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Wallington Town Hall

A Grade II Listed Building in Sutton, London

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Latitude: 51.3579 / 51°21'28"N

Longitude: -0.1501 / 0°9'0"W

OS Eastings: 528901

OS Northings: 163716

OS Grid: TQ289637

Mapcode National: GBR F8.8TH

Mapcode Global: VHGRR.C40C

Entry Name: Wallington Town Hall

Listing Date: 24 April 2008

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1392569

English Heritage Legacy ID: 504272

Location: Sutton, London, SM6

County: London

District: Sutton

Electoral Ward/Division: Wallington South

Built-Up Area: Sutton

Traditional County: Surrey

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Wallington, St Patrick

Church of England Diocese: Southwark

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Listing Text

795/0/10020 WOODCOTE ROAD
24-APR-08 Wallington Town Hall

Former town hall, dated 1935. Part of a civic complex designed by Robert Atkinson (1883-1952) nominated by Raymond Unwin at the request of Beddington and Wallington Urban District. Stone carving by Eric Aumonier, bronze sculpture by Allan Hawes.

MATERIALS: Brick structure faced in red-brown brick in Flemish bond, Portland stone dressings. Red pantile hipped roofs, copper clad steel clocktower, interior Travertine and other polished stone finishes.

PLAN: The town hall is a symmetrical two-storey building laid out as a main block fronting Woodcote Road, with side wings housing offices running back from this, framing a double-height council chamber. A suite of first floor committee rooms at the front open onto the balcony over the portico. The council chamber leads onto a small members' terrace at the rear. From the main entrance a symmetrical lobby and hall lead to an imperial stair which rises to a gallery or committee lobby serving the committee rooms, and provides the backdrop to the entrances to the council chamber which is behind it. The double-height council chamber has been subdivided vertically and horizontally. Offices (now offices and classrooms) line spinal corridors in the side wings.

EXTERIOR: East elevation. A two-storey symmetrical range in progressive neo-Georgian manner faces the street in 11 bays (3:5:3), the centrepiece breaking forward under a hipped roof, the side bays lower and under half-hipped roofs. The centrepiece is framed by fluted pilasters which rise from ground level and run abruptly into a plain frieze, under a scalloped stone parapet. A three-bay portico is reached by a flight of five stone steps. It has solid, fluted stone outer bays with rectangular front openings with scalloped iron grilles, and square fluted piers flanking the entrance. The north return has a blind flush stone panel, the south return has been opened up to insert a ramp. A plain frieze is inscribed, 'TOWN HALL' below a modillion cornice and entablature carrying a scalloped iron balustrade. The interior of the portico is lined in alternating blocks and bands of flush dressed stone. A pair of oak doors each with a single moulded panel is set in a simple moulded architrave. The soffit of the portico has recessed geometric mouldings. The floor is stone flagged. The outer bays flanking the portico have tripartite small-paned timber sashes. The outer and central first floor bays have full-height, margin-glazed, small-paned timber sashes set in brick openings. Intermediate bays are lined in fluted stone, framing narrow vertical small-paned windows. A deep stone plinth and moulded string course carries across the front elevation. Above the first floor central window, is a stone cartouche containing the borough arms carved by the important contemporary British sculptor, Eric Aumonier. The roof is surmounted by a square-based clock tower with a slatted belfry clad in copper on a steel frame, and with a slender gilded clock face on the east and west faces. The clock mechanism is by Gillett and Johnston, clockmakers to the King. The turret is capped by a weathervane on a spherical base reminiscent of Saturn. The outer bays each have small-paned horned timber sashes on the ground floor over a continuous cill band; at first floor each has a stone cill above a recessed brick panel, and all under a plain brick parapet. Similar detail continues on the returns of the front wings. The north and south facing side wings are each of nine bays with similar small-paned sashes: at ground floor above a plain cill band, at first floor each with a stone cill above a recessed panel and all above a chamfered platband. Each elevation has a wide stone doorcase with a simple moulded architrave under a canopy and each has a pair of oak doors each of four panels. Above is a rectangular small paned window set in a broad, shallow, chamfered architrave.

West elevation. Overlooking the garden and library. Three-bay, half-hipped, two-storey wings frame the council chamber which is set behind a double-height portal. The portal is set back in a deep flush stone architrave with panelled linings and soffit. Set back under the portal, fluted pilasters define tall tripartite small-paned, metal framed windows, the lower elements partly replaced. The lintel over the entrance is inscribed, 'ERECTED AD NINETEEN HUNDRED & THIRTYFIVE'. Flanking the portal at the base of each pier are carved coats of arms of the county and borough also by Eric Aumonier. Curved two-storey stair bays in vertically laid stretcher-bond brick frame the centrepiece. Each has a small-paned horned sash at each floor, above a ground floor cill band. The council chamber entrance leads onto a stone flagged members' terrace with steps descending to the gardens, and framed by rectangular stone planters. The wings are treated as the north and south elevations but have single small rectangular windows on the inner face. These are set in wide, slightly raised brick architraves and have margin-glazed lights.

