Reprinted from Newsletter 103, dated 2002 April

Street’s distinctiveness

Adrian Pearse

A talk by Richard Raynsford

On January 25 Richard Raynsford provided an informative and fascinating insight into architectural delights to be found in Street. Our neighbouring town is not generally thought a place of architectural distinction but closer inspection reveals a wide variety of notable features. They even include an array of well preserved sculptural fragments from Glastonbury Abbey used to decorate a wall in Glaston Road.

Street developed gradually from a small settlement near the church, which absorbed the adjoining settlements of Lower Leigh, Middle Leigh, Overleigh and West End. Some early buildings, normally in a very plain style, survive, constructed in the locally quarried blue lias stone, such as Street Farm, now surrounded by later development. The main growth came as a result of the Clarks establishing a shoemaking business in 1825, which through its prosperity directly influenced the architectural development of the area.

Richard illustrated features ranging from the striking Clarks headquarters building, begun in 1857 but enlarged by G.T. Skipper, who designed the clock tower of blue lias with hamstone dressings in a Rhenish style based on an example at Thun in Switzerland. In 1896 William Reynolds redesigned the frontage and added the striking water tower. Complementing the Victorian work, but in a contemporary style, was the adjoining “more light” building added in 1937.

The Clark family engaged Skipper and Reynolds elsewhere in Street, leaving their distinctive style in quality construction. Skipper designed the attractive housing in Wilfrid Road and the Crispin Hall in 1885; Reynolds built Lawson Terrace in 1891 and the Bear Inn in 1894, which clearly show the influence of the arts and crafts movement. He also designed the Bowling Green Mill, now converted to flats.

Other buildings making a distinctive contribution to the locality include the 1859 Board School, now tastefully adapted as the Living Homes furniture store, the 1899 Technical College in Leigh Road, and Hindhayes, built in 1928 incorporating a novel open-air facility.

The various Nonconformist chapels each make an impact in a variety of styles, and the library designed by Thompson Clothier in 1924 is certainly in a traditional mould, as is his Maxime cinema built in 1920. The Greenbank swimming pool complex designed by J. Pope in 1937 was, by contrast, in the vanguard of modern architectural design.

Richard also drew attention to the delights of the steetscape, with the intricate and attractive designs in the gables of the High Street, in bay windows, finials, and bargeboards, for example. There is much to see and much to admire; his knowledge both enlightened and entertained us.