The Bartlett School of Architecture


Situating Architecture Series: Nicholas Barbon: Developing London, 1667–1698

06 February 2023, 6:00 pm–7:30 pm

New court, temple, london

As part of the Situating Architecture series, architectural historian Frank Kelsall and historian Timothy Walker will deliver a joint lecture alongside the book launch for their new biography of the pioneering London developer, Nicholas Barbon. This will be followed by a book signing and drinks reception.

This event is free.

Event Information

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The Bartlett School of Architecture


Room 6.02
22 Gordon Street
United Kingdom

Nicholas Barbon: Developing London, 1667–1698


London grew rapidly in the last quarter of the seventeenth century and Nicholas Barbon, the leading property developer of the day, was central to its transformation. His financial innovations enabled him to lay out rows of terrace houses and city squares that became the norm for London’s future development. This first complete biography uses new material to analyse his speculative behaviour and its link to his creating the first fire insurance, the second bank, becoming an MP, and his writings on economic matters such as free trade and recoinage.

Underpinning this was his vision of making London the centre of a great trading empire. He faced familiar-sounding issues. Is London too large, does it take too much of Britain’s wealth, should it allow more urban development, why is it so different from the rest of the country? His answers from the seventeenth century are still relevant today, as this joint lecture and associated book launch will demonstrate.


Frank Kelsall worked on historic buildings in London from 1964 to 1986 for the Greater London Council and in his native north-west of England for English Heritage. After early retirement in 1998 he acted as caseworker for the Ancient Monuments Society and founded The Architectural History Practice, before retiring again in 2017. He was President of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain from 2004–08 and Chairman of the London Society from 2002–13.

Following an academic career as a scientist, Timothy Walker joined the civil service, retiring as the Director General of the Health and Safety Executive. He has subsequently written two books about London: the first, 'Twixt the Commons' (2010), describes the development of a Victorian suburb, while the other, 'The First Clapham Saints' (2016), is a study of a seventeenth-century village originally south of London but later incorporated as the area of Clapham we know now.


Colin Thom is Director of the Survey of London, the leading authority on the architectural history and topographical development of the UK's capital city. In 2013 the Survey team joined The Bartlett School of Architecture, where he also now teaches architectural history and theory. His other books include 'Researching London’s Houses' (2005) and 'Robert Adam and his Brothers' (2019). He is currently the co-recipient of a Paul Mellon Centre grant to digitise, edit and make freely available the Grand Tour correspondence of Robert and James Adam.


Elizabeth McKellar is Professor Emerita in Architectural History at the Open University and President of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain. She specializes in British architecture and culture and urbanism, particularly that of London, and among her award-winning books are 'The Birth of Modern London' (1999), 'Articulating British Classicism' (2004), 'Landscapes of London' (2013), and 'Neo-Georgian Architecture 1880–1970' (2016). She is currently writing a biography of Sir John Summerson, for which she was awarded a Paul Mellon Senior Fellowship and a Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship.

Image: New Court, Temple, London (photo courtesy of Timothy Walker)