Cross Street and King Street

Cross Street

Cross Street: Charles Heathcote's Eagle Insurance (foreground), and further along with the tower, his Alliance & Leics building.

From Albert Square by the Town Hall, Cross Street runs north. The view along Cross Street is of a range of Victorian and later buildings, mostly of 4-6 stories high, with some variety to style, skyline and frontage. We note three interesting buildings, all by the architect Charles Heathcote.

The block running from South King Street to King Street, nos 62-68, is the Eagle Insurance Buildings. The building is completely detached, with a small alley running behind it. The sculptural work consists principally of youths in light drapes acting as shield-bearers at the corners, each shield having an eagle, wings outspread, seated upon it. Each group is differently posed.

On the East side, perhaps no 57 King Street, et seq, is Lloyds Bank, Heathcote again, dated 1911, in a most imposing edifice in Portland stone, gaining depth and character from the contrasting black grime and paler stone surfaces. There are two stone groups of figures - on the King Street-Cross Street corner, and the King-Street-Cheapside corner, apparently by Earp, Hobbs and Miller. Rather baroque, the one group shows a helmeted Britannia standing with swirling cloak on the prow of a ship holding a wreath; her companions are an unclad boy holding a wheatsheaf and some fruit, and an essentially unclad young man with a broken hand. The other group has a crowned Britannia, again on a shipís prow, holding a staff, and similar swirling drapes to the other one. Decent work, losing dignity from the chubby self-satisfied face. But more characterful companions Ė a seated Neptune holding a short trident and a conch, and a boy holding a ramís head, with a cornucopia behind

Group from Lloyds Building, Cross Street.

On the west side, on the corner of St Ann St, stands nos. 28-34, for the Alliance and Leicester Building Society, put up in 1901, Baroque again, this time by Heathcote and Rawle. Four upper storeys and a nice multi-sided turret with cupola on the corner. On this corner, high up, is a statue of a queen, with crown, orb, and a curved shield bearing a starburst emblem. Anonymous, like so much architectural sculpture, this shows a simple treatment, but nicely sized and located to be seen down the length of the street. Various little spandrel figures of cherubs and other winged male figures adorn the round-headed windows in the spandrel positions.

Finally, in passing, by St Annís Alley we notice Mr Thomasís Chop house, tall and skinny in purplish and orange glazed brick with minor decoration.

King Street

King Street, panel showing Building, on the Reform Club.

We double back to explore King Street. In the westerly, pedestrianised part towards Deansgate, we may note the entrance of no. 8, likely of the 1870s-80s or thereabouts, which shows two girls in high relief, spinning and enscribing. Diagonally opposite, a Tudor-style effort of some distinction. The more interesting part lies easterly of Cross Street and climbs upward. After Lloyds, at no. 82 is one of C. R. Cockerellís three branch buildings for the Bank of England, dating from the 1840s, very highly thought of, unornamented Greek Doric, and sadly now backed by a very large modern block which takes away the presence of the older building.

Nos 76-80 in red terracotta is the Prudential Building, unmistakably by Waterhouse. Next, between Pall Mall and Brown Street is the large Ship Canal House, dating from 1924-1927. Very high up on top, a stone group, very deco, of Neptune, with two attendants guiding mer-horses to left and right. Heroic, but cannot be seen at an angle at which it can be appreciated. By this building or part of it, a lower entrance with an Atlas holding a globe on top.

Still on this side of the street, a little along is a huge pile, by Lutyens, no less, for the Midland Bank. Of a little later date than Ship Canal House, and rather bare, but the corners of the block have arches under which the pedestrian must pass, and within two of these corners them are low relief pairs of figures supporting shields, apparently by J. Ashton Floyd of Manchester. Classical in the 1930s sense, with rather nice drapes which could be from an earlier period, but the stern faces and treatment of the hands and musculature give away the date.

On the opposite side to all this, as we approach the end of the street is the best group of buildings, made up of the Reform Club in King Street, and on Spring Gardens at the end, the Commercial Union Assurance Society by the now familiar Charles Heathcote, with tower, (1881). The Gothic Reform Club, no 81, by Edward Salomons and dating from 1870-71, has serious sculptural decoration Ė snarling griffins at ground floor level, and above, six panels showing allegorical girls. Each panel has a single girl more or less filling the field. We can identify Astronomy with globe and scrolls; Building rather than Architecture, with trowel, hammer, a tool to judge distances, and behind her a Gothic wall. Engineering, has a cog, big hammer, and behind may be seen a train on viaduct. She has especially nice drapes. Agriculture is sowing seeds, with farm equipment and tree behind; then Arts, with wreath, musical instrument, palette and brushes, easel and tapestry behind, books on the floor. And finally Crafts, with a girl holding a peg in front of a huge carpet making machine. The treatment of the figures is rather chunky than delicate, and unlike the splendid griffins below there is nothing of the Gothic spirit, but these are still to be highly appreciated and a highlight of the street. According to Pevsnerís architectural guide to the city, the sculptors were TR and E Williams.


King Street, Reform Club griffin by TR & E Williams.

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