Landscape associated with the former Pilkingtons Headquarters complex

Overview

Heritage Category:
Park and Garden
Grade:
II
List Entry Number:
1412004
Date first listed:
26-Apr-2013
Statutory Address:
Former Pilkingtons Headquarters landscape, Borough Road, St Helen's

Map

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Location

Statutory Address:
Former Pilkingtons Headquarters landscape, Borough Road, St Helen's

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

District:
St. Helens (Metropolitan Authority)
Parish:
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
SJ4987794600

Summary

Landscaped setting for the former Pilkingtons Headquarters complex, 1959-63, by Edwin Maxwell Fry of Fry, Drew & Partners with Peter Youngman as landscape consultant.

Reasons for Designation

The landscape associated with the former Pilkingtons Headquarters complex is registered at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Design interest: it forms an integral part of one of the earliest and best-surviving examples of a greenfield headquarters complex in England, with a finely detailed design that successfully integrates a series of status buildings within a carefully designed landscape, and which was praised by both the architectural press and RIBA

* Landscaping: it combines both hard and soft landscaping to dramatic effect with a series of terraces, lawned and planted areas, raised beds, and paths with contrasting straight edges and sinuous lines, drawn together by a large lake that acts as a key focal point within the entire headquarters site

* Designer: the landscape was designed by the distinguished mid-C20 architect, Edwin Maxwell Fry, along with the notable landscape architect and garden designer, Peter Youngman. Together with the Grade II listed buildings of the former Headquarters complex, the site represents Fry's principal post-war work in England

* Intactness: the extensive landscape survives with a high level of intactness, retaining its original component parts, including less common survivals often prone to removal or alteration, such as original concrete bench seating and a fountain in the lake

* Rarity: it is a rare surviving example of a 1950s/60s headquarters landscape and is one of only a small number of registered post-war landscapes associated with its contemporary listed buildings

History

Pilkington Brothers was founded in St Helens in 1826 by William Pilkington, the son of a doctor. The company quickly grew in size due to the building boom stimulated by the Industrial Revolution, and also due to Pilkingtons' research and development into improving its window glass, which later led to it expanding into other glass products. At the height of its success in the mid-C20, Pilkingtons was one of the biggest producers of flat glass in the world, employing 25,000 people in various countries. It is this success that led to the construction of the company's HQ at Borough Road in 1959-63.

In the late-1940s/early-1950s Pilkingtons realised that the company's growth meant that it had outgrown its HQ and other offices in the centre of St Helens, and it required a single consolidated site. A 16 acre valley site next to the company's Ravenhead Works, just outside the town centre, was chosen. Edwin Maxwell Fry (1899-1987) of Fry, Drew and Partners of London was appointed as the architect for the new complex, including its landscaped grounds. G P (Peter) Youngman (1911-2005) also acted as landscape consultant. Fry had been trained at the Liverpool School of Architecture under Professor Charles Reilly and had been a partner to Walter Gropius in the 1930s, before Gropius' emigration to the United States. Fry had also, along with his wife and partner Jane Drew, designed the Punjab capital of Chandigarh with Le Corbusier in the early-1950s. Fry's connection to Pilkingtons stemmed back to 1937 when he was one of a group of young architects chosen by the company to predict the use of glass in buildings of the future.

Peter Youngman trained under George Dillistone and Percy Cane. Several private commissions led to work on the 1951 Festival of Britain landscape and the 1956 masterplan for Cumbernauld New Town, and in 1960 Youngman developed the masterplan for Milton Keynes with Richard Llewelyn-Davies. Further works included Gatwick Airport and Sizewell nuclear power station, where he used ecological planting to blend structures into the surrounding landscapes. Youngman designed numerous landscapes for factories and housing developments in the mid-C20, and was also a lecturer in landscape design at University College London, where he educated many of the profession's leading figures. From 1961-3 he was president of the Institute of Landscape Architects and he was awarded a CBE in 1983.

