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A Grade II Listed Building in Braintree, Essex

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Latitude: 51.8772 / 51°52'37"N

Longitude: 0.549 / 0°32'56"E

OS Eastings: 575557

OS Northings: 222913

OS Grid: TL755229

Mapcode National: GBR PHX.7M2

Mapcode Global: VHJJJ.G2LT

Entry Name: Almshouses

Listing Date: 27 April 2010

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1393767

English Heritage Legacy ID: 507133

Location: Braintree, Essex, CM7

County: Essex

District: Braintree

Town: Braintree

Electoral Ward/Division: Braintree West

Built-Up Area: Braintree

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Braintree St Michael

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford

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Listing Text

27-APR-10 2

A pair of former Almshouses of 1936, now offices, commissioned by William Julien Courtauld and designed by E. Vincent Harris, with lettering by Eric Gill. Interior remodelled in the late C20.

Constructed in thin, pale brown Northwick bricks with Portland stone string courses and dressings and Delabole slate covering to the roof.

Two single-storey almshouses, arranged in a 'L'-shape, with courtyard behind.

The Almshouses are designed in Neo-Georgian style. The gable roof has four tall brick chimneys and Dutch gables at the south and east ends. The almshouses are joined at the north-west corner by a common entrance served by two gated doorways, each with prominent stone quoin surrounds, topped with deep cornices and a pediment. A stone plaque incorporated into the cornice has the carved letters 'WJC'. All windows are small-paned leaded casements with stone surrounds.

The entrances lead to a single corridor through to the rear courtyard. Mid-way on the east side of the corridor is a substantial timber panelled door with a small opening in the upper panel covered by an iron grill. Another entrance on this side leads to the plant for the fountain, located in a small basement beneath the left-hand almshouse. At the rear, each almshouse has a central timber door flanked by windows; the western almshouse has an added disabled ramp.

Although converted to offices, the plan-form of the left-hand almshouse is legible. Two simple fireplaces with wooden surrounds and some cornices remain. The right-hand almshouse has been significantly remodelled and contains few fixtures or fittings of interest. The interior window furniture survives in both.

The almshouses were built in 1936 as the gift of Wiliam Julien Courtauld, together with the fountain and square on the corner of St Michaels Road and the High Street, Braintree. Courtauld commissioned E.Vincent Harris for the design, with whom he had collaborated on a number of buildings in Braintree including Braintree Town Hall (Grade II*, 1926-8). Eric Gill designed the lettering. An article in The Builder of October 2nd 1936 comments that the site of both almshouses and public open space was formerly occupied by dilapidated cottages. After clearance, Courtauld purchased the site in order to erect a memorial to the memory of King George V and to build the almshouses. In 1939, Leahurst to the west was designed by Harris as a home for district nurses in the same Neo-Georgian style with statuary and lettering also by Gill.

In commissioning the Almshouses, Leahurst, the fountain and hard landscaping, Courtauld's intention was to improve the entrance to Braintree from London.

In the early C21 the almshouses served as offices for the Citizens Advice Bureau.

'The Builder' October 2nd (1936),685-6
Holder, J 'Emanuel Vincent Harris and the Survival of Classicism in Inter-war Manchester' in Clare Hartwell & Terry Wyke (eds), Making Manchester, Lancashire & Cheshire Antiquarian Society (2007)
Pevsner, N and Bettley J 'The Buildings of England: Essex' (2007),170.

The Almshouses of 1936, St Michaels Road Braintree, are designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural Interest: The building is designed by E.Vincent Harris, a renowned architect of the C20 with a number of listed buildings to his name. It has a well-tutored Neo-Georgian design with finely crafted detailing, including lettering by Eric Gill.
* Historic Interest: The building was gifted by William Julien Courtauld, a descendent of the textile manufacturing family, philanthropist and patron of architecture and the arts who commissioned a number of buildings in Braintree from Harris including the town hall of 1926-29 (Grade II*).
* Intactness: The building has a largely intact exterior.
* Group Value: The building has considerable group value with Leahurst of 1939 to the west, also by Harris for W.J Courtauld and recommended for listing, and the fountain to the north (Grade II) and Church of St Michael to the north-east (Grade B).

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

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