In a town of beautiful buildings, it’s easy to overlook the functional ones. But a cluster of mid-century modern brick-built buildings in Addington Road are worth a second look.
Facing the street is the grand modernist Royal Mail sorting office, dated 1951. Clean lines, sweeping curves, plenty of fenestration to give tantalising glimpses of the insides of this building-as-machine. Sharp red brick, the lines of Crittall windows copied in UPVC, heavy doors. Neglected planters and unpainted railings suggest the care given to public spaces has been forgotten in recent years. Reinstating an entrance onto Addington Street would make all the difference, connecting this building to the town again and reducing vandalism, too. The Royal Mail sign, though slightly faded, suggests that it wasn’t that long ago that somebody cared enough to make sure the lettering fitted the curves of the building, which echo the town’s Regency bay windows.
Behind the sorting office, separated by loading bays and Royal Mail vans, sits a similar building with an almost identical footprint, the Telephone Exchange from 1946. Only a few years older, this building looks more like traditional, classical architecture. The neglected, over grown steps and fancy lamps are from an earlier generation. But again there’s a curved front entrance, and this building’s bold, curved buttresses are more solid, functional and even rather brutal. Just visible through windows are banks of machines, like steampunk computers. This building even looks good from behind, where a handful of yellowbrick bayfronted houses remain, facing the Telephone Exchange’s almost abandoned carpark.
The Telephone Exchange has a later addition, probably 1960s or 1970s. Although the connection between the two is unloved, this later, square building still has architectural quality, particularly in the way the rounded corners echo the earlier building.
The final building that makes up the site is slightly more unusual, though. Built onto the side of the streamlined Sorting Office (or, just maybe, the Sorting Office fell onto it, splitting it in two) is a little piece of suburbia; an empty semi-detached house.