Donald Gibson Mid-Century building feature saved in the nick of time

Friday 31st of May 2019 07:50 AM

From the left, Tom Blackburn (Project Manager from DSM), Brian Harrabin (Director at Complex Development Projects) and Mike Evans (Deputy Director Estate Development at Coventry University)

Mid-Century architectural details from Coventry’s post-war reconstruction are to be preserved and reused in Coventry’s newest hotel.

The 25m long metal balustrade was a feature of the first-floor balcony of a row of shops on Earl Street which is being demolished to make way for the redevelopment of the former Civic Centre offices by Coventry University.

The ironwork is in the 1950’s ‘Coventry style’ and very similar to those fronting the former Bridge Restaurant at the Grade II listed Broadgate House, which is being restored to its original design by the Council.

The university has donated the railings to Complex Development Projects (CDP) which is developing the Telegraph Hotel in Corporation Street, retaining many of its original 1950’s features of the former offices of the Coventry Evening Telegraph.  They will be reused as a feature on the terrace of a new rooftop bar facing the Belgrade Theatre.

The boutique hotel will be open to the public in late 2020 and is part-funded by the West Midlands Combined Authority and supported by the freeholder, Coventry City Council.

Brian Harrabin, a director of CDP, spotted the railings when demolition had already started on the buildings which are opposite The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum.

He said: “The balustrade is a perfect example of the period and I only really noticed it because we are focusing so much on Coventry’s unique Mid-Century design in the work at the former Telegraph building.

“We contacted the university and they gave us the green light as long as the demolition contractors were in agreement. On close inspection, the metalwork was in very good condition which indicates the high quality of the city council’s redevelopment done by Donald Gibson immediately after the war– it was meant to last.

“It really was saved in the nick of time – the demolition was due to start the very next day, so we had to move very quickly. We are very grateful to the university and their demolition contractor for delaying their works to allow us to remove the balustrade intact.

“Once restored to their former glory, they will be a fantastic feature on the rooftop bar.”

Councillor Jim O’Boyle, Coventry City Council’s Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration, is delighted the railings are to be put to good use.

He said: “Although it is important to regenerate our city, it is also important to acknowledge our wonderful heritage as well.

“This is a good example of ensuring the best of the old is used as part of something new which will bring something different to the city centre in respect to this new boutique hotel.”