For those new to CabbieBlog or readers who are slightly forgetful, on Saturdays I’m republishing posts, many going back over a decade. Some will still be very relevant while others have become dated over time. Just think of this post as your weekend paper supplement.
A Phoenix Arises (28.08.09)
As part of a series with the imaginative title “Buildings of London” the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom on the south side of Parliament Square is emerging like a phoenix from the old Middlesex Guildhall.
Little did Tony Blair imagine, or care, when he was ingratiating himself with the Americans to guarantee his healthy income stream for when he left office, that copying their idea of a Supreme Court would bring that neglected building to life.
The name Middlesex comes from the kingdom of the Middle Saxons, and has been around for 1,000 years and the Guildhall symbolises that civic pride. The building was built between 1906 and 1913 in an art nouveau gothic theme, and decorated with mediaeval-looking gargoyles and other architectural sculptures. The Guildhall also incorporates in the rear a doorway dating from the seventeenth century which was a part of the Tothill Fields Bridewell prison and moved to the site to be incorporated in the building.
The conversion has attracted much controversy from conservation groups, which claim that the conversion will be unsympathetic to such an important building. The Middlesex Guildhall is a Grade II* listed building and English Heritage classed the three main Court interiors as “unsurpassed by any other courtroom of the period in terms of the quality and completeness of their fittings”. But the conversion works have involved the removal of many of the original fixtures and fittings with a vague promise to display a few key pieces in the basement and find a home for the rest in some other building not yet designed or built.
Outside the building stands a statute of George Canning whose total period in the office of Prime Minister was at 119 days the shortest on record. If only Tony Blair tenure had been so brief, Britain might not be in the sorry state it finds itself.