15 May 2019

An art deco building
with an uncertain
future in Tamworth

The former electricity showrooms on Church Street were built on the site of a pub and later became a pub once again (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

The greatest piece of town planning vandalism in Tamworth in the 1960s was the destruction and loss of the Tudor and timber-framed buildings that once lined much of Church Street, many dating back to the 15th century.

But, while the loss of this heritage continues to be mourned, questions must also be asked about the future facing what was once of the finest art deco-style buildings in Tamworth.

The magnificent art deco building at No 59 Church Street, facing Corporation Street, was built in 1932-1936 as an electricity showroom for the Tamworth and District Electricity Supply Company. Previously, the site was occupied by the Rose and Crown, a public house that opened in 1864-1868.

Colonel D’Arcy Chaytor, a colliery owner who had restored Pooley Hall in Polesworth, was largely responsible for bringing electricity to Tamworth in 1924.

During World War II, the 45-ft high landmark tower at the centre of the building was used as an air-raid siren for Tamworth. It sounded on 138 occasions during the war, and bombs were dropped on the town on four occasions.

The building and its tower survived the war, and also survived much of the demolition of Church Street and the neighbouring streets in Tamworth. But in 1976 the electricity board was allowed to reduce the height of the tower by two-thirds, with the excuse of reducing maintenance costs.

At the same time, the clock that once stood at the top of the tower was moved, and was reinstalled lower down on the building.

The former showroom on the ground floor was converted into the Chicago Rock Café in 2002. Later it became the Silk Kite Public House, so that the site returned to its original use a century and a half earlier.

But the name of the Silk Kite was a clever devise to keep alive the memory of the former electricity showrooms, for it recalls a famous experiment conducted by Benjamin Franklin in 1752, in which he used a silk kite. The experiment became a milestone in understanding how electricity works.

Today, this impressive building is locally listed, but today it is vacant again, and is available to rent as ‘a free of tie public house.’

But even modern listed buildings of architectural interest face a difficult future in Tamworth.


flodin said...

tamworth survived the war but not the 1960s council whos members still have buildings named after them

Unknown said...

The LightHouse Bar is to occupy the property now. Another clever devise to keep alive the memory.