Heritage open day for 50-year-old County Hall

  |  Published: Sep 13th 2016
Chairman Val Letheren welcomes Mr and Mrs Kitson and County Hall architect Fred Pooley's daughters Liz and Jean.
Chairman Val Letheren welcomes Mr and Mrs Kitson and County Hall architect Fred Pooley's daughters Liz and Jean.

Buckinghamshire County Council chose national Heritage Day on Saturday to open County Hall to the public. Chairman Val Letheren welcomed 125 visitors, who had braved the rain, to tour the 14-storey block, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

Among them was Bob Kitson, who as a pipe fitter in 1966 helped to install the heating system. He described it is an amazing place that brought back great memories. 'It has changed quite a bit,' he said. 'But some things haven’t; I recognised some of the radiators from 1965!'

Visitors were able to view offices, see displays about the design, construction and history, and visit the 11th floor for views across Buckinghamshire. The County Council's Family Information Service also provided children's activities.

Construction began in Walton Street, Aylesbury, 1963 and it was officially opened in 1966 by Housing and Local Government Minister Anthony Greenwood. The Brutalist style used in County Hall's design by the then County Architect Fred Pooley, was heavily criticised at the time but has now been described by architects as an under-appreciated beauty.

His two daughters, Liz and Jean, joined a tour to see how their father's original designs had been developed over the past half-century. 

One young council officer who witnessed the official opening still works for the authority as a Commissioning Manager. Steve Nicholls, who was part of the first team to work in the new County Hall, remembers standing on a balcony, now meeting rooms, watching the opening ceremony.

'It's changed drastically inside since the opening,' said Steve. 'We now have open plan offices, which create a friendlier environment, and we also have more than one computer, and people aren’t scared to use them either!'

Chairman Val Letheren, who hosted visitors, said: 'It was a real pleasure to welcome so many people to look around County Hall and I was delighted to see how many came up to the 11th floor to look at the view across our beautiful county.'

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