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Reflection Court, the former Pilkington's HQ offices, Grove Street & Canal Street, St Helens

A Grade II Listed Building in Town Centre, St. Helens

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Coordinates

Latitude: 53.4503 / 53°27'1"N

Longitude: -2.7407 / 2°44'26"W

OS Eastings: 350906

OS Northings: 395094

OS Grid: SJ509950

Mapcode National: GBR 9X9J.FW

Mapcode Global: WH874.WJ2S

Entry Name: Reflection Court, the former Pilkington's HQ offices, Grove Street & Canal Street, St Helens

Listing Date: 14 March 1985

Last Amended: 25 January 2012

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1283515

English Heritage Legacy ID: 216368

Location: St. Helens, WA10

County: St. Helens

Local Authority Ward: Town Centre

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: St Helens

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Merseyside

Church of England Parish: Ravenhead St John

Church of England Diocese: Liverpool

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Summary

Former Pilkington Brothers Limited office building, now converted into flats and business units, 1937-41, designed by Herbert J Rowse and Kenneth Cheeseman. Handmade brick with concrete dressings, flat roof (originally asphalt but now covered with aluminium), horseshoe-shaped plan, Dudokian-influenced Modernist styling. Attached neo-Georgian 1924 block by Sir Arnold Thornely.

Description

Former Pilkington Brothers Limited office building, now converted into flats and business units, 1937-41, designed by Herbert J Rowse and Kenneth Cheeseman. Handmade brick with concrete dressings, flat roof (originally asphalt but now covered with aluminium), horseshoe-shaped plan, Dudokian-influenced Modernist styling. Attached neo-Georgian 1924 block by Sir Arnold Thornely.

PLAN: Horseshoe-shaped plan with a large north range of 2-storeys plus basement that presents a curved north facade to the junction with Canal Street and continues along Grove Street. Attached 1924 block to south-west corner.

EXTERIOR: NORTH RANGE: The range incorporates a deep band of aluminium windows to each floor separated by canted concrete mullions and with concrete sill and lintel bands. Small raised brick decorative motifs exist to the top of the elevation in line with the window mullions below and the basement level has alternate courses of projecting bricks set in between narrow bands of Lenscrete windows with concrete lintels. An entrance to the north corner containing sliding doors with low zig-zag decoration has a concrete surround and rounded flanking piers with concrete fin motifs that frame a diapered panel above. Similar, plainer and larger entrances exist to the northern ends of the Canal Street and Grove Street elevations, which originally provided vehicular access into the central courtyard. Rising above the rear of the curved north corner is a lift motor room with a projecting concrete roof slab and a multipaned aluminium door to the east side. Set between the ground and first floors towards the southern end of the range's east elevation is large applied white lettering that reads 'REFLECTION COURT'. Set above and behind the roof parapet is a horseshoe-shaped lift motor room with a narrow band of windows to the top, a projecting concrete roof slab and a multipaned aluminium door to the west side.

EAST ELEVATION: On the east elevation facing Grove Street the north range flows in to a series of projections of varying height and the south range. Immediately adjacent to the north range is a tall projection with two sets of four windows to the first and second floor levels on the north face; the lower ones being set within a ridged band. A taller brick pylon to the left with a curved eastern end rises from an original, single-storey entrance porch below and has three courses of raised brick banding to the top part that incorporate a clock face to each north and south elevation. The building's original main entrance consists of a horseshoe-shaped porch with narrow concrete banding, a projecting concrete roof slab and a high band of windows to the north side. The doorway has a concrete surround and contains sliding doors with a tear drop and zig-zag decoration to the bottom part accessed via a short flight of curved steps. Above the doorway applied blue lettering reads 'PILKINGTON BROTHERS LIMITED'. To the rear right of the porch is a small single-storey, flat-roofed projection attached to the north range, which has a Lenscrete window to the north side and a modern inserted doorway to the east side that now acts as the main entrance for the east elevation.

SOUTH RANGE: The south range lies to the left of the main entrance projections and is of 3-storeys plus basement with a 5-bay east elevation incorporating large aluminium windows to the ground and first floors arranged in continuous vertical strips separated by panels of fluted aluminium cladding and double-height brick piers with decorative concrete fins. Smaller windows exist to the second floor. Attached to the south end of this range is a late C20 red brick extension (not of special interest) of 2-storeys plus basement that wraps around slightly on to the east elevation. The rear elevation of the south range has been re-faced in red brick following the demolition of the earlier Medland Taylor and Rowse buildings but an original Lenscrete stair window lighting the main stair survives. To the west of this is a late C20 first-floor, red brick extension (not of special interest) supported on tall brick piers.

CENTRAL COURTYARD: A large courtyard to the centre of the complex originally acted as a garage and was originally covered by a Lenscrete roof (removed in 1997/8). The roof's supporting concrete piers still survive and rise from the basement to a still extant shallow concrete canopy at ground floor level. The original vehicular access tunnels to the north-west and north-east corners of the courtyard also survive. To the curved north corner is a double-height, slender Lenscrete stair window lighting the northern stair. The courtyard elevation's original aluminium windows have been replaced with similarly styled uPVC windows and two modern windows have also been inserted to the north end flanking original doorways.

