In quick-fire succession of the blog post about the history and architecture of 35-39 Eccleston Street, here is a run-through of the work carried out to the building using a grant from the Townscape Heritage Initiative and the all-important contributions made by the building owner and tenant to create what I think is something special.
You Bet Your Life
If we go back to 2016, 39 Eccleston Street became vacant, its occupier Betfred had relocated to one of our other building repair and restoration projects: 44 Eccleston Street.
39 Eccleston Street after Betfred vacated it.
The owner of 39 Eccleston Street had gained the interest of a potential new tenant, but they would be willing to delay moving in if there was a chance the building could be repaired and restored as part of the THI. With the agreement of the Heritage Lottery Fund and our THI Partnership Board we set about plotting the building’s restoration with Daniel Smith of Smith + Young Architects.
The building had seen a lot of change in its 80 years: the shopfront was totally modernised with standard aluminium framing a large ply-backed fascia sign and naff tile cladding, and the first floor windows were all uPVC. By carefully looking over the whole row we could see that:
- Original steel windows remained in situ at no.37
- A lead-capped stone cornice still existed and ran the full width of the front elevation
- The unaltered pilasters at no.35 and 37 suggested that there was originally grey and black polished granite cladding on the shopfronts. It seems absolutely criminal that someone took the granite off at no.39 in the 1970s.
39 Eccleston Street in 1985. Leeds Building Society, you have a lot to answer for…
Other than that, all we had to go on was a photo from 1986 – by which time most of the original shopfronts were gone – and one tantalising photo taken in 1966 and posted on Manweb Remembered. This last photo gave a clear indication of the original design of the shopfronts and signage.
Seeing this photo of 35-39 Ecclesotn Street in 1996 – some 30 years after it was built – was key to restoring the shopfront.
Armed with this, we now knew the layout and proportions of the shop windows, that the frames were steel and the general layout of the grey and black granite. It was time for the architect to submit a planning application.
Meanwhile the prospective tenant, Gary Usher, had set up an ambitious crowdfunding scheme via kickstarter. He aimed to raise £50,000 for his new restaurant, named Pinion, in twenty-four hours, and in return anyone who pledged funds would get their money back to spend in the restaurant or other incentives.
In the parlance of our times, Gary and the pledgers smashed it. The £50,000 was raised in a mere 59 minutes and by the end of the 24 hours the total stood at £86,000. Although it was still an empty betting shop and a few plans and drawings, Pinion already had a customer base!
It seems a distant memory now, but was in fact earlier this year!
The other countdown to obtaining planning permission for the change of use, new shopfront and new windows went without a hitch and was not really reported on Instagram or Twitter.
Play Your Cards Right
On site the roof was repaired, the hidden gutter re-lined, and the stonework cleaned of paint. Being able to finally get a close look at the brickwork, we found that the oldest pointing was of a red colour, so that’s what we went for. It makes the pattern of the brickwork less apparent, in keeping with the modernist maxim of smooth, uncluttered surfaces.
Red / pink pointing to match the oldest pointing we could find on the building.
The first floor windows are still made by the same manufacturer – Crittall – who made the original windows on this building. Today’s version has a thermal break and can be made with slim double glazing while still keeping the same external appearance of windows from 80+ years ago.
On the left are the original 1930s steel windows at no.37. On the right are the matching new steel windows reinstated to no.39.
As you can imagine, there aren’t that many 1930s style steel shopfront manufacturers out there. Fortunately Crittall could also supply one. The only major difference is you simply cannot get a single sheet of suitable strength glass the size of the original shop window without it needing much thicker frames. So we added a slim mullion in the middle so that we could keep the frames as thin as possible.
A stone specialist was found to source, cut and fit the granite cladding to the original pattern, plus they added a new stone to the floor of the recessed doorway.
The final touches were the bronze letters on brass bars and the awning fitted discreetly between the sign and shop window.
It’s a Knockout
Out of all of the THI-funded building restorations, is this the most dramatic? It’s certainly the first one so far to use materials like steel and polished granite. It perhaps shows the big leap architecture took in the first half of the century, at last abandoning the ‘revivals’ of historic styles that characterised the nineteenth and the early decades of the twentieth century.
Left: 39 Eccleston Street before the THI funded works and Right: after!
Work still to be done includes putting in the awning at no.39, reinstating a historic style clock to no.37 and the upper floor facades of 35 and 37 have been tidied up. The original 1930s Critall windows to no.37 have been repaired and spruced up while those at no.35 are new replacements.
Masterchef: The Professionals
Meanwhile, inside the building, Gary had the interior completely stripped out and re-furbished as a restaurant. The removal of the later false walls and suspended ceiling revealed lovely modern-style plaster cornices and steelwork buried in the walls. The plasterwork has been sensitively repaired and the brickwork and steelwork left exposed as a feature wall. Those curved walls I mentioned in the previous blog post are now obvious when in the restaurant and when looking in from the street.
39 Eccleston Street, 19 September 2018
Upstairs, a state of the art commercial kitchen has been installed along with decor that includes an impressive chandelier downstairs.
Pinion opens at the end of this week, joining Kingsmen Street Food which opened earlier this month and soon to be joined by Down in Albion at another THI building on Atherton Street and in the next month or two, Urbano Chiringuito which will be directly across from Pinion in the former Wool Shop. And we are one winter away from MATE Bistro opening at our THI public realm project at Market Place. Perhaps the post-THI future of this blog will be restaurant reviews?!
I wish all those people who are setting up shop in Prescot every success in their new ventures.