Signs and Wonders 26: The mentor's corner

Evening Post, 9 Mar 2006

WHERE: Yorkshire Bank branch, corner of High Street and Smithy Row

WHAT: This corner of the Council House differs from all the others - most of all, it differs in architect.

Where the rest of the building is the work of T. Cecil Howitt, this corner belongs to Albert Nelson Bromley, the classically-inclined Nottingham architect who had once trained and employed him.

Bromley had built a National Provincial Bank on the site in 1911. It had to stay, with its front matched in, when the new Council House went up in the late twenties - although in fact, as Ken Brand and John Beckett explain in their book on the Council House and Old Market Square, it was demolished and rebuilt.

While Bromley may not be as much written about as Watson Fothergill, T.C. Hine, or even his pupil Howitt, his mark is certainly still visible in the city - especially this part of it.

As part of his frequent work for Boots, he built their first department store - now Zara and Monsoon - across the road in the High Street. He also remodelled the front of T.C. Hine's building for Griffin and Spalding (now Debenhams), and designed the smart white Lloyds Bank in Beastmarket Hill.

A walk around the edge of the Yorkshire bank will show how well his style blended with Howitt's.

But there was a touch of rivalry.

In August 1929, when he gave his verdict on the Council House to the old Nottingham Daily Guardian, his letter appeared under the ominous heading "Well-known architect's constructive criticism".

Although it begins with a volley of praise, the letter's chief "constructive" idea is a reworking of the front of the building, to include a portico with the city arms over it - to be done at "comparatively small cost".

"The want of a leading feature at the front entrance has been a matter of universal remark," he concludes.

Bromley's own contribution to the Council House, you'll note, carries its full complement of crests - as do the Boots and Griffin and Spalding buildings.