The roughly triangular site bounded to the north by Thames House, to the south-west by The Queen Alexandra Military Hospital, and having a 650 ft. frontage to the River Thames, forms part of an area which in the 18th century was known as Thorney Island-an area of peaty marshland intersected by streams flowing into the river, and extending as far back as St. James’s Park. The Island belonged to the Marquis of Salisbury who in 1799 sold it to the Crown for the erection of what became known as Millbank Penitentiary, the north boundary of which remains as the boundary between the present development and the neighbouring hospital. From about 1860 the site at present being developed was occupied by a mixture of residential properties, mews, industrial buildings and contractors’ yards. In 1955, however, with only three years of the lease to run, the time was thought opportune for demolishing the existing buildings and developing the site commercially, under a new lease from the Crown, with a contemporary
architectural scheme. Many schemes were considered, but the most satisfactory from the point of view of civic design, and bearing in mind the planning restrictions, was a main tall block with surrounding lower buildings and open areas, all physically and architecturally related. Preliminary sketch plans were produced by the Architects, and by 1957 the general massing of the buildings together with their individual forms had been agreed, having had approval in principle from the Royal Fine Art Commission and the planning authorities.