Searles, Michael

Michael Searles (1751-1813) was the son of Michael Searles, Sr. (c. 1720-1799), who had business connections in Southwark and Greenwich, both father and son serving as surveyor for Morden College, Greenwich and Blackheath. Searles Sr. was also involved in the collection of poor rates for Sourthwark, signing the 1776 book for St. John Parish. Michael Searles, Jr., became one of the earliest examples of a professional architect for houses. He was married in 1771, and the couple had some 12 children, of which nine survived into adulthood. His primary activities were in surveying, land measurement, and architectural design. In the 1780s, Searles lived along the Old Kent Road, Southwark, not far from where he would build his first Paragon and Paragon Place, in which one unit would be inhabited by the family of John Dunkin and Mary Hays for a time in the mid-1790s. Prior to that, Searles designed and built Surrey Place, his first architectural design. Between 1784 and 1793 he built numerous homes south of the Thames. In the late 1780s he began work on the Paragon, located along what is now called New Kent Road. Twelve three-story homes linked with porches and Doric columns made of Coade Stone, the important invention of the Southwark stonemason and Baptist woman, Elinor Coade. in the terrace were built, with Searles occupying No 2 for a time, the same unit Dunkin would inhabit after Searles (this terrace of homes was destroyed in 1898 to make way for a school). Searles also built the Circus in Greenwich, Surrey Square in Southwark (1792), and the Paragon and South Row, Blackheath (1794-1806), his most impressive terrace, also embellished with Coade Stone, which still remains to this day. It was at No. 6 Paragon that John Hays would live from 1812 to 1818. Searles died in an accident with his chaise in 1813. Searles may have had some Dissenting connections given the reference to him in Seymour's letter to Hays dated 15 December 1794, and the fact that the Dunkins and Hayses lived in both of his most impressive developments, with other connected families, the Palmers and the Gileses, living at Surrey Square for several years. For complete background on Searles, see Neil Rhind, The Paragon and South Row, Blackheath: A Triumph in late 18th Century Unintentional Town Planning  (Blackheath: Bookshop on the Heath, Blackheath Society, 2012), 15-20.