Brutal and bleak, England’s modern architectural gems join heritage list

A Sheffield substation and a Cold War bunker get Grade II* status

Most people would struggle to find much in common between a concrete electricity substation in Sheffield and the Chapter House of St Paul's Cathedral, London.

But the Brutalist building, described by its creators as “a vast automaton in our midst” when it emerged on the Yorkshire city's Moore Street in the 1960s, today joins the Christopher Wren designed churchyard structure in being able to boast of  Grade II* listed status.

After receiving a floodlit makeover three years ago, the Sheffield substation is one of four modern buildings that have been added to the prestigious National Heritage List for England detailing sites with both historical and architectural appeal.

The other three are a cold war bunker in Gravesend, a 'high tech' Sir Norman Foster designed warehouse in Swindon that featured as a backdrop in the film A View to a Kill, Roger Moore's final outing as James Bond, and a steel-framed private house in Tunbridge Wells.

The defence bunker is a rare surviving example of a purpose-built civil defence control centre. It was a command post staffed by around 35 people in the event of a Soviet air attack during the Cold War. Information from air raid wardens of an attack would have been received and orders issued to civil defence and emergency services. It was operational from 1954 until 1968 and has now been restored and is open to the public on occasion.

Despite winning the Financial Times Architect at Work award shortly after its creation, even its own makers describe the Bryan Jefferson-designed substation as “a marmite building” though on balance they say comments have been more good than bad over the years.

Describing the building, purpose and effect of the substation upon completion in 1968, Jefferson Sheard & Partners, who are still based in Sheffield, said: “Although this building with its massive scale and strong character bears little resemblance to the layman's normal idea of a sub-station it has, apart from its basic function, one thing in common. It is unmanned, or virtually so, being remotely controlled from outside the City boundary. A vast automaton in our midst, seen but unheard, providing us with the electrical current so vital to our everyday lives.”

Tom Rhys Jones, managing director of the firm now known as Jefferson Sheard Architects, said Mr Jefferson was absolutely delighted at the recognition.

Mr Rhys Jones told The Independent: “Bryan hasn't been well lately so when I told him the news it really broke him up. He is very proud and it is a very proud moment for the company.”

The substation was built at a time when post-war regeneration of Sheffield was at its peak and is therefore symbolic of that era. Brutalism, typified by blockish, concrete structures such as the Trellick Tower block of flats in London and the J Edgar Hoover building in Washington, began to fall out of fashion in the mid-1970s.

Sheffield Hallam University librarian Julia Shakespeare said she had changed her mind about the substation. “When I first moved to Sheffield in the 1980s, I just couldn't believe how ugly it was, but I think over the years it has grown on me. It's almost so ugly it has a charm of its own. So I'm pleased it has been listed and will be loved and loathed in equal amounts for years to come.”

Heritage minister Ed Vaizey said today: “Everyone knows that England has a fine and wonderful built heritage but it's sometimes forgotten that we have many outstanding modern buildings too. Our architects are among the best in the world and it's absolutely right that their finest work is afforded the same protection as their historic forebears.

”The buildings and structures I am listing today demonstrate this well: innovative, exciting and eye-catching, they each in different ways show that architecture in this country is very much alive and well in the modern world.“

Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage said: ”Some still view the buildings of the era as concrete monstrosities others as fine landmarks in the history of building design.“

The latest additions to the National Heritage List, more than 700 of which are post-war buildings, come on the eve of a new English Heritage exhibition highlighting the country's love/hate relationship with the recent architectural past. English Heritage said Brutal and Beautiful, beginning on 25 September at Wellington Arch, London, will show what makes the post-war era special and why the best of its buildings are worth saving.

Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
The party's over: Paul Higgins and Stella Gonet in 'Hope' at the Royal Court

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special

Broadcaster unveils Christmas schedule

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella

books
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Bell in the new BBC series Posh People: Inside Tatler

Review: Posh journalists just can't get enough of each other

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital
    In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

    Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

    Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran