Sivill House – Columbia Road

We’ve decided to start our blog with one of the largest and most intriguing buildings in our neighbourhood- Sivill House on Columbia Road.

The 59 metre high building was designed by Douglas Bailey, Francis Skinner and Berthold Lubetkin, and was finished in 1962.

You can see it from miles away, and if you’ve ever visited the flower market on a Sunday you’ve probably marvelled up at it’s hugeness. Here is a picture from a nearby park:

It’s frontage is made from a series of interlocking concrete and brick structures that form forward and backward C-shapes – we think it looks kind of like how council flats would look if they were made by an accomplished Lego builder.

The block has 76 flats over 19 floors, with amazing views from the top. We managed to wangle our way in via one of the residents to take these pictures from the highest residential floor (there is a 20th level that presumably holds services). In the second you can see Columbia Road to the right.

The house, which is in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, has a coloured past. In 2002 it was the scene of a gruesome triple murder where an estranged husband returned to his ex-wife’s flat, stabbing, mutilating and killing her and her two children (who had a different father).

News story:

Even earlier, in 1979, a woman plunged to her death from the 18th floor in mysterious circumstances. According to the East London Advertiser Keli Welch was found dead at the base of the building, just hours after she was reporter missing from her Somerset home.

At the time of the tragedy, believed to be around 2.45pm on a Sunday, all residents on the 18th floor were out. Mrs Eileen Hook, who lived on the 18th floor, said: “If only we had been here we might have saved her. The window she went through was cracked but not broken. We would have heard the smashing glass. Someone must have broken it before she fell because it was all over the landing.”

An inquest was carried out into her death.

More recently the only thing residents can really complain about is the rise of prices in the building. Two-bedroom flats in the block can be rented for around £315/week and are very rare to come up for sale, especially given its prime location next to the City and Old Street.

16 thoughts on “Sivill House – Columbia Road

  1. I think this building was named after Alice Sivill (nee Sarjantson) who was a Mayor(ess) of Bethnal Green. If you can find any info on this I’d be very grateful as I’m researching my family tree and she’s an aunt. But I can’t seem to find anything more atm

  2. The concrete shapes on the front are stylised versions of dragons on a rug from the Caucasus that hung on the wall of Berthold Lubetkin’s studio.
    The spiral staircase is quite something too
    though not as astonishing as Lubetkin’s design for those in the two blocks behind Sivill, George Loveless House and James Hammett House
    Both a result of Lubetkin’s belief that residents of public housing deserved a little grandeur

  3. I lived in Sivill House from 1992 to 2005. The triple murder involved a wife, her daughter and her brother who was staying with her to protect her. It’s funny how stories get blown out of proportion. I remember it well. My neighbour Nora was also murdered in a seperate incident. The block was named after a local councillor called Gladys Sivill.

    Lorraine now living in Cornwall, formerly of number 22.

  4. I lived on the 19th floor number 73 from 1965 to 1981 and wish i had had the sense to take some photographs of the view before we moved! When i lived there there was no central heating and we had damp. I believe our old flat is where the murder took place – also the girl who jumped from the 18th initially came up to our floor asking where the roof garden was. My dad said there was no garden and that the caretaker had a key to the storage area there and directed her to his flat on the first floor. Little did we know.

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