The man who designed the Paragon was “just” a commercial architect, and the son of a commercial architect to boot, who needed to scratch a living from his toil.
But Michael Searles created art; his buildings are some of the loveliest ever built in London and The Paragon at Blackheath is his jaw-dropping masterpiece.
The development is made up of seven large identical blocks of semi-detached houses (so fourteen houses in all), each linked by a colonnade. The buildings are arranged in a perfect crescent and there is a lodge house at each end to keep the riffraff out. Large lawns with mature trees sprawl in front of the houses and beyond them is the Heath.
The properties, built over ten years from 1795, were designed for the very well off; the sizeable houses provided space for a large prosperous family, servants, horses and carriage.
They had a difficult twentieth century. Some were converted into hotels before several were seriously damaged in the Second World War. Charles Bernard Brown restored them in the 1950’s when the houses were divided into flats.
A plaque on one of the walls celebrates the work of Michael Searles and Charles Bernard Brown.