WQE1 James Went Building, Leicester

2009 Civic Society Awards Nominations

It is a very great pleasure to once again receive nominations for, and to visit examples of, both restoration and outstanding new buildings that enrich our historic built environment. These beautiful buildings are indeed the heritage of our future – not some of the unsuitable proposals that are loudly heralded by those whose real interests are only the making of money, the saving of money, or simple expediency.

2009 Award Nomination Gallery

  • Leicester Civic Society Awards 2009 -WQE1 James Went Building
  • Leicester Civic Society Awards 2009 - Wesley Hall Community Centre
  • Leicester Civic Society Awards 2009 Commendation - Madeleine House
  • Leicester Civic Society Awards 2009 Commendation - Gimson Houses

Restoration Award Category

In the field of restoration it was a difficult choice this year. Madeleine House, Clarendon Park Road was built in 1890 as St. John’s Church School by local architects Everard & Pick. It has now been beautifully restored to a very high standard as apartments by Staniforth Architects and owner Mal McDonagh of JTB Design. We were impressed by the attention to detail in restoration of the brick and stonework together with the quality of the interiors. Restored it should remain a treasure of the Stoneygate Conservation Area for many years to come.

The Gimson Houses, saved from destruction by a community effort – local people, local councillors and the Civic Society – were a most worthy nomination. Jamie Lewis Residential Lettings have completed a first class restoration as apartments with careful attention to detail in the original doors, doorways and windows. The distinguished houses built for the Gimson Family in 1884 by another local architect Charles Baker; shine out across Glenfield Road and Gimson Road opposite.

Both of these entries win commendations for restoration, and both will be the subjects of a special article in Leicester Citizen No.22 to be published in July 2010. However there can only be one winner.

The Award for Restoration goes to The Wesley Hall Community Centre, in Spinney Hill Park Conservation Area. We were delighted by the loving restoration of this building, whose stonework, lead, paint and stained glass gleamed in the winter sunlight on the day of our visit. Architect Arthur Wakerley created a beautiful building in 1903 and it has been most beautifully restored. Centre Manager Vida Pearson and her team are to be congratulated on their work, in particular restoration of the four bay windows to the first floor hall. An added delight was the active involvement of centre users in the project. A team of ladies had spent several months on the creation of a tapestry that echoes the Art Nouveau flowers of Wakerley’s glass, and this is proudly on display. This level of involvement in a building is all too rare these days and is to be warmly applauded.

About The Wesley Hall Community Centre Restoration

In 1903 Arthur Wakerley designed a building that due to the restricted nature of the site could exhibit little articulation. He compensated for this by indulging in a fantasy of baroque detail. The stonework features the Green Man, the lead is highly ornate and the windows a great joy. From the inside the first floor windows glow with light through literally thousands of pieces of coloured glass. (Our Chairman lost count at 1,296 – and that was only the bottom third).

All this was in poor condition, with water ingress through rotten window frames. Four months work and £50,000 resulted in a splendid piece of restoration well worthy of an award. The Centre reduced the costs almost three-fold by sound project management principles for which they are to be congratulated. Vida acted as her own clerk of works and employed local craftsman, though the glass had to be sent away to Leeds. We hope readers will agree with us that the result is a triumph!

New Build Award Category

By a unanimous decision the Award for New Build goes to Wyggeston & Queen Elizabeth College and their New James Went Building designed by Brian Rule of local architects Pick Everard (Still going strong after 120 years) The building stands proud on the hillside opposite Victoria Park Road and with the listed Fielding Johnson Building as a hilltop background. The timber and metal envelope embrace an ultra modern interior where a sea of natural light floods onto all floors by a pattern of circular openings. The building houses the business studies, economics, and visual and performing arts departments of the College and is justifiably much admired by its students.

2009 Awards Ceremony

We are delighted to announce that on Friday 9th April 2010 our guests of honour, The Right Worshipful The Lord Mayor of Leicester Councillor Roger Blackmore and The Lady Mayoress Mrs. Hilary Blackmore, will present the 2009 Awards, with a reception and dinner at the City Rooms, Hotel Street, Leicester. Full details are given on the enclosed handbill. Please see the bookings page to reserve your places at this prestigious event.

2009 Commendations

In 2008 the Society added commendations to its annual awards scheme for the benefit of worthy runners-up. This turned out to be just in time, as two restoration projects only narrowly failed to win in 2009 and were consequently the recipients of commendations, the Gimson Houses for its owner, and Madeleine House for both owner and architect. It is only fitting that we now celebrate the excellence in restoration of the City’s historic built environment that they achieved.

The Gimson Houses

In 2008 the Gimson Houses were saved from destruction by a community effort – local people, local councillors and the Civic Society. Although they were on the “Local Interest List” the City Council took no action to save them and it took the local community to galvanise action and bombard the owners with so many objections that they withdrew their application for an ugly little block of flats and sold the building to Jamie Lewis Residential Lettings. Jamie Lewis himself then had great trouble rescuing the houses, with City Planning seeming to put every obstacle in his way.

By such means are circumstances stacked against our historic environment. However Jamie Lewis was eventually able to complete a first class restoration as apartments, with careful attention to detail in the original doors, doorways and windows and glazing.

The distinguished houses were built for the Gimson Family in 1884 by local architect Charles Baker, and now restored shine out across Glenfield Road and the aptly named Gimson Road opposite.

Madeleine House

Built in 1890 by another leading firm of local architects, Everard & Pick, St. John’s Church School was designed to provide a Christian education for the children of the growing suburbs of Clarendon Park and South Knighton. Known affectionately as “Johnnies” it closed as a school and became offices for the Red Cross in 1974.

Staniforth Architects and owner Mal McDonagh of JTB Design have now beautifully restored the building to a very high standard as thirteen luxury apartments. We were impressed by the attention to detail in restoration of the brick and stonework together with the quality of the interiors. Contractors for the brick and stone were Skillstone of Leicester, who won a commendation in 2008 for the superb restoration of the London Road Station façade.

Restored this building, now known as “Madeleine House”, after the owner’s mother, should remain a treasure of the Stoneygate Conservation Area for a further 120 years.

2009 Civic Society Awards