Fry first visited the proposed new Pilkingtons headquarters site in St Helens in 1956 and immediately suggested creating a landscaped setting for the new headquarters, including forming a 3-acre lake with a concrete bridge linking the headquarters with the neighbouring works. His design also included constructing a series of buildings along the lakeside, grouped like a college. Part of the brief was to create buildings in which glass would be 'used to the furthest limits imposed by taste and sense' and to showcase Pilkingtons' products, including Armourclad and Vitrolite. Construction started in 1959 with Ove Arup & Partners as consulting engineers, Holland & Hannen and Cubitts as the contractors for the main parts of the scheme, including the lake, roads and landscaping, and J Gerrard & Sons Ltd of Swinton as the contractors for the headquarters' canteen block. The site remained as the headquarters of Pilkingtons until 2005 when the company was acquired by Nippon Sheet Glass (NSG), whose headquarters is based in Tokyo. The site is still partly occupied by Pilkingtons.

Details

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING The former Pilkingtons Headquarters complex is situated c1km south-west of St Helens town centre in an area comprising C19 and C20 industrial and residential development. The 16-acre site occupies a small, shallow valley and slopes down from its highest points on the western and northern boundaries to its eastern and southern boundaries. The site is bounded to the north by Borough Road, to the west by Prescot Road, to the east by Alexander Drive (the northern half of which forms part of the designed landscape) and the former Ravenhead glassworks, and to the south by residential development. The site comprises a series of buildings and structures set within landscaped grounds linked by a network of steps, paved terraces, paths, drives and bridges; a large lake forms the main focal point of the landscape.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES The main vehicular and pedestrian entrance to the site lies to the north-east corner off Borough Road and provides access to a long drive that travels through the site, linking the main buildings and car parking areas. In common with The Mall in London the drive is surfaced in red tarmac, and it proceeds southwards from the main entrance for approximately 30m, past a small gatehouse on the east side (currently being considered for listing separately), and then divides into two, with one narrower section continuing south in a straight line as Alexandra Drive alongside the site's former Canteen block (Grade II listed) and lake. Branching off to the west from Alexander Drive, approximately 85m below the main entrance, is a former goods access road that originally served the Canteen block and is now used for car parking. The main section of the drive arcs around to the north-west in front of the Canteen block and then widens and heads south in a straight line for a distance of approximately 135m as it approaches the headquarters' other principal buildings, providing angled car parking down each side and alongside a narrow central reservation incorporating five flagpoles. The drive then passes under two bridge links through a courtyard enclosed by the headquarters' Lakeside block, Tower block and Court block (all listed at Grade II). The drive then narrows again and turns west where it passes underneath the Tower block, which is carried over the drive on concrete piers. The drive then winds westwards for approximately 80m, with a short arm branching off to the south to access the directors' garage (Grade II listed), and then turns north in a straight line for approximately 70m past a former chauffeur's house and long car port (currently being considered for listing separately). The drive then divides again, with part of it looping back on itself around a small planted island area to the west of the Court block, and the rest winding northwards for approximately 75m before emerging out on to Prescot Road. A further pedestrian entrance lies approximately 85m to the north-east of the Prescot Road exit, with a sinuous path leading down on to the drive.

PRINCIPAL BUILDINGS As well as the landscape itself, all the buildings and structures within the site were designed by Edwin Maxwell Fry as part of a single headquarters complex for Pilkingtons. The five principal buildings of the complex comprise the Tower block, Lakeside block, Court block, former museum block & directors' garage, and the Canteen block, and they vary in height from 2-storeys to 13-storeys; all are listed at Grade II. The four former buildings are located to the centre of the site on the western side of the lake and are arranged in courtyard and off-axis formations with bridge links. The Canteen block is located at the northern head of the lake and is linked to the Lakeside block via a partly-subterranean, enclosed walkway, which is visible from the lakeside and is also listed at Grade II. Both the Tower block and Lakeside block have long axes facing the lake. All the buildings on the site have a concrete-framed construction with narrow buff-brick facings, aluminium-framed sash windows, and flat roofs. The principal buildings also incorporate slate, Armourclad panel and Vitrolite cladding.

LANDSCAPING The landscaped setting for the former Pilkingtons Headquarters complex employs a mixture of hard and soft landscaping. The area to the north of the Canteen block, adjacent to the main entrance, is mainly lawned with some mature trees and planting. The gatehouse is flanked by heavy planting set to the rear to act as a screen with a lawned area also to the south side. A wide pavement constructed of red clay paviers flanked by cobbled bands runs alongside the north-west side of the main drive and then flanks the drive on both sides as it turns south and approaches the principal buildings. This pavement style is replicated throughout the site, but in some instances there is only one cobbled band along the kerbstone edge. A buff-brick retaining wall with planting, trees, and large expanses of lawn above exists along the western and northern edges of the main drive as it approaches the principal buildings, and also where it approaches the former chauffeur's house and Prescot Road exit.

