George Campbell Sherrin (1843-1909)

Above (Theatres Trust): “The architects George Sherrin and John Clarke designed a large, domed tower in Baroque style to mark the main entrance of the Kursaal site. The Kursaal Palace, Southend, of 1901 was a large, flat-floored single-balcony music hall and ballroom in the centre of the complex.”

From: London Underground By Design (2019), by Mark Ovenden:

“Commercial pressures haunt the history of the Underground. Architect George Sherrin had been employed by the Met to rebuild Liverpool Street…

…and other stations with shopping arcades incorporated into them. As well as generating much-needed extra income, the work was generally elegant. At High Street Kensington, for instance, passengers passed through a beautiful glazed octagonal ticket office (recently restored) to reach Derry & Toms and Pontings department stores…

“This building, carried out in 1906–8, consists of a shallow four-storey building of thin red bricks and stone dressings. In the centre is a toplit arcade flanked by shop windows and leading to an octagonal space which has side entrances off into stores; originally this contained the booking hall. Though the front of the building is uncomfortably asymmetrical and its windows are jammed together, Sherrin’s crisp details, neat internal arcading and spacious octagon have some elegance.” (Survey of London)

…At South Kensington the ticket hall was relocated to provide space for a joint facility with the Piccadilly and the pedestrian tunnel to the Museums, allowing room for a new arcade of shops flanked by huge wrought-iron grilles in the entrance ceilings (still in situ) with the station name in serifed Green-style capitals…

…At Victoria and elsewhere, the company initials ‘D.R.’ were shown in an arcade ceiling cartouche (still visible today).”

The Architecture of Pleasure: British Amusement Parks 1900-1939 (2013), by Josephine Kane:

“…The Kursaal is strikingly lacking in the stylistic flourishes which had – thanks to architects such as Frank Matcham, Eugenius Birch and Maxwell & Tuke – become the approved hallmarks of seaside architecture. Even the supposedly promotional voice of Darbyshire’s Guide to Southend-on-Sea could not hide its disappointment in the new exterior: ‘the elevation of the Kursaal is not altogether striking – in fact, the heavy-looking red brick structure, with stone facings and terracotta ornamentations, is rather depressing; but what is lost in attractiveness is gained in solidity.’

The light and spacious interior enjoyed greater favour, despite its use of cheap materials and finishes:

The main entrance, protected by an ornamental portico, faces Marine Parade, overlooking the sea, and leads to the octagonal entrance hall, which is surmounted by a lofty dome, supported upon eight massive pillars of richly ornamented fire plaster [ ] Light is obtained from portholes in the dome, which are cleverly obscured by a very effective arrangement of coloured glass…throughout the building so that an abundance of daylight is admitted everywhere. [ ] In the centre of the [entrance] hall, majestic palms and exotics are to be placed; and from the hall radiate the arcade, the ballroom, and the dining hall.’

By the late 1890s, the Kursaal’s chief architect, George Sherrin, was a well-established member of London’s artistic and architectural élite, contributing to Royal Academy exhibitions, and becoming an RIBA Fellow in 1898. At the time of the Kursaal commission, Sherrin ran a thriving London architectural practice, with a string of high-profile projects to his name, including élite private residences, churches, schools and London Underground railway stations. In 1893, Sherrin was commissioned to design the superstructure for Moorgate Station…

(Image shows corner of Moorfields and Moor Place; the other side of the station faces Moorgate.) Moorgate started life as a surface station when the Metropolitan Line was extended east in 1865.
Moorgate station was rebuilt 1894-96, architect George Campbell Sherrin. The single storey station building opened on 17 June 1896.

…and the following year, to complete the dome of the London Oratory, South Kensington, providing technical experience which would be employed at the Kursaal.

The Kursaal, Southend, Essex, was the first of only two forays into recreational architecture – in 1903, Sherrin designed the Alexandra Hotel, with assembly hall, theatre and restaurant on Marine Parade, Dovercourt, Essex.

But Sherrin had developed a consistent style irrespective of context. The Kursaal lacks the novelty and excitement which had come to define seaside architecture, and there is little to distinguish it from Sherrin’s other commissions. Following the Kursaal commission, for example, he provided the Metropolitan Railway with a new plan for its High Street Kensington Station in 1903-4, later re-designing stations at South Kensington, Gloucester Road…


…and Victoria. The High Street Kensington scheme (executed 1906-8) bears a striking resemblance to the Kursaal…

…Sherrin’s portfolio in 1898 did not make him an obvious choice of architect for a seaside amusement complex. He did, however, lend an air of solid respectability to the project. His commissions epitomise the revival of English Baroque which dominated public architectural commissions at the turn of the century. Sherrin’s position in the London architectural world provided a network of useful contacts, including the engineer R. J. G. Read, with his experience of tower buildings. Finally, Sherrin had local knowledge of Southend. He had begun his career in Essex, and maintained a second house in Ingatestone. In light of this, the choice of Sherrin follows a general trend in south coast resort development for employment of locally known architects.”

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