Chichester’s 20th Century Buildings

A walking tour around the city of the architectural and public art heritage. With grateful thanks to my colleague Nevil Hopkins.

The 20th Century did not exactly contribute a wealth of landmark buildings to Chichester and it reflected the work of even fewer big-name architects. The art deco movement passed Chichester by and much of the 1930s rebuilding was in mock-Georgian style. Most of the new build/rebuilding took place in the 1960s and 70s, fuelled by developers, with the usual uneven results. There are stark system-built blocks, quite often in prominent positions such as the much criticized Metro House at Northgate. However, there are some interesting C20 buildings and sculptures, most of which it is possible to see today.

WEST AXIS

 Russell and Bromley – influenced by Hugh Casson circa 1965.

A stylish response to the Gold Arts building by Hugh Casson, diagonally opposite on a sensitive site adjacent to The Cross. The ground floor of the former building on this site was used as a campaign office to raise funds for The Festival Theatre.

General Post Office – D Dyke, Ministry of Works, c1937. Local list.

Completed c1937 in red brick, neo-baroque style, and again set back from the common building line, it is in fact steel framed. Alludes to the 18th century in a 1930s manner. Much of the original character and fabric intact. A landmark building at the corner of West Street and Chapel Street.

Dyke was also responsible for the Post Office in Worthing built around the same time. The 1970s Brutalist (and deeply unpopular) telephone exchange behind (PHOTO) is empty and quietly awaiting its fate, having been completed just as technology was miniaturising, resulting in a massively oversized building.

House of Fraser – Sir Reginald Blomfield 1904

15 &16 West Street Grade II Built 1904 for the Oliver Whitby School on the site of their former C17 building. Architect was Sir Reginald Blomfield and is in his favoured “Wrenaissance” style. Fenestration to the ground floor originally matched that of the first, but all was ripped out when converted into a shop although the front door has survived. Note the occuli to the third floor giving the effect of an attic storey. Blomfield has other work in the area, Graylingwell Hospital and Stanstead Park (1902) on the Sussex/Hampshire border. Its 1930’s addition attempts some sort of unity, but fails.

WSCC County Library – Geoff Entwhistle & Rod Funnell, office of FR Steele County Architect, engineered by Ove Arup & Partners 1967. Listed Grade II in 2015.

English Heritage had previously turned it down for listing because “weak in execution… lacks elegance… not pioneering architecture“.

A good example of an unaltered modernist building which successfully represents the spirit of its age. Although a simple design which has managed to avoid looking dated, the shape does not make for an easy layout inside. One of the first electronic libraries it is now an important landmark building in Tower Street. “Old” Tower Street was almost completely swept away by rebuilding in the 50s, 60s and 70s and the library is the only good thing to come from this.

The Novium – Keith Williams Architects 2012

A successful and prize-winning exercise in architectural form-making and urban design. Tower Street saw extensive demolition in the 1960s and 70s and this building seeks to repair that urban landscape in large pale reconstituted stone panels rather than brick, which will be reserved for the flats yet to be built next door. The West elevation cleverly contains a golden rectangle and other specifically proportioned squares and rectangles that marry Palladio and Le Corbusier. Judged by Architects Journal to be maybe “just too self-conscious, dry and academic, but you would soon conclude that its erudition is tempered by its artistic conviction and its rigorous post-Brutalist tectonic.”

Chichester Cathedral – Listed Grade I

Many C20 artistic additions to the Cathedral, including the Chagall window, Piper

tapestry and paintings by Graham Sutherland and Hans Feibusch:

  • Hans Feibusch ‘Baptism” mural 1951
  • Graham Sutherland ‘Noli me tangere’ painting 1960
  • Robert Potter stone altar 1961
  • Geoffrey Clarke candlesticks 1961
  • John Piper Reredos tapestry 1966
  • Marc Chagall ‘Twelve Tribes’ stained glass window 1978
  • Gustav Holst grave 1937, plus Alex Peever oval memorial in Hopton Wood stone, North Transept 2009
  • Font in South Transept
  • West entrance doors
  • Pulpit, lectern and St Richard’s shrine furniture by
  • The C14 monument in the Cathedral also inspired the Philip Larkin poem ‘An Arundel Tomb’ (1964) and Leonard Bernstein’s ‘The Chichester Psalms’ choral work (1965) was a Cathedral commission.

