London Open House 2017 – 55 Broadway

After Marlborough House, Bertie and I headed to 55 Broadway, Hannah and Julie to the Supreme Court. For all people of a certain age “55 Broadway” is the London Transport HQ – indeed, it still is (but for how much longer – see this website). I had photoed the outside a few weeks ago – see northernvicarwalks june

The line underneath, and St James’s Park station, was constructed in the late 1860s, and thirty years later the District Railway Company opened new offices above. They were rebuilt and extended over the years, and by the late 1920s the Board of the Underground Group (running the tube, buses, trams and electrical supply companies) were anxious to house all its staff in one new purpose-built block on the site.

The plans developed by Adams, Holden and Pearson, were radical – the tallest office block in London, cruciform design allowing natural daylight to reach more of the offices, a central service core that houses lifts, staircases and other services, and contemporary artists involved. Charles Holden was the architect behind it, and was very ingenious in his designs.

It was constructed between 1927 and 1929, and is supported by 700 concrete piles sunk to an average depth of 40 feet below basement level. Nineteen steel girders span the railway, and special insulation was used to reduce vibration from the trains. It has a steel girder skeleton, supplied and constructed by Rubery, Owen of Darlaston, Staffordshire, and faced with 78,000 cubic feet of high quality of Portland Stone, plus Norwegian granite and black Belgian marble. There are sculptures on the side – Night and Day by Jacob Epstein, and a further eight, representing the Four Winds, by other well-known artists. The building was hit during the Blitz in 1941, but was carefully reconstructed. It was refurbished in the 1980s, and it was sad to see how much of the interiors had been destroyed.

It was a good guided tour, with two members of staff who knew their stuff. In Reception is a fascinating train describer, so management could see exactly how the service was running. Lovely art deco touches in the detailing of lifts, banisters, etc.

There was some LT art that I had not seen before, and it was good to stand in the offices of Holden, Pick, etc.

We managed to get access to the roof – and the views were worth the climb.

There are regular tours – website. Well worth it!

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One Response to London Open House 2017 – 55 Broadway

  1. Katherine says:

    I very much enjoyed reading this because this is a building I know so well from my childhood – my parents had a house not far away. I should correct that and add that it is the outside I remember so well, so I was particularly interested to read what you wrote about the interiors. It’s the Eric Gill statues of the 4 winds that really stick in my mind. I last walked round it about a year ago, and was sad to see the London grime spoiling the statues – indeed I was surprised to see it so uncared for, but I guess that has all been put on hold for the proposed redevelopment. Very pleased to read that at least 23.5% will be affordable housing. Think I’d better go on one of those regular tours before it’s redeveloped!

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