The Twentieth Century Society

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The Twentieth Century Society
Formation1979 (as The Thirties Society)
Headquarters70 Cowcross Street, London
Catherine Croft
Chairman and Trustee
Hugh Pearman
Catherine Slessor

The Twentieth Century Society (abbreviated to C20), founded in 1979 as The Thirties Society, is a British charity that campaigns for the preservation of architectural heritage from 1914 onwards. It is formally recognised as one of the National Amenity Societies,[1] and as such is a statutory consultee on alterations to listed buildings within its period of interest.


Lloyd's of London's 1920s frontage (seen bottom right) as part of the 1986 Rogers design

The catalyst to form the society was the proposal to replace Lloyd's of London's Classical-style 1920s headquarters with a new modernist Richard Rogers building. Marcus Binney (founder of Save Britain's Heritage), John Harris (director of the RIBA drawings collection) and Simon Jenkins (editor of London's Evening Standard) felt that the existing building "represented a whole body of important architecture of the period that deserved more sympathetic assessment".[2] Ultimately the façade of the 1920s building was retained and received a Grade II listing in 1977. It was incorporated into Rogers' 1986 design.[3]

Established in December 1979, the Thirties Society, as it was initially called, had offices at 21 Cambridge Street, London.[4] Its organisation was modelled on the Georgian Group and the Victorian Society, and its initial intention was to preserve architecture from the 1930s,[5] by calling for "statutory protection from the Department of the Environment for the protection of important buildings and interiors".[6] Speaking of the need for the society, Jenkins, the vice-chairman, said "It's easier to find examples of architecture from the 1890s than the 1930s, and although there are buildings which I find absolutely hideous, there are architectural reasons why they should be preserved."[7] In 1992, a spokesperson for English Heritage said, "We have found the Thirties Society proposals are usually well supported. It has been very influential in saving some of the best twentieth-century buildings."[8]

Founding members[edit]

Founding members included:

The society of "young fogeys" as they were called[8] invited Maxwell Fry, Jane Drew, Sir Sacheverell Sitwell, Lady Diana Cooper, Sir John Betjeman and Peter Fleetwood-Hesketh[10] to be patrons.[6][11] They also considered Douglas Fairbanks and David Niven but "there was some concern that the stars of the Twenties and Thirties might not be around long enough to warrant putting their names on the letterhead."[6] Norman St John Stevas, Minister for the Arts, attended the launch party.[12]

Catherine Croft, the current director, took over the position from Kenneth Powell in 2002.[13]


There was a debate over the society's name. The Inter-War Society was considered too martial and it was joked that The Twenties and Thirties Society sounded too much like a dating service.[6] The name The Thirties Society was eventually settled on. The name was changed to The Twentieth Century Society (abbreviated to C20) in 1992, about which Stamp said, "Much as I like the very English anomaly of a body called The Thirties Society defending buildings of the 1950s, the fact is that our name obscures our aims. We defend buildings put up as late as the 1970s."[14]

Manchester branch[edit]

Former Grosvenor Picture Palace (now a pub), Manchester

In 1982, a Manchester branch of the society was formed, with a focus on the Grosvenor Picture Palace on All Saints Street, which was under threat of demolition.[15]

Other activities[edit]

The society held its first conference, on the Seventies, in 1999.[16]

The society published a journal between 1981 and 2018; initially entitled The Thirties Society Journal it became Twentieth Century Architecture from 1994.[17]

St Augustine Church, Manchester

In 2019, to mark the society's 40th anniversary, they curated a list of 40 Buildings Saved, a collection of 40 "buildings which would not have survived without our intervention" including Jubilee Pool in Penzance, Plymouth's Civic Centre and St. Augustine in Manchester.[18]

The Risk List[edit]

In 1998, the society released a Buildings at Risk report, which included Pimlico School, Romney House and Simpson's Building. Of the report, Bronwen Edwards, a C20 caseworker, said, "What is indisputable is these buildings are a unique record of social, economic and architectural history – a vivid reminder of the way people lived, worked and played through the century."[19]

Starting in 2015, the society has published The Risk List (a play on the Rich List) [20] every two years, which highlights ten buildings that the society believes are "in danger of either substantial alteration or demolition".[21]

The bi-annual lists are as follows:

Year Building Location Status
2023 Channel 4 headquarters London
2023 Museum of London London
2023 Jagonari Centre London
2023 Bastion House London
2023 Norco House Aberdeen
2023 Riviera Hotel Weymouth Currently listed
2023 Point Weymouth
2023 Ringway Centre Birmingham
2023 County Hall Cardiff
2023 Power station cooling towers West Burton
2023 Scottish Widows building Edinburgh Currently listed
2021 Oasis Leisure Centre Swindon Granted Grade II listing[22]
2021 City Hall London Certificate of Immunity
2021 Civic Centre Swansea Plans to retain (as of 2023)[21]
2021 Assembly Halls Derby Plans to retain (as of 2023)[21]
2021 Bull Yard Coventry
2021 The Lawns, Halls of Residence Hull Listed Grade II*
2021 Cressingham Gardens' Estate London Bid to be listed was rejected
2021 Electricity Board HQ London Bid to be listed in 2017 was rejected
2021 Swimming pool Halifax
2021 Shