There were two buildings on the site - Stamford House on the west side built c.1913 for Sainsbury's warehouses, extended in the 1920s with loading bays and subsequently converted to office use. Drury House was built in the early 1960s, occupied by part of Unilever for a time, and more recently occupied by Sainsbury's
I think Drury House was constructed set back on a diagonal from the former road line of Stamford Street as part of plans for a roundabout. Obviously it was never built (would have involved massive reconstruction of the railway viaduct?) and so there was just the filter lane and the flower beds.
IIRC the new Fosters scheme will reinstate the Stamford Street road line with a compensating new bit of open space to the north west - don't know what if any public access there will be.
Lang Rabbie, thanks [I think] for those links - I have just frittered away an hour wandering around my 19th century neighbourhood, feeling rather ignorant for not knowing about this big chunk of social history - love the notebook!
Drury House was formerly known as United Africa House. It was built by Unilever either in the fifties or sixties. The company I worked for redecorated and stone cleaned the outside in the seventies. I remember visiting the building at that time and each floor was themed on a different African country. There were beautiful hardwood doors etc in Mahogony and many other native African woods. Sainsbury's must have taken over the building after that date.
James, do you know what the 'condition (s)' are for the exchange to have taken place?
I've been following this at a distance and heard that Sainsburys were having trouble selling it as the existing Foster design (particularly the floorplates) wasn't appealing to many of the potential bidders, including Land Securities. (A similar story at the gherkin, which is still mostly unlet due to difficult floor sizes and layouts.)
The new owners will no doubt re-apply with mixed use as residential is seen as the one sure way of securing buyers/tenants at the moment- whether this remains so in a year's time, will be interesting to see.