To the east side of the car parking area on the approach drive to the principal buildings is a paved upper terrace approximately 105m long, which is located above the partly-subterranean link walkway and provides views of the lake, lakeside terraces and Canteen block. The terrace incorporates large raised beds containing stretches of lawn interspersed mainly with trees, including pine trees, and concrete benches set into recesses forming part of the beds' east walls. A buff-brick parapet wall exists to the eastern edge of the terrace overlooking a lower terrace below.

The lake forms the main focal point of the designed landscape and is set 12m/40ft below the top of the site in the valley bottom. The lake is over 400m long and has an average width of 45m; the southern half was originally a reservoir for the neighbouring Ravenhead works and was extended northwards by Fry as part of his landscape design. As well as providing a key landscape feature within Fry's design, the lake also provided water for the glass-making processes at the Ravenhead works, cooled the refrigeration unit condensers in the headquarters' heating system, and was used for fire-fighting. Steps leading down to the lake from the principal buildings, and also the north lake surrounds and a concrete bridge crossing the lake at its mid-point are all listed at Grade II. Located at the head of the lake in front of the Canteen block is a fountain. Key views are provided from the lakeside edge and paths to the surrounding areas of the designed landscape and the principal buildings. Key views are also returned from the principal buildings to the lake and grounds; the former, in particular, being the focal point for views from the Canteen block and the offices and rooms on the east side of the Tower and Lakeside blocks.

The southern section of the lake was relatively untouched by Fry and remains largely as originally constructed with no lakeside paths. The northern section of the lake is located adjacent to the principal buildings and has an informal eastern side with an irregular curving edge of 'sculptural' form, with parts of the edging comprising diagonal stone retaining walls. A sinuous bound-gravel path runs along the eastern side through a mixture of flat and gently undulating grassy areas planted with shrubs and trees, including weeping willows alongside the lake edge. A cobbled 'beach' with inlaid stone-flag stepping stones and concrete bench seating exists towards the northern end. Further bench seating can be found along the eastern side and also on the terraces on the western side. Immediately to the south of the eastern end of the concrete bridge crossing the lake is a sunken terrace with concrete bench seating and some replaced paving. Only the northern half of Alexander Drive forms part of Fry's designed landscape, and forming the boundary along the eastern edge are raised planters enclosed by a low brick wall with concrete copings.

The western side of the lake has a straight edge and is overlooked by a wide terrace linking the former museum block and Lakeside block with the Canteen block. This lower terrace, which is approximately 180m long, has a wide bound-gravel path alongside the lake edge, behind which are three, shallow raised beds containing stretches of lawn interspersed mainly with trees, including pine trees, like that of the upper terrace. Behind the raised beds and adjacent to the Grade II listed enclosed link walkway, which presents a glazed front to the lake interspersed by brick piers, is a wide York stone path flanked by bound gravel. The terrace broadens slightly at its southern end in front of the former museum block, in the form of a jetty. Here it is entirely paved in York stone and incorporated in front of the former museum block is a small, shallow, rectangular pool that has been drained.

Sources

Books and journals
Pevsner, N, Pollard, R, The Buildings of England: Lancashire, Liverpool and the South-West, (2006)
'The Architect and Building News' in Offices, St Helens, (28 October 1964)
'The Architect and Building News' in Head Office, St Helens, (29 July 1964)
'Industrial Architecture vol.3 no.2' in Lakeside Glass Headquarters, (March - April 1960)
'Interbuild' in New Buildings: United Kingdom. Lakeside Complex, (August 1964)
'The Architects' Journal' in Glass Headquarters in St Helens, Lancashire, (October 29, 1959)
Websites
Fry, (Edwin) Maxwell (1899-1987), architect, accessed from http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/39983
Obituary. Peter Youngman. Architect of the modern British landscape, accessed from http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2005/jun/17/guardianobituaries.artsobituaries1/

Legal

This garden or other land is registered under the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953 within the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens by Historic England for its special historic interest.

End of official listing

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