Sports, leisure and the Arts Brooklands Road Conservation Area

Architectural and historic qualities of the buildings

The original owner of the land, Samuel Brooks, envisaged from the beginning that Brooklands Road would be a long avenue, lined on either side with stately mansions in large grounds. Originally these would have been substantial properties, two or three storeys high, built of brick and stone.

Roofs would have been steeply-pitched and covered with high-quality slate, and pikes, gables and tall chimneys would have contributed to the varied roofscape. Long, horizontal eaves and roof ridges would have been avoided, variety and interest being provided by dormers and other devices.

The combination of narrow frontages and a variety of projecting bays, dormers, complex roof forms and a mix of materials, was commonly used in this 'picturesque' period of the Arts and Crafts Movement. The form of the buildings would have been dominated by modelled architectural features and by the absence of long, horizontal rooflines, thus reducing the massing of each building.

Unfortunately the only surviving example of this type of architecture is the (unlisted) Normanhurst Hotel, built in 1898, most of the other houses in Brooklands Road being of early twentieth century vintage.

Normanhurst was designed by the local architect William Owen, whose office was in Deansgate in the City Centre. Although his work lacks the originality of the nationally celebrated Arts and Crafts architects of the period (such as Norman Shaw, Voysey, Lethaby and Ashbee), his work on Normanhurst is influenced by that of Shaw, clearly employing elements of the Arts and Crafts style in the use of red 'Accrington' brick for the lower half of the building and for the vertically-enhanced and detailed chimneys, and white render with black-painted half-timber details in the upper half.

Small, red-coloured baked-clay 'Rosemary' tiles cover the varied roof pitches and create an overall impression quite different from that of a roof covered by slate or modern concrete tiles. Crested ridge tiles and finials add to the variety of the skyline already made interesting by the many intersecting roof volumes.

The horizontal division of the elevations, established by the smooth red brick at the lower levels and the white render above, is tempered by the vertical proportions of most of the windows, which are linked to the vertical expression created by the black-painted timbers.

Where windows are horizontally proportioned, they are subdivided in such a way that each pane is vertically proportioned. This 'play' on the proportions, assisted by the studied use of materials, is one of the building's most interesting attributes and entirely characteristic of the date it was designed and built.

Together these forms, and the modelling created by them, coupled with the sensitive use of materials, have resulted in an architecturally attractive building, entirely representative of its age, based on the Arts and Crafts style, which sits well in its landscaped site along Brooklands Road.

In common with other buildings erected around this time, Normanhurst is a picturesque property, but very sensitively balanced and by no means haphazard. It plays an important role in the rhythm of buildings and landscaped spaces in the road and in the wider area, and is of great historic importance in this recently designated conservation area in that it represents the last property originally constructed to the specific requirements of the developer of the straight 11/4 mile road.

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