37-39 Corn Street, Bristol, BS1 1HT
A.W. Roques with a façade by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott
Art Deco interpretation of Neoclassicism
Portland Stone façade on a steel frame
The offices are currently closed to the public. Access to the exterior at all reasonable times to view the facade from Corn St.
The former Bristol office of the Friends Provident life insurance company was purpose-built for them in the early 1930s with a bank below and offices above. It was designed jointly by A.W. Roques and Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, who was responsible for the frontage. Scott (1880–1960) was a leading award-winning architect of the day whose famous creations include Battersea Power Station and the iconic red British telephone box. Scott’s frontage and its decoration are an unfussy, stylish 1920s/30s Art Deco take on Neoclassicism.
The central first-floor window is flanked by statues representing ‘Peace and Plenty’ (left) and ‘Benevolence and Prudence’ (right), by prominent sculptor Hermon Cawthra. Friends Provident was founded by Quakers and these figures express typical Quaker values. Above the imposing main entrance is a lovely metal grille featuring a frieze of female dancers either side of a figure of Wisdom, holding an owl. In recent times, the building has housed an Italian restaurant.
Friends Provident (now called Friend’s Life) was founded by Quakers Samuel Tuke and Joseph Rowntree in 1832. The statues reflect their Quaker ideal of providing financial security for all Friends Provident members – in line with Quaker values about social reform and protection of the poor, sick and elderly.
A.W. Roques was the architect and surveyor for Friends Provident. The façade designer, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, produced numerous well-regarded buildings. These include Liverpool’s Anglican cathedral and Bristol’s former Electricity Offices on Colston Avenue. His grandfather was the famous architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, who designed the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens, London. The lovely metal grille was by the craftsmen R.A. Crompton Roberts and R. Pryse Roberts. Metalwork is also used attractively on windows and other grilles.