Missing in Action

A short walk from our home on the boundaries of the prestigious Malvern College campus stands the Preston School of Science. Designed by Hubbard and constructed in 1938, it brought the colleges facilities right up to date, catering for the modern science scholar.

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From Google Streetview in 2008

A fairly unsympathetic extension was added to the rear in the 1960s and this is how it remained (externally at least) until last year. A £6.5 million redevelopment program transformed this rather tired pairing into the ‘Razak Science Centre’, an award winning ‘cutting edge’ world class facility.  This is obviously all good news. Everyone welcomes huge investment in their local area and I’ve no desire to go against the grain. But I do have one teeny tiny little complaint: why didn’t they retain the original Crittall windows?

I know I know, its a trivial complaint and it’s clearly not practical to have any 21stC business housed in an un-modernised thermally inefficient 20thC building, let alone a feather in the cap of one of the world’s leading private colleges. The replacements do follow the design of the originals (better modern double glazed recreations are available) but the delicate subtle grids have been exchanged for clumsy thick uncompromising white bands, thus erasing much of the buildings charm and character.

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New windows have similar design, but are much less subtle

Having started to research 1930s buildings in Worcestershire it seems that the loss of these windows is fairly symbolic of a larger rather depressing theme. Architecture of this vintage is either listed, or discarded. Some fine examples of Lidos, Cinemas and the like remain in the county, all preserved within an inch of their life to wow the passing crowds. Societies and community groups seem to form and rally behind the more glamorous ‘Art Deco’ structures that are at risk, raising funds and awareness in order to restore and flourish.

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Gone but not forgotten, Welland Garage.

Others however, like the poor little Roberts Garage in nearby Welland get demolished without a second thought to make way for housing. This sorry little chap was sold and knocked down fairly quickly after going on the market a couple of years ago. I considered trying to raise the funds to purchase it with a view to opening a ‘retro’ diner there, but the asking price (which reflected the fact it had planning to build 4 houses in desirable area) made it unpractical.

Last night I turned my Google sights on a classic 1930s factory in Worcester I discovered in 2012. I had always meant to return with the camera for a better look but somehow never got around to it. Now it would seem that the residents, one Metal Box Co LTD closed up shop in mid 2013 leaving the building apparently unoccupied.

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Metal Box Co LTD, Worcester Perry Wood Plant. Closed in 2013

I’ve found no records to suggest that it has been demolished, but god knows what state it’s in. If it is still standing then I suspect it’ll be boarded up and covered in graffiti. It’s not far from my in-laws, so I hope to pop over on Sunday for a peep. I’ll wear black just in case, as I suspect I’ll be in mourning yet again.

Clearly I’m a hopeless nostalgic who struggles to cope with physical change in the modern world, but looking around I can’t help but feel that 20thC architecture is treasured far less than it ought to be. As always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and perhaps the majority of the public aren’t ready to embrace this era of design. Perhaps reviving old industrial properties for commercial use simply doesn’t stack up financially, but come on people, surely there must be a little more love out there to give to these fantastic icons of inter-war Britain?

If you’re interested in this subject please follow these links and help the good people who are:

Restoring Saltdean Lido

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Trying to save Floral Hall at Belfast Zoo.

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Sadly I think the demolition Jersey airport is a done deal.

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About Art Deco Magpie

Seasoned Art Deco collector and blogger Philip Butler, aka Art Deco Magpie, has spent many years transforming the interior of his family home into a 1930’s time warp. Furniture, wall coverings, fixtures, fittings and carpets, nothing has been neglected from his quest to obtain near film set perfection. Combining a love of photography and passion for 20th century history, Philip is now working on his debut book; “Streamline Worcestershire – A Journey Through the Inter-War Modernist Architecture in the County“. Philip lives in Great Malvern with his wife and two young daughters. When not immersing himself in all things Art Deco, he can be found tinkering with classic cars, working in the alcoholic drinks trade, practicing writing in the third person, and trying to be a good dad!
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2 Responses to Missing in Action

  1. poshbirdy says:

    You’re right about the windows. It’s one of the first thing that just ‘goes missing’ from any 30s building as a matter of course, despite being essential to the look and feel. Funnily enough, we were in traffic in Slough this morning, where there are hundreds of 30s houses, most of which have been homogenised. This morning we saw one with the original curved metal frames, but it was so neglected that I know that whoever lives there doesn’t appreciate it and no doubt feels short-changed that they do not have the modern replacements, whereas a few of us 🙂 would think ourselves lucky for having them. Loved the links esp the Lido

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  2. The epidemic of upvc doors and windows in Britains period properties is something the whole nation should be embarrassed about. With the media constantly ramming home the message that you can ‘save huge sums of money’ by investing in double glazing, and with no other cost effective options available it’s inevitable I guess. There’s a gap in the market for someone to fill to sure. Do you wanna go on Dragons Den or shall I?!

    Like

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