I am pleased to report that the two smallest THI building projects have completed, almost by stealth: Renaissance Skincare and Beauty at 7 and 9 Leyland Street. The building project has happened in stages over the second half of 2017, with the most dramatic changes coming a while back with the replacement ‘shopfront’ being installed. The work was carried out by H Tonge and Sons of Appley Bridge and with the schedule and design work by Jubb Clews.
Above: 7-9 Leyland Street in 2019. Below: 7-9 Leyland Street in 2013
The Restoration Quandary
It seems Leyland Street was built in 1908, but despite its location in the commercial heart of Prescot was built as houses with the exception of the buildings at either corner of the junction with High Street (today Belvoir Lettings and the former Royal Bank of Scotland) and two adjacent shops (now the Hair Shack and partly the former Royal Bank of Scotland).
This house on High Street is one of only four properties at Leyland Street / High Street that remains in residential use. This one retains the original windows and doors.
It seems that within decades of being built the houses were converted one by one to office or retail use, giving the street its present day mix of offices, shops, houses, a cafe and a bank. Over time the original bay windows were replaced by shop windows and over further decades each shopfront has been replaced in modern style timber or uPVC.
Leyland Street a few years ago. A mixture of houses and commercial premises. There is no historic style or detailing to the shopfronts and signage, which are all modern.
From a restoration perspective this creates a quandary: there are no known historic details to restore, and the existence of bay windows means that a typical traditional shopfront simply will not work alongside the building’s domestic architecture. Removing the bay windows all together is simply not an option: they are key features of the street.
Restoring the original domestic bay windows would not suit the retail use of the building, as it would give limited space for a window display, and of course from a distance they would look like houses, not business premises.
The Solution: Evolution
The solution has been a balance between reinstating original features and details and ensuring the buildings still looked commercial, but kept the spirit of their original appearance. The buildings have already evolved over time from houses to places of business. It would not make sense to try and make them look like houses again, but there was clear scope to make the shop windows, entrances and signage more in keeping with the traditional character of the building.
The most striking features are the bay windows that have the proportions of a shop window and leave space for signage on the glass. The small coloured panes of glass echo the colours of the leaded and stained glass that the bay windows would originally have had, but do not attempt to copy or ape them. We have tried to match the bay window frames to the original detail.
The two bay windows are linked by a shallow slate roof that runs over the main doorway to the shop. This sort of lean-to roof was often found on Edwardian and early twentieth century terraced houses, but was not a detail originally found on Leyland Street. We thought however, that it was appropriate to the era and style of the building, and would help 7 and 9 Leyland Street read as a single business unit (which they are). It also emphasises the location of the central front entrance and does the practical job of protecting customers from the elements as they enter and exit.
This is my own sketch proposing the idea of running a flat roof across the paired doorways. This was refined by the surveyors Jubb Clews and the building owner into what was actually built. It definitely looks better with the canted bays and sloping roof!
Again, while many of the original Edwardian doors survive at Leyland Street, we thought these were not ideal for a shop. Firstly, it is preferable to have glazing in the door so it is possible to see if anyone is in the way of the door opening, plus most shopfronts, particularly twentieth century ones, have partially glazed doors to allow more light and visibility into the shop, basically treating the doorway as an extension of the shop window.
The solution has been to install doors with large glazed ovals and panels with a strongly bulbous moulding to them – again in the spirit of the building’s Edwardian architecture, but without aping anything or trying to adapt the original detail to something it is not suited for. New stone steps were added and the door flanked by new handrails is the new main entrance from the shop. Until the THI works completed, the main entrance was around the corner on Hill Street.
Epilogue: How Did We Do?
In a way it seems completely apt that a building that houses a skincare and beauty salon has become an upgraded and updated version of itself. It certainly looks better than it did before, so the works definitely meet the aim of enhancing the character and appearance of the conservation area.
A different THI Officer would have perhaps approached this particular pair of buildings differently. There are certainly many different things that could have been done to this frontage within the budget available, and different takes on the ‘right’ way to conserve a building. Despite this particular building project being a long time in the making, I still cannot think of a better way to have tackled them.