Holborn Bars

Despite our disappointment last week with the chef not turning up, we decided to give the Glass Works another try for breakfast.

The Glass Works
The Glass Works
The chef turned up today in time for breakfast

We also did the week’s shopping and went home to put it  away and make a cup of tea. After this we set out for Holborn. Why? I’ll tell you in a moment.

A yellow crane
A yellow crane
Building works once again causing problems at the Angel

As we approached the Angel crossroads, we found Pentonville Road partially blocked by a huge yellow crane. To judge by the hooting of horns, vehicle drivers were becoming impatient. But what was the crane for?

Engineers giving us  a wave
Engineers giving us a wave
Crane builders responding to us photographing them

We then saw that a tower crane is being built on the building site and that the yellow crane is helping by lifting the components into place. I spotted a couple of engineers high up on the tower crane and of course started to photograph them. So did Tigger, but she also waved to them and they responded as you see above!

Holborn Bars
Holborn Bars
The Courtyard and Arch

P1450187

Our destination was Holborn Bars, one of the buildings open to the public under the Open House London scheme. When we went in, our eyes were immediately drawn through the entry gate to the courtyard. This is in two parts, divided by this archway.

Holborn Bars was built by and for the Prudential Assurance Company. The Company started in 1848 in offices in Ludgate Hill but but the 1870s, ready for expansion, needed larger premises. Sir Alfred Waterhouse was commissioned and work began in 1876. Previous buildings had occupied the site, including Furnival’s Inn where Charles Dickens lived between 1832 and 1837.

Ground floor cafe
Ground floor cafe
The first hint of the splendour to come

The Prudential relocated 12 years ago and the Bars is today a De Vere “venue” with conference rooms for hire and supporting facilities such as cafes and restaurants. Much of the interior is decorated with glazed tiles, as here, and with wood panelling.

Staircase to the first floor
Staircase to the first floor
Note the darker tracks

Waterhouse’s keynote style was ‘Victorian Gothic’ but the building had what were then the latest innovations, including running hot water and electric lighting. Yet lady clerks had their own entrance and left work 15 minutes earlier than their male colleagues in order to discourage ‘consorting’.

The darker tracks on the staircase are made of harder material to minimize wear.

Mosaic floor
Mosaic floor
The floor is as decorated as the walls and ceilings

The block was rebuilt in the 1930s and refurbished in the 1980s, resulting in a somewhat mixed overall style. I have to admit that I am not clear about which parts date from which epoch but believe the Art Deco decorative style with terra cotta tiles belongs to the 1930s and was designed by E.M. Joseph.

Stained glass
Stained glass
A window and two details

There is a lot of stained glass but it tends to consist of windows with stained panels set in a frosted surround. The dolphin panel above, shows some of this typical textured green frosting. Perhaps this was intended to keep employees’ view inside the building, as an aid to concentration on their work!

The Library
The Library
Probably my favourite room

I was of course immediately attracted to the library. Modest in size, this is a gem. Though not large, it is spacious and today seems to contain bound volumes of law journals. I am not sure how much it is used for its designed purpose.

Fireplace
Fireplace
One of two, each at opposite ends of the room

The library displays another decorative feature of this building, carved wood. As here, it is all of the highest quality of workmanship and while the overall impression is restrained elegance, there is no lack of fine detail.

The gallery
The Gallery
The gallery has an intricately wrought balustrade

A gallery runs around all four sides of the library and has a very decorative wrought-iron balustrade.

Gallery staircases
Gallery staircases
Two narrow staircases lead to the gallery

You reach the gallery by either of two stone staircases. These are very narrow, though beautifully made. It was difficult for me to go up and up without rubbing the sides.

Up in the gallery
Up in the gallery
The rail is uncomfortably low

When you reach the gallery, the walkway is quite narrow and the rail is lower than modern rails. This is common in buildings made before about the middle of the 20th century when, I assume, people were on average shorter than they are today.

A view from the gallery
A view from the gallery
Modern lighting supplements the chandeliers

After the library, we continued upwards and had a look at ‘The Chairman Suite’. The decor here is wood panelling and has a more modern, if luxurious, feel.

The Chairman Suite
The Chairman Suite
Showing examples of wood panelling

This view from inside the Chairman Suite, looking out through the entrance doors, shows some of the carved wood panelling  and double doors surmounted by an imposing clock.

At a turn in the stair...
At a turn in the stair…
Tiles and mosaics on the staircase

We returned downstairs and continued down to the basement, following the sign indicating ‘Safe’.

One of the two safes
One of the two safes
The other was even larger

There were two safes of which the above photo shows the smaller. Another larger one was to its left but too many people were interested in it for me to get a clear shot. It was open but empty.

Looking up the stairwell
Looking up the stairwell
Rather narrow bit striking nonetheless

I had tried to take photos of the stairwell from other floors but the narrowness made this difficult. From the basement it was easier as I could stand directly in the well.

Waterhouse Square
Waterhouse Square
The courtyard and war memorial

It had started to rain heavily while we were inside. Fortunately, there is a cloister around the courtyard and although some of the doors were locked, we could walk most of it and see the courtyard in the dry.

First World War Memorial
First World War Memorial
Caught in a brief sunny interval

It had become a day of sun and rain and during a brief sunny interval I managed a distance shot of this memorial to staff of the company who gave their lives during the First World War. There is another memorial, of different design, to those who died in the Second World War.

A day of sunshine and rain
A day of sunshine and rain
The entrance gateway of Holborn Bars

Because of the rain, we boarded a bus, hoping that during the journey, the weather would clear and we could find somewhere else to explore. We ended up in Brixton but it was still raining. We had coffee and caught the bus back to the Angel…

Staple Inn
Staple Inn
A Tudor building (1586) in High Holborn

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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7 Responses to Holborn Bars

  1. Mark Ellio9tt says:

    Yet savoury smackerel of the London off the usual tourist beat. ¡¡¡Olé tus cojones!!!

  2. Mark Elliott says:

    Ooops!! Read “yet another savoury…” Enthusiasm got the better of me!

  3. Caroline says:

    I think our visits overlapped! I looked round the courtyard first, then went into the building when the rain started – which was probably the wrong way round, because the interior got very busy at that point. (My picture of the library is full of people!)

  4. Jane says:

    Fantastic photos of an amazing building. I’ve been at a conference here today and used your photos to show my husband this wonderful building. Thank you.

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