South London Memories: The I’Ansons – Chronicles of a family of architects

The book left unfinished by Peter Jefferson Smith when he died at the end of 2018 has now been completed and published by the Clapham Society, with the help of generous donations from members, as a tribute to the author.

These three architects, whose lives spanned the whole of the 19th century, all lived and worked at some time in Clapham and several of their major local buildings survive:

The Alexandra on Clapham Common South Side, the former Clapham Library (now Omnibus Theatre) on North Side and the Hibbert Almshouses in Wandsworth Road.

But they were also early developers of office blocks in the City, managed estates for Magdalen College Oxford (including a large area near Wandsworth Common) and for the Merchant Taylors’ Company.

Later work is in Surrey, where family members went to live near Haslemere, and there are I’Anson-designed cottage hospitals and almshouses around the south of England.

The first Edward I’Anson – Edward senior, lived from 1775-1853.

His son, Edward I’Anson (July 25, 1812 – January 30, 1888) was president of the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Surveyors’ Institution.

He was a designer of commercial buildings in the City of London.

His first important building in the City was the Royal Exchange Buildings, designed for Sir Francis Graham Moon in 1837.

There, he made use of concrete for the internal works, an early example of this modern construction method that had previously only been used in experimental or minor projects.

This brought him into repute, and obtained for him the chief practice as architect in the City.

I’Anson developed a career as a designer of commercial buildings in the City. Those executed by him in the Italian style, such as the buildings of the British and Foreign Bible Society at 146 Queen Victoria Street (1866–8) were the most successful.

His son, Edward Blakeway I’Anson (1843-1912) was born at Clapham Common, studied at Cambridge University and was articled to his father from 1866.

He assisted in the office of Alfred Waterhouse for one year before returning to his father’s office as assistant.

He travelled in Europe for eight months. He was surveyor to St Bartholomew’s Hospital and was architect of the pathology block of St Bartholomew’s Hospital in 1909.

The book records the development of surveying and architecture over that century.

Hand-drawn maps of Clapham and the City show the location of buildings, and the book is illustrated with both archive pictures and photographs taken this year of surviving buildings, or parts and details thereof.

The I’Ansons – A Dynasty of London Architects & Surveyors by Peter Jefferson Smith, is available now, price £20, at Clapham Books, 26 The Pavement, SW4 0JA, or on the Clapham Society website at


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