The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Hull mural
Stockport mural
Stockport mural

C20 Society fears BHS closure poses threat to historic murals

The Twentieth Century Society has expressed concern about the future of three significant post war murals adorning British Home Store buildings in Hull and Stockport following Historic England’s recommendation to reject its applications to list both at Grade II.

The Hull store, formerly a Co-op, features what was believed to be at the time of its installation in 1963, the biggest mural in Britain.  Sitting above the store entrance, the ‘Three Ships’ mosaic is 66ft high and 64ft wide (20m by 19.5m) and contains over one million tiny cubes of Italian glass.  These are attached to a curved concrete screen which almost appears to be free floating.

Inside on the fourth floor is a smaller Fish Mural, depicting ceramic fish swimming in a tiled background of bubbling water, set between massive columns of kelp-like fronds in stone.

Designed by Alan Boyson, a highly successful and influential figure in post war public art, the murals celebrate Hull’s proud maritime heritage and form part of an important record of the reconstruction of the city after the war.

Tess Pinto, Conservation Adviser at C20 Society, said: “This is a very disappointing decision particularly as Hull will be City of Culture next year.  Following the recent closure of BHS, and with the town centre set to undergo a major redevelopment, the future of both murals is uncertain.  We have been informed that the internal mural in particular is vulnerable to demolition.”

The BHS Stockport mural is situated on the outside of the building and comprises five concrete panels with brightly coloured mosaic, depicting the history of the town across six centuries.   It includes images of earls, knights, politicians, clergymen, the founder of the local grammar school and a farmer, all of whom played a significant role in the development of the town.

The work was designed by Henry Collins and Joyce Pallot, who were leading proponents of historically themed post war concrete murals, carrying out a series of commissions for Sainsbury’s, BHS, IBM and Philips.

Their first prominent commission was for the Festival of Britain.  They founded the Colchester Art Society in 1948 along with Cedric Morris, a teacher of Lucien Freud.

Tess Pinto added: “Stockport Council has announced that they have purchased the shopping centre where the BHS store is situated with a view to redevelopment.  Coupled with the demise of the BHS chain, this obviously puts this set of important murals at risk and it is of deep concern that our listing application is being recommended for refusal. Given Historic England’s recent thematic work and exhibition on post-war public art, the decision not to list the murals seems particularly inconsistent with their commitment to the protection of post-war public art.”

For press enquiries:

Catherine Croft, Director Twentieth Century Society 020 7250 3857