Middlesex Guildhall - Parliament Square, London, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Master Mariner
N 51° 30.027 W 000° 07.672
30U E 699341 N 5709390
Quick Description: This magnificent building was constructed as the Middlesex Guildhall. It has since been put to other use and is now the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. The relief carvings are stunning and can be seen, almost as they were initially carved.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 6/30/2012 10:58:59 AM
Waymark Code: WMER57
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member Pensive Travellers
Views: 7

Long Description:
The building is Grade II* listed and its entry, at the English Heritage website (visit link), reads:

"Middlesex Guildhall G.V. II* County Guildhall. 1906-13 by J G S Gibson with Skipwith and Gordon, sculpture by H C Fehr. Portland stone (load bearing with internal steel frame), slate roofs. Very accomplished, boldly massed, Free Style late Gothic with Flemish- Burgundian references and more immediately influenced by Henry Wilson and Giles Scott in the concentration of carved ornament balanced by bare wall plane. Free standing block with symmetrical main elevations and imposing tower of elongated section. 3 storeys, basement and dormered attic storey with steep hipped roof behind. 9 bays wide. Entrance in centrepiece with segmental arched deep set portal and great segmental arched window above framed by canted bay-turrets. Behind rises the massive tower with large segmental arched windows to sides with flamboyant ornament, piercedwork parapet and corner turrets. Stone mullioned-transomed windows to flanking ranges and returns. Drip string across ground floor stepped over window heads. Sharply profiled cornice. The attic storey has blind panel tracery linking enriched flamboyant gabled dormers. The south return has main central portion advanced with 3 semicircular arched ground floor windows and stone piercedwork balcony to 1st floor. Fine sculptured details with deep, figured, relief frieze above and to the sides of the entrance extending over canted bay-towers; statues under canopies, finials etc. Lofty stone chimney stacks with attached"torse"shafts. Good Free Gothic area railings. In the basement the C17 gateway to Tothill Fields Prison."

The Supreme Court website (visit link) gives some information about the carving on the building:

"The exterior of the building is decorated with corner turrets, a piecework parapet, and many ornamental statues by sculptor Henry Fehr.

Stone sculptured details with deep figures encircle the building. The most impressive of these is the relief frieze above and to the sides of the entrance, extending over canted bay towers.

Scenes on the frieze include King John handing the Magna Carta to the barons at Runnymede, the granting of the charter of Westminster Abbey, and the Duke of Northumberland offering the crown of England to Lady Jane Grey.

The main portico is dominated by intricately carved muse-like figures which Rupert Barnes of the Historic Counties Trust identifies as Britannia supported by the spirits of architecture, literature, government, sculpture, music, truth, law, seafaring, wisdom and education.

On the upper part of the tower, there is a richly carved band of old English heraldic yales, lions, unicorns, with Tudor roses, thistles, shields and arms.  The gargoyle figures are four angels of the winds and the four angels of protection.  In a niche in the parapet is a figure representing government.

At the back of the building, the old stone gateway of Tothill Fields Bridewell prison is preserved.  This was moved in 1836 from the site now occupied by the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral, and is all that remains of this ancient house of correction."

The Victorian Web website (visit link) also contains information with respect to the external decoration. The references to images are those in the web page that should be viewed to appreciate all the work:

"Frieze by Henry Charles Fehr (1867-1940). Middlesex Guildhall, Parliament Square, London. Architect: J. S. Gibson and Partners. Portland Stone. 1906-1913. The "new" Guildhall building of this date features "[f]ine sculptured details with deep, figured, relief frieze above and to the sides of the entrance extending over canted bay-towers" ("Middlesex Guildhall"). Above the arch over the main entry, Henry III, standing on the left, grants a charter to the Abbey of Westminster, with church and abbey hierarchy and acolytes in attendance. The Guildhall was originally built on the site of Westminster Abbey's Sanctuary Tower and Belfry. Photographs by Robert Freidus and Jacqueline Banerjee, text by JB, and formatting by George P. Landow, 2011.

Left: Close-up of Henry III. It is amazing to see this much detail, for example, even in the "embroidery" of the robes. Peter Cormack talks of the "crispness" that characterises Fehr's sculptures (108). Some of this must be put down to his highly skilled Italian stone-carver, Carl Domenico Magnoni (1871-c.1950). Right: King John with the Barons at Runnymede, where he affixed his seal to the Magna Carta. The King, looking suitably flattened, is flanked by two churchmen. Some monks are also present.

Left: Close-up of Henry III. It is amazing to see this much detail, for example, even in the "embroidery" of the robes. Peter Cormack talks of the "crispness" that characterises Fehr's sculptures (108). Some of this must be put down to his highly skilled Italian stone-carver, Carl Domenico Magnoni (1871-c.1950). Right: King John with the Barons at Runnymede, where he affixed his seal to the Magna Carta. The King, looking suitably flattened, is flanked by two churchmen. Some monks are also present.

Left: Closer view of some of the Barons with their pages, looking stalwart and resolute. In the middle is one of the monks, holding a Bible. Right: This is the scene to the right of the entrance, matching King John and the Barons on the other side. It shows Lady Jane Grey being offered the crown by her father-in-law, the Duke of Northumberland. Her husband stands next to her. These three would all be considered traitors, and beheaded — a scene chosen, perhaps, as a warning. Again, the amount of detail is stunning.

Left: Close-up of Lady Jane Grey, her hand close to the proffered crown. Upper right: Two of the well-endowed angels, with thickly feathered wings, that serve as corbels to the balcony projecting on the Broad Sanctuary side of the building. Looked at from this angle, they are rather like ships' figureheads. One bears a shield with scales, the symbol of justice; the other holds an orb and a sceptre, the symbols of power. These and the other sturdy, earthy angels come as a surprise after the courtly scenes on the frieze, but are very much in keeping with the neo-Gothic elements of the building. Note, however, that their faces are the usual dreamy, Art Nouveau faces that we find in other Fehr sculptures (e.g. Peace on his Leeds war memorial).

Left: Tiny keystone figures peep down over the windows, these two apparently representing sculpture and painting. This kind of playfulness, which is reminiscent of William Burges, is quite unusual on a civic building, and very entertaining. Right: A craftsman with a small model of a temple in one hand, and what looks like a window-trowel in the other. His expression is one of stern concentration."

Artist: Henry Fehr

Address:
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom Middlesex Guildhall Parliament Square London United Kingdom


Web URL to relevant information: [Web Link]

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