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A date with destiny

A detail from the heritage door panels, discovered exactly 100 years after they were installed

A Morgan Sindall refurbishment project for The Crown Estate in Regent Street St James’s was the subject of quite a coincidence today. The construction and infrastructure company, which is renovating 1-3 Regent Street St James’s, was dismantling some of the ornate heritage door panel mouldings ready for them to be put into protective storage when the team noticed some hand written notes on the back. One read ‘Feb 19th 1915 1 day after blockade day’, making it exactly 100 years to the day when it was uncovered. Another moulding was discovered, inscribed with ‘Feb 18th 1915 Blockade Day’. ‘Blockade Day’ refers to the First World War blockade against the German Navy.

The team was delighted to have uncovered these pieces of history and the serendipity surrounding their discovery makes it particularly memorable.

Regent Street was created in 1811 by John Nash, arguably Britain’s finest ever town planner, after he was commissioned by the Prince Regent – later George IV – to redesign the centre of a booming London. The Grade II listed façades that line its elegant curve represent some of the most distinguished architecture in the capital.

The £8.5 million project, which started in 2013, comprises the regeneration of the elegant listed building and will include the comprehensive refurbishment of the building’s internal fabric and services, with repairs and cleaning to the existing façades. Once complete, the development will provide a high-quality restaurant and a modernised open plan commercial office space delivered to meet the long term vision of The Crown Estate’s £500 million investment programme in St James’s. The project will modernise the dated office space and improve energy efficiency that is required to meet the needs of today’s occupiers. The works will see the building’s interior stripped out and refurbished to a high standard while respecting the built heritage.

In common with many of its neighbours, 1-3 Regent Street St James’s has an interesting history. Formerly known as British Columbia House, it was constructed in 1914 to house the office of the Agent-General of the Province of British Columbia to promote trade and links between the Canadian provinces and the British Empire. In this spirit, key components of the building were shipped over from Canada.