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Thursday24 July 2014

Victorian Society orders City back to drawing board at Holborn Circus

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Dickens’ son’s favourite spot is on top 10 list of most-threatened Victorian and Edwardian heritage

The Victorian Society is urging the City of London Corporation to fundamentally rethink its plans to remodel Holborn Circus.

Director Chris Costelloe said future development should respect the historic lines of the site which Charles Dickens Junior called, “perhaps… the finest piece of street architecture in the City” in his Dickens’s Dictionary of London (1879).

Holborn Circus, 1890

Source: City of London

Holborn Circus, 1890

The society has added the junction, the meeting place of six highways, to this year’s Top 10 Endangered Buildings.

Other entries include Ipswich’s vandalised former county hall, decaying Wingfield Station in Derbyshire, a red-brick pumphouse on Merseyside, the Mechanics’ Institute in Swindon and the UK’s only listed spillway, which resembles a giant flight of stairs.

Holborn Circus was designed as a commanding and visually striking setting with a statue of Prince Albert the visual focus. But following war damage many buildings were demolished and the building line set back, resulting in a “windy area unfriendly to pedestrians”. 

Ipswich former County Hall

Source: Ian Bareham

Ipswich former County Hall

Costelloe said: “The City of London now intends to obscure the Victorian plan by moving the statue to the side and blocking one of the roads, leaving a vast area of tarmac without focus.

“We call on the City of London to return to the drawing board and think strategically. The statue should remain at the heart of the Circus and future redevelopment should respect the historic lines of this important piece of townscape.”

The Top 10 was produced after a national appeal to find the best and most at risk buildings in England and Wales.

“The public responded enthusiastically to our call for threatened buildings,” said Costelloe. “It shows the public cares - but it also shows there are still too many historic buildings at risk, without recognition or protection.

Holborn Circus

Source: Alan McFaden

Holborn Circus today

“Whether the solution is restoration or finding a new use for a building, it always takes money and often a long time. In the meantime it’s vital that historic buildings are secured against weather and vandals.  We owe it to future generations to ensure such memorable buildings are still around in 100 years.

“Most people now regret the demolition of the the Euston Arch - we don’t want to see other important examples of our history lost to neglect, crime or short term economic concerns.”

 

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Readers' comments (2)

  • zecks_marquise

    I could do with some these victoriana rose-tinted glasses, it certainly would make my commute more jolly

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  • Kind of late to try saving Holborn Circus now, is it not? That once-densely urban space was firstly wrecked by bombing, then by Foster's with that horrible Sainsbury's HQ building that demonstrates that practice's complete inability to design in response to context, and more recently by the shameful destruction of a very fine office building that used to stand on the site now occupied by Rolfe Judd's vulgar, characterless 40 Holborn Viaduct.

    So what, exactly, is the VicSoc proposing to retain? Might as well move that statue out of the way (although it does provide a welcome refuge for cyclists as they negotiate one of the most dangerous road junctions in London).

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