Commercial building comprising a parade of shops, a (former) bank and a public hall on the ground floor, with offices and flats above; designed under the borough surveyor, F G Southgate in 1954, and fully opened in autumn 1958.
Reasons for Designation
Central Parade, Walthamstow, built 1957-58 to the designs produced under Borough Architect, Engineer and Surveyor, F G Southgate, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* As a building which embodies the Festival style, blending pattern and colour, surface decoration, slender detailing and lively rhythmical modelling with conviction and élan;
* In its lively and varied composition which creates a compact piece of townscape punctuated by a prominent corner clock tower and heraldic mosaics – bold symbols of municipal pride;
* The Ross Wyld Hall is a rare example of a post-war community hall which survives with its interior detailing little-altered.
* As an early post-war municipal redevelopment built as a flagship scheme by the local authority, reflecting the high civic aspirations for urban renewal typical of the period;
* As an unusual ensemble of commercial, residential and community uses in a town centre development.
Central Parade, Walthamstow, was built to the designs produced under the Borough Architect, Engineer and Surveyor, F G Southgate in 1957-8. The site, on the east side of Hoe Street and north side of Church Hill, had been struck by a V1 rocket on 16 August 1944, and was identified for redevelopment in Southgate’s 1946 report ‘Towards a Plan for Walthamstow’. The site subsequently became the centre of the Hoe Street Reconstruction Area, for which a compulsory purchase order was approved by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (MHLG) in December 1953. Southgate’s plans were approved in early 1954 and comprised a development of nine shop units, a bank, offices, public hall and 31 flats (including one for a caretaker), with rear garages and stores. It was originally intended that the flats would be centrally-heated, but this aspect of the scheme was dropped prior to construction, and fireplaces were provided instead.
The scheme of rebuilding was formally sanctioned by the MHLG in January 1955 and by spring of that year, Lloyd’s had agreed to take the corner bank and Pearl Assurance the offices on top. Retailers were beginning to take an interest in the other shop units, all but one of which was connected with home furnishings, domestic appliances, radios and televisions. Work began on site in December 1955. Sub-contractors included the Synchrome Co Ltd for the clock, and Carter and Co, ie Poole Pottery, for the tilework. This was the company which had made the Festival of Britain plaques and made the London County Council’s blue plaques at that time; their work distinctive for its use of matt glaze. The development was officially named Central Parade in June 1957 and the various elements were completed and fitted-out over the next twelve months. The public hall was opened by alderman, Ross Wyld on 30 October 1958, and was subsequently known as the Ross Wyld Hall.
Unusually for a head of department, Southgate was an associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects as well as a town planner, but the design was most likely produced by his staff, the deputy architect S W Nash or assistant architects D E Hill and G W Kew. Like many borough architects’ departments, Southgate reported difficulties in securing and particularly retaining staff, and in 1955 some borough housing schemes were passed to private firms, but the flagship scheme of Central Parade was retained in-house, as was the site across the road at No 6 Church Hill.
In most cases this type of scheme would form part of a local authority masterplan, with individual sites then handed over to private developers. This makes Central Parade unusual and explains the level of quality and detail applied to the building, and the variety of uses housed within it. Architecturally, Central Parade shows the influence of the Festival of Britain, held over the summer of 1951. Although the Festival had a largely transient physical presence, such was its cultural reach that the aesthetic known as ‘Festival style’ which emerged from it, influenced aspects of design and architecture for over a decade afterwards. Central Parade's use of pattern, colour, surface decoration and slender detailing is an embodiment of Festival style in a piece of post-war town-centre redevelopment. While many buildings of this period show some influence of Festival style, Central Parade is certainly one of the most exuberant examples nationally.
Commercial building containing a parade of shops, offices and a public hall, with flats above, which opened in 1958.
MATERIALS: brick construction with some Portland stone, polished stone and tile facings; reinforced concrete canopy and a mixture of timber and uPVC windows.
