Colville Place paving should be repaired with care to maintain its character

Flagstones in pedestrian street.

Fettled and riven. Colville Place (formerly Colville Court) dates back to 1766. Many of the paving stones were hand cut giving a distinctive look to each stone and the character to the pedestrian street. Local residents want it kept that way.

By News Reporters Camden Council's plans to carry out "improvement works" to an 18th-century pedestrian way have been met with alarm by some people living along the little street. Colville Place is a paved court connecting Charlotte Street with Whitfield Street and dates back to 1766 and is frequently featured on photographs of the neighbourhood. It is one of the most attractive streets in Fitzrovia and many of the houses along it are listed.

Camden sent out a letter to residents in the Georgian terrace in early December informing them that street works will taking place starting 6 January and finishing on 28 February 2014.

Residents contacted Fitzrovia News to say that by re-paving the walkway Camden could do more harm than good. The proposed works are unnecessary and will be a waste of money according to some of the people living along the street. “There is no water ponding and no trip hazards along the street,” one resident told us. “But the danger is that by re-laying these natural stone slabs they will break them.”

Unlike modern stone paving which is cut with a machine, Colville Place has many fine examples of hand cut flagstones which have been fettled — scored then cut with a hammer and bolster — and have a riven surface. This cutting process creates a slightly jagged but distinctive edge that lends a character to the appearance of the walkway. The joints are also tight with little mortar in between them.

When flagstones are relayed they are usually done so with a wider, less attractive gap. Some recent repairs look like crazy paving with mortar gaps of 25mm and more.

It is not known how many, if any, of the original 18th-century paving remains, but most of the flagstones have an appearance of being there since the 19th-century and are in-keeping with the listed buildings and are an important part of the character of the Charlotte Street Conservation Area.

Residents say there are a few cracked stones and some do need to be lifted and re-positioned, especially where the tree roots have pushed them up. But this could be done on an individual, piecemeal basis with each paving slab. Rather than going to the expense of lifting the whole lot and repositioning them it would be better to do what repairs are necessary.

The good news is that Camden has now had a change of heart and will consult with people living in the street before carrying out the paving works.

Cllr Phil Jones, Cabinet member for Sustainability, Planning, and Transport, told Fitzrovia News: “Whilst we aim to return these historic passages to a condition that both enhances and is in keeping with their environment, we are also very aware of taking residents’ concerns into account and listening to them.

“Therefore we have decided in this instance that we will meet with residents and postpone the whole re-lay with a view to just addressing small localised areas that require attention.”

Colville Place in the Survey of London.

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