‘St Richard’ – statue cast bronze by Phillip Jackson of Midhurst 2000.

This is Chichester’s newest public sculpture. It is skillfully sited on an area that needed a focal point and is perfectly in scale. St Richard bearing (to certain eyes at least) a passing resemblance to The Duke of Edinburgh. This was a millennium project but one which, unusually, was delivered on time and to budget.

See here for much more detail on Chichester Cathedral as a repository of 20th Century art in the City.

County Hall – C G Stillman, County Architect 1936

Carefully detailed neo-Georgian like so much C20 building in Chichester. This has been dovetailed fairly well into the pattern of the town.

The Crate and Apple Westgate (former Swan Public House) – Stavers H Tiltman 1936

The demolition and rebuilding of The Swan on the same site was for Portsmouth & Brighton United Breweries. It originally incorporated a hairdressing salon with a separate entrance to the left, which may help to explain the many doors to the front elevation. Again built behind the common building line with the space gained actually used for road widening here.

Chichester College – Admin Block and Assembly Hall.

WSCC County Architects Office (Derek Smith & Malcolm Froud) 1964. Local list.

Built in a futuristic style with characteristic butterfly roof line. its impact regrettably affected by the subsequent utilitarian system-built block behind. Subject of some sympathetic 1st floor refenestration a few years ago. Like many further education buildings, the interior is still fairly original, particularly the staircase.

Prior to this building and the construction of the Avenue de Chartres, the land was water meadows grazed by cattle right up to the city wall. A campaign to prevent building on the water meadows was started by Dean Walter Hussey, who enlisted the help of Hugh Casson in 1957. The campaign failed, and the inner relief road (later called Avenue de Chartres) was built, quickly followed by the College’s first two buildings.

Marriott Lodge (built as Gillett House, Chichester Theological College)

ABK (Ahrends, Buton and Koralek) 1965. Listed Grade II.

Now part of Marriot House, a rest home, it was completed in 1965 as an extension to the Theological College, providing student accommodation. It was designed in an unashamedly brutalist style using sawn-board finished reinforced concrete, local brick and stained softwood forming a fairly rugged impression. A small but distinguished example of the best higher education work of the 60’s when quality not quantity still mattered. It has imaginative use of space inside. It is now listed Grade II – one of the few C20 Chichester buildings so to be.

The Cottage, Westgate – Powell and Moya 1950, Jane Jones Warner 2015

Tucked away in a walled garden, the butterfly roof on the modest left side extension to this C18th stables was one of the first of the Modernist type to be built in Britain. Philip Powell was the son of a Canon of Chichester, and according to Ken Powell this is Powell and Moya’s first completed professional contract. The property has been entirely refurbished, the original colour scheme restored and the building extended in line with an original 1953 letter and plan drawn up by Powell but never realized. The Modernist landscaping is new and designed by Dominic Cole, Chairman of the Historic Gardens Society.

Parklands County Primary School, Durnford Close – Local list.

Modern School building typical of its period – 1960/70s, to a design based on brick vertical planes and a modular system of solid and glazed panels. Largely intact with what appears to be a sympathetic extension.

The Ridgeway Retail Parade, Sherborne Road – Local list.
Constructed in the 1950s this is a good example of a small post-war neighbourhood centre, built crescent-shaped to provide a more ‘encompassing’ and inclusive sense of place. Original details include walls and doors on the ground floor, inset glass block panels and a covered walkway with glass block skylights.

SOUTH AXIS

Railway Station

British Railways Southern Region Architects Dept 1958. Local list.

Rebuild completed 1961 in “Festival of Britain” style, replacing the 1846 Italianate station. Grand ticket hall on upside, glass-fronted with canopied entrance.

