Friday, 24 February 2012

1930s former Worcester car showroom and garage is Listed

A picture from Worcester City Historic Environment Records shows Austin House in 1951.

A 1930s former car showroom, repair shop and petrol station built on the site of the County Gaol near the centre of Worcester has been listed by the Minister for Tourism and Heritage, John Penrose, on the advice of English Heritage.

The H A Saunders building on Castle Street - now the home of County Furnishings - was designated a Grade II listed building as a result of an English Heritage project to assess the impact of the car on the historic environment.

Worcester City Council has now informed the building owners of the listing and is responsible for keeping records of it, advising on any repairs or changes and applying listed building regulations when dealing with any planning applications relating to it in future.

Councillor David Wilkinson, the City Council’s Historic Environment and Design Champion, said: “This is a welcome development. We do not get new listings in Worcester very often. The city has many historic architectural landmarks and we are delighted English Heritage and the Minister have recognised a more contemporary design which retains so many of its original and unusual features.

“The value of this building has long been recognised locally but it’s very pleasing to see it getting national recognition.”

The building has been included in the city council’s buildings of local significance register since 2002.

An extract from the Worcester Official
Guide of 1946 showing the
H A Saunders building and details
of the services offered at Austin House.

Originally known as Austin House, it was designed by celebrated Scottish architect John Carrick Stuart Soutar and, according to English Heritage, combines modernism with restrained classical details, such as stone obelisks at each corner. It draws inspiration from contemporary buildings across Europe such as Stockholm City Hall (1923), Hilversum City Hall in the Netherlands (1928) and Norwich City Hall (1938).

The distinctive, tapered outline of the tower with its copper roof and large clock face made it a feature of Worcester's skyline with its numerous church towers. The top of the tower is in a similar style to a number of other features in the city such as the one on the top of the original police station (now Worcester College of Technology) in Deansway.

Although some elements have been lost over time, including the petrol pumps and their canopy, the building retains many original structural elements and fittings.

It still has an inspection pit, a ramp connecting the garage to the showroom and the steps and decorative balustrade which mark an upper level to the showroom floor. It also retains offices within the showroom and repair shop with glass screens and half-glazed doors.

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