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Department of History of Art

Jonathan Charles Clarke
Wolfson College
Research Area: English Office Buildings, c1919-1939
Supervisor: Dr Frank Salmon


Jonathan Clarke is a freelance buildings historian based in London, England.  Until 2012 he was a Senior Architectural Investigator with English Heritage (now Historic England), working on a wide variety of strategic and case-led research projects that  informed the protection and management of England's historic built environment.   He joined the Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England in 1994, following a Masters in Industrial Archaeology at the Ironbridge Institute, and an Internship with the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), where he investigated and recorded historic steel and concrete bridges in Washington State.  One of his projects of especial and longstanding interest has been the early history of architectural steel construction in London, which emerged out of threatened building recording in the late 1990s, and which culminated in the critically-acclaimed monograph Early Structural Steel in London Buildings: A Discreet Revolution (English Heritage, 2014).  Other associated projects which have seen publication in periodicals, conference proceedings and book chapters include John Nash's structurally audacious use of timber in London and Brighton, newly-discovered or appraised exported iron buildings by Owen Jones and Rowland Mason Ordish, and  the decisive role of American structural engineers in late Victorian and Edwardian London.  Since leaving English Heritage, he has worked on a number of engaging projects including the methods used in fixing the terracotta facades of Alfred Waterhouse's National History Museum, national assessments of post-war coal and oil-fired power stations for Historic England, and a survey of the heritage features of all 270 stations for London Underground.

Since 2014 Jonathan has been engaged on a part-time PhD on English inter-war office buildings, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council's (AHRC) Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP) scheme  and hosted by the University of Cambridge and Historic England.  The overarching  aim of this PhD study is to provide a clear understanding of the historical development of the purpose-built speculative office in the inter-war period, exploring and narrating the many contexts within which buildings of this type were designed, built and used.  One of the intended outcomes is to provide Historic England with the means to assess office buildings of the period as a basis for future designation or planning guidance.  Dr Frank Salmon of the Department of History of Art, and Kathryn Morrison and Geraint Franklin of Historic England co-supervised this study. 


Research interests include the history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century buildings and structures, especially their constructional/technological aspects, those serving commerce or industry, and those involving both architects and engineers.  Prefabricated buildings exported to distant shores in the 18th and 19th centuries remain a source of perennial fascination. 


Key publications: 

Clarke, J 2020 ‘‘Come and live in me ... let my luxury advertise your business’: The speculative offices of Leo Sylvester Sullivan 1910–1940’’ in Harwood, E and Powers, A (eds) Twentieth Century Architecture 14: Building for Business. London: Twentieth Century Society, 42–57

Clarke, J 2018 'The rise and fall of the cast iron breast panel in Britain (c.1906–60)’ in Wouters, I et al, (eds) Building Knowledge, Constructing Histories: Proceedings of the 6th International Congress on Construction History. London: CRC Press. Vol 1, 475–83

Clarke, J  2016 'From rational to structurally ornamental: exported English iron architecture of the mid-19th century'  in Dobraszczyk, P and Sealy, P eds, Function and Fantasy: Iron Architecture in the Long Nineteenth Century (Abingdon; New York: Routledge), 113-140

Clarke, J 2016 'The exception, not the norm: pre-1940 concrete-framed commercial offices in England' in Campbell, J. W. P. et al (eds)  Studies in the History of Construction: The Proceedings of the Second Conference of the Construction History Society, April 2016, 357-70

Clarke, J 2016 'High Merit': Existing English Post-War Coal and Oil-Fired Power Stations in Context.

Clarke, J 2016 England’s Redundant Post-War Coal- and Oil-Fired Power Stations: Guidelines for Recording and Archiving Their Records.

Clarke, J 2015 'American-trained structural engineers and contractors In London, 1895-1910' in Proceedings of the Fifth International Congress on Construction History v1, pp. 463-72. Chicago: Construction History Society of America.

Clarke, J 2015 20th-Century Coal and Oil-Fired Electric Power Generation.  Historic England: Introductions to Heritage Assets.

Clarke, J 2014 A Discreet Revolution: Early Structural Steel in London Buildings. Swindon: English Heritage.

Clarke, J 2014 various entries in McWilliam, R and Chrimes, M M, eds A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland - Volume 3: 1890-1920. Thomas Telford Ltd/Institution of Civil Engineers.

