I used to spend a good deal of my time in the Patent Office in another life a long time ago. Today the Patent Office is in Newport, Gwent, and the Victorian building has been converted into serviced office suites.
The facade looking out onto the lovely little garden of Staple Inn was cheaply rebuilt after war damage and again in 2003, but this time they saw fit to reproduce the Victorian design in detail, something I thought was illegal under the Architecture That Makes A Statement For Our Time Regulations. It is particularly strange as it is right opposite Holborn Gate, an outstandingly boring Statement for 1965, which replaced the amazing Doulton phantasmogoria of Birkbeck Bank (right) in a scandalous demonstration of what can happen when greedy developers enlist modernist architects to defeat supine planning authorities.
The Patent Office developer, bless him, didn't just slavishly reproduce the old design but went a step further and created a memorial to the great Victorian inventor, author and founder of the Patent Office Library, Bennet Woodcroft. His head appears below the bow window at the centre where his name is carved in big letters. Woodcroft was fascinated by the history of invention, and when the South Kensington museums were founded he persuaded them to let him buy interesting industrial artifacts for display. It is solely due to him that such world-changing machines as James Watt's beam engine, the world's oldest steam locomotive Puffing Billy and Stevenson's Rocket are preserved.