Monday, July 20, 2009

Leominster, Herefordshire

The building formerly known as… (1)

Every so often I find myself in a strange town admiring a bank. Not, I try and convince myself, in a nostalgic spirit of longing (‘Those were the days when banks were banks, when bankers lent money they really had to people who could actually afford to repay it’). After all, I’m far from certain that the image of solidity so often created by Victorian and Edwardian bank buildings necessarily reflected the financial security of the institutions inside. We sometimes forget that things changed rapidly in the 19th century too.

Here’s Lloyds, with its doorway as solid and classical as they come, on Corn Square in Leominster. But it wasn’t always Lloyds, as becomes clear when we crane our necks on entering. It was the Worcester City and County Banking Company until 1889, when Lloyds took them over. But they weren’t over-eager to bury the history, having the old name carved in deep block letters above the door in a rather odd position, but clear for all to see.

I’m not sure when this was done, but the doorway with its columns punctuated by bold stone blocks (rusticated columns, in archispeak) is the kind of thing that appeared on grand buildings in the classical style during the decades on either side of 1900 – so soon after the takeover, perhaps. There’s quite a lot to admire here – I especially like the way the word ‘BANK’ fits into the spaces in the frieze above the door, and the way the blocks around the arch match those in the columns. All balance and order, then: a bank for its times, and, let’s hope, for our own.


Peter Ashley said...

Amazed it's still a bank and not a Starcostabucksnero Coffee Shop

Thud said...

Striking and all as crisp as the day it was carved and constructed,i need to raise my game.

Anonymous said...

Or (Peter Ashley) some dire incarnation of the Wetherspoons 'empire'. More guilty (even) than the banks though, are the Post Office: in my own Borough the excellent and very different Offices in Richmond and Twickenham are now (respectively) an HMV and a Wetherspoons and I was more than dismayed to see on my last visit to Blackpool that its truly magnificent General Post Office, with its eight (count 'em) red Scotts outside has also been deserted. Truly they know the price of everything and the value of nothing; I expect you buy stamps upstairs in WH Smiths now, between the CDs and the 'books'.

See Blackpool PO here:

Philip Wilkinson said...

The Post Office in the small town where I live soldiers on. But in Cheltenham, my nearest large town, the Post Office is exactly where you mention: upstairs in W H Smith's. (Cheltenham's original GPO is now a Waterstone's, but the PO had vacated that site years ago, long before camping out in Smith's.)

martin said...

There was a post on the I like blog a short while ago that mentioned a book called The English Sunrise by Tim Evans,a photographer. He'd collected as many examples as he could of this image wherever it manifested itself.
Could the image displayed in the semi-circular window above the door be an example of this? I like the way it echoes the stonework above. I would imagine its a much later addition.An optimistic symbol for the potential investor?

Philip Wilkinson said...

Well spotted! The English Sunrise (the photographs are by Tony Evans, by the way) does include some examples of semi-circular fanlights, but none in which the stonework and glazing bars echo one another like this.