Clarke, J 2013 ‘Pioneering yet Peculiar: John Nash’s contributions to late Georgian construction technology’, in Tyack, G ed, John Nash: Architect of the Picturesque.  Swindon: The Georgian Society and English Heritage.

Guillery P and Clarke, J 2012 Survey of London v48 Woolwich. New Haven and London: Yale University Press (researched and drafted significant portion of Chapter 2, 'Woolwich Dockyard').

Clarke, J 2010 ‘South Lodge Estate, Oakwood’, in Cherry, B and  A. Robey, eds, Rediscovered Utopias: Saving London’s Suburbs. London: SAVE Britain’s Heritage, 150-158

Clarke, J 2008 entries on ‘William Henry Le Feuvre’, ‘Rowland Mason Ordish’ (with Swailes, T) and ‘Alfred Waterhouse’ in Cross-Rudkin, P. S. M. and Chrimes, M M, eds A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers Volume 2: 1830-1890. Thomas Telford Ltd/ICE

Clarke, J, 2007 ‘The Rushenden Estate, Queenborough, Kent: An Early British Industrial Estate’, Industrial Archaeology Review 29/1, 31-49

Clarke, J, 2007 ‘The Woolwich Rotunda: ‘no equal but the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral’, Research News 6, 11-12

Clarke, J, 2006 ‘Cones, not Domes: John Nash and Regency structural innovation’, Construction History 21, 43-63 (expanded version of earlier paper in Proceedings of the Second International Congress on Construction History 1, 717-739 

Cocroft, W; Tuck, C; Clarke, J & Smith, J 2005 ‘The Development of the Chilworth Gunpowder Works, Surrey, from the Mid-19th Century’, Industrial Archaeology Review, 27, 217-234

Clarke, J 2002-2003 ‘Recently Listed Buildings’ section of The Victorian

Clarke, J 2002 ‘Like A Huge Birdcage Exhaled from the Earth: Watson’s Esplanade Hotel, Mumbai (1867-71), and its Place in Structural History’, Construction History 18 (2002), 37-77

Clarke, J 2002 ‘Remnants of a Revolution: Mumford’s Flour Mill, Greenwich’, Industrial Archaeology Review 24, 37-55

Clarke, J 2002 ‘Volatile Heritage: St. Pancras Gasholders’ Conservation Bulletin 42, 82-83

Clarke, J 2002 ‘Early Structural Steel in London Buildings’, Construction History Society Newsletter 64, 2-6

Clarke, J and Lake, J, 2001 ‘The Old Onion-Drying Shed, Old Warden, Bedfordshire’, Journal of the Historic Farm Buildings Group 14, 27-31

Clarke, J 2000 ‘Material Concerns in the Pacific Northwest: Steel versus Reinforced Concrete in Highway Bridge Design in Washington State, 1910-1930’, Construction History 16, 33-61

Clarke, J, Guillery, P and Smith, J, 1999 ‘Gazetteer of London Town Halls’, in Smith, J London’s Town Halls: The architecture of local government from 1840 to the present (RCHME/EH), 34-78 


Invited Talks

'Structural Steel in the Twentieth Century' for students of Cambridge University's MSt in Building History (2016 - 20)

'Architectural Perspectives before 1940' - a keynote for Architectural Iron and Steel in the 21st Century: Design and Preservation of Contemporary and Historic Architecture Conference, MIT, Boston, Mass., 2-3 April 2016.

'Structural Steel in Edwardian Buildings', ASCHB 2016 Conference 'Tension & Transition: Construction 1900-1925', St Jude's, Hampstead, 18 March 2016.

'Structural Steel in Edwardian Buildings' for Victorian Society's popular ‘decades’ series, organised by Michael Hall.  Art Workers Guild, London, 25 November 2014.

 'Early steel and steel-framed construction in Britain' for students of London South Bank University's MSc in Building Surveying (Building Pathology module).  12 December 2012 and 11 December 2013.

 '"To The Most Distant Parts of the Globe": exported prefabricated iron buildings of the nineteenth century' for Function and Fantasy: Decorative Iron and Victorian Architecture. Victorian Society Study Day at the Art Workers Guild, London, 24 March 2012. 


 Jonathan  Charles	 Clarke