PLAN: the building has an L-shaped footprint, with a longer range running north-south, facing west onto Hoe Street, and a shorter range running east-west, facing south onto Church Hill. The two ranges are four storeys in height with a shallow pitched roof, and are joined at the corner of Hoe Street and Church Hill by a block which includes a clock tower with six storeys and a roofed viewing platform.
The north-south range is divided into 11 bays, with a parade of shops on the ground floor, and flats above (bed-sits on the first floor and two-bedroomed maisonettes on the second and third floors). The elevation above ground floor is set back, meaning the front part of the parade is single-storey, the roof here being flat with a ‘glasscrete roof light’ (as described in the plans). In effect, this is a panel of reinforced concrete with a grid of circular apertures, plugged with glass, which would have brought light into the shop units from above. The range is broken just off-centre, by an additional half bay which at ground floor provides access to the communal stair-well, from which the flats are accessed from an external deck to the rear. On the first, second and third floors, the half bay is set in, and the north and south halves of the block are slightly staggered, with the north half set back from the south half. Each of the shop units has a basement store accessed from within. The main part of the east-west range has a similar arrangement of flats (also accessed from a rear deck), but is only four bays wide, and the ground floor is occupied by the public hall. The entrance to the stair-well for these flats is within the corner block.
The corner block has a more complex plan. The principal ground floor entrance is on Hoe Street, and this was the original entrance to the banking hall, which occupied the western half of the ground floor of this block, and probably at least two of the shop bays in the north block. This space is now (2017) occupied by a cafe. The eastern half of this block is occupied at ground floor principally by the entrance and stairs to the flats in the east-west range, and a separate entrance and stairs to offices on the first and second floors of the corner block.
EXTERIOR: the dominating feature of the north-south range is a wavy reinforced concrete canopy, painted yellow, which projects out over the parade of shops. The canopy is pierced with a row of circular holes to let light through near the face of the shopfronts. The feature is broken and stepped in the middle of the elevation, to mark the position of the entrance to the flats. The shopfronts have been altered, although the six bays to the south of the entranceway are divided by pilasters clad in either white or black polished stone and have green marble stallrisers; it is not clear how much of this material might be original. The other five shopfronts to the north of the entrance to the flats appear to be later replacements. The outer frame of the entrance to the flats is clad in stone, with ‘CENTRAL PARADE’ carved over the opening. The glazed timber door is a later insertion or replacement, but to either side are panels of decorative tiles, original to the building, with a geometric pattern in shades of brown, green and ivory. The upper floors of this elevation have a vertical rhythm, with first, second and third floor balconies stacked above one another and cut back into the face of the building, and 11 ridge stacks marking the division between each unit. The first floor balcony fronts are not visible from the street because of the set-back, but those on the second floor have a slender steel zig-zag pattern, and those at third floor have straight bars with a bead motif; in both cases the balcony fronts are painted blue. The windows of the flats are all uPVC but appear to follow a glazing pattern similar to that shown in pre-construction drawings. The original windows may have been timber, or possibly steel.
The ground floor of the east-west range contains the public hall, and here each bay has clerestory glazing (with original steel windows now replaced with uPVC to a similar glazing pattern) over walls clad in grey tiles with an abstract pattern in red with a blue shadow. A red-painted decorative metal grille appears to be an original part of the scheme. The entrance to the hall is in the far left bay, this retains its original timber double-door with six hexagonal panels. The flats above have the first, second and third floor balconies stacked over one another and cut back into the face of the building, but the elevation is more heavily modelled than in the north-south range, with the first and second floors canting out to the east, projecting over the ground floor. The balcony fronts are the same as on the north-south block, and those at first floor have solid vertical timber boarding, painted blue (believed to be original).
