England’s Post-War Listed Buildings,
Including Scheduled Monuments and Registered Landscapes
Elain Harwood & James O. Davies
London: Batsford (Pavilion Books), 2015
Hardcover, 608 pp. ISBN 978-1849941464. £40.00
Reviewed by Hugh Clout
University College London
This beautiful book is the third and much expanded edition of Harwood’s Guide to Post-War Listed Buildings that first appeared in 2000. Since then, the number of entries has doubled, with a further 200 being added following the second edition. This new volume comprises three elements: an introduction to the listing and conservation of post-1945 buildings, by Historic England historian Elain Harwood; a suite of colour photographs of such features taken by James O. Davies, head of imaging at Historic England; and a brief descriptive text for each entry. Material from earlier editions has been revised to take very recent changes into account.
The three decades after the end of the Second World War were characterized initially by reconstruction and rationing, but subsequently rising prosperity and the better provision of health and education facilities that was associated with the welfare state. Not surprisingly, this was a period of widespread building, as wartime losses were made good and new schools, universities, clinics and hospitals were installed to cater for the baby-boom generation. The main fashion was for modern architecture but since the late 1970s increasing attention has been focused on post-modernism and conservation. The movement that led to the creation of English Heritage in 1984, renamed Historic England in April 2015, has come to acknowledge and embrace the post-war legacy in its work. This book concentrates on sites where there are ‘listed buildings, scheduled monuments and/or registered landscapes, whether one structure or a large group’ . At the end of 2013, there were 566 such locations, ranging from large buildings to tiny structures (such as bus shelters and Automobile Association telephone boxes) and 72 listed memorials and sculptures.
The process of ‘listing’ began during the Second World War when architects and historians feared that medieval and Georgian buildings that had suffered superficial damage would be demolished on the grounds of public safety. Salvage lists appeared in 1943, and legislation in 1944 and 1947 required the government to devise a list of buildings of ‘special architectural or historic interest’. Responsibility for listing now resides with the Ministry for Culture and Creative Industries at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport; Historic England is the main statutory advisor. There are three grades of listing and landscape recognition: Grade I designating ‘highest importance’; Grade II* indicating ‘outstanding’ features; and Grade II for features of ‘special interest and national significance’. Listing systems in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are broadly similar to that operating in England. In 2014, 376,000 entries were listed in England, with an additional 19,800 scheduled ancient monuments and 1,643 registered parks and gardens. A mere 0.2 percent of these designations relate to post-1945 features, and it is with these items that this book is concerned.
It has 537 individual entries, arranged into twelve regions. Each entry comprises a colour photograph (of either an exterior or interior) and a short description, normally of about a dozen lines. The London region is divided into three parts (north of the Thames, the City and Westminster, and south of the Thames). Factories, schools, university buildings, churches, military premises and individual houses are covered prominently. Post-war Anglican churches received attention in earlier listings, with Roman Catholic churches receiving particular mention in more recent exercises. What is amazing is not the diversity of categories of post-war buildings, but rather the diversity within categories. For example, the stark concrete of some examples contrasts with the richly coloured appearance of others. Among the genuinely unusual are the sports dome at Malvern Saint James’s Girls’ School, the Murray Edwards College in Cambridge, and the Festival of Britain bus shelter at Farmington (Gloucestershire). Among the truly sinister, one finds Thor missile sites at Daventry and in Rutland, the regional seat of government at Cambridge, and the atomic bomb store at Thetford. ‘New brutalism’ certainly has its place in this volume, as exemplified by Preston bus station, the ‘ziggurat’ building of the University of East Anglia and the lecture theatre at Brunel University (Uxbridge), but not exclusively so. Photographs of Erno Goldfinger’s towers at the Brownfield Estate (Bromley-by-Bow) and at the Cheltenham Estate (Kensington) are simply stunning, so much so that an identical picture of the Cheltenham Estate appears as the frontispiece to the book and again on page 482. By contrast, humble ‘prefabs’ dating from the immediate post-war years have been listed at Bellingham in south-east London. Outside impressions can be deceptive, thus the ‘simple brick box’  of Saint James’s Church, Clapham Park, is shown to have an elegant interior. Who would have imagined that the dished steel panels of the Michael Faraday Memorial at the Elephant and Castle in south London conceal an electricity substation and transformer for supplying the Underground? Listed military monuments of the cold war era, and examples of sculpture and memorials conclude the volume [592-599].
England’s Post-war Listed Buildings is a mine of information and a delight to the eye. Just to leaf through its pages is a revelation. Batsford and Historic England have worked a publishing miracle to produce such a handsome hardback volume for only £40.
Cercles © 2015
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