Saturday, January 5, 2019

Cirencester, Gloucestershire

Above standard

I thought this building, just a couple of streets away from the timber-gabled, tile-hung pub in my previous post, would make a good follow-up to it. This is the former offices of the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard newspaper.* It’s almost the same age as the pub – 1904 rather than 1902 in the case of the Brewer’s Arms – and also has timbered gables. But there the resemblance ends. The ground floor is in a sort of Cotswold Renaissance revival style – the mullioned window, Elizabethan-looking pilasters, and carved capitals would be at home in any Cotswold town, Painswick, Chipping Campden or Cirencester itself. But above, things change gear and the whole frontage is timber-framed, with big oriel windows and very fancy woodwork, from carved beams studded with Tudor roses to elaborate bargeboards. The upper floor is also jettied out to overhang the street.

This fine and rather surprising† building is the work of a Cirencester architect called Vincent Alexander Lawson, who worked in the town between 1885 and 1928. This example of his work is clearly very assured. He designed plenty of other buildings in the town and round about, and civil engineering work (he was a qualified civil engineer) as well as a lot of more straightforward Cotswold revival buildings. This striking office structure shows him exploring styles a bit more widely, if not wildly.
“Photograph it before it goes!” exclaimed the Resident Wise Woman, and she was right. The building is for sale, and though I’m sure the frontage will be preserved, the signage should be protected as well as the structure. The building is listed, and the signs are mentioned in the listing text, so there’s hope. That’s good because signs are often what go first from an old town-centre building, and the former newspaper office has not only some good lettering above the door and window but also a lovely hanging sign. This is shield-shaped, well lettered, and suspended from a very lively wrought-iron bracket. Information, craftsmanship, and enjoyment in one small package. Worth holding the front page for, I’d say.

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* The building only ceased to be used by the newspaper in 2017, and for much of its life combined the editorial office at the front with a print works at the rear. 

† Surprising, that is, in the context of Cirencester, where one might expect that a fine building of this period would be built entirely out of stone.


David said...

The signage being mentioned in the listing did no good for the lovely 1920s Lloyds Bank in Teddington, which closed recently and the signage of which the appalling Philistines in the Richmond Planning departmentreadily acquiesced to being removed "to make it easier to re-let".

The balance of the facade has been utterly wrecked by this removal - see the picture - and of course the building remains unlet, just like the other two banks that have closed in Teddington since 2012. Having no effective street display presence and a strong-room within, I expect it be vacant in perpetuity.

Hels said...

The signage should absolutely be protected, as well as the structure. After all what gives a building its special character - the mullioned window, Elizabethan-looking pilasters, carved capitals, timber-frame, oriel windows, gables and signage.

Philip Wilkinson said...

David: Thank you. It's depressing when these signs go, often, as you say, destroying the design of a facade. One can see the commercial issue, but, as again you point out, it's difficult to find a tenant for a building like this, other than a bank, and we know what's happening to banks on the high street.