No. 1 Grenville Street, created in 1934 by Orphoot, Whiting and Lindsay, as a headquarters for the Western Counties Building Society, being an Art Deco re-modelling of an older building.
Reason for Listing
No. 1 Grenville Street is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural: for its effective design in an Art Deco style, used extremely rarely for bank or building society buildings, by a noted local architect;
* Interior: for its legible interior and layout; the decoration includes a sophisticated apsidal panelled boardroom, complete with integral lighting, and more restrained public office;
* Completeness: the building is remarkably intact, with external detailing and windows surviving, as well as a very good proportion of internal joinery and other features.
The building now known as 1 Grenville Street stands at the corner of Grenville Street and Market Place. The site was occupied from the late C19 by Heywood and Cock, a large drapery business, until January 1934, when a fire did significant damage to the building. The building immediately to the north of No. 1 Grenville Street formed part of the late-C19 commercial complex, and features of this surviving building, such the pedimented gables, finials, and pilasters, give an indication of the previous architectural treatment of No. 1. The building was re-modelled almost immediately after the fire, both internally and externally, as the new headquarters of the local building society, the Western Counties, which opened in October 1934. The architect was Orphoot, Whiting and Lindsay; the firm's local work included restoration and new building for the Clovelly estate. The builder, Messrs Beer and Son, was also local, as were the majority of the workmen engaged on the project, and it was noted at the opening ceremony that at least 80 per cent of the work and materials were British. It was also observed that, although treated in a modern manner, the simple, white appearance of the building was suitable to the old character of Bideford. The Art Deco style chosen for the building was used only extremely rarely in bank design.
The Western Counties Building Society was formed in 1862, and played an important part in Bideford's economic life for over a century. The construction of a new and costly headquarters in 1924 indicates the success and confidence of the Western Counties at a time when bank building more generally had markedly slowed as a result of the Great Depression. The Western Counties was re-named as the West of England Building Society in 1985, and eventually became part of the Nationwide; the building society remained at 1 Grenville Street for nearly half a century, before moving to new premises. The building was subsequently used as a teacher training college. The printing shop which then occupied the Grenville Street building for many years has recently closed.
Building society headquarters. The building has a late-C19 core, but was very substantially re-modelled following a fire in 1934 by Orphoot, Whiting and Lindsay, for the Western Counties Building Society. The builder was Messrs Beer and Son. The building received some alteration and adaptation later in the C20. The opening of the building society headquarters was noted in the contemporary local press, recording the 1934 form, plan and materials of the building in some detail.
MATERIALS: the building is rendered, with dressings of grey Hopton Wood stone, a Derbyshire limestone 'marble'. All the window openings contain their original metal frames. Of the other original materials and fittings which survive, the decorative ironwork was supplied by Messrs W A Baker and Co of Newport; flooring by the Granwood Flooring Company, Derbyshire, the board room furnishings by Shapland and Petter of Barnstaple, special electric light fittings by Waring and Gillow, and blinds by Messrs Trapnells or Messrs G Boyle of Bideford.
PLAN: the building occupies a corner site, with the entrance, to the east, facing Grenville Street, and the south return wall running along Market Place, with the corner being angled.
EXTERIOR: The distinctive Art Deco design takes advantage of the corner site to create a three-sided exterior intended to be taken in at a single glance, whilst clearly emphasising the entrance elevation. The parapet has been altered since 1934: originally, there was a stepped section to east and south, masking the roof gables, but this has been reduced to a pair of simple triangles. The parapet now has a concrete coping. Towards the top of the building, the wall is slightly stepped back in a line following that of the original parapet. Immediately below this, at the centre of the east and south elevations, an original lantern, in the shape of a miniature oriel window; the one to the south has lost its bracket. There are three original rainwater-heads and downpipes, one at each end of the building, and one to the left of the angled elevation. All the ground-floor openings have plain flush stone surrounds; the upper portions of these have been painted over to east and south to obscure the original inscription: 'WESTERN COUNTIES / BUILDING SOCIETY'. The entrance has a complex stepped stone surround in several planes, enriched with convex mouldings; the ornate lantern surmounting it is a replacement. The door is of unpainted timber, with a single panel, having a stepped detail to the top. The entrance is framed by tall windows, rising above the level of the doorway, with a concave section behind the lantern. Each window has a single sheet of glass below, with a jazzy Art Deco multi-pane section above, featuring reversed triangles. Above, three windows of simpler design, with casement sections below, and panels of geometrical glazing above – this design is found in all the first-floor windows. Above these is a fluted horizontal panel, into the centre of which the lantern is set. There is a single, tall, ground-floor window to the angled, south-east elevation, of the same type as those on the east elevation, with a single window above. To the south, three ground-floor windows, reducing in height to accommodate the slope of Market Place; the lower portions are blocked, with simple multi-pane panels above. There are two first-floor windows to this elevation; the original western frame survives behind its hardboard covering.
INTERIOR: the front door opens to a small lobby; set at an angle to the left are double doors with geometrically-patterned glazing (these, like the building's other original doors, retain their handles), leading to the public office or banking hall, which occupies the majority of the ground-floor space. The floor, which is covered with Granwood composition wood block parquet, incorporates an irregular line of darker blocks indicating the original position of the counter, to the left-hand side of the hall. The hall is lined with very simple flush panelling of Australian Silky Oak, with a darker moulding defining the top of the panelling and door frames, and creating panels on doors. The ceiling is coved. The stair rises with two quarter turns within the northern section of the hall; this feature is panelled with Gurjan timber, with darker wood for the conical finials to the newel posts, and the hand rails. The blank balustrade is pierced by decorative panels of wrought iron. Facing into the hall from beside the stair, a high panel with a moulded frame for a clock; the clock has been replaced. Opening from the hall to the north is a small office, originally for the cashier; a later entrance to the room has been cut through from the lobby. The cashier's office is panelled in the same style as the public office. At the east end of the hall, a door leads to a passage, with the former strong room in the south-east corner of the building, set into the rising ground, a lavatory cubicle, and a heating chamber. The metal sliding grille protecting the strong room has been partially boxed in.
On the first floor, a pair of doors similar to those on the ground floor announce the 'Board Room' (to east) and 'Secretary' (to south) in gold lettering. The board room, which retains its complete original decoration, is lined with French walnut, curved to create a room of oval form, whilst the centre of the room is crossed by a high barrel ceiling. The quartered veneer, which is waxed but unstained, is arranged in such a way as to create pale vertical stripes. There is a pronounced dado and skirting. Set within the arches created by the curve of the ceiling, between paired doors to the west, and windows to the east, are the original urn-shaped lights, with leather shades, raised on engaged inverted pedestals, dying into the panels. A paler moulded cornice is stepped towards these central lights. The windows are protected by Venetian blinds with metal slats, thought to be original. The board room connects with the secretary's office; this smaller room is decorated with the same panelling, and has a small integral fireplace with curved shelf and tiled insert. A lavatory cubicle with original sanitary ware opens from the south end of this office. The roof space is accessed by a retractable ladder; the roof timbers have received some adaptation, but appear to date in the main from the 1930s, rather than the C19.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.