No.68 Old Church Street is a unique ‘modern’ style property designed by the founder of the Bauhaus in Germany, Professor Walter Gropius, who was described as ‘one of the most influential architects of modern times’. The house was built for playwright and politician, Benn Levy.
This flat, available to rent with Chesterton Humberts, is part of the larger house, No.66 Old Street, built in 1936. The house is the only residential home completed by Walter Gropius, a ground-breaking architect, who transformed the accepted architectural style of the 20th century. Gropius created a new approach to architecture and design, utilising the developments in technology and industry, as well as using materials such as steel, glass and concrete. Gropius was appointed master of a school of Arts and Crafts in Weimar in 1919, which he transformed into the renowned Bauhaus. However, by 1934 he had been forced to flee Nazi Germany and move to England.
On his arrival in England, Gropius worked with Edwin Maxwell Fry on the commission of a new home for playwright, Benn Levy, No.66 Old Church Street. In October 1936, the completed home was praised as one ‘of the most advanced buildings in London’ by The Times. The house featured a number of specialist materials, including a new form of rendering Gropius introduced from Germany, known as ‘Brizolite’, as well as glass crete and Nori bricks, a specialist brick, also used in the construction of the Empire State Building in New York.
This new home was built for the playwright Benn Levy, whose plays appeared in the West End and Broadway throughout the mid 20th century. His first play in the West End, This Woman Business, was produced in 1924 when he was only 24 years old and five years later he worked with Alfred Hitchcock on his first ‘talkie’, Blackmail, in 1929. Benn Levy also worked with the intelligence service during World War II, was appointed MBE in 1945 and was a Labour MP for Eton and Slough from 1945 to 1950.
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Levy’s wife was the award-winning Hollywood actress, Constance Cummings. Cummings began her career when only a teenager and performed in a number of Hollywood films, including Night After Night with Mae West in 1932. After moving to England with husband Benn in 1933 she began a successful career performing on the stage in the West End, in which a number of the plays were written by her husband. Cummings continued to perform on the stage and screen throughout the mid to late 20th century, including Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit with Rex Harrison in 1945 and The Battle of the Sexes with Peter Sellers in 1959.
Throughout her career, Constance Cummings performed with a number of high-profile performers, including Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Sir Michael Redgrave and Sam Wannamaker. She also won the Tony award for her performance in Wings in 1979 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Benn Levy and Constance Cummings lived in their uniquely designed home along Old Church Street from 1936 until Levy passed away in 1973. It was after World War II that Levy commissioned architect Jane Drew to create a separate apartment in the house, creating No.68 Old Church Street. The flat was let separately from the late 1940s until, in 1974, the widowed Cummings moved into the flat, where she lived into her 90s in the early years of the 21st century.