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Listed Building
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Ordnance survey map of WHITECHAPEL ART GALLERY
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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Greater London Authority
Tower Hamlets (London Borough)
National Grid Reference:
TQ 33984 81456


1. 4431 WHITECHAPEL HIGH STREET TQ 3381 14/417 (North Side)

II* Whitechapel Art Gallery

2. Art Gallery. Designed 1897, built 1898-9, opened 1902. Charles Harrison Townsend F.R.I.B.A. (1851-1928), and Messrs. J. Outhwaite & Son, builders. Buff terra cotta by Gibbs & Canning, Tamworth to the facade. Art Nouveau style. EXTERIOR: Ground floor has large, asymmetrically placed entrance comprising pair of openings with double doors and wide semi-circular overlight, all under pronounced arch with bracket voussoirs and string course at impost height across building; to right, 2 square windows then a secondary entrance; above this, wall to right of arch is blind. Above this, narrow band of 8 small square windows set between string courses; relief of Arts and Crafts foliage of half trees with slender trunks and entangled roots flank end windows. Upper level has turret to each side, each capped with pair of small steeply gabled roofs, and slightly flared to base and with broad band of foliate decoration comprising 5 courses of thickly placed leaves on slender trunks. Between towers is band of projecting cornice below set-back rendered facade, with tiled band below and tiled roof above. INTERIOR: Entrance leads to vestibule now with gift shop then ground floor gallery, skylit to aisles. Upper gallery has raised lantern and arched brace trusses with slender reinforcing rods. HISTORY: The Whitechapel Art Gallery was opened in 1902, on land that had been acquired by Canon Samuel Barnett, benefactor of the adjacent Whitechapel Library (q.v.), built a few years earlier. Once additional funds were secured by philanthropist J. Passmore Edwards, patron of the Library, and others, construction began to the designs of architect Charles Harrison Townsend. Townsend had to modify his original more elaborate designs that had been exhibited at the Royal Academy, but the final effect was an innovative display of Art Nouveau design in East London, an area of notorious deprivation but also a thriving art movement. The Gallery housed the permanent collection and provided a meeting place for the Whitechapel Art Group. Townsend had designed East London's other great work of Art Nouveau architecture, the Bishopsgate Institute (q.v.) and went on to design the Horniman Museum (q.v.). 1980s alterations by Colquhoun and Miller. SOURCES: The Architectural Review, volume IX, April 1901.

Listed Grade II* as an important work of Art Nouveau architecture in England by Charles Harrison Townsend, with an imaginatively detailed and massed facade, as well as historic interest for the link with the adjacent Whitechapel Library (q.v.), both buildings sharing benefactors Canon Barnett and Passmore Edwards, as well as the purpose of providing cultural and education resources for great social need in the late-Victorian East End of London.

Listing NGR: TQ3398481456


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

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Date: 31 Oct 2006
Reference: IOE01/16169/13
Rights: Copyright IoE Peter Karry. Source Historic England Archive
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