Bus depot, 1923 for Widnes Corporation. Workshop of 1945 and a 1949 canteen and bike shed.
Reasons for Designation
The former Widnes Corporation Bus Depot of 1923, with a 1945 workshop and 1949 canteen and bike shed, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* a rare and largely intact example of a purpose-built bus depot, which is earlier in date than the few other listed examples nationally;
* the original plan of the depot is retained and clearly legible comprising a large shed-like garage spanned by a steel-framed roof without intermediate support with a front range housing offices, a maintenance workshop and stores;
* the architectural treatment of the front elevation lifts the building above the purely functional and underlines a civic pride with a foundation stone laid by the Mayor, attractive terracotta detailing and lettering, and three impressive full-height vehicle entrances topped by triangular pediments;
* it has a high degree of survival, with later alterations that are relatively minor and do not impinge significantly upon the clear special interest of the whole.
* built in 1923, the building is a particularly early surviving example of a bus depot built at a time when motorised buses were becoming, and were to remain, the primary form of road-based public transport in England;
* Widnes Corporation was one of the first councils in the country to start a bus service after parliament granted the Widnes Corporation Act in 1908 and their subsequent construction of a purpose-built bus depot was a very visible investment in this policy.
Widnes Corporation was one of the first councils in the country to start a bus service after a House of Commons Select Committee considered its bid to operate a bus service both within the borough and to communities outside the borough on 7 April 1908. Having passed through parliament, the bill was given Royal Assent in August 1908 to become the Widnes Corporation Act 1908. Bus services began on Good Friday 9 April 1909 using four Commer covered-top double deck buses; Widnes Corporation was the first operator in the country to use covered, rather than open-topped, double deck buses. Two single deck buses were added to the fleet in 1912, and between 1914 and 1930 22 Tilling Stevens petrol electric buses were incorporated into the fleet.
The buses were initially housed behind the former Widnes market, but a new purpose-built depot was built on Moor Lane in 1923 and the company moved into these premises in 1924. The building contained a large covered garage for the buses, with a lower front range containing offices and a workshop. The building is first shown on the 1:10560 Ordnance Survey map revised in 1925 to 1926, published in 1928. At this time it was a large, rectangular building with a small outshot on the west side, containing a store and oil tank. It is similarly shown on the 1:2500 OS map revised in 1937, published in 1939, when it also has a very small extension to the rear and is labelled Omnibus Depot (Widnes Corp).
In 1945 a new workshop range was built at the rear of the yard on the west side of the depot. A narrow rear extension was built in 1949 to provide a canteen and a bike shed.
In 1950 five new bus inspection pits were built inside the garage of the main depot and perhaps at the same time the new vehicle entrance on Caldwell Road was inserted. A single-storey store was added to the yard. Around this time the first-floor windows at the east end of the office range were altered too to add extra windows. The 1:250 OS map published in 1958 shows the building with its present footprint.
Following a local government reorganisation in 1974 Widnes became part of the much larger Halton Borough and the bus company was renamed Halton Transport. It was privatised in 1986 and ceased trading in January 2020.
Bus depot, 1923 for Widnes Corporation. Workshop of 1945 and a 1949 canteen and bike shed.
MATERIALS: orange brick, orange terracotta decoration, a steel roof structure, and corrugated metal, asbestos or plastic roofing sheets.
PLAN: a large rectangular building running east-west containing a full-height covered garage to the rear and a lower office and workshop range to the front. There are three original vehicle entrances passing through the front range and an inserted vehicle entrance entering directly into the garage from Caldwell Road to the east. The front range is divided into three blocks by the vehicle entrances; to the left and right of the middle vehicle entrance are two-storey offices and stores; to the left of the left-hand vehicle entrance is a workshop which is full-height to the interior. At the west end is a small open yard with a tall single-storey, rectangular workshop to the rear, attached to the west gable wall of the depot. Also attached to the west gable wall is a small, single-storey store and oil tank and another single-storey store to the front of the yard.
Not inspected: information from other sources. The rectangular bus depot occupies a corner site at the junction of Moor Lane and Caldwell Road. The two-storey front office range faces south onto Moor Lane. It has a double-pitched roof and behind is the large, full-height garage with a higher double-pitched roof. It is built of orange brick in English garden wall bond (3:1) with a plinth with terracotta coping, a moulded terracotta string course at first-floor window sill level, and a moulded terracotta eaves cornice incorporating a band of dog-tooth decoration. The roofs are now covered in corrugated metal or asbestos sheeting. The garage has ten ridge ventilators and a row of roof lights to each side.
The office range has three double-height vehicle entrances spaced along the front elevation, each beneath a triangular pediment with an inset triangular panel. The middle and right-hand pediments both have shaped terracotta finials; that to the left-hand pediment is missing. The three vehicle entrances are flanked by cast-iron hoppers and down pipes, with one more hopper and down pipe at the left-hand end of the elevation. The left-hand and middle vehicle entrances have rolled steel joist (RSJ) lintels resting on stone impost blocks, and modern, metal roller shutters. The panel of the middle pediment is inset with terracotta with the date 1923 and WIDNES beneath in raised lettering. To either side, at first-floor level, is a terracotta panel with raised lettering set into the wall: the left panel says CORPORATION; the right panel says GARAGE. At ground-floor level to the left of the middle vehicle entrance is a grey granite foundation stone laid by the Mayor and dated October 26 1923. The right-hand vehicle entrance is located at the corner of the building and has a timber lintel with a moulded terracotta cornice above (painted yellow).
To the left of the left-hand vehicle entrance there are two two-light, square-headed windows on the ground floor and two single-light, square-headed windows on the first floor (a single full-height workshop internally). The windows have terracotta surrounds with moulded sills, lintels and alternating jambs, with stepped hood moulds over. The ground-floor windows also have terracotta mullions. The windows have four-pane mullion and transom timber frames with the smaller top lights bottom-hinged to open inwards. Between the left-hand and middle vehicle entrances there are two pedestrian doorways flanking three ground-floor windows and two first-floor, single-light windows. Two of the ground-floor windows and both the first-floor windows have similar terracotta surrounds with stepped hood moulds. The left ground-floor window (originally a single-light window) has been altered to form a wider rectangular window with a soldier brick lintel and multi-pane timber window frame. The left doorway has a terracotta frame with alternating jambs and a stepped hood mould, and a four-panel timber door. The right doorway (beneath the Corporation panel) is larger with a terracotta doorcase with pilasters and fluted consoles with foliate panels supporting an entablature. Raised lettering to the frieze says ENGINEER beneath a stepped hood mould. The panelled double doors have a rectangular overlight. Between the middle and right-hand vehicle entrances there are two original pedestrian doorways flanking three ground-floor windows, the right-hand window now converted to a doorway, and four altered first-floor windows (originally two single-light windows). To the right of the middle vehicle entrance is a second large doorway with a similar terracotta doorcase (beneath the Garage panel). The frieze says SUPERINTENDENT beneath a stepped hood mould. It too has panelled double doors with a rectangular overlight. The original right doorway has a terracotta frame with alternating jambs and a stepped hood mould, and a six fielded-panel door. The single-light window to its left has been converted to a doorway retaining the terracotta alternating jambs, lintel and stepped hood mould. It has a panel door with a rectangular overlight. The two remaining two-light windows on the ground floor have terracotta surrounds, mullions and stepped hood moulds. The four first-floor windows have a concrete sill and lintel band. The large, rectangular windows have metal casements.
The east gable walls of the office range and the garage have a pier and panel construction with a plinth, flush terracotta brick string band at first-floor level, and terracotta edging to the top of the panels. The moulded terracotta eaves cornice and dog-tooth decoration continues round from the front elevation. The lower office gable apex has a shaped terracotta finial; that to the garage gable apex is missing. There is a cast-iron hopper and down pipe to the valley between the two roofs. The garage gable has four shallow buttresses and a central ventilation roundel. There is an inserted vehicle entrance to the left of centre with a timber-fronted lintel. Recessed and attached on the right-hand side is the single-storey brick canteen with a mono-pitch roof. In front is a brick wall enclosing a small yard with a gateway into the yard and a second, narrower gateway to a passageway along the side of the canteen and bike store.
At the left-hand end of the front elevation and abutting the west gable wall of the front range is a small, single-storey brick extension with a mono-pitch roof. The front elevation continues the moulded terracotta string course from the office range. It has two windows (boarded up), one narrow and one wider, with terracotta soldier lintels and sills. A doorway to the right has a soldier lintel and four-panelled door. The west gable of the office range retains the terracotta eaves cornice and a partial finial. The gable apex of the garage is covered in corrugated metal sheeting. The lower workshop range is attached to its left-hand side and the single-storey store and oil tank is attached to its right-hand side.
The workshop range stands at the rear of the west yard. It is built of orange brick in English garden wall bond (3:1) with a double-pitched roof of corrugated sheeting. The south, front elevation has a double-height central entrance with sliding double timber doors to the exterior. To each side are three large rectangular windows with concrete sills and lintels. Four of the windows have timber frames of five vertical panes and two of the windows to the right have multi-pane metal frames. The west gable wall is blind. The rear elevation has similar windows with concrete sills and lintels and multi-pane metal frames.
The single-storey store attached to the west gable of the garage has a flat roof behind a low parapet with shaped terracotta coping to the southern side; the northern side has a parapet of brick headers. Standing against the west wall is a large, rectangular oil tank enclosed by a low brick wall.
Not inspected: information from other sources. The garage is a wide, open space with a concrete floor and painted brick walls with shallow brick buttresses. It is spanned by riveted steel trusses set into the buttresses and without intermediate supports to the wide spans. The roof is lined with timber boarding. A number of iron pipes run the length of the garage beneath the roof trusses and are linked to a cross pipe at the west end. In the north-east corner of the garage is a large, circular fuel tank enclosed by a brick wall. At the west end of the floor are five bus inspection pits.
The front range has three blocks separated by the three full-height three vehicle entrances. The blocks to each side of the middle vehicle entrance are of two storeys, each with an external staircase rising against the end walls flanking the vehicle entrance. Both staircases have a steel supporting frame with a first-floor landing and steps with concrete treads and a steel balustrade with slender, square balusters and a shaped handrail. At the foot of the staircases are wide ground-floor doorways with four-panelled doors and at the head are doorways with part-glazed doors with timber lower panels and four horizontal upper panes. The elevations facing into the garage have large, segmental-arched windows on the ground floor with four-pane mullion and transom timber frames with the smaller top lights bottom-hinged to open inwards. The left-hand elevation also has a segmental-arched doorway. Inside the blocks have spine corridors. On the ground floor the offices to the outside have plastered walls and large borrowed-light partitions and half-glazed doors, all with textured glass, opening onto the corridors. Interconnecting doorways have solid, panelled doors. On the inside of the corridors, the stores have painted brick walls and solid, panelled doors. On the first floors the offices are ceiled. Doors opening onto the corridors are half-glazed and the outside rooms have borrowed-light partitions onto the corridors. The rooms are heated by cast-iron radiators.
The west block in the front range houses a full-height workshop space (although appearing two-storey externally). It has painted brick walls and a similar visible riveted steel truss roof structure with R WHITE & SONS WIDNES stencilled on the trusses. The roof is lined with timber boards. There is a large, double-height doorway with a sliding timber door in the east wall (opening onto the vehicle entrance) and a pedestrian doorway into the garage space.
The workshop is full-height with painted brick walls and an under-drawn roof structure. At the west end is a two-storey stores area with a timber staircase up to the first floor. At the east end is a double-height doorway with sliding timber doors connecting the workshop to the garage, with a similar, external doorway into the yard to the south. Beneath the windows are fixed timber benches with metal sheets covering the work surfaces. There is a travelling overhead hoist running on a rolled steel joist (RSJ) frame.