Architectural survey of central London and its suburbs
Title page of the first volume, covering Bromley-by-Bow, 1900
The Survey of London is a research project to produce a comprehensive architectural survey of central London and its suburbs, or the area formerly administered by the London County Council. It was founded in 1894 by Charles Robert Ashbee, an Arts-and-Crafts designer, architect and social reformer and was motivated by a desire to record and preserve London's ancient monuments. The first volume was published in 1900, but the completion of the series remains far in the future.
The series borrows its title from John Stow's A Survay of London (first edition 1598; revised edition 1603).
The Survey consists of a series of volumes based mainly on the historical parish system. Each volume gives an account of the area, with sufficient general history to put the architecture in context, and then proceeds to describe the notable streets and individual buildings one by one. The accounts are exhaustive, reviewing all available primary sources in detail. The Survey devotes thousands of words to some buildings that receive the briefest of mentions in the Buildings of England series (itself a vast and detailed reference work by most standards). However, the earlier volumes largely ignored buildings built after 1800.
Due to the scale of the existing endeavour, there are no current plans to extend the project to take in the whole of Greater London. As of 2020, 53 volumes in the main series have been published. Separately, 18 monographs on individual buildings have been published. Most of the volumes have not been updated since publication, but those published online (up to Vol. 47) have received a limited amount of updating.
Since 2008, the Survey of London has been published by Yale University Press. With the publication of the volumes on Clerkenwell in 2008, colour photography was used for the first time, and the images incorporated in the text – previously they had been grouped separately as plates. A further volume on Woolwich was published in 2012, and two on Battersea appeared in late 2013. Two volumes on the eastern part of Marylebone, south of Marylebone Road, were issued in late 2017. Work has begun on Whitechapel, the historically rich and complex area on the eastern fringe of the City of London.
Poplar, Blackwall and Isle of Dogs (Vol II) – Hermione Hobhouse (General Editor) (1994) ISBN0485482444 (Athlone Press for the RCHME) (A supplement to Volumes 43 and 44 entitled Docklands in the Making: The Redevelopment of the Isle of Dogs, 1981–1995 by Alan Cox (ISBN9780485485004) was issued in 1995 in an attempt to keep up with the pace of redevelopment in the area)
Monographs, focusing only on one structure, were published during the existence of the voluntary survey committee. The first monograph predated the first Survey volume, and work on the subsequent publications was always outside the auspices of the LCC. The original sequence ended with the disbanding of the voluntary committee; the sixteenth volume represented work which had started under the committee's governance.
Almost thirty years later, a further monograph (No. 17) was published, focusing on County Hall and written by Hermione Hobhouse (1991). It was intended as a tribute to the LCC/GLC which, until its abolition in 1986, had responsibility for the Survey. Nearly twenty years after that, an eighteenth volume was issued, describing the Charterhouse in Smithfield and written by Philip Temple (2010).