Former convalescent home built in 1926 to the designs of William Henry Ansell.
Reasons for Designation
The former convalescent home in Skegness, built in 1926 to the designs of William Henry Ansell, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* for its well-balanced composition inspired by the typical Palladian plan consisting of a central range flanked by pavilions and the quiet dignity of its elevations;
* for its accomplished design by a prominent member of the architectural profession and its notable place in his oeuvre;
* for its well-preserved plan, internal features and elevations which clearly demonstrate its former use as a convalescent home.
* for its prominent position in Skegness which by this date had a firm reputation as a health resort.
* for its strong group value with the contemporary Grade II registered Esplanade and Tower Gardens which were another significant component in establishing Skegness as a seaside resort.
Convalescent homes emerged in the mid-C19 when it was recognised that the chances of patients recovering from illness or surgery were compromised if they had to return from specialist facilities to home where conditions were often overcrowded, insanitary and diet poor. Early plans mirrored general pavilion hospital (and occasionally butterfly) designs, perhaps with a dining hall and day rooms in addition. The ideal of a group of villas was adopted by the Metropolitan Asylums Board at Winchmore Hill in the London Borough of Enfield but generally proved too expensive. Most convalescent homes of the later C19 were located in the countryside or by the sea and often resembled country houses or hotels: light and air, as well as rest and good food, were assigned particular importance as means to recovery.
Many convalescent homes were built along the Lincolnshire coast and in Skegness specifically because of its recuperative health qualities. By the late C19 Skegness had become a well-known health resort and a major destination for health seekers. In addition to the sea waters, the drinkable water of Skegness was considered to be of organic purity and the air was considered to have health recuperative values. According to an 1888 guidebook of seaside health resorts in England and Wales, ‘Skegness has what is infinitely more essential to invalids and seekers after quiet and health in its bracing air and salubrious ozone laden atmosphere.’
The convalescent home was designed in 1926 by William Henry Ansell (1873-1959) CBE, PRIBA. Born in Nottingham and educated at Derby School, Ansell was articled to a firm of architects in Derby before establishing his own architectural practice in London in 1900, specialising in hospitals and convalescent homes. He saw active service as an officer in the Royal Engineers between 1915 and 1918 and received the Military Cross. In 1928 Ansell was elected as President of the Architectural Association School of Architecture. He chaired the Board of Architectural Education from 1931 to 1933 and was Vice-President of the Royal Institute of British Architects from 1933 to 1935, serving as President from 1940 to 1943. Ansell had a keen interest in education and was a founder member of the National Buildings Record in 1940 which was set up to record buildings threatened by aerial bombardment. Ansell has one Grade II listed building to his name: the Third Church of Christ Scientist, built as a Temple of Humanity in Liverpool (1914).
The convalescent home in Skegness was built by the National Deposit Friendly Society as a memorial to members who fell in the First World War. It was the third such war memorial home erected by the NDFS. As reported in The Times (30 May 1927), the home was opened by Queen Victoria's granddaughter, Princess Marie Louise, accompanied by Neville Chamberlain who was then the Health Minister. Ansell handed Princess Marie a golden key with which to open the building and a short religious ceremony was conducted with a blessing by the Bishop of Sheffield. In her speech, Princess Marie declared that ‘None of us can live for ourselves. We are all a large family, no matter in what station of life our lot is cast. None of us can live for ourselves alone, but we must work and strive, not only for the good of our nearest neighbour, but for the good of the community at large, and especially for the welfare of our great Empire’.
An article entitled ‘A seaside convalescent home at Skegness for the National Deposit Friendly Society’ also appeared in Architects' Journal (5 September 1928) but it was not possible to consult this due to the closure of all libraries (2021). An aerial photograph taken in 1930 shows the newly erected building situated at the northern end of a long park. It consists of the main block with linked pavilions at either end. A small L-shaped building is to the east, and another small building to the east again. The building became the Town Hall in 1964 when it was opened by Princess Anne. Since then, an extension has been built onto the west pavilion.
Former convalescent home built in 1926 to the designs of William Henry Ansell.
MATERIALS: red brick with stone dressings and a roof covering of red pantiles.
PLAN: the building consists of a large central block with wings at an angle linked to lower pavilions on the east and west sides. An extension dating to the second half of the C20 adjoins the west side of the west pavilion.
EXTERIOR: the former convalescent home is in a neo-Georgian style. The main three-storey block has a half-hipped roof crowned by a lantern with a wooden balustrade, originally bearing a clock which is no longer in situ. Three-storey cross wings at either end project forwards under slightly lower hipped roofs. The building has a wide projecting stone platband at second- floor sill level and ashlar quoins. The fenestration consists of sash windows with wooden glazing bars, mostly six-over-six, with gauged brick arches to the first-floor windows. The second-floor windows are positioned directly underneath the eaves.
The principal south-facing garden front is of five bays with the end projections adding an additional wide bay each side. A five-bay loggia in between the wings has a plain stone frieze and parapet supported by square columns. The loggia openings have been infilled with pairs of French windows with small square panes. The projecting wings have wide canted bay windows with recessed French windows set within stone surrounds. The parapet over the loggia is carried across the canted bays, creating a balcony running the length of the garden front. On the first floor there is a centrally placed canted bay window, flanked by pairs of sash windows. The second floor is lit by wider pairs of sash windows. The wings are lit by sash windows with margin lights on the first floor and a single sash window above.
The north-facing entrance front is more austere. The recessed five-bay central range has six giant pilasters with capitals extending above the second-floor platband. The central entrance is defined by a classical doorcase with a plain frieze supported by square columns. The double-leaf four-panelled door has a large rectangular overlight with square panes. The sash windows decrease in size on the upper floors. The flanking projecting wings have stone plinths and are lit on the ground floor by three sashes and a single sash on the first floor set within a stone surround with fluted jambs and abstract consoles supporting the sill. A single sash window lights the second floor.
The two-storey linking ranges either side have a flat roof, the second floor platband becoming a sort of stone parapet. They have four bays lit by sash windows, those on the ground floor being larger. On the south garden front, outer bays contain double-leaf panelled doors with glazing in the upper half, set within large stone surrounds with wide lintels. On the east linking block, an external glass corridor has been installed at second-floor level. The flanking three-storey pavilions have three bays on all three elevations, each bay lit by a sash window. The garden elevations are distinguished by centrally placed double-height canted bay windows faced in ashlar. Some of the ground floor windows have external security bars fitted.
INTERIOR: the central door on the north front leads into the entrance hall which is flanked by dogleg stairs with concrete steps and metal balusters supporting a moulded wooden handrail. An axial corridor runs across the length of the building with rooms arranged in a linear plan along the north and south sides. The ground floor contained the communal areas and the bedrooms were on the upper floors. The ground-floor communal areas retain some restrained detailing, notably cornices and numerous doors with two lower panels and glazing above.
The central corridor has a dado rail (some sections have been removed) and is partitioned by a series of segmental arched openings with double-leaf doors and wide, plate glass overlights. The original glazing to the internal doors has been replaced with wired safety glass. The corridor opens via two pairs of double-leaf doors into the principal room, formerly the dining room and latterly the council chamber, which takes up the five bays of the garden front. Each bay is expressed internally by encased ceiling beams (obscured by an inserted ceiling) supported by square pilaster strips. Along the south length of the room are five French windows providing access to the loggia, whilst along the north length is a series of segmental arched openings. Similar openings at either end lead to what were probably sitting or drawing rooms which overlooked the garden through the canted bay windows. One of these is described as the ‘Ladies Room’ on a historic (undated) picture postcard. This, along with the dining room, retains a parquet floor and has a very large wooden fireplace surround in a retrained classical style with an entablature supported by paired pilasters. Fitted wooden cupboards also survive. One of the rooms that formerly belonged to the matron retains a small, plain wooden fireplace surround. The decorative treatment of the upper rooms is simple with almost no surviving fixtures and fittings of historic interest.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the main entrance on North Parade to the east is distinguished by paired gatepiers of banded red brick and stone with stone ball finials set half within concave bases. The entrance has double-leaf decorative iron gates and there are smaller gates between each pair of piers. The boundary wall, which extends southwards, is punctuated by five groups of stone balusters along the frieze with banded brick and stone beneath.