Buildings lost and saved

'SOS Brutalism A Global Survey A collaboration by the Deutches Architectur museum and the Wustenrot Foundation Park Books 2017 pp.440-1


The Tricorn The Life and Death of a Sixties Icon - By Celia Clark & Robert Cook

Price £19.99 - Postage £4.90

Love it or hate it – there’s no middle ground in reactions to the Tricorn: the Brutalist, bold, multi-layered and multi-use megastructure built in Portsmouth between 1962 and 1966, and demolished in  2004.  The Tricorn features in histories of architecture.  Its  chunky imagery spawned progeny -  the Lloyds building’s exterior  staircases, the Barbican’s curving upstands  - leading ultimately to  the birth of high-tech.

The Tricorn has been celebrated  - and reviled - in festivals, ballet, music, performance art, videos,  websites, films, virtual fly-throughs, poetry, books, television and radio.   How many other buildings have inspired such an efflorescence?  Despite  its demolition, it still  lives vividly in people’s memories

Celia Clark and Robert Cook  explore what  makes an architectural icon – and what unmade it.   This book sets  the Tricorn within its architectural context: Brutalism and the 1960s.  The unpopularity of Brutalism and the fact it was a commercial property affected the Tricorn’s fate.  The book draws on two sources not usually combined:  a  collage of documentary material, and the rich seam of people’s descriptions  of life in the building. The Tricorn’s architects: Owen Luder and Rodney Gordon explain the building’s genesis and reflect on its demise.    The 1812 Overture was played at its demolition - a reflection of  the Tricorn’s heroic status in people’s imagination.


Celia Clark has a special interest in school buildings.  Her report Beacons of Learning: Breathing new life into old schools published in 1995 by SAVE Britain’s Heritage draws attention to the potential of old school buildings, particularly those in urban areas in England and  Wales,  for creative and beneficial reuse once they are no longer needed for teaching children.  Essays on the evolution of school  design by Roy Lowe, Andrew Saint, Malcolm Seaborne, Robert Dark and Elizabeth Hunter are related to contemporary educational theory.  Edith Gollnast describes the conversion of village schools and Michael Morris the upgrading and extension of Victorian schools in Hampshire.  Many varied case studies then examine experience of new uses in more detail.  The report  was sponsored  by English Heritage & Hampshire County Council. 205pp.


Rivers Street Hall, Somerstown, Portsmouth

This delightful little church school was built by George Absolom in 1868 for the poor children of St. Peter’s Parish. It was paid for by the wealthier congregation of St. Jude’s has Portland stone in its walls which may have come from the town walls, which were being destroyed at that time - for expansion of the town.

In the mid 1970s the hall was empty and decaying, but its coursed pebble walls and gabled Gothic tiled roof and the two halls inside attracted Hurst Rinehart - who is a clown,  PALFI - for its potential as a small theatre arts space.  A small group including Tim Smith of Tipton House and Celia Clark formed the Somers Town Community Association to save it.

Because we had no financial resources, we had to turn ourselves into employers and run a youth employment programme to repair it. Our efforts were so considerable that in 1977 we won the national SAVE Award, sponsored by the Lesser Group - the only time it was ever awarded: a £2000 cheque and a large inscribed slab of slate.

Since then, it has been used as a children’s art club, old people’s lunch club, playgroup, Catholic church using Latin for services, architects' studio.  A housing association recently converted it into two houses.

This study of Portsmouth School Board's first ten schools was based on the extensive documents in the City Records Office, and the surviving School Board buildings

St Mary's House

St Mary's House, the former Portsea Island Union Workhouse of 1845 designed by Augustus Livesay and Thomas Ellis Owen for a thousand paupers was under threat of demolition.  The modern St. Mary's Hospital developed to the south, and the workhouse was ued to house old ladies.  Hampshire Buildings Preservation Trust, Hampshire County Council and the Portsmouth Society made a successful case for reuse.  Portsmouth Housing Association converted it into modern flats, so once again homeless people live there as tenants or as shared owners.

Omega Street School

former Omega Street School of 1881 designed by A H Ford for Portsmouth School Board was under threat of demolition in the 1980s.  The Portsmouth Society campaigned to save it, and it was restored and extended by Hampshire County Council. It has had many recent uses: adult education, nursery, mosque, drama studio.  Celia Clark taught University of Portsmouth Restoration and Decorative Studies students the history of architecture and building conservation there until 2008 when the course closed.  The Omega Centre is now the south east of England headquarters for the Workers' Educational Association.

