The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Former Western Morning News HQ, Plymouth

Historic England recommends listing Grimshaw’s Plymouth Ship at grade II*

The Twentieth Century Society is delighted that Historic England is recommending listing Plymouth’s ship shaped building at Grade II *.

The awarding winning former Western Morning News headquarters, constructed in 1993, is under threat from demolition proposals, and working with the original architect, Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, we have applied to Historic England (formerly English Heritage) for an urgent listing assessment.

The final decision on listing will be made by the Secretary of State – now expected after the General Election. The building has no protection whilst being considered for listing unless the local authority issues a separate Building Preservation Notice. We requested the Historic England advice report via a Freedom of Information request because we anticipated this would reassure the local authority if listing was strongly recommended.

Henrietta Billings, Senior Conservation Adviser at the Twentieth Century Society said, “We are delighted that Historic England is recommending this fantastic Plymouth landmark for listing at grade II*. The final decision on listing is set to be made in May – in the meantime the ‘ship’ is vulnerable and all eyes will be on the building.

We have asked Plymouth City Council to consider issuing a Building Preservation Notice as soon as possible and we will be calling on the newly elected MP and local groups in Plymouth to join us in lobbying the new government’s Secretary of State when they are announced in May.”

The former office and printing works is an outstanding example of Sir Nicholas Grimshaw’s work of the 1990s, at a time when he was establishing his name as a key figure in the high-tech movement with buildings including the Waterloo Eurostar Terminal. Featuring a faceted and curving glass skin, the Plymouth building is a showcase for innovative technology.

There has been considerable interest and local support for the ‘ship’ which is highly unusual in our experience for a building of this date, and several high profile architects, academics and architectural historians have also backed our listing campaign.

These include architects Lord Richard Rogers and Sir Michael Hopkins, and Professor Sir Peter Cook, Sir Tim Smit, co-founder of the Eden Project, Marcus Binney, President of Save Britain’s Heritage, Bob Brown, Head of Architecture at University of Plymouth, The Plymouth Architectural Trust and local MP Alison Seabeck.