The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

BD Carbuncle Winner Nova Victoria
Pawnbrokers Sutton House

The Carbuncle Winner which robbed London of its oldest pawnbrokers’ shop

Twentieth Century Society Director Catherine Croft is delighted to have played a role in the awarding of the Carbuncle Cup 2017 for the UK’s worst new building to Nova Victoria, in Westminster, a mixed use urban horror of offices, apartments and eateries, designed by PLP Architecture.

“Not only is this grossly over-scaled development a real eye sore but it was also responsible for the loss of London’s best surviving historic pawnbrokers’ shop which C20 fought very hard to save,” said Catherine, who was one of the judges of the Carbuncle Cup, organised by architecture magazine website Building Design (

C20 put Sutton House forward for spot listing back in 2008 when redevelopment plans for the area were first revealed. English Heritage awarded it a Grade II listing, recognising it as a rare, if not unique, survival of a particular type of commercial architecture.

Designed by architect Reginald W Lone, who was mainly known for industrial buildings, English Heritage’s assessment of Sutton House noted its ‘striking and well-detailed Moderne facade’ and ‘good, intact, shop front’. That a pawnbrokers shop would receive so much architectural attention makes Sutton House truly exceptional. That a ‘wealth of interior fittings’ survives further qualifies this as a rare case among inter-war commercial buildings, whereas the privacy booths are possibly unique. As a purpose-built pawnbroker’s shop and pledge offices built in 1934–35, and therefore marking a ‘fact of everyday life… in the inter-war depression years’, Sutton House was listed for its historic interest too.

Pawnbroking was part of everyday life in the inter-war depression years and Sutton House was the headquarters of London’s oldest pawnbrokers which became a high-class international establishment in the early-C20; in the 1930s, Sutton’s had offices in Paris, Cannes and Berlin – ‘‘the Harrods of pawnbroking’, according to an article in the Daily Mail, this was a place to pawn your tiara and your diamonds, not your pots and pans