A Glimpse Inside Equitable House
Built in 1935, Equitable House brought a healthy dose of Art Deco and Neoclassical elegance to Woolwich. Until Tesco landed like a piece of space junk late last year, the former headquarters of the Woolwich Equitable Building Society dominated General Gordon Square. If you stand facing away from Tesco, you can pretend that Lionel Upperton Grace’s design still does.
The building society moved out some years ago and since then Equitable House has endured some indignities. A handful of businesses have snuggled into its periphery–two of those, sadly, are betting shops–but large tracts of its cavernous interior remain unused and hidden from the public gaze.
2013 may be a turning point, however. An independent coffee shop has just set up in the left-hand corner (as you face the building) and deserves to thrive. Sometime this year, Antic Pubs plans to set up in the centre of the building. The denizens of Woolwich are thirsty with anticipation.
Yesterday, I was lucky enough to get a butcher’s inside the building’s main banking chamber. It is a jaw-dropping space. Boasting beautiful, classical proportions, it feels grand without coming across as dour or forbidding. Even on a dull day, a soft natural light washes down from a large and intricately detailed skylight. In short, it’s a revelation. Some features have been removed or tampered with but there’s enough original character to present an opportunity for an inspired renaissance. I managed to take the following snaps, which I hope will whet your appetite.