INTERIOR: The marble-lined entrance hall and stairwell is defined by piers and architraves clad in amber Travertine marble. Skirtings and risers are in black polished Irish stone. Ceilings have shallow horizontal geometric mouldings. An imperial stair in stone with a bronze balustrade rises to a gallery or committee lobby supported on square Travertine-clad piers. The stairwell is lined in marble panels under a sloping coffered roof lit by a long clerestorey window. Inscribed panels bear the names of mayors and freemen of the borough. Flanking these are alcoves each with a tall pedestal carrying a bronze urn and behind each a bronze medallion of Kings George V and George VI. The stair has moulded balusters and twisted bronze newels, at the base of the stairs with hemispherical fixings for bronze uplighters. At the upper level the newels carried bronze figures of 'Industry' and 'Peace' by Allan Hawes, removed since 1999, and a coat of arms by Eric Aumonier has also been lost. A suite of three committee rooms has coved ceilings partly obscured by suspended ceilings, and linking the rooms are monumental pairs of doors in flush marquetry veneer with recessed handles. Walls have shallow recessed panels. The large Travertine door frame from the lobby to the central room remains, but with a replaced reduced entrance. Corridors retain moulded ceilings but all internal doors and door cases are replaced. The rear stairs are of stone and concrete with metal balustrades.

Since 1978 the council chamber has been subdivided vertically and horizontally with a suspended ceiling fitted at upper level and all fittings: the gallery, ground floor walnut wall panelling, and walnut fittings including seating and tables have been removed.

HISTORY: Beddington and Wallington became an urban district in 1915 and gained borough status in 1937. In 1933, in anticipation of this, Raymond Unwin, President of the RIBA, was asked to nominate an architect to produce a scheme for new civic buildings, developing ideas sketched out by the borough surveyor. He chose Robert Atkinson (1883-1952), formerly Principal of the Architectural Association. The town hall and municipal library, set round a small formal garden, were completed in 1935-36. The garden, set round a circular pond in a moulded stone basin, survives quite well. The vase base of the fountain remains, but the putto, which sat on the top, have gone. The pond is framed in wide stone flag paving leading to lawns, all contained in a shallow stone kerb. Contemporary drawings show the projected layout with shrubs planted formally in each quadrant. The framework of this survives, as does part of the circular stone basin and, while of local interest, theses features are not included in the listing.

Between 1962 and 1963 Robert Atkinson and Partners added a second storey to the library and built the adjacent Courthouse. The town hall closed after local government reorganisation in the mid 1970s and from 1978 to 1999 became a Crown Court. It now houses local authority adult education colleges. Further alterations in 1988-91 affected the library.

Robert Atkinson (1883-1952) was son of a cabinet maker from Wigton, Cumbria. He trained as an architect in Nottingham and Newcastle. In 1905 he moved to London where he was noted for his skill as a colourist and draughtsman, working for other architects, and was in practice from 1907. From 1913-20 he was Principal of the Architectural Association, resigning to take up the more advisory post of Director which he held until 1929. He was a skilled organiser and highly influential teacher, and with Hope Bagenal published, "Theory and Elements of Architecture" (1926). He was an eclectic designer, drawing on a wide range of ideas rather than adhering strictly to current modernist or neo-Georgian trends. He made his name with the Regent Cinema, Brighton (1919-21 and 1923), thought by many to be his masterpiece, though sadly demolished. Towards the end of his career he designed the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, for the University of Birmingham, built between 1935-39. But his most familiar surviving work is probably the foyer of Sir Owen Williams' Daily Express building in Fleet Street (1930-33, Grade II*).

Wallington town hall stands out from the typical neo-Georgian civic buildings of the inter-war period, and was described at the time as 'of more than ordinary distinction'. Atkinson's wide frame of reference makes the building more sophisticated and advanced than purer neo-Georgian contemporaries. Pevsner (1994) described it as a 'decidedly pretty design', although inferior to the contemporary Dutch architect, WM Dudok's more daring and modernist town hall at Hilversum in the Netherlands (built 1924-31). However the combination of modernity and tradition is here more appropriate to the context. It was a period of rapid but innovative expansion in civic buildings. Neo-Georgian inspired buildings contrast with those inspired by continental ideas. Wallington town hall is contemporary with Reginald Uren's Hornsey town hall, the first to follow Dudok's lead, and provides a good counterpart to the Continental model.

Pevsner and Cherry, Buildings of England, London 2: South, 1883, p.641.
Nairn, Pevsner and Cherry, Buildings of England, Surrey, 1971, reprinted 1994, p.494.
London's Town Halls, English Heritage and RCHME, 1999.
Robert Atkinson 1883-1952, edited by P Spencer-Longhurst, Architectural Association, 1989.
Architect and Building News, 4 October 1935, pp.7-12; and supplement Architecture Illustrated, October 1935.
Wallington Town Hall, English Heritage Historians file, including report by Roger Bowdler, 1994.
Wallington Town Hall, a Symbol of Municipal Pride, unpublished essay by Cheryl Baker.

The former Wallington town hall, 1933-35 by Robert Atkinson is designated at Grade II for the following reasons:
* It is a well-detailed town hall in a progressive but neo-Georgian tradition by Robert Atkinson, Past Principal and Director of the Architectural Association.
* It compares well with contemporary but Continental-inspired civic buildings of the 1930s.
* It forms a strong group of civic buildings with the contemporary library and formal garden, also by Atkinson.

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

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