Thursday, 10 March 2011

Harry Mann, Architect - Part I

The last few weeks seem to have flashed by and my writing has, unfortunately, taken the brunt of the impact of this. Nonetheless, I have not been idle these weeks. This post will not be about a memorial or cemetery per se, rather the story of one name that adorns several.

In the atrium between County Hall and Chelmsford library, prominently displayed, but regularly ignored, a brass plaque displays the names, regiments, dates of death and council department of nine men formerly of Essex County Council who fell during The Great War. The height from the ground of said memorial, unfortunately, precludes me from posting a sharp enough image. Not that the memorial is displayed up amongst the rafters, rather that the light that floods in through the glass ceiling combines with the angle required to create a great deal of glare and very little detail.

The oak framed plaque of highly polished brass with red and black inlay hangs above the considerably more contemporary looking memorial to the fallen of the Second World War. In the relatively modern surrounds of the late twentieth century wing of this municipal campus the art nouveau embellishments of the memorial seem to be from another world rather than era. The memorial was presumably moved into this part of the building when it was opened in the late 1980s and there seems to have been little thought as to its place in context. It is, at least, displayed above a public thoroughfare but well above the normal line of sight and difficult to read, despite the clarity of the script. That being said, it is clearly looked after by the council and gleams all year round.

Last November, along with a few hundred other colleagues, I attended the short annual service of remembrance at our organisation’s war memorial. After which I read through the names listed and returned my post. One of the men named was a Henry William Mann of the Architectural Department. A few weeks ago, as part of another informal research project, I visited the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) headquarters at Portland Place to photograph their war memorial. One of the associates listed on the memorial was an H.W. Mann.

Initially I did not identify the connection, but upon one of my visits to the library I stopped to look at the memorial again and recognised the name as that of Henry ‘Harry’ Mann.

taken from the Illustrated London News, 22nd June 1918
Harry Mann was the assistant county architect at Essex County Council and a sergeant in The Essex Yeomanry, serving with them in France during 1914. He was later commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery with whom he was killed on 30th March 1918.

The Essex Records Office in Chelmsford holds several of Mann’s original drawings. What is clear from these drawings is that, despite his being an associate member of the RIBA, he undertook very few complete-build projects on his own. The bulk of his work seems to have been extensions and adaptations to existing builings. However, of the buildings he is known to have designed, one is 155-157 Newland Street in Witham, between Chelmsford and Colchester and the home town of his parents. This was built in 1911 as a garage for Mr. Glover (it would gain further recognition in this field when Ginetta took over the lease in the early 1960s).

In a twist of irony, Mann’s former house also on Newland Street (now a conservation area owing to the high number of important buildings) was replaced by a garish office block devoid of the character present in much of the rest of the street.

The next few posts will study the work, influences and life of Harry Mann.

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