Nine historic sites recognised to mark Festival of Britain anniversary

Running from May to September 1951, the Festival was a national exhibition and fair promoting British design, science, technology, architecture, industry, and the arts.

Two historic buildings have had their listings status upgraded to mark their connection with the Festival of Britain, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this summer, it has been announced.

Christ Church in Coventry and Calvary Charismatic Baptist Church in Tower Hamlets have been upgraded from Grade II to Grade II* by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), on the advice of Historic England.

Additionally, seven other sites have been ‘relisted’, including London’s Royal Festival Hall and Barbara Hepworth’s famous Contrapuntal Forms sculpture, now located in Harlow.

The Historic England Archive, Hi Christ Church in Cheylesmore, Coventry. The interior is notable for its hanging birdcage light fittings, likely inspired by the Lion and Unicorn Pavilion from the Festival of Britain, whose overall form the building resembles.

Running from May to September 1951, the Festival of Britain was a national exhibition and fair promoting British design, science, technology, architecture, industry, and the arts.

It was intended to give the country a moral and economic boost amid the continuing depression and austerity caused by the end of the Second World War in 1945.

The festival’s fun, colourful exploration of British ingenuity and creativity was an inspirational and optimistic look towards the brave new world of the future and helped foster a national sense of recovery.

The exhibition had its centrepiece on London’s South Bank, with events also taking place across the capital and throughout the country, as far as York and Glasgow.

To this day, the South Bank remains a centre of culture and the arts, as symbolised by the presence of the Royal Festival Hall. It was designed by the London County Council Architect’s Department and was the first post-war building to become listed as Grade I (in 1987).

The two listed churches, which have had status upgrades, were both built in the 1950s. The Calvary Charismatic Baptist Church in Tower Hamlets was designed by Cecil Handisyde and D Rogers Stark and represents an early example of a modern take on an English non-conformist Church.

Christ Church in Coventry, meanwhile, was designed by Alfred H Gardner and is notable for its concrete frame with large areas of self-supporting brickwork, as well as its copper roof and lavish interior.

uncertain An exterior view of part of the shipbuilding display at the Festival of Britain on London’s South Bank. On the left is the Power and Production Pavilion and on the right the Natural Resources Pavilion.

Other ‘relisted’ sites include Newbury Park Bus Station Canopy in Redbridge and the Citizens of Battersea War Memorial in south-west London.

Barbara Hepworth’s Contrapuntal Forms sculpture, commissioned by the Arts Council for the Festival of Britain in order to symbolise ‘the spirit of discovery’, has also been relisted. It stood as part of the exhibition on the South Bank before later being moved to Essex.

Commenting on the news, Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said: ‘The Festival had a major influence on design and architecture and its legacy can still be seen today in our buildings and public artworks.’

‘We are delighted to be able to celebrate the Festival as it reaches its 70th anniversary and we hope that people will continue to appreciate its legacy for years to come.’