Until the 1960s and 1970s, protection for some of London’s best buildings was very limited. Incredibly beautiful and historic buildings have often been unceremoniously demolished to make way for new concrete monstrosities. Fortunately, in recent years this has become less common and the city’s remaining structures are better protected.
However, there are still some very majestic buildings – you may remember – that have disappeared in recent years. One of these buildings looked a bit like a piece of Hogwarts, the gothic castle where Harry Potter goes to school. It was located in the heart of the City of London on a corner of land at the historic Bank Junction which had been a major feature of the city for centuries.
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The building formerly known as the Mansion Houses stood at No 1 Poultry and was in good company, surrounded by the Royal Exchange and the Bank of England. John Maddison of the Victorian Society described it as follows:“ The cheerfully Gothic building, parading among grand classical monuments at the head of an army of variously dressed Victorian mercenaries, underscores the scale and grandeur of [the] public buildings, giving their content a historical depth which is the quintessence of the traditional architectural character of the City”.
Well, translated that means it was pretty grand! Designed by John Belcher who had studied in Paris, it was full of neoclassical and Renaissance influences with cake-shaped tiers and a beautiful circular rotunda facing the street corner like a classical tower.
The building – where full ownership belonged to Lord Peter Palumbo – later became known as the Mappin & Webb Building, after the famous jewelery firm that occupied it for many years. But basically all was not well. In 1990, the building’s leases expired, so developers came in a circle.
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The building was demolished in 1994 despite vigorous campaigns by ‘The Victorian Society’ and ‘SAVE Britain’s Heritage’ after a bitter battle in court. It was replaced by the Modernist James Stirling Building.
The soaring rotunda that capped the top of the building was taken away by Lord Peter Palumbo, and he later used it to decorate the gardens of two houses he owned in the United States.
In 2018, the remaining parts of the stone door casing were sold by LASSCO. They included the series of large stone gargoyles projecting from the cornice and the huge stone doorway.
The door case was adorned with two large portrait heads of Gogmagog and Corineus – the pair of mythical giants once said to guard the City of London. These stone portraits had survived the huge wooden figures of the giants which had stood in the Guildhall since 1708 but had been destroyed in the Blitz.
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