Monday, October 15, 2007

Hollen Street, London

High above Hollen Street, in one of Soho’s unregarded corners, a group of putti are making music. It seems a strange decoration for this otherwise industrial-looking building in a Soho side street. But this plaque, and another up the street that depicts putti churning out pages on a printing press, are a clue to the building’s origins. This was the printing works of the music publishers Novello’s, just around the corner from their offices (now Chappell’s) in Wardour Street.

Both these buildings were designed by Frank L Pearson, who was the son-in-law of the company chairman and the obvious choice for the job. The printing works came first, in 1898, and were followed in 1906 by the offices, all in brick with stone dressings. The office building has a beautiful small concert room on the first floor, done out in the style of a 17th-century hall – the kind of oak-panelled room you find in a country house or Oxbridge college of the Commonwealth period or just after. It’s not normally open, but can be glimpsed, often lit up, from the comfort of the pub opposite in Wardour Street. Among the neon-lit media offices and restaurants of Soho, the concert hall and the charmingly decorated printing works form a throw-back to another time.

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