Anne Goodyer from the C20 West Group reports on their recent visit to Gloucester.
For once this year the sun shone when the West Group visited Gloucester on 14th April 2018. The visit began at the cathedral, not a traditional c20 start but we admired the recently completed cathedral green area which had replaced a car park as part of Project Pilgrim. The seating and planting area opens up the space by the cathedral in a sympathetic manner.
Gloucester has a number of public murals dating from the 1960s/1970S. The one at the rear of Sainsbury’s really caught our eye. By Henry and Joyce Collins, it portrays scenes from Gloucester’s history in angular sub-Cubist style. Made of cast concrete and ceramic it is very similar to their mural on Primark in Newcastle, this one is not recorded on the c20 list so it soon will be.
The post-war planning decisions were debated as we toured the city. In particular Kings Square has had an interesting history. Built between 1927 and 1929, it was part of a scheme that involved the large-scale demolition of houses and shops. In line with thinking at that time it included a bus station and car park. The square was redesigned between 1969 and 1974 as part of the redevelopment of central Gloucester, water fountains with stepping stones and paddling areas were created in the centre of the square. By 2006 the fountains had fallen into a state of disrepair and the square was levelled and concreted over. One of the most striking buildings round the square is still The Regal cinema. Started in 1939, it opened in 1956 and operated as a cinema until 1990. In 1996 it was converted to a pub by Wetherspoons maintaining some original features and the art deco front.
The East Gate Shopping Centre was designed by Shingler Risdon Associates and opened in 1973 with the intention of providing a high quality retail space. Sited on the former Roman East Gate it does provide reference back to its history with a raised viewing platform over the glazed foundations of the Roman and Medieval East Gate excavated in the late 1970s. Opposite is the empty BHS building which is about to undergo redevelopment, on the ground floor were more concrete panels. Most likely also by Henry and Joyce Collins they show the goods for sale in the store when it opened.
On the northern side of the city centre we discussed Shire Hall. The original building of 1815 has large additions dating from 1911 and most significant from 1966. The latter is undergoing major change with the addition of panels in a mosaic pattern. This resulted in a strong debate from our members.
The final visit was to Gloucester Quays outlet centre, using a former industrial site it combines restored historic buildings with new builds. Opened in 2009, the development continues to grow in planned phases. It is a lively and well used retail space but it has had, of course, a significant impact on Gloucester town centre shops.