This post was published during LSE’s 120th anniversary celebrations