Lloyd’s Register of Shipping
A building which gets more exciting the closer you look. From intricate details to the juxtaposition of glass and steel. It even has a small, colourful garden.
What’s Lloyds Register?
It started with a Mr Edward Lloyd who had a coffee house on Tower Street before moving to Lombard Street in 1691. There’s still a plaque to mark where the building stood until 1785.
The coffeeshop was a place for merchants to go to hear news and swap gossip. Edward printed a sheet of all the news he heard about ships coming to and from London. Later this newsfeed was organised into the Register Society who circulated maritime information for eager underwriters and merchants.
Inside Lloyd’s Register they have this fun little model of the coffeehouse. It was made by Mrs G A Campbell, a member of the Lloyd’s Register’s Arts Guild.
Today ‘LR’ – how Lloyd’s Register style themselves now – is a classification society. Their new logo (an L and R against a blue square background) is actually an old logo, based on the mark stamped into steel that met approval since 1884.
Oh, and Just to add, Lloyd’s Register is separate from Lloyd’s of London the insurance market.
At the turn of the 20thC, LR decided they needed a building that could reflect their history and importance.
According to LR’s own history write up they provide Collcutt with a ‘sketchy’ brief, with ‘little guidance’ on actual office needs, more concerned with the overall statement the building made. Indeed, initial designs were turned down as ‘too understated’.
Thomas Collcutt was appointed by a Committee to design a new HQ on Fenchurch Street. Between 1899-1901 an Italian Palace rose on the street, built of pricey Portland stone. Perhaps the ‘Palazzo’ inspiration was a hark back to the organisations links to Lombard Street? (Named after Italian immigrant bankers from Lombardy) or perhaps they just liked the weight and style?
At this point, it’s worth having a closer look at the details.
If you weren’t sure what Lloyd’s Register did. It’s fair to say you’d guess it was to do with shipping. The decorative friezes are full of allegories of trade by Sir George Frampton.
In the panel below, Hermes; Messenger to the Greek Gods and himself the God of Trade stands in the centre. The ships either side of him swell with fruit – images of abundance – while women line up to bestow gifts of spice and exotic flora and fauna.
There are also bronze figures that break up the white sculpture. Two maidens are shown depicting steam and sail, each holding their respectively powered vessel.
And to top it off, look up to spot the golden ship weathervane.
While looking, it’d be easy to assume the glass boxes behind are as a separate building. In fact it’s still part of Lloyd’s Register.
The Richard Rogers Rebuild
Having acquired six adjacent offices blocks over 70 years, this scattered growth wasn’t really working for the business.
Richard Rogers was commissioned to make the best use of the sprawling space owned by Lloyd’s Register, while having a smallest impact possible on Collcutt’s Grade II* listed building.
Enter the archway into the modern precinct and you can look up to see Rogers’ exposed colour piping. Usually these are colour coded; red for hot water and blue heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
Inside the archway there’s even the bonus of a boutique garden. It’s decorated with colourful panels showing the Worshipful Company of Gardeners and a nearby plaque declares it and award-winning small City garden.
Inside Lloyd’s Register
Lloyd’s Register is a private office building located at 71 Fenchurch Street. However they occasionally open for Heritage Open Days and Open House Weekend.
If you have a chance to go inside, the highlight is definitely the General Committee Room.
Designed by Thomas Collcutt the room is a feast of the best materials and techniques. Marquetry covers the walls up to the dado then above them are hangings in the William Morris Damask patten style. Although these are modern replacements, they’re based on the original in the V&A.
And then you have the ceiling…
Inspired by Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, it was painted in tempera by Professor Gerald Moira. It shows the four elements of earth, air, fire and water along with zodiac signs.
Every inch of the room is ornate, from the door handles with marine imagery;
To the Persian-inspired floral fireplace tiles by William de Morgan.
On Saturday 21 September 2019 Lloyd’s Register will be open to the public from 10am-5pm. Find out more here.
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