Underley Hall Chapel, Kirby Lonsdale

April 27, 2011 Filed under: 1960s, Culture, Education by Sanna Fisher-Payne 5 comments

Placed 22nd in the Placebook vote of favourite buildings by BDP
Former partner in BDP, Sid Tasker recalls an older, and smaller, project

The story begins on Euston Station, where George Grenfell Baines (GGB) got into the Preston train and sat next to a stranger who it transpired was the RC Bishop of Lancaster. By the time the train got to Preston, he had secured the commission. Even for GGB this was remarkable!

Underley Hall was a seminary for training priests.

It is probably the last building, unquestionably designed by Bill White, who was a devout RC –  before he became almost totally absorbed in administering the firm and, in my view it is one of his best. I joined Grenfell Baines in 1955 and worked with ‘WW’ from my first day – I found his approach to design a revelation – and regard him as one of my mentors.

The plan is a beautifully clear statement and typical of Bill’s ability to analyse and rationalise a problem. (Like a number of us he did a personal entry for the Liverpool RC Cathedral competition and I can well remember the clarity of his plan) The elevations at Underley, are heavily modelled inside and out and the walls are faced in a split block. I believe cost militated against the use of stone.

The building was ‘discovered’ by Nikolaus Pevsner on his travels for (I think) the Westmoreland volume of the ‘Buildings of England’ series. He was very enthusiastic about the design and published it in the Architectural Review of which I think he was then an editor. Underley Hall closed as a seminary a long time ago. Nowadays, I believe it is at least partly used as a  school. From the evidence of Google Earth, the chapel still exists, but whether it is a part of the school I’m unsure.

Sid Tasker began working with BDP's founder Sir George Grenfell Baines in Preston in 1955, later becoming a partner in BDP. He retired in 1993.