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Victoria Coach Station, City of Westminster

Description: Victoria Coach Station

Grade: II
Date Listed: 1 September 2014
Building ID: 1418262

OS Grid Reference: TQ2861478684
OS Grid Coordinates: 528614, 178691
Latitude/Longitude: 51.4925, -0.1488

Locality: City of Westminster
County: Greater London Authority
Postcode: SW1W 9TN

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Listing Text


Coach station and offices, originally incorporating shops and a restaurant. 1931-2 by Wallis, Gilbert & Partners for London Coastal Coaches Ltd. The 1963 extension to the east block (No. 172 Buckingham Palace Road), the canopy to the north-west of the yard, and lean-to structures on the yard elevation of the east block, are not of special interest and are excluded from the listing.

Reason for Listing

Victoria Coach Station, 1931-2 by Wallis, Gilbert & Partners for London Coastal Coaches Ltd, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: a bold and striking composition, remarkable among contemporary road-transport buildings, whose corner tower ranks among London’s most distinctive Art Deco landmarks, and one of the most notable surviving works by Wallis, Gilbert & Partners, pre-eminent specialists in inter-war industrial architecture; * Historic interest: the inter-war growth of recreational coach travel was a significant chapter in British social and transport history. Of all the purpose-built coach stations, extant or otherwise, Victoria illustrates how, within little more than a decade, the industry had evolved into a sophisticated national network. * Group value: with the former Imperial Airways Empire terminal building opposite (listed at Grade ll), itself a monumental Art Deco composition. The two constitute a notable grouping of inter-war transport buildings for new modes of travel.


Long-distance travel by motor bus originated in either 1904 or 5 (sources differ) when the Vanguard Omnibus Co. operated buses between London and Brighton, a venture which ended abruptly amid safety concerns after a fatal bus crash near Brighton in July 1906. A few short-lived enterprises apart, long-distance travel was rare before WWI; more common were small operators running day excursions out of coastal resorts in open charabancs. Recreational coach travel burgeoned after WWI, when army-surplus vehicles were plentiful, and a number of small concerns sprang up in urban centres nationally, offering vehicles for private hire for seaside day outings for factory and office workers, social clubs and the like. The first purpose-built coach station was at Blackpool (1921) but early ‘stations’ were usually rudimentary affairs, often a garage or yard. The industry expanded rapidly in the early 1920s with major improvements in motor technology, including the arrival of pneumatic tyres in 1924, and faster, more sophisticated vehicles. This fiercely competitive period also saw the shift from small independent operators to larger companies, themselves often subsidiaries of conglomerates, and from seasonal day excursions to year-round long-distance journeys. By 1930, a national network of express services was in place, with stations often co-located with local bus stations; at Bournemouth (1928), for example, the omnibus and Royal Blue coach station were combined on two levels. Purpose-built coach stations opened in London 1929 at Kings Cross and Clapham Road, and in 1930 in Poland Street. After the regulation of coach services under the Road Traffic Act (1930) which made licensing compulsory, many operators bought, or combined with, competitors and smaller concerns virtually disappeared. Victoria’s ascendancy as London’s main hub for coach travel began on Easter Sunday 1919 when local motor trader Len Turnham ran a charabanc from Grosvenor Gardens to Brighton, a successful venture offering affordable fares for war-weary Londoners seeking seaside air. In 1920 the haulage company Pickford’s, which ran a south-coast charabanc service from High Holborn, invited Turnham to form a pool with other London operators. Named London & Coastal, the participants - nine in all - apportioned their profits according to mileage operated, a pragmatic and increasingly common practice in the industry. It was incorporated as a single company - London Coastal Coaches Ltd (LCCL) - on 30 April 1925, by now offering services to resorts on the south, Kent and East Anglian coasts. Passengers alighted at kerbside loading points, a practice unsatisfactory on several counts, and in 1929 LCCL acquired a two-acre site in Lupus Street from the London County Council; by 1930 over a dozen other national operators were using it as their London terminus. Held on a short lease and consisting of an open yard with utilitarian structures, this was only a temporary solution and in 1930 a 1.25 acre site in Buckingham Palace Road, for which an abortive scheme had already been drawn up by another London operator, Coach Travels, was acquired, and Wallis Gilbert & Partners, leading specialists in industrial buildings which had recently completed the Firestone and Pyrene factories in Brentford, were appointed as architects with Oscar Faber as the consulting engineer. Opening on 10 March 1932, the new station comprised a ground-floor booking hall, shops and buffet, and a lounge bar and 200-seat restaurant at mezzanine and first-floor levels. The rest of the first floor was the company offices of LCCL, with offices for private lets above. Behind this huge frontage, the station yard accommodated 76 vehicles. Although Victoria was the largest of its type, press attention focused on the architectural treatment, noting the ‘original and bold colour scheme’ which included alternating bands of green and black faience contrasting with red faience lettering; the entrance feature finished in white cement with coloured glass; these features no longer survive. By 1939 LCCL had acquired most of the independent operators of services to and from London, offering destinations in most parts of England and Wales. Coach travel was curtailed in WWII and after war-time requisition, services resumed at Victoria in March 1946, LCCL having kept itself afloat by income from the private lets. The post-war period saw further growth, not least the advent of continental travel in the 1950s. A large block was added on the west in 1963, designed by TP Bennett & Son, which incorporated a new coach entrance. In 1970 LCCL became a subsidiary of the National Bus Company, and in 1988 ownership was transferred to London Transport.


Coach station and offices, originally incorporating shops and a restaurant. 1931-2 by Wallis, Gilbert & Partners for London Coastal Coaches Ltd. MATERIALS: steel frame faced in concrete (now painted) with some contrasting brick facing to the rear elevations. Windows are mainly modern steel replacements. PLAN: the building has an L-shaped plan at the south-west junction of Buckingham Palace Road and Elizabeth Street, comprising a long northern range, a shorter eastern return and a prominent corner entrance tower. The former booking hall is located at the intersection of the two blocks with a main corner entrance and a secondary entrance in Buckingham Palace Road. Stairs are located to either side of the entrance and at each end of the two blocks. To the rear, set parallel with the north elevation, is a full-length vehicle canopy. The internal layout is generally much altered with largely open-plan offices. EXTERIOR: five storeys high with a set-back attic storey; the taller ground floor incorporating a mezzanine. Designed in the Art Deco style with neo-Egyptian motifs, combining strong contrasting horizontal and vertical elements with curvilinear and geometric forms. The tower has bold stepped and fluted detail, angle glazing and a triple full-height central bays. The parapet, and that of the curved returns, has triglyph detail. The entrance was rebuilt in the 1950s in a much pared-down manner. The long elevations have a very strong horizontal emphasis, accentuated by projecting fluted bands between storeys. The ground floor is divided into large window bays bisected by transoms with stylised fluted decoration marking the mezzanine floor. The north elevation differs in that the eight bays of the former lounge and restaurant are separately expressed - a distinctly modernist touch - by vertical three-light windows with chevron-moulded mullions, again with reeded transoms; these are flanked by narrow vertical windows. The coach exit to the right is flanked by stepped pilasters. Both elevations terminate in curves where they abut the tower; the east range also has a curved termination. Doors, shopfronts and windows have been replaced at all levels, with the exception of the transom lights at ground floor which have pivoting metal casements with geometric pattern glazing. An entrance at the south end of the east block has a curved shoulders and raised chevron-pattern frieze above. The former booking hall is enclosed by wrought-iron area railings with inward-curving heads and contrasting diagonals. At ground floor, the open loading bays on the yard side have been infilled to create enclosed arrivals and departure areas with shops and cafes; these areas lack special interest. The canopy has a louvred hipped glazed roof carried on open steel trusses. INTERIOR: the stairs have horizontal steel balustrades and hardwood handrails. The booking hall, retail areas and office interiors at all levels have been comprehensively modernised and retain few visible original features. Internal and external post-war fittings and finishes, including signage, joinery, suspended ceilings and cladding, partitions, plant, and infill to the arrival and departure bays lack special interest. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that these aforementioned features are not of special architectural or historic interest.

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.