Lawrence G Summers, Watson Fothergill in Nottingham

Inside Watson Fothergill’s Office part two

Having studied the building from the outside, the chance to have a look around inside the Offices of Watson Fothergill on George Street, Nottingham was too good to resist. Many thanks to Sarah Julian of BBC Radio Nottingham for giving me the opportunity and to the Bragas for letting me take a few quick photos and letting me talk to them about the building.

Following on from my previous blog about getting through the door to find a quote from Geoffrey Chaucer, here we go up stairs to find the offices that have been turned into a two bedroom flat.

A screen grab of the listing for rent.

Fothergill built his office on George Street in 1894-5 after having to vacate his previous set up on Clinton Street when the railway came through. Typically, he had been prepared for the move and bought the site on George Street. He demolished the previous building in readiness for building his office. Aged 54 at the time, he was a confident and mature architect, his office serves as a three dimensional portfolio, and a lot of his later work around Nottingham seems to have followed on from this construction. It demonstrates his capabilites to his wealthy Nottingham clients and showed them the quality to which his creations aspired.

Up to the first floor and I noticed a familiar name on the door! (Photo: Lucy Brouwer)

I managed to grab a few photos, but as well as being rather overwhelmed I was also talking to Sarah for the radio piece, so forgive the rather snatched images! Up on the first floor, the first thing that caught my eye was the nameplates on the internal doors. The larger of the two rooms bore the initials L.G. Summers (Fothergill’s assistant, co-architect but never partner, in the practice Lawrence George Summers who will be familiar to readers of this blog.)

On the other door, a suitably Gothic name plate. (Photo: Lucy Brouwer)

The owners pointed out that the door with Fothergill’s name on lead to the smaller of the two rooms, they deduced that this was so that, in a building heated by coal fires, the boss would have the warmer office. It is also the office on the turret side of the building.

The fireplace in Fothergill’s office looks likely to be original. Nice Gothic ballflower detail. (Photo: Lucy Brouwer)
The niche above Fothergill’s fireplace has some Gothic touches surviving and the ceiling was panelled. We weren’t sure about all the wallpaper! (Photo: Lucy Brouwer)

There was a sense in the room that it would have made a cosy place to work, there was a connecting door through to Summers’ office and then the landing between them and the small waiting room that has been extended into a modern kitchen.

Fireplace and parquet flooring in what would have been the small waiting room area at the back. (Photo: Lucy Brouwer)
Summers’ office has been turned into the lounge of the flat. This is the larger room at the front on the first floor. The fireplace was off-centre and we couldn’t agree if this was an original feature. (Photo: Lucy Brouwer)
The view out the back window of the cottages in Brewitt’s yard. The one closest on the left has been incorporated into the building to make the kitchen and bathroom. (Photo: Lucy Brouwer)
The landing window contained some more coloured glass and what seems to be a quote from ‘The Life of Christ’ by Frederick Farrar (1874) perhaps a book that Fothergill, who had his religious moments, had read and taken to heart? (Photo: Lucy Brouwer)
The staircase up to the second floor. No one seemed to know what the statue represents; it was left by the previous owner. The niche suggests there has always been some art there but was it this? Anyone know who the chap with the bells is? (Photo: Lucy Brouwer)
The room in the turret, you can just see a panel in the ceiling which would have allowed you to look up into the workings and see the herringbone structure. It was currently full of insulation, but perhaps imagine Fothergill showing clients the quality of the woodwork inside his tower! (Photo: Lucy Brouwer)
The door to the other room upstairs, the owner had been staying there so I didn’t get a picture of inside! Presumably Fothergill’s apprentices and assistants worked upstairs. They had a fireplace in every room. (Photo: Lucy Brouwer)
In the little room that had been made into the toilet, was this tiny window. The owners removed a pulley system that seems to have been for hauling bags of coal up to the top floor in order to heat the offices. (Photo: Lucy Brouwer)

It was tricky to get more photos and talk at the same time so there’s just a flavour of what the building was like inside and we didn’t get time to look in the shop downstairs or further into the yard.

The conversion seems to be sympathetic – the building was used as a solicitors office prior to being sold (at least twice) so it had been disused for quite sometime. The quality of the workmanship on the repairs is first rate. It was mentioned that Fothergill had made a sturdy structure with a stone or concrete foundation – without which, the damage that was inflicted in 2015 might have destroyed the front of the building. Bonsers have written about the restoration they carried out on their website.

I will be running more Watson Fothergill guided walks into July and August – you can find dates and details via my Eventbrite page where you can book tickets. Private tours can be arranged – get in touch with Lucy via the contact page.