Chartered Accountants' Hall, headquarters of ICAEW in the City of London, was built between 1890 and 1893. The original Hall, fronting on Moorgate Place, was designed by the architect John Belcher RA, whose plans had been successful in open competition. It was opened in 1893 by the President of the day, Edwin Waterhouse.
Described by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as 'eminently original and delightfully picturesque', it is a fine example of Victorian neo-Baroque which draws its inspiration from the work of the Italian Renaissance. As the Institute's membership grew, so did the building. The first extension was built by Belcher's partner, John James Joass, in 1930-31 as a continuation of the original design. This more recent facade, extending down one side of the 19th Century original on Great Swan Alley, begins after the unused entrance which gives onto the alley.
A more radical expansion took place when in 1959 William Whitfield was commissioned to extend the building and provide a Great Hall for large gatherings. His design juxtaposes the clear, simple lines of contemporary architecture with the more ornate work of his predecessors. By suspending the five new stories of office space above the Great Hall from beams supported on four columns on the outside of his building he was able to create a Great Hall free from pillars on the inside. On Copthall Avenue he created a second imposing facade in concrete and glass and the resulting blend of old and new produces a distinctive multi-facetted building, providing the visitor with contrasting impressions according to the direction from which the Hall is approached. The new headquarters was opened by Her Majesty The Queen Mother in May 1970.
The RIBA British Architectural Library holds an important collection of material on the building which includes drawings by John Belcher and John Joass, a range of further books/articles on their work and archival material on glass designed for Chartered Accountants' Hall by Henry Holliday.
In addition, the RIBA Library holds portraits of two of the three architects who have worked on the building, including an Edwardian swagger portrait of Belcher by Sir Frank Dicksee, showing him holding a drawing of the Hall whilst Thornycroft's frieze forms the background. This dates from Belcher's term of office as RIBA President in 1904-06. The RIBA Library also has a pastel portrait of John James Joass by George Murray, dating from 1912 and a bronze head of Joass, artist unknown, of 1931.
The sculptured frieze and the figure of Justice surmounting the oriel at the angle of the original building are by Hamo Thornycroft RA; the other 19th Century sculptures are by Harry Bates ARA. H.A. Stevenson sculptured the frieze which continues on the 1930's extension. The friezes are allegories in human form. Thornycroft's contribution is first a series of panels depicting a range of concepts from the Arts and Sciences to the Colonies, and secondly a frieze depicting the professions and crafts connected with building. Stevenson's work depicts the history of architecture starting with a caveman on the extreme right and including Wren with a model of St Paul's. The truncated figures at the feet of the Statue of Justice are 'the upper parts of figures representing accountants, one in the act of examining a candidate and the other auditing accounts'.
In 1968-69 the frieze was further extended by David McFall (as part of the William Whitfield extension that was opened in 1970).
Belcher based his Council Chamber for the Institute on early Renaissance church design, with a square domed centre to give an impression of soaring height. The frescos were executed in 1913-14 by George Murray to Belcher's designs. To give depth to the room a mirror-like enlarging effect is produced by using pictures of the actual room as background for the allegorical groups.
Opposite the door, the mural represents science bringing order with scales and rule to commerce represented by Eastern merchants. The triumph of law is depicted over the clock above the door. The centre panel of this fresco shows Time holding a scythe and seated upon a globe, crowning Justice, who with sword and scales is accompanied by an attendant angel holding the Tables of Law. The group on the left shows Peace secured by Justice, and the group on the right Judgement slaying Anarchy. The figures of Wisdom, Truth, Prudence, and Justice,into which are worked the arms of London, Liverpool, Sheffield and Manchester, the cities in which the five associations of accountants which formed the original membership of the Institute were based, appear on spherical triangles below the domes. Around the dome itself is a representation of the zodiac.
Extracts on this page taken from Chartered Accountants' Hall: The Building and its contents (ICAEW, 1985).
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