Above: seen from Cloudesley Place, London N1.
“The Business Design Centre is a Grade II listed building located between Upper Street and Liverpool Road in the district of Islington in London, England. It was opened in 1862, originally named the Agricultural Hall and from 1884 the Royal Agricultural Hall, for holding agricultural shows. It was the home of the Royal Smithfield Club’s Smithfield Show from 1862 to 1938. It hosted the Royal Tournament from its inauguration in 1880 until the event became too large for the venue and moved to Olympia in the early years of the 20th century. It hosted the first Crufts dog show in 1891.
During the Second World War, the hall was commandeered by the Government, and from 1943, following the destruction of Mount Pleasant sorting office in an air raid, the Parcels Depot was moved to the hall. The hall then remained unused and empty until it was converted to its present use as the Business Design Centre in 1986.
When built it was one of the largest exhibition halls in the world. It was this building that was the original basis of the present hall, which has expanded on this site so that the main exhibition hall now covers 65,000 square feet (6,000 m2).
It hosted the Royal Tournament from its inauguration in 1880 until the event became too large for the venue and moved to Olympia in the early years of the 20th century. Sporting events included six-day cycle races – the first event being held at the Agricultural Hall in 1878. The Islington Gazette reported:
“A bicycle contest was commenced at the Agricultural Hall, on Monday last, for which £150 is offered in prizes for a six days’ competition, the money to be allocated thus: £100 for the first man, £25 for the second, £15 for the third, and £10 for the fourth.”
It also hosted the first Crufts dog show in 1891. The Smithfield Show, later the Royal Smithfield Show ran here from the opening of the building in 1861 until it moved to Earls Court in 1949 needing extra space to allow the showing of agricultural machinery.
During the Second World War the hall was commandeered by the Government, and from 1943, following the destruction of Mount Pleasant sorting office in an air raid, the Parcels Depot was moved to the hall.
The hall then remained unused and empty until it was bought and converted to its present use as the Business Design Centre by Sam Morris in 1986.”
From the Historic England entry:
“Business Design Centre. Incorporates the symmetrical brick front to Liverpool Road of the former Royal Agricultural Hall, and the hall behind it under an iron roof of single span. Dated 1862 on central clock. The architect was F.Peck, the engineers for the hall James Handyside and Company of Derby, the builders, Hill Keddell and Robin; alterations were made at later dates, notably by Cheston and Perkin; in 1985 the building was altered and renovated by Renton Howard Wood Levin Partnership as part of the Business Design Centre with a new front entrance facing into Upper Street.
The Liverpool Road front is of yellow brick with dressings of red and white brick and stone, roofs of slate to the towers, the rest probably of fibreglass. Two storeys and mezzanine, three storeys to towers. The front is set out as a centrepiece with ranges of five windows set back to either side, then towers, then ranges of three windows set further back.
The five-window ranges have flat-arched entrances either side of the centrepiece, with ‘ENTRANCE’ inscribed in a segmental-arched panel above…
INTERIOR: . The central space of the hall, thirteen bays long and six wide, survives. Cast-iron columns with four brackets in the place of capitals act as supports for the structure of the aisles, and of the central hall; the latter is roofed with metal trusses forming round arches and having decorative openwork in cast iron at their feet and their apex; the structure of the aisles now partly obscured, though the arrangement of circle, semi-circle and cross-panel survives in the gallery, on a level with the springing of the main roof arches, and there are decorative cast-iron panels to balustrade; late C20 roof of fibreglass, and fibreglass facing to tympana at either end.”