1924 THORNELY BLOCK: Attached to the south-west corner of the complex is the neo-Georgian block built by Sir Arnold Thornely in 1924, which fronts Canal Street. It consists of an 8-bay range of 2 storeys plus basement, which is constructed of brick with a raised ground floor, large 9-over-6 sash windows and pressed brick and Portland stone dressings, including a stone plinth, sill band to the ground floor, and keystones to the ground floor windows. The block's flat roof is hidden from view by a brick parapet topped by a stone cornice, and the basement is lit by a series of Lenscrete glass-brick windows. The block is attached on the east and north sides to the main 1937-41 Rowse & Cheeseman designed part of the complex. The south return, which was originally attached to the now demolished 1886 Medland Taylor building, has been re-faced in red brick and is of 3-bays with inserted small 3-over-3 sash windows and a raised doorway accessed by a modern metal stair. The rear elevation facing into the complex's inner courtyard has windows in the same style as those to the front elevation, apart from those to the basement, which have been replaced. A stair bay projects forward at the southern end with windows to the north return. Attached to the rear elevation at ground floor level is the same shallow concrete canopy and series of concrete piers as those to Rowse and Cheeseman's 1937-41 courtyard elevations.

INTERIOR: Internally the 1937-41 Rowse and Cheeseman building has undergone substantial alteration and modernisation following its conversion to flats and business units. The majority of original features have been removed, including oak panelling in the entrance hall, most of the original Vitrolite tiling in the entrance vestibule and all of the tiling in the main stairwell. The original panelled reception kiosk has also been removed, along with the building's two lifts, which also possessed Vitrolite tiling. The building's original concrete floors survive under later coverings, along with two original stairs with metal rails and uprights in streamlined contemporary style. An additional modern metal stair has been inserted to the north-west corner of the building adjacent to the 1924 block. The ground and first floors of the north range retain their corridors alongside the external wall, which were styled on a ship's design. They originally linked the management offices and meeting rooms but now act as hallways for the flats. The basement has been modernised and converted for business use.

Internally the 1924 block was thoroughly modernised and converted into flats in c.1997/8 and original features have been removed throughout. The two flights of the main stair between the ground and first floor have been altered and the basement flight has been removed. The top two flights, which originally led up to the roof (access now blocked-up), survive and retain their original concrete steps, brick arched openings and concrete vaulting. The basement has an asphalt floor and has been partitioned along the western side.

History

The offices of Pilkington's glass works at Grove Street were constructed in 1937-41 to the designs of Herbert J Rowse and Kenneth Cheeseman and provided offices and meeting rooms for Pilkington's senior management. The offices were constructed as an extension to the headquarters office building of Pilkington Brothers situated to the south of Watson Street junction, which was constructed in 1886 to the designs of J Medland Taylor. This building had already been extended on the Canal Street side in 1924 by Sir Arnold Thornely and again in 1937/8 by Herbert J Rowse. It remained in use as Pilkington's headquarters until 1965 when they moved to a new headquarters complex at Alexandra Park, St Helens.

The Medland Taylor building and Rowse's 1937-8 extension were demolished in c1997/8 and the surviving elements of the building, including Rowse and Cheeseman's build and Thornely's 1924 block, were converted into flats with business units in the basement after 10-15 years of lying empty and disused.

Pilkington Group Limited originated in 1826 as the St. Helens Crown Glass Company and was founded by John William Bell with capital from three influential local families, the Bromilows, the Greenalls and the Pilkingtons. William Pilkington was one of the original shareholders, and he was later joined by his elder brother Richard; the company becoming known as Pilkington Brothers in 1849. Pilkington became a wholly-owned subsidiary of the NSG Group in June 2006.

Herbert J Rowse (1887-1963) is a well-known Liverpool architect who was one of the most influential regional architects of the inter-war years. Although much of his work was in Liverpool and the north-west he also designed buildings in London, India and Spain. He has many listed buildings to his name, including the Mersey Tunnel ventilation stations in Liverpool and Birkenhead, and the Grade II* listed Philharmonic Hall, Hope Street (1937-9) and 4 & 6 Water Street (1927-32), both in Liverpool.

Sir Arnold Thornely (1870-1953) is also a well-known Liverpool architect who formed part of the Briggs, Wolstenholme & Thornely partnership. He has numerous listed buildings to his name or associated with him, including the Grade II* Port of Liverpool Building, Liverpool (1907) and the Bluecoats School, Liverpool (1903-6 by Briggs, Wolstenholme & Thornely), and the Grade II listed Barnsley Town Hall, South Yorkshire (1933 by Briggs & Thornely) and Wallasey Town Hall, Wirral (1914-20 by Briggs, Wolstenholme & Thornely).

Reasons for Listing

Reflection Court, the former Pilkington's HQ Offices, Grove Street & Canal Street, constructed in 1937-41 to the designs of Herbert J Rowse and Kenneth Cheeseman, and also including the 1924 block designed by Sir Arnold Thornely, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural quality: its dramatic architectural styling and accomplished massing is influenced by Dutch expressionist architecture, particularly that of W. M. Dudok and it forms a striking landmark in the centre of St. Helens
* Wider context: the building's Modernist design reflects Pilkington's approach to marketing in the 1930s where it used contemporary design in its advertising, showrooms and exhibitions to attract architects to its products
* Planning: Rowse and Cheeseman's design displays the use of excellent and inventive planning with a horse-shoe shaped plan and the north end of the building representing the rounded prow of a ship. The influence of ship design is mirrored internally to the north wing where corridors that would have originally linked the management offices and meeting rooms survive alongside the external wall
* Architect: both Rowse and Thornely are important Liverpool architects with many listed buildings to their name; Rowse is particularly significant as one of the most influential regional architects of the inter-war period
* Historic development: following the demolition of the original 1886 building, the 1924 neo-Georgian block designed by Thornely is the last surviving remnant of the earlier phases of the Pilkington's HQ office complex

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