Visiting Newport, Wales, and its Civic Centre: monumental Art Deco structure begun in the 1930s
Whose 'fault' was the clock tower?
As with so many things, it was World War Two which 'threw a spanner in the works'. The Civic Centre of Newport (Welsh: Casnewydd ), in Wales's Gwent, was begun in 1937; while yet incomplete, it was inaugurated by King George VI in 1940, but, with the events, upheavals and expenses associated with World War Two, a major feature of today's building was still missing. This feature is the gigantic, 55 metre high clock tower.
So, once World War Two was over, the tower was built?
Well, not exactly. In fact, the tower and thus the Civic Centre building was not completed until 1964. Even then, local politicians squabbled about whether they even wanted it to be built at all. Some wanted the work to be completed; others did not. Those who wanted it prevailed. (But it became increasingly hard to continue to blame World War Two any longer for attempts to delay its completion.)
In any case, together with the symmetrical arching of its south elevation, it is the clock tower that makes for the imposing landmark which visitors to the city can often not fail to see. When I have passed this building, it has been hard to fail to be impressed.
So which politicians were right? This is probably a wrong question to ask now. Better to say, rather that assessments of the imposing building, complete with tower, would range from regarding its as an assertion of local civic confidence, to thinking it is — or was, now, several decades ago — supposedly somewhat of a monument to profligacy with taxpayers' money.
The Civic Centre's architect was T C Howitt (1889-1968)(1), who executed the building in the Art Deco style popular for civic buildings in the earlier part of the 20th century. He thus lived to see the eventual completion of his monumental work, begun nearly three decades previously, but long delayed for various reasons.
The central hall of the Civic Centre is noted for a series of 12, 6metre murals by the artist and sculptor Hans Feibusch (1898-1998). The building includes courtrooms in addition to the mayor's office. Its main entrance is at Godfrey Road, Newport.
(1) Other, distinguished work for which Architect Hewitt was responsible includes Nottingham's Council House.
Also worth seeing
In Newport itself, Newport Castle is a now ruined structure dating from the 14th century; please note that dangers of flooding linked to the proximity of the Usk River (Welsh: Afon Wysg ) limit access to the castle.
How to get there: Continental Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport , from where car rental is available. London Heathrow is approximately 204 kilometres from Newport , Gwent. There are fast railroad links between London and Cardiff. Some facilities mentioned may be withdrawn without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
Other of my hubpages may also be of interest
- Visiting the Glamorgan Building, Cardiff, Wales: fine example of Beaux-Arts style in Cathays Park
- Visiting Hay-on-Wye, Wales: books galore and a ruined castle
- Visiting Singleton Abbey and Park at Swansea University, Wales: historic setting for an institution
- Visiting Swansea, Wales, and its Guildhall and Brangwyn Hall: Neo-Classicism and Art Deco monumental
- Visiting the Council House, Nottingham, England: domed, Classical civic building by T C Howitt