The corner block has an irregular composition and a variety of patterns, textures and surface materials. The Hoe Street (west) elevation is divided into two narrow bays, marked by full-height brick piers. The left-hand bay has the principal entrance to what was the bank; above is a window on each floor and the wall is faced in stone. The right-hand bay is blind, with a panel of polished black granite beneath a one-and a half storey panel with a chequer-board pattern. The pattern comprises alternate squares of green stone and tiled squares which depict the coats of arms of various local families, set against a black background. Above the chequer-board is a mosaic of the Borough of Walthamstow coat of arms, granted in 1929, on a yellow mosaic background.
The Church Hill (south) elevation of the corner block is dominated by the clock tower. The tower is faced in stone on the east and west flanks (above the lower elements to either side) and to the south is divided into three narrow bays by stone piers. The wall face in between is faced in grey tiles, matching the colour of the stone, with vertical red lines in a faceted wave pattern. There are three square windows on each of the five floors; some are original, others have been replaced within the original openings. The clock is situated on the sixth floor; there is a white face with black chapters on each side of the tower. At the very top of the tower the north and south walls continue upwards to support a curved, barrel vault roof over a viewing platform which is enclosed by metal railings which match the third floor balconies. To either side of the tower the three-storey elements have brick elevations, with various window configurations, including to the left, a wide ground-floor ‘shop’ window, and French windows (originally steel, now uPVC) with projecting balconies above. Other than the shop window, the windows have been replaced within the original openings, all of which have a narrow, square-sectioned projecting architrave. The door to the offices on the right-hand side is not original. To the far right of the corner block the elevation is tiled: black tiles on the ground floor and brown and cream tiles arranged to form a lozenge design on the first and second floors. The glazing here is arranged in horizontal bands, and the windows are replacements. On the ground floor a recessed doorway gives access to the stair to the rear decks. The door is a replacement but some of the signage is original.
To the rear the elevations are brick, with replaced windows and doors. The lower deck, which gives access to the first-floor bedsits, is over the top of the rear of the shop units and public hall – these elements being deeper in plan than the flats above them. There is a brick-built fuel store outside each flat door, which was presumably shared with the maisonette above as there are no stores on the upper deck. The upper deck is formed of painted reinforced concrete.
INTERIOR: the one interior inspected which contains original features of note, is that of the public hall. The entrance from Church Hill leads through a lobby into a foyer with a terrazzo floor. To the right of the lobby is a small office, with a hatch, presumably for ticket sales/inspection, and a half-glazed timber partition with built-in cupboard, separating the office from the main foyer. Later stud-work walls have been inserted to create an ante-room to the office. The back wall of the foyer is slightly curved and has doors to gents’ and ladies’ WCs, and store cupboards. Over the heads of these doors the ceiling is lowered with a flat concrete canopy pierced with circular holes, presumably originally containing spotlights to cast light down from above. A door from the foyer leads to a kitchen with modern fittings.
Hardwood double doors with a circular central window lead from the foyer into the hall. The door is set within a wide surround formed of vertically planked hardwood with a projecting inner and outer frame. The hall floor is wood-block, laid in a herringbone pattern and a suspended ceiling is a later insertion. To the far end is a stage with curved corners. The stage front is faced in narrow vertical hardwood planks, as is the surround of the simple square proscenium arch. There are wings to either side of the stage, and to the right are double doors, matching those at the entrance to the hall, which lead to an exit at this end of the hall. This pair of doors retains its original circular handles. Throughout the hall and foyer, various pieces of early signage survive, including back-lit exit signs and signage for the WCs.
Within the shops some of the glasscrete skylights are still visible, although they appear to have been covered over from above, so blocking the daylight. The former bank retains some patterned flooring inside the main door. Otherwise, the shop interiors inspected had no features of note. Within the shops (between ground floor and basement) and elsewhere in the building there are stairs with balustrades of tubular steel and wire mesh, as well as one with slender square balusters linking the offices. These are of a standardised design but are assumed to be original. Some of the office interiors were inspected but no features of note were observed. Interiors of the flats were not inspected, but early plans suggest a conventional layout and planning.