Halford House, Leicester

The mixed façade of Halford House

Originally constructed as headquarters on Charles Street for the Leicester Temperance Building Society, 1955-59, it was later taken over by the Alliance & Leicester Building Society. Now known as Halford House, it is in part occupied by Pick Everard Keay and Gimson, the architects who first conceived it. The building is a fascinating fusion of new norms of modernism with existing Art Deco forms, notably the central clock tower flanked by two wings, and the use of a bay window. Certainly the most striking feature is the decorative clock found top centre of the main façade. This depicts the Four Winds Blowing, and was designed by local artist and educator Albert Pountney (1915-1982).

A unity of wind power, and time
The central, hexagonal clock tower

Brighton Kiosk

A projecting roof provides shelter

This former bus shelter and convenience store in Brighton is now used as a little kiosk coffee shop for the adjacent park. It has a distinctive Art Deco curve that runs from the broad roof down through the windows and the building itself. Somehow it appears to have retained its original metal window frames. It is located halfway between the Royal Pavilion and Brighton Beach.

View from the park side

Blunts Shoes, Leicester

Green trim and grey stone

The city of Leicester, in the English midlands, is home to Blunts Shoes located on the corner at 128-132 Granby Street. The building was originally constructed in 1933 for the business of Nathan Harris Furnishings and features many fine Art Deco details. It was designed by the architects Symington, Prince and Pike who clad it in Portland limestone and covered it with a stylish pantile roof. The extra part on the left is a carefully blended extension from the early 1960s.

The other side of the corner
A close-up of the metal window grate
Another delightful detail of the Blunts Shoes building

Imperial Arcade, Brighton

A grey and cream façade

The Imperial Arcade occupies the corner of Dyke and Western Roads in Brighton. The original building dates back to 1923-24 and was designed by Clayton and Black. It was remodelled in 1934 along the lines of streamlined Art Deco by Garrett and Son architects, and has a fine balance of horizontal and vertical elements. The windows of the vertical elements each have eight vertical segments in rows of four. These feature chevron forms dividing the glass.

Here a curving corner is used as a transition
A detail that shows the chevron forms

Charles House, Birmingham

A stepped-in tower

Emblazoned across the top of Charles House at 148 Great Charles Street in Birmingham are the letters ‘CML’ as it once housed the local offices of the Australian company Colonial Mutual Life Assurance. This company was founded in Melbourne, in 1873 by Sir Redmond Barry, who was also a judge there. His chief claim to fame as a judge was passing sentence on Ned Kelly.

Charles House stands at nine storeys in height and has some relief heads and other interesting details around the entrance. Constructed in 1939, the building was designed by the Sydney architectural firm of Hennessy & Hennessy & Co working with London’s Stanley Hall & Easton & Robertson.

Primark, Western Road, Brighton

A bold, commercial block in Brighton

This is a large retail and commercial building currently home to Brighton’s central Primark at 169-174 Western Road. Located not far from seaside Brighton, it had previously been a C&A store and started life as a British Home Store (or BHS) in 1931. It was one of several department stores that appeared on the main shopping streets of the city during the mid-war epoch. It features some wing-like motifs across the top of the façade.

The central winged motif

The Barber Institute, Birmingham

The brick and stone of the Barber Institute

Many great collections of historical art are housed in Neo-Classical buildings. Up in the midlands of England there is, however, one great collection that is housed in a purpose-built Art Deco art gallery. This is The Barber Institute in Birmingham, which was founded by Henry Barber, a successful property developer, with assistance from his heiress wife, Lady Barber. Mr Barber died in 1927 and the collection and the gallery were created by Lady Barber as a fitting and permanent memorial to her husband.

Lady Barber herself passed away in 1933, but by this time she had founded the Barber Institute of Fine Arts. This was bequeathed to the University of Birmingham, and its trustees worked assiduously to bring it into existence. The architect was Robert Atkinson and the completed Institute opened in 1939, complete with galleries and a concert hall. The exterior has a mixture of Art Deco curving and traditional angular corners, and is stone-faced on the lower floors and brick-faced above. There are some stone reliefs on the exterior.

Stone relief on the upper façade
The entrance to the Barber Institute

Princes House, Brighton

Princes House on the corner in Brighton

Brighton-born architect Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel designed Princes House in 1935, though it was originally the home of the Brighton & Sussex Building Society. Located at 166–169 North Street, this brick faced, steel-framed building was constructed in 1936 and features such unique Goodhart-Rendel details as pleated fenestration and superb brickwork. It became a Grade II building in 1994.

A truly eclectic architect, Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel, was an architectural prodigy, who had an early design constructed when he was only 16 years old. An accomplished composer and pianist, he studied music at Cambridge, and, during this time, designed an important office that was built in Calcutta. Architecture won out over music, and he set up his own practice in 1909. One of his best known buildings is Hays Wharf/St Olaf House, on the Thames in London. This was constructed 1928-32, just a few years before Princes House. A property developer purchased the Brighton building in 2002 and had the upper storeys converted into 34 apartments.

Two types of windows
Detail of the pleated windows

Casino Bar, Brighton

The façade of the Casino Bar, Brighton

This four-storey building in central Brighton features a facing of glazed, white vertical tiles and two sunbursts forming capitals to stripped Classical pilasters on either side of the ground floor. There are other fine Art Deco details on the upper floors. It is not known what the original function of this building was.

A sunburst in white
The façade is full of neat details

Astra House, Kings Road, Brighton

The Preston Street side of Astra House on the left.

Brighton Art Deco apartment block Astra House was completed in 1938. It is tall for a UK seaside building at ten storeys high, with 61 flats rising above a ground floor of retail premises. The top two storeys step back and are thus less visible. It has continuous bay windows from the second to sixth floors.

Entrance to Astra House apartments.