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Former Post Office and Royal Mail Offices, Royal Leamington Spa

A Grade II Listed Building in Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.2864 / 52°17'11"N

Longitude: -1.5328 / 1°31'58"W

OS Eastings: 431965

OS Northings: 265469

OS Grid: SP319654

Mapcode National: GBR 6NJ.P91

Mapcode Global: VHBXJ.DS0L

Entry Name: Former Post Office and Royal Mail Offices, Royal Leamington Spa

Listing Date: 18 March 2014

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1418452

Location: Royal Leamington Spa, Warwick, Warwickshire, CV31

County: Warwickshire

District: Warwick

Civil Parish: Royal Leamington Spa

Built-Up Area: Royal Leamington Spa

Traditional County: Warwickshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Warwickshire

Church of England Parish: Leamington Priors All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Coventry

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Leamington Spa

Summary

A former general post office built in 1870 to designs by James Williams in an Italianate-style; with extensions designed by Edward Cropper added in the early- C20; the 1970s sorting office and vehicle depot block to the east is excluded from the listing.

Description

A former general post office built in 1870 to designs by James Williams in an Italianate-style; with extensions designed by Edward Cropper added in the early- C20; the 1970s sorting office and vehicle depot block to the east is excluded from the listing.

MATERIALS: the building is limestone clad with a slate covered roof.

PLAN: the post office building is rectangular with a post office on the ground floor and offices to the east and above.

EXTERIOR: the 1870s block is two-storeys and ashlar faced. It is four bays wide. The ground floor is rusticated with plain bands. The front elevation (south) has two sash windows flanked by door surrounds with hoods on lion’s head brackets. The left-hand door surround includes a stone plaque under the hood with raised lettering reading ‘POST OFFICE’. The sash windows on the first floor have architraves with console-bracketed cornices and blind balustrade aprons. The main entablature consists of a dentilled cornice and balustrade parapet with a hipped slate roof. To the right is a four-storey block, set back from the main elevation. It has three bays, with a double-door central entrance flanked by horned sash windows, and similar sashes on the other three floors. The ground floor is rusticated and a sill band separates the second and the third floor (which is a later addition). The east elevation has three and five bays. The right three are part of the original block and have the same design; the other five bays are part of the 1911 three-storey extension and have been built in a similar style, with a side entrance on the ground floor, solid window aprons and a plain ashlar parapet which hides the third-storey windows. The rear elevation faces the River Leam and consists of a three-storey block with three bays to the same design as the five bays on the east elevation. To the left is a plain ashlar-faced three-storey block with three bays (the third storey was added later). The windows on the external facing elevations are all timber sashes. Within the centre is a courtyard which has been partially in-filled and includes a number of windows, some of which have been altered.

INTERIOR: the original post office, located at the front of the building and is now (2013), a card shop, with the current post office located to the rear, on the site of the former 1911 sorting hall. The original post office counter has been removed. The original plasterwork and decorative cornicing survives above the lowered ceiling. To the right of the card shop is the main stairwell with an ornate cast-iron staircase, including strings with foliate detailing and a timber handrail. Behind the stairwell and on the floors above are offices and storerooms. The offices above the original C19 post office, to the south side of the building, retain original features including decorative ceiling cornicing (above the late-C20 lowered ceiling panels), and chimneybreasts. It was not possible to inspect the former postmaster’s office in the middle of this block; however, plans indicate that this may retain a late-C19 fireplace. The former telephone exchange room is located on the west side of the first-floor, spanning the 1870 and 1911 blocks; no telephone equipment survives. Further stairwells are located in the 1911 extension to the south, and the other 1911 block to the east. The offices to the upper floors of the Italianate north-west 1911 extension, and the offices within the 1911 blocks to the north-east and south-east have undergone a greater level of alteration and are more utilitarian. An opening has been broken through on the ground-floor the former external east wall to provide access to the 1970s vehicle depot and lifts have been inserted within the centre of the building. Pursuant to s.1(5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 ('the Act') it is declared that the late-C20 lifts and the lift shafts are not of special architectural or historic interest.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the late-C20 sorting office and vehicle depot block to the east are excluded from the listing.

History

The original two-storey building was built in 1870 with a post-office on the ground floor, offices above and a single-storey sorting office topped by a glass roof lantern to the rear. It was designed by James Williams (1824-92), who was responsible for over thirty post offices, including Hull Post Office (1877, listed at Grade II). In 1911 the rear sorting office was partially rebuilt, to designs by Edward Cropper, creating a three-storey extension with a new sorting office in the same location to the rear, office space above and two-storey office block to the south-east. At the same time, a three-storey extension was also added to the east side of the building (a further floor was added to this block some time later). A plan of the new extensions shows the arrangement of the post office in 1911, including a room on the first floor housing a telephone exchange. There has been a certain level of internal rearrangement with some original walls being removed and the insertion of other modern partition. Other notable changes include the knocking through of the original post office shop the former 1911 sorting hall on the ground floor and the rebuilding third storey behind the parapet roof to form a flat roof profile, likely to have been in the mid-C20 when the contemporary two-storey block to the south east and the three-storey block to the north east each had an extra storey added. The second and third storey of the central courtyard was infilled in the late-C20, leaving a small void in the middle of the building. In the 1970s a new sorting office was added to the east end of the building.

Reasons for Listing

The Former Post Office and Royal Mail offices Royal Leamington Spa built in 1870 to designs by James Williams, with later extensions by Edward Cooper, excluding the 1970s sorting hall and vehicle depot, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: a good quality and well-detailed late-C19 former post office, with later additions, that makes a strong statement well suited to public buildings of this type;
*Historic association: it is attributed to James Williams, a prolific post office architect who was responsible for a number of listed post offices with which the Royal Leamington Spa building compares well;
* Internal survival: although there have been internal alterations, as would be expected for a commercial building, a number of original features survive including the main stair, chimney breasts and some decorative ceiling plaster work;
* Group value: it forms part of an important group of listed buildings including the Church of All Saints (Grade II*), and its Italianate style complements well the surrounding character of this Regency spa town.

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