St. Agatha's Church

St. Agatha's Church designed by JH Ball with sgraffito and mosaics by Heyward Sumner was saved after a public inquiry into the proposal to demolish it.  Celia Clark and other members of the Portsmouth Society spoke in favour of keeping the church.  It was subsequently restored by Hampshire County Council

Pitt Street, Pitt Street Baths

The Portsmouth Society campaigned to save this building, the Royal Naval School of Physical Training 1910, used as a regional centre for Gymnastics, but Portsmouth City Council pulled it down.  The site is still empty, years later

Burseldon Brickworks
Burseldon Brickworks is one of three historic industrial sites owned by Hampshire Buildings Preservation Trust.  Celia Clark has served on the Trust's Board since 1976 - the longest serving member

The Beneficial School

The Beneficial Society, an early mutual benefit society, built the Beneficial School in 1785 for the education of poor children.  Designed for monotorial teaching, it is one of the oldest charity schools in the country, listed Grade II*.  The Assembly Room on the first floor was the setting for many great occasions, including concerts by Niccolo Paganini.  Charles Dickens's mother attended a concert there the night before his birth in 1812.  The school continued in use until 1960, when the adjoining replacement was built.  The Beneficial School's future was uncertain for many years.  Uses for adult training did not last, but in 2010 the Groundlings Theatre Company reopened it as a community theatre.

1880s Cell Block

This 1880s Cell Block - for people arrested inside the dockyard - lost the staircase to the upper floors when Main/Victory Gate was widened in WWII.  When the building broke its back from piling for the Warrior berth, it was under threat of demolition.  The Society campaigned for its group value with the Recruitment Office, and there are plans for its restoration and conversion by Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust.

The Ship & Castle


In 1973 when the Portsmouth Society was formed, Celia Clark petitioned Portsmouth City Council not to demolish the Ship & Castle.  It forms a pinchpoint on the corner of The Hard and Queen Street - framing the dramatic view of Portsmouth Harbour.  Several years later, only the outer wall remained.  Eventually a new pub was built inside it.

The Palace Cinema

The former Palace Cinema with its zinc domes and facade in Indian Moghul style was designed by AE Cogswell in 1920-21, after he had served in the Artists' Rifles at the Khyber Pass.  In the early 1970s, it was to be demolished and replaced by a spanning block across Guildhall Walk for the completion of Lord Esher's plan for a 'civic island'.  Celia Clark as Secretary of the Portsmouth Society appeared at the public inquiry with support from EMI and Dennis Sharp, the cinema historian, making a successful case for keeping this oddity in the city centre. It was listed grade II in 2000, and is now a night club

The New Theatre Royal

The New Theatre Royal in Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth City Centre developed from the Landport Hall of 1854, reopening as the New Theatre Royal in 1856.  It was rebuilt in 1884 to the design of C J Phipps, architect of several London theatres.  In 1900 the famous theatre architect Frank Matcham reconstructed the interior and the street facade.  The Theatre Royal was under threat of demolition for many years.  The Theatre Royal Society and the Portsmouth Society campaigned to keep and restore it.  The Hampshire Buildings Preservation Trust restored the metal balcony and several phases of restoration and modernisation are bringing the theatre back into vibrant use.

Dog and Duck pub in Fratton Road

The seventeeth century cottage which became the Dog and Duck pub in Fratton Road was under threat of demolition. The Hampshire Buildings Preservation Trust worked with a local developer to remove the nineteenth century pub front and restore the building.  NatWest bank occupied it, and it may change its use again.

Wymering Manor

Wymering Manor, the listed oldest house in Portsmouth, with timbers dating back to 1581.  Portsmouth City Council bought it in about 1960 as a Youth Hostel, but that use ceased in the 1990s.  The Friends of Wymering Manor and the Portsmouth Society worked with local developer Ian Young who has planning permission and listed building consent to covert it into a hotel, but the City Council evicted his caretaker in October 2010 and are paying £2000 a week security costs.  There have been several failed attempts to sell it at auction.  A charitable trust has been proposed, but will take time to set up, and in the meantime, the building continues to deteriorate.

To find out more -

The Vulcan Storehouse

The Vulcan Storehouse of 1814 has a functional elegance, celebrated in Henry Slight's poem which describes Gunwharf as 'sacred to utility'.  After it ceased in active use in the 1950s, it deteriorated for many years; the beam ends rotting.  Celia Clark and Roger James of the Portsmouth Society saw its wonderful spaces had potential as an art gallery.  The City Arts Administrator thought so too, and national galleries were approached.  However developers Berkeley Homes were given planning permission to convert most of it into flats, but the local Aspex Gallery moved into the ground floor of the south wing.  Their conversion by Glen Howells Architects has justly won several awards.