This station still fulfills its purpose well. English Heritage reasoned that “while the ticket hall itself is a pleasant space with fine surface finishes, light fittings, a clock and signage, it cannot be divorced from the rest of the station to which it is linked, and which forms a common address. This is bitty in design and not at all attractive to use, comparing badly with clearly planned stations being built at Coventry and Harlow at the same time.” Had great potential to be conserved as a quintessential example of 1950s public architecture but recent (2007) refurbishment has obliterated many interior features. The internal walls of the footbridge were lined with pale-green mosaic but recently the interior of the footbridge has been repainted again, this time with thick grey paint making the mosaic virtually impossible to restore. In the booking hall the ceiling and wall tiling has been painted over, the windows shaded with vinyl film and the chandeliers removed. Only the electro-mechanical clock remains.

Bus Station – Architect unknown, 1956

Not perhaps a piece of landmark architecture but a very interesting specimen of a fast-disappearing breed; its style is reminiscent of the post-war rebuilding of Plymouth. Prior to its construction all bus operation was centred on West Street and involved complicated reversing moves for terminating services. When it opened the ground floor facilities reflected the needs of that golden era of bus and coach travel that was soon to be ended by the spread of car ownership. There was a booking office, a large waiting room, a cafeteria and commodious toilets – the latter especially necessary for the long-distance coach travellers arriving cross-legged on the South Coast Express! Now there are no facilities at all and all the space is let out to retailers. Why has it survived? – It is owned by the District Council so Stagecoach have been unable to sell it off for development as they have elsewhere.

 

Chichester Bus Garage – Engineer Alfred Goldstein of R. Travers of Morgan & Partners, architects Clayton & Black 1956. Local list.

Built for Southdown Motors and completed in 1956 after a protracted planning application period of about two years, this was built at the same time as the bus station, a time when bus and coach travel was at its height. The difficulty in obtaining planning permission was no doubt to do with the form of the building at a time when Chichester would have had no comparable modern building, this being a full five years before the original 1846 Italianate railway station was demolished to make way for the present range of buildings.

The Architect, Clayton & Black, specialised in public houses, building them in almost every town between Brighton and Portsmouth from 1925 to 1950. Here, they were assisted by consulting engineers R Travers Morgan & Partners of London, the lead engineer being Alfred Goldstein, probably best known locally for the 1970s Itchen toll bridge in Southampton. The main point of interest in the building is engineering rather than architectural as this is a brilliant early provincial example of an usually thin shell pre-stressed concrete roof providing a clear span and unobstructed floor space. One other bus garage identical to this one survives at Hilsea, north of Portsmouth.

Each time we visit with the Conservation of Concrete course, we are aware it might be our last chance to see it, as the Chichester bus garage is in danger of demolition due to a redevelopment scheme by the current owner, the Chichester District Council, who aim to create an integrated transport hub nearer to the railway station – although pressure on available funds is preventing this from going ahead at the moment. The garage is in the Chichester City conservation area and the CCAAC has recently succeeded in adding the garage to the District Council’s local buildings list.

Crown & County Court – C G Stillman, the County Architect 1940. Local list.

Kenneth Powell in his notes on the 1996 C20 Society event in Chichester, thought there was distinct evidence of a Dudok/Swedish influence on Stillman. Lack of ornament was rare at that time for civic buildings outside London. Well- proportioned façade with nicely articulated features. Retains a good sense of the art deco period (1920-39) with its obvious references to eastern architecture. A traditionalist designer, Stillman’s County Hall off West Street (qv), a Georgian pastiche work, was built only four years earlier but seems a world apart.

The Ministry of Justice may well close this facility down i the near future and the building could be in jeopardy, and with it Chichester’s only Art Deco interior.

Chichester Magistrates Court – By local architect Geoffrey Claridge of Stanley Roth & Partners, date unknown. Local list.

A nicely proportioned building which interacts well with its location, both spatially and visually. Retains its original fabric, although it has since been extended.

Avenue de Chartres Car Park – Birds Portchmouth Russum 1991. Local list.

Product of a mid 1980s competition. The architects were all former assistants of James Stirling, whose influence is clearly detectable in the bold and colourful detailing. Completed in 1991 at a cost of £5.2 million, it creates a new city wall (an elevated tree lined walkway) which screens the multi deck parking, and which re-establishes the edge of the extended city. The pedestrian bridge forms a new entrance portal on the western approach to the city, almost like one of the (now dismantled) city gates. The architects have seemed to have difficulty in translating winning competition entries into completed work. That said, this scheme and the new footbridge for Plashet School, Plaistow are innovative, work well, and it’s hard to see why more of their work hasn’t made it past the competition phase. Schemes not built include Rochester riverside foot bridges, and Morecambe sea front breakwaters and landscaping.

The Catholic Church of St Richards – Tomei and Maxwell of London 1960s. Listed Grade II 2007 in recognition of the merit and quality of the art:

Stained Glass ‘dalle de verre’ windows by Gabriel Loire (1962) – “a major work of narrative design” (EH) – and Altar Piece and Stations of the Cross by David O’Connell (1895-1976) installed early 60s. The church of St Richard is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* The stained glass, which forms the most notable feature of the church, is the largest scheme undertaken in this country by Gabriel Loire, a major figure in post-war stained-glass design. It forms a complete figurative narrative, an unusual use of the technique of dalle de verre, which was usually employed in abstract designs.

* The architecture of the church, while not of intrinsic special interest, forms an ideal, simple foil for the intricate stained glass.

* The paintings by David O’Connell are of interest, and other interior fittings are generally executed in good-quality materials.

South Pallant Houses –

Architect unknown 1971. Built for Robert Mackay developers.

The developers from Godalming built these three houses speculatively in what was and still is a fairly avant-garde style for Chichester.

NORTH AXIS

Gold Arts – 1 North Street/88 East St. Sir Hugh Casson 1962

On a sensitive site on the corner of North and East Streets and overlooking the Cross. Built in 1960 as Lennard’s shoe shop on the site of their earlier building which almost collapsed and had to be shored up as a matter of urgency. Possibly not so inspired as the Sir Basil Spence influenced Co-op building further up North Street (see Lakeland Ltd).

Former Boots – In-house Architects dept for Timothy Whites & Taylors 1935

Completely rebuilt for them, with extensive facilities for the day including library and colour room.

Sussex House – Architect unknown circa 1971

One of a number of sites speculatively redeveloped in Chichester in the early seventies for commercial landlords. This, one of the better examples, includes a ceramic mural ‘Minerva’ by local artist Yvonne Hudson 1966 (PHOTO)

North House – Architect unknown 1936. Built for local developer Y. J. Lovell.

A 1936 development of flats with shops to the ground floor in typical LCC Georgian style. A pastiche but one that seems to fit in. The building is set back from the common building line in response to a short lived mid 1930’s council diktat that all new buildings should allow for future road widening!

Old Cross – Clayton & Black 1928

Built in the Tudorbethan style for Smithers & Sons Brewery, using reclaimed materials from the demolished pub of the same name on the site, which dated back to the 17th century. Recently refurbished and the wood elevation painted over in ignorance no doubt.

Lakeland Ltd – 64 North St, St Peters House: reputedly from the studio of Sir Basil Spence c1967.

Built on a corner site formerly containing the Church of St Peter the Less. Originally built for the Portsea Island Co-op, and completed c1967. Stylish brick-clad reinforced-concrete building which makes an impression whilst remaining understated. 

Chichester Festival Theatre – Architect Sir Philip Powell and Hidalgo Moya 1962. Listed Grade II*.

Opened in 1962 and recently magnificently restored (2014) by Haworth Tompkins Architects, this is the most iconic of Chichester’s C20 buildings. The 1316 seat auditorium was the first in a modern theatre to have an open “thrust” stage with the audience seated around it on three sides, and was based on the character of Greek and Elizabethan Theatres, allowing the audience a much closer involvement with the actors than with a traditional proscenium arch stage. It makes bold use of in-situ concrete and the extremities of the cantilevering main beams are tied together with tendons across the roof-space to give an interior uncluttered by columns. It accommodates twice the audience of Peter Moro’s Nottingham Playhouse, but was built to a lower budget. The architects made good use of its parkland setting but the clean lines of the original design had been somewhat spoiled by the later additions to the building which look grafted on. These have been cleared away and a new extension built in sympathetic style. Listed Grade II* and well worthy of it.

Public Art: Painting Intervention
Antoni Malinowski, 2014, Play of Light

Projection onto raw concrete by Semiconductor, 2014 and Spartacus, (dancer in the role of) by Tom Merrifield 1984

Minerva Theatre

Kenzie Lovell Partnership 1989. Local list.

Opened in 1989, seating up to 310, the architects took their design cues from the Festival Theatre. Added a much needed second auditorium as well as facilities such as a restaurant, shop and cafe, missing from the original theatre.

Chapel of the Ascension – Chichester University campus. Architect Sir Peter Shepheard, Bridgewater & Shepherd 1962. Local list.

Original stained glass to the sides and exposed steelwork within the roof canopy. Many contemporary interior features retained. Contains art by Jean Lurçat, ‘The Creation’ tapestry 1962, and Geoffrey Clarke, the cast aluminium sculpture mounted on the West front 1960s.

St Richards Hospital

RC Stillman County Architect 1936

Sainsbury mural –

John Skelton 1961

Tudor House, 7 Lavant Road – Local list

Designed by H. Osborne in 1926, this house was originally one of a group built in the Tudor Style. Absolutely typical of its period it is built with traditional materials. It has experienced little change and so remains largely original. The landscaping has been slightly compromised to facilitate some separate new buildings.

Fordwater Copse, Fordwater Road – Local list.

A recent development which has taken traditional forms and materials and translated them in a particularly modern way. The buildings have a strong rural, agricultural sense about them, but are strikingly articulated with modern window detailing, glass and steelwork.

EAST AXIS

16-18 East St – Marks & Spencer façade, Edwin Lutyens influenced c1920s. Local list.

A powerful neo-Georgian façade with heavily detailed cornice, original windows to first and second floor with rubbed brickwork over, and good quality brickwork to façade using a subtle combination of red and orange bricks to emphasize the window openings.

7-8 East St HMV Shop Architect unknown 1962

Originally built as a Tesco supermarket and vigorously opposed at the time.

Halifax – F.C.R. Taylor 1927 (1929?)

Listed Grade II 16 July 1973 (300315) : “Unusually good example of an essay in an early C18 manner“.

Formerly the National Provincial Bank. “Swagger neo-Georgian. It probably started the trend to conformity, but did so with much more panache and expertise than its successors” Pevsner. The upper floors remain unaltered, and its style was borrowed by the Ministry of Works architect when designing the Post Office in West Street (qv).

Lloyds Bank

Lloyds Bank Architects dept 1965

Another fine example of a good quality commercial frontage, largely unaltered. Compares extremely favourably to the adjacent HMV, which was originally built for Tesco around the same time as Lloyds.

Stocklund House c1965

Controversial at the time, recently disfigured, “Georgianised”.

Public Art: ‘Symbol of Discovery’ by John Skelton 1963

Pallant Gallery and Extension – Long & Kentish architects in association with Colin St John Wilson 2006

Reopened following a £10 million renovation and extension. The original gallery was situated in the Grade 1 Queen Anne house and was extended with a contemporary wing by Long and Kentish Architects in association with Colin St.

John Wilson (of British Museum fame) to house some of the many private collections bequeathed or loaned to the gallery, including Wilson’s own, and that of Dean Walter Hussey.

 

Prepared by Nevil Hopkins and Colin Hicks, April 2015

Revised and updated from an August 2006 document originally prepared by Nevil Hopkins for the C20th Society. Acknowledgements also go to Alan Green of The Georgian Group, Kenneth Powell, Nikolaus Pevsner. Photos variously © Harry Page, English Heritage, CDC.

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