One of the most innovative features of the Seven Dials Renaissance Study is its building-by-building section. Each facade in the area is described in detail and illustrated. Recommendations for improvements are included. Major freeholder Shaftesbury PLC has followed this as guidance on all their properties, many of which are listed. They have invested around £3.5m in these works which range from total refurbishment, to replacing shopfronts and re-glazing, to reinstalling awnings and soot washing brickwork. We are delighted that the Seven Dials Renaissance Study has assisted the private sector in maintaining and enhancing the area.
From the seventeenth century to the Second World War, street furniture, including litter bins, bollards, signs, lamps and paving, were considered decorative as well as functional fixtures. The 'carpeting, furnishing and lighting' of a street is as important to the character and use of an area as the interior design of any public building. The Trust believes that everything in the public realm should be attractive, durable, require little maintenance, have a design life appropriate to the area it adorns and, where possible, be based on historic precedent.
In 1991, just as the first Seven Dials Renaissance Study was published, P&O Properties made an application for wholesale demolition of their properties on the north west side of Earlham Street and the south east side of Monmouth Street, a death knell for Seven Dials. To widespread astonishment, these proposals were recommended for approval by officers from both Camden Council and English Heritage. David Bieda for the Trust and Sue Vincent for the Covent Garden Community Association (CGCA) made a deputation to Camden's Development Control Committee (DCSC), where trustee Paul Draper's analysis of P&O's proposals led to the DCSC unanimously rejecting the application. P&O's subsequent Appeal was dismissed by the Inspector who gave great weight to the Seven Dials Renaissance Study.
In the 1980s, Endell Street, the only ‘boulevard’ type street in the area, was planted with a wide variety of trees, following a well-attended public meeting. This scheme by Camden arboriculturalists has been extremely popular with residents and businesses alike. The Seven Dials Renaissance Study recommended no further planting as it is inappropriate and historically inaccurate. Instead, it recommended a return to the area’s historic planters above shop fronts. Shaftesbury PLC has implemented this recommendation on many of its shop fronts.
In 1986, the Kleinwort Benson Property Fund (KBPF), then developing a former banana warehouse into the Thomas Neal's Centre, kindly lent us the corner unit facing the Dials for a fundraising pop-up shop. The shop was designed and built by trustee Paul Draper with interior design provided pro bono by Paul Dyson Design.
Over the years the Trust has received pro bono help from many quarters. Our first exhibition, Architecture, History, Horology, was created by four design students from the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. The ROH also created extraordinary facsimiles of the Sundial Pillar and the music for the Royal Unveiling. The exhibition brochure was kindly sponsored by International Banking Information Systems Ltd, who had their offices on Seven Dial and who also hosted many of our meetings and provided administrative assistance as well as becoming a Sundial Sponsor.
The first Seven Dials Renaissance Study was sponsored by the Kleinwort Benson Property Fund (KBPF) who developed a former banana warehouse, which they re-named Thomas Neale's, for retail, offices and housing. When the Study was published, KBPF, in an unprecedented move, voluntarily increased their S.52 Planning Agreement with Camden Council from £100,000 to £450,000 to implement the Study's recommendations in and around their holdings.
The Golden Hind (more specifically a wounded female deer) is the symbol of the ancient Parish of St Giles-in-the-Fields. The Seven Dials Trust has used it, in a circle representing the Dials, as a motif on all street furniture.