This Art Deco Grade II Listed building has just been extensively refurbished, as mentioned in the article on Heritage Open Days in this issue.  It may be interesting to see how it was reported when it first opened in 1940.  Ron Redgewell has unearthed the original article from the Times and Recorder.[Ed]


‘Times and Recorder’ Saturday April 6th 1940

Contributed by Mr Ron Redgewell
Henceforth that familiar term in Newcastle – ‘The Island Site’ – can be forgotten.  The imposing £55,000 building that now stands on the site, completed in the last few weeks, conveys new dignity to the town centre under its proper title – ‘Lancaster Building’.  It adds a dozen beautifully appointed shops to the Borough’s trading facilities and provides much needed modern office accommodation fore municipal, public and business purposes.

In the controversy that enlivened the Newcastle Council affairs over the island site there never was any question of the excellence of the plans for Lancaster Building.  The only issue was – ‘Fine Building’ or ‘Open Space’.   Today even the keenest enthusiasts for open space will agree that it is a fine building.

Events which need not be detailed have completely vindicated that majority of the Council who believed that Newcastle has a future which demands increased shopping facilities.  In the coming years when Newcastle will almost surely find itself expanding at a hitherto unexpected rate, the Corporation enterprise in taking this and other steps in the interests of Newcastle’s trading and business developments will be amply rewarded.
Promotion of the Scheme

The design of the building is the result of a national competition promoted by the Council who appointed Mr H.S. Fairhurst, F.R.I.B.A. of Manchester as adjudicator.  Designs were submitted in October 1936 and the award was made at the end of January 1937, the design of Messrs Hickton and Madeley of Walsall being placed first. The building is of fireproof construction and comprises basement stores, shops at street level and two floors of offices with an office entrance facing the Market Cross.

The design of the Building

The layout of the building has been designed to provide  well lit office space of suitable economic width with an approach as direct as possible from the street without taking up too much of the shopping area.  The main stair case and the automatic lift go directly to the upper floors and to a spacious hall from which access is obtained to the well lit corridors.  
The offices are divided by non-structural partitions so that rearrangements can be made in future if required.  The whole of the top floor has been taken over by the Borough Surveyor’s Department has been planned to suit his requirements.
The elevations of the building rely chiefly on simplicity, good proportions and good materials, while interest has been focussed on certain points by sculptured stone panels illustrating industrial activity in the surrounding districts.  The absence of unsightly pipes both inside and outside the building should be noted.  Most of these have been placed in specially arranged ducts.
Construction and Finishing

The building is completely steel framed with 14” brick main walls and floors of hollow tile and reinforced concrete construction.  The basement is of solid brick construction and is completely waterproofed with asphalt on the outer side.  Local materials have been used as far as possible and the hand-made facing bricks, white glazed bricks, stonework and roofing tiles are notable examples.
A feature is made of the beautiful work in the shop fronts carried out by Messrs Harris and Sheldon of Birmingham.  The marble surrounds are of filled tile travertine.  The surround to the main entrance is in Verte Tinos marble and with semi-circular cornices including displayed walls in the office entrance to the Market Cross in New Street.  The dadoes underneath the shop front windows are also in Verte Tinos marble to match the surround to the shop entrance and pilaster bases.  The marble columns to the upper windows which are above the canopy are also cream filled travertine.  Shop front sashes are in bronze, metal toned with clip glazing to the entrances.  Entrance doors and frames are in polished oak.  Soffits of the lobbies are in Masonite panels out-finished ivory.  The office entrance doors are in bronze.  The canopy is faced on the front with a bronze moulded fascia.


At present only two of the shops remain to be let and individual requirements of shop tenants have been met as far as possible in the design of each shop front.  Decorative lead flower boxes are to be provided around the circular corners of the building above the stone band at the first floor level, but have been delayed owing to war conditions.
The successful carrying out of the structural work has been greatly assisted by the care and thought given to it by Clerk of the Works Mr H.F. McClory, and the builders’ General Foreman Mr F. Finney.  Local sub-contractors have been employed on the work as far as possible.