The Twentieth Century Society is extremely disappointed that the DCMS has chosen to disregard English Heritage’s advice and has refused to list Slough Town Hall. Revealingly, the Secretary of State was ‘persuaded by the evidence provided by others’ – in this case a consultant working for the very council which wants to tear down its own headquarters.
This is the third such decision following EH’s recommendations for Birmingham Library and Preston Bus Station which were turned down, and shows a worrying trend of the Department bowing to outside pressure rather than the expertise of their own advisors.
The DCMS’s decision also shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the building’s style. A principal reason for it being turned down was its ‘lack of decorative work outside of the public spaces’. This fails to take into account the Scandinavian-inspired stripped-classical nature of the Town Hall, and that to the new progressive authority providing a proud civic realm was more important that lining its private corridors.
A tragically high quantity of good buildings have been demolished in Slough in recent years, including grand Art Deco-styled factories by the likes of Wallis Gilbert and high-quality post-war offices. More are to come down as the town tries to erase its past and reinvent itself from scratch. Despite famously heckling Slough, John Betjeman’s praise for the Town Hall’s architecture as ‘a striving for unity out of chaos’ in 1948 has never been so relevant as today. C20 believes that the redevelopment of the Town Hall would be an act of vandalism to the civic centre and is supporting the Campaign to Save Slough’s Heritage in their request for a review of the decision.
For more information contact Jo Moore at the Twentieth Century Society on 0207 250 3857 or at jo.moore(at)c20society.org.uk. Further information on the campaign to save the Town Hall can be found at http://www.savesloughtownhall.co.uk/
Slough Town Hall was built to the designs of the architects Charles Holloway James (1893-1953) and Steven Rowland Pierce (1896-1966), a specialist firm of architects also responsible for Hertfordshire County Council Offices (listed II*) and Norwich City Hall (listed Grade II*), considered by Pevsner to be the “foremost public building of between the wars”. James and Pierce’s scheme was selected following a design competition instigated by the council who were eager to complete a new civic building in anticipation of the granting of borough status by Royal Charter in 1938. The competition was managed by the Royal Institute of British Architects and the winner selected from the 205 entries by Professor HS Goodhart-Rendel.
The Twentieth Century Society supported the Campaign to Save Slough’s Heritage’s spot-listing request in 2008. English Heritage recommended the building for Grade II listing in November 2008.