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Floral Hall, Westminster

Description: Floral Hall

Grade: II
Date Listed: 15 January 1973
English Heritage Building ID: 208782

OS Grid Reference: TQ3040281014
OS Grid Coordinates: 530402, 181014
Latitude/Longitude: 51.5130, -0.1222

Location: 34 Bow Street, Westminster, London WC2B 5 WC2E 9DD

Locality: Westminster
County: Greater London
Country: England
Postcode: WC2E 9DD

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Listing Text

1900/59/26 BOW STREET WC2
15-Jan-1973 FLORAL HALL



Originally a multi-purpose space for hire alongside the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and now a bar and restaurant space with entrance, cloaks and lavatories to ground floor and with basements beneath. Floral Hall of 1858-9 by Edward Middleton Barry; roof rebuilt in different form in 1956 after fire damage; whole building taken down and then the greater part re-erected and refurbished in 1997-9 by Jeremy Dixon and Edward Jones with components of the new roof structure by Graham Welding and D.M. Foundries.

MATERIALS: Cast iron and glass on concrete and stone ground floor and basements.

PLAN: Rectangular footprint.

EXTERIOR: The main fa├žade, which abuts (standing to the left of) the Royal Opera House, is a spectacular Italianate essay in cast iron and glass. It is six bays wide and its main part two storeys high. The two central bays are recessed, and all six have tall, round-headed windows which run continuously across the front with elaborately-cast spandrels to the arches. The bays are divided by pilasters with cast raised-ring decoration. Rising above the four central bays is a large radial fanlight with elaborate sunburst glazing panels. The semi-circular glazed roof is of the later 1990s.
The glass and iron Hall of 1858-9 stands upon a new ground floor with basements beneath constructed during the later 1990s. The ground-floor front is faced with a dark, granite-like stone, and has six large openings (four windows, with double doors to either side).

INTERIOR: The interior of the Floral Hall comprises a broad nave, the width of the three centre bays of the front. This is flanked by narrow aisles and divided from them by arcades with four bays of circular cast-iron columns with stiff-leaf capitals and decorative spandrels. The rear wall is of the redevelopment of the later 1990s, and is mirrored. Also of the 1990s are mezzanine floors in both aisles and part of the roof structure including its semi-circular trussed ribs, I-section purlins and the glazing bars.

HISTORY: The Royal Opera House is the third theatre on the Covent Garden site. The first, the Theatre Royal, London's most luxurious, opened in 1732. Major alterations were made by Henry Holland in 1792 but in 1808 the building burnt down. A new theatre opened in 1809 designed by Robert Smirke. That saw many dramatic triumphs and innovations before being recast as the Royal Italian Opera House in 1847. This was lost, only the frieze surviving, to fire in the mid 1850s. A third theatre, designed by Edward Middleton Barry, opened in 1858. This was a fireproof building in a regular classical design, and alongside it Barry built the Floral Hall in 1858-9. This was a glass and iron-framed structure intended to serve as a concert hall annexe and winter garden. The cast ironwork was manufactured by Henry Grissell's Regent's Canal Ironworks, and is dated (on the column bases) 1858. The theatre became the Royal Opera House in 1892.

While the main theatre remained little-altered after its construction, the roof of the Floral Hall had to be rebuilt after fire damage in 1956 which resulted in the loss of its lofty glass vaults and dome. In the mid 1990s a huge redevelopment programme was embarked upon at the Royal Opera House under the architects Jeremy Dixon and Edward Jones. As part of this the Floral Hall was taken down and put into store. The greater part of the main structure was subsequently re-erected in its original location, while its southern portico was moved to form a frontage to Borough Market in Southwark. The refurbished Royal Opera House re-opened in 1999. The Floral Hall is now used as a bar and restaurant, interconnecting with the auditorium and other elements of the Opera House complex.

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: The Floral Hall is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* As a fine example of Victorian technological innovation despite its dismantling and re-erection in the 1990s;
* For the high quality of its design and decorative elements;
* As an example of the work of the eminent Victorian architect EM Barry;
* For group value with the same architect's Grade I listed Royal Opera House, which it was originally designed to complement;

The roof, mezzanine floors and ground floor/basement, all of the 1990s, are of lesser significance.

SOURCES: The Survey of London 35 (1970), 108 and pl 68; B. Weinreb and C. Hibbert, The London Encyclopaedia (1983), 204-5; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography s.v. Edward Middleton Barry ; P. Conrad, Prelude: Rebuilding the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 1997-1999 (1999)

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Source: English Heritage

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