Friday, April 20, 2012
Built to last
Just along Granby Street from the Turkey Café described in the previous post is this large Victorian bank. It’s such a show stopper of a building that I couldn’t photograph it all (there are more pictures of it here). The Victorians liked to build big, imposing banks, and employed all sorts of styles for them from solid classical, through ornate Italian Renaissance revival, to the Gothic employed here. Now empty, formerly a branch of the Midland Bank and HSBC, this 1870s building was originally the head office of the Leicestershire Banking Company. Its designer was Joseph Goddard, who, like Wakerley of the Turkey Café, was a prominent Leicester architect. In fact several generations of the Goddard family have practiced architecture in Leicester. Goddard originally intended to design the bank in the classical style, but his clients wanted something different from the classical National Provincial Bank up the street, so he went for this red-brick Gothic, with trimmings of stone and terracotta.
The part of the building shown in my photograph is the banking hall. Its dominating features are the tall Gothic windows – I left a passing pedestrian in the picture so that you can see just how tall they are. I especially like the way Goddard used pale Portland stone to contrast with the brick – the stripy arches are an effective touch, as is the mix of stone and terracotta at cornice level above them. Slender shafts flanking the windows, decorative terracotta panels, and little bands and rosettes of carved stone provide plenty to entertain the passer-by. It’s a building full of Victorian confidence, soaring above the modern shops that surround it on this street in the centre of Leicester and speaking of the city’s prosperity when the hosiery, textile, and engineering industries were at their height – a time when bankers and their architects built to last.