Sunday 14 September 2008

Victoria House, Southampton Way WC1

Victoria House is one of the last huzzahs of the Beaux Arts style in London, built for the Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society in 1921-34 but still firmly in the Edwardian tradition despite its steel frame. Its giant Ionic facade was designed by Charles W. Long, and the pediments are filled with sculpture by Herbert William Palliser.
Palliser seems tugged in two directions here. The compositions are pure Edwardian, representative groups heavy with symbolism, but with Art Nouveau touches.
On the Bloomsbury Square facade, the group represents Agriculture.
Mother Nature, clad in a robe, blesses rolling fields of wheat.
A hunter with a spear sits to her right, and a falconer to her left. Girls lie down on each side bearing fruit, and a lamb and an antelope fill in the corners.
The Southampton Row facade is more difficult to see because of the narrowness of the street. It represents Industry.
A blacksmith stands next to his anvil, shrugging off his robe by raising his arms above his head. He looks alarmingly as though he is about to piss on the crowd below.
On his right, an engineer adjusts the controls of a gas engine (I think) and on his left a girl navigator holds a pair of compasses on a globe in front of her and a sextant behind her back.


Unknown said...

Just found your blog. I was at a gig recently at the Bloomsbury Ballroom and your piece here is the best account available on the internet of the building's architecture and decoration. I'm delighted that the directors who commissioned the London HQ of the Liverpool Victoria felt that a fine ballroom in the Art Deco style was a feature the building could not do without!

lisa stevenson said...

The World Snooker Championship was held in that room, in the 1970s before it became big. I worked for Liverpool Victoria in that building until they relocated to Bournemouth in 1997.