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Derby Conference Centre

A Grade II Listed Building in Derby, City of Derby

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Latitude: 52.9042 / 52°54'15"N

Longitude: -1.4484 / 1°26'54"W

OS Eastings: 437197

OS Northings: 334230

OS Grid: SK371342

Mapcode National: GBR PRN.L8

Mapcode Global: WHDH0.Q8HD

Entry Name: Derby Conference Centre

Listing Date: 9 December 2005

Last Amended: 24 May 2011

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1391442

English Heritage Legacy ID: 494505

Location: Derby, DE24

County: City of Derby

Electoral Ward/Division: Alvaston

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Derby

Traditional County: Derbyshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Derbyshire

Church of England Parish: Derby St Andrew with St Osmund

Church of England Diocese: Derby

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Former Railway School of Transport, 1937-38, by William H. Hamlyn. A good example of a Neo-Classical Art Deco building. It survives largely unaltered externally and retains important internal features, including an impressive curving staircase. Original training rooms and finely executed murals reflect the building's purpose as a railway school.


Former Railway School of Transport. 1937-38, by William H. Hamlyn, the principal architect to the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMSR).

MATERIALS: The building is of brick with Portland stone dressings and a pantile roof to the principal range.

EXTERIOR: This range faces north-east towards London Road, is rectangular in plan and of three storeys, with two storey wings to either end. Projecting to the rear are single- and two-storey wings. The principal façade is divided into eleven bays, five to either side of a full height entrance bay, which breaks slightly forward from the main façade in two steps. The hipped roof rises fairly steeply from behind an incised coped parapet. Recessed links either side, each with a single circular window at first-floor level, define the main block from a pair of rectangular two-storey wings, which have flat roofs and obelisks rising from the parapet at the angles. These wings are expressed as one storey. This is true in the case of the southernmost wing, which contains only the large lecture theatre, but the northern wing has what was originally staff accommodation on two storeys, the fenestration linked vertically to provide symmetry to the façade. The ground-floor of the main block has a Portland stone-faced arcade of fine recessed and pilastered bays framing the recessed fenestration (a range of ten six-light 'swing' casements), between which are eight shallow-carved bas-reliefs. These were designed by the sculptor Denis Dunlop but executed locally, each one a rectangle containing a representation of an aspect of the LMS's activities: loco building, rolling stock construction, signals and telegraphs, civil engineering, architecture, research, marine transport and traffic operations.

The first and second floors each have ranges of ten metal six light 'swing' casement windows, identical to those on the ground-floor. Each window is framed with red bricks, which contrast with the darker brick of the walling. The second-floor windows have keystones. The central entrance portico in Portland stone projects slightly forward. The sides of the portico are formed by flat pilasters with quarter columns to either side. They support a frieze bearing the motto STET FORTUNA DOMUS ('may the fortune of the house endure') which is topped by a parapet with urns at each end. The outer doors, door casing and inner doors are original, as are the lamps mounted on the portico pilasters. Above the portico is a full-height staircase window with multiple lights set within an architrave with a carved stone cartouche bearing the crest of the LMSR reaching to the parapet.

From the roof above the portico, the slender lantern rises in two stages, the first louvered with columns at each corner and the second capped with a modest cupola bearing a (restored) weathervane topped by a gilded star, which, the Railway Gazette reported, 'symbolises the continued optimism and faith in the railway service'.

To the rear, the side wings are single storey and plain, set against the three storeys of the west extension. All roofs to the rear are flat. The wings containing the lounge to the dining room, games room and a class room extend further back than the links containing the less prestigious rooms opening off the central part of the building, creating recesses between. The recess to the north-west has been subsequently filled in with extra accommodation. Detailing is sparse on the rear wings other than the recessing of the brickwork at the angles and plain coped parapets, but the quality of the original build is high.

INTERIOR: The main entrance gives access to a round hallway, with terrazzo floor and skirting (the floor is carpeted over) and retains original circular ceiling lights. The twin curved doors opening off the hall are also original. Rising above the front half of the hall to the top floor is a fine curving unsupported staircase, with chromium-plated tubular metal railings, which continue across the landings on each floor. The semi-circular stairwell is lit at first and second floor level by original wall sconces. Returning to the ground-floor of the hall, to either side of the double doors leading through into the heart of the building are two striking painted mural panels. The painting on the left is of an LMSR ferry leaving port, the one on the right of three generations of locomotives spanning a century of steam, embodied by the LMS in 1938: the Rocket, a late-C19 coal engine, and a then-new streamlined Princess Coronation Pacific, in full blue and white livery. The artist, whose signature survives on both murals, was Norman Wilkinson CBE (1878-1971).

The lateral corridors and those on the floors above give access to student accommodation and have been remodelled to provide en-suite facilities. Here is an original service lift in the west wing.

The doors between the murals lead through the reception to a large rectangular room originally called the Hall of Transport and now known as the 'sunken lounge'. It measures c.35m by 14m and is top-lit by a series of seven skylights. The panels within the skylights are replacements of the originals with fewer lights. The centre of the room is sunken and colonnaded all round and artificial lighting is provided by original chrome-stemmed globe electroliers and portable brushed chrome 'bunch of tulips' standards. This room was originally built to house a very large electric gauge 'O' model railway which ran within the colonnade and on which students could learn the rudiments of signalling and train operation. It was a key space in the building. The foundation stone and opening plaque are set into the walls to either side of the entrance to the games room. The working model railway was removed in the 1960s and the room divided into three by partitions. These were removed in the 1990s and the room restored as much as possible to its original state. This necessitated replacement of the original ceiling lights with a design bearing a wheel motif, taken from the ironwork on the London Road gates. The two short flights of stairs down to the sunken floor are in a different position to the originals.

At the north-west end of the former Hall of Transport is the dining room which still retains its original chromium-plated light fittings. At its south-west end and partitioned off was a lounge, now incorporated into the dining room to make a larger L-shaped space. In the former lounge's south-east wall is a 8.5 by 1.8m painted mural designed by William Hamlyn and executed by three of his assistants, John Carter, John Ferguson Cooper and Harold Haynes Matthews. It shows the development of road and rail transport 1838-1938, with an architectural backdrop centred on the Euston Arch and a range of other famous buildings and structures.

The final room is the lofty lecture theatre with original seating and a projection room. Lighting here has been replaced but the decorative plasterwork and architectural joinery survive, as do the original projection boards.

Some Art Deco features survive elsewhere in the building, such as curved door cases and skirtings, though most of the doors have been replaced in line with fire regulations. The class rooms are largely unaltered but relatively plain in design.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: To the west of the main building and sharing the same alignment is a brick, flat-roofed block with garaging for six cars, workshops behind and boiler house beneath. The main façade comprises three bays with folding garage doors to either side of a central tower-like stepped stack.

The London Road boundary wall to the site is in brick with an incised coped parapet identical to that on the main building. The central iron gates have brick piers and are flanked by pedestrian gates. Each gate incorporates the circular wheel motif used in the design of the modern lights in the former Hall of Transport.


The former Railway School of Transport, the first of its kind in the United Kingdom, was built by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMSR) in 1937-38. The idea was to provide a residential facility to train railway operatives and signallers. According to the Railway Gazette, 'Derby was chosen as the site on account of the facilities for practical demonstration which are available at the control offices, marshalling yards, locomotive, carriage, and wagon works, and the scientific laboratory'. The School was designed to accommodate fifty members of the company's staff at a time. The building passed into the ownership of the Nationalised concern in 1948 and was disposed of to the firm which presently runs it by British Rail's residuary body in the 1990s. In 1998 the freehold was disposed of to a development company.

Reasons for Listing

Derby Conference Centre is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: a good example of a Neo-classical Art Deco building. It survives largely unaltered externally and retains important internal features, including an impressive curved staircase.
* Historic interest: Railway School of Transport was the first of its kind in the UK. The original training rooms and finely executed murals reflect the building's purpose as a railway school.

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