Recently I included a page on Stonebow House. In its iconic ugliness it perhaps distracts attention from other less startling erections of the period. Like one just down the road, on St Saviour’s Place.
Hilary House, from the end of St Saviourgate. Framed by, looming over, the handsome buildings of that street.
What were they thinking. (And, update – there’s now a suggestion it could be made taller.)
I’ve seen it stated that the infamous architect John Poulson designed Stonebow House. He didn’t. He designed this building, Hilary House. (See ‘Elsewhere on the web’, below, for sources.)
Let’s see if it looks better with some blue sky behind it. No, not much.
Round the back on Aldwark it looks far worse. Here’s a photo taken in 2004, from Aldwark, over the top of a wheelie bin. Normally I’d try to avoid getting a wheelie bin in the photo, but in this case it didn’t seem to matter.
Just look at it, with its forlorn car park and the Minster peering over the buildings in the background, looking shocked.
I think at the time I thought that the plastic tube thing was an indication that they were demolishing the place. Sadly not.
Hilary House was built in 1964, before Aldwark was remodelled into a desirable residential area with carefully planned housing filling the gaps between historic buildings. It arrived on the scene when this area was fairly run down and industrial, so perhaps it didn’t matter then that its Aldwark side is so utterly charmless — sudden area of car park, complete with concrete bollards, concrete planter, opening out from the otherwise handsome street frontage into sudden ‘ah, sod it’ streetscape.
Back on St Saviourgate, its front view, where it looks a little better in bright sunlight in March, but then everything does.
From the city walls, the stretch between Monk Bar and Layerthorpe, the most dominant intrusion is not Stonebow House, but Hilary House: that big block sticking up over these carefully integrated houses. Stonebow House behind, just visible.
(Photo: © City of York Council)
Until Hilary House was built in 1964 the buildings at the end of St Saviourgate framed a massive chapel frontage with tall columns. It was designed by J P Pritchett (who also designed the far more beautiful York Cemetery chapel, and the lost deanery in Dean’s Park).
By the 1960s many of those nonconformist chapels built in the 19th century had outlived their usefulness. Looking around the city now, in 2013, it seems the same might be said of large office blocks like Hilary House, apparently empty now.
I think it’s always better to reuse buildings rather than demolish them, but if Hilary House disappeared I really wouldn’t mind. Would anyone?
Elsewhere on the web, sources etc
Information on/references to Hilary House in York Central Historic Core Conservation Area Appraisal – Character areas, 8: Aldwark, City of York Council website
and Downtown York, Ron Cooke, York Civic Trust
J. G. L. Poulson Ltd., architects, Pontefract, catalogue records from National Archives. Includes several references to York properties, including St Saviour’s Place (aka Hilary House) and gas board premises on Davygate, also designed by Poulson (since demolished, replaced by Panter Hudspith development (pdf)).
John Poulson, architect, Wikipedia
Hilary House is included in the City of York Office Stock Availability reports and has a Grade C rating. I’m not an expert but I think that means it’s not top of the range office space.