Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Venice in the City of London

Belying the stereotypes, Chartered Accountants' Hall has one of the quirkier interiors to be found in the City of London. Its library may have the expected bookcases, paintings and polished wood furniture - but it also has a bridge modelled on the Rialto in Venice. 

1 Moorgate Place was built in 1890-93 by John Belcher. He had travelled extensively in Europe, and his studies there informed the Baroque Revival design. The whole of his building is wonderful, but the indoor bridge is unique in the UK. 

Its strong Italian influence is rather appropriate, as double-entry bookkeeping was invented in Italy. Its grandeur was an assertion of confidence from a newly-professionalised body: the Institute of Accountants had been formed just twenty years earlier and the Royal Charter was granted as recently as 1880. 

The building holds another surprise, too: behind the original Victorian rooms is a Great Hall built in the 1960s. This vast, modern space was created after the merger of several accountants' bodies had seen membership expand enormously in the 1950s. William Whitfield created a concrete hall uninterrupted by internal support columns but relieved by imaginative use of texture. 

I visited Chartered Accountants' Hall with London Historians. 


Hels said...

The bridge would have reminded Belcher of his beloved travels, even better than photos would have done.

Of course John Belcher travelled extensively in Europe, as any culturally and historically aware traveller did. But the Baroque Revival era in Britain came earlier (in the 18th century) so I suspect that the Institute of Accountants hopped on board, when they saw it.

CarolineLD said...

Hels, this was the nineteenth-century revival of seventeenth/eighteenth-century Baroque - there was almost nothing the Victorians wouldn't revive! (The French were at it too, although they called it Second Empire - another European connection.)