Saturday, September 8, 2012
THE public are being invited to explore a Letchworth GC landmark this weekend – 100 years after the first brick was laid.
Reporter Nick Gill visited The Spirella Building ahead of a series of free illustrated talks, held as part of a national Heritage Open Days campaign.
Built between 1912 and 1920, the Grade II-listed building in Bridge Road helped American firm The Spirella Company revolutionise the manufacture of corsets, while creating thousands of jobs.
Now, following the completion of an £11m restoration by the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation in 1999, the building is home to office workers and also hosts events.
Josh Tidy, curator at the First Garden City Heritage Museum, will be holding talks on Saturday and Sunday which piece together its 100-year history.
1910: The Spirella Company becomes operational in temporary wooden sheds in Nevells Road, Letchworth GC
1912: Work starts and the factory workshop block – nearest the railway – is completed
1920: The Spirella Company moves in
1939-45: Spirella manufactures parachutes and decoding machinery during World War II
1960s: Fashion changes lead to reduced demand for corsetry
1979: The building is Grade II-listed
1980-94: Changing hands a number of times, the building falls into a state of disrepair
1995: Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation takes over the ownership and management of the Letchworth GC estate, including the Spirella Building
1997: Work starts on an £11m restoration
1999: His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales formally opens the building
2000: A second building, Spirella 2, is completed
2005: The Spirella Building opens its doors once more for the Heritage Open Days
“The talk is a potted history of Spirella and corsets, a look at The Spirella Company, and its production, as well as this building itself,” said Mr Tidy, speaking in the Spirella Ballroom.
“The golden age of Spirella was in the 1920s and 30s, and it had a second lease of life in the 60s.
By the late 80s it had fallen into disrepair.
“It was a landmark building for the town, which was promoting its ‘happy, healthy workers’. The reason for its longevity is because of the building’s history as a significant piece of architecture in the heart of Letchworth town centre.
“It’s a chance to see this building and find out more about it.”
The illustrated talks, which will take place in the ballroom at 11.30am, 12.30pm and 1.30pm on Saturday and Sunday, are also supplemented by a year-long exhibition about Spirella at the heritage museum, which runs until next February.
“It will give visitors a flavour of the exhibition in the museum,” said Mr Tidy.
“People have enjoyed the exhibition – many have been reminiscing if they worked there or had relatives work there, and have been sharing their happy memories.”
Also part of the Heritage Open Days, the First Garden City Heritage Museum in Norton Way South will be open from 10am to 4pm on both days.