Percival Blow - architect in Harpenden & St Albans

Review of latest SAHAAS publication



This carefully researched and beautifully produced book was launched in St Albans on 5 September 2019, by St Albans & Hertfordshire Architectural and Archaeological Society (SAHAAS).

Patricia Broad, Sue Mann and Jonathan Mein, supported by other members of the Society, and greatly assisted by Christopher Blow, the architect grandson of Percival Blow, have traced his extensive work in St Albans and Harpenden, and commissions elsewhere.

Jon Mein, Christopher Blow, Patricia Broad and Sue Mann – R Ross, 5 September 2019

Percival Blow was born in St Albans on 18 January 1873 where he lived until his death in 1939. In 1898 at the age of 25 he launched his professional career as an architect, having gained Associate Membership of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). He based his practice in his home city of St Albans, opening additional offices in Harpenden (at 4 Church Green) and Luton as work commissions dictated.

His earliest work from 1897 onwards was residential, but in 1907 he was commissioned to design the Assembly Hall building for St Albans School, which led to many other institutional and commercial buildings. He had already completed what would become a wide range of buildings for businesses and shops, starting with a Straw Hat factory in Beaconsfield Road, St Albans (1903). He would go on to design a range of retail and bank buildings, including office premises (1911) and the exhibition hall (1931, now Cafe Rouge) for Ryder & Son in Holywell Hill.

In St Albans his residential work is to be found particularly around Clarence Road and in the Hall Place Estate, while in Harpenden he designed many houses on the St Nicholas estate (the Avenues) between 1899 and 1910, as well St Andrew’s Lodge, 7 Southdown Road (1910), 34 Station Road (1912 – currently Harpenden Fish and Chips) and Barclays Bank (1923). The book contains a list of all known designs – some of which may not have been built, and the authors will welcome additions and corrections.

The gallery of photos below celebrates known Harpenden commissions. (See also a listing compiled by SAHAAS – However, it is likely that more could come to light and we hope that owners of similar houses will search for information in their deeds, so that Percival Blow’s contribution to Harpenden’s built environment can be more fully appreciated.

We would appreciate more information to add to the captions. If you want to add a Comment about a particular building, please do so to the main page.

Comments about this page

  • St Andrew’s Lodge, 7 Southdown Road, was built in 1910 for Mr Bernard Laporte, a German chemist and founder in 1888 of Laporte Industries in Luton, a supplier of peroxide used for beaching straw for the hat industry (as listed in
    Mr Laporte had become a wheel-chair user, so this house was a substantial bungalow, expanded in 1913, with no expense spared to provide special features and comfort until his death in the early 1920s.
    This was noted by Mr James Wibberley in a letter to the Society in October 1982 in response to a query in Newsletter 29 about whether Sir Edwin Lutyens might have built any houses in Harpenden. Searching for listings of Lutyens’ legacy would indicate that by this date he was working on substantial projects throughout Britain before his major projects in India and in designing war memorials in the 1920s.
    However, there remains a suggestion that Lutyens may have designed houses in Harpenden – a subject for continued investigation?

    By Rosemary Ross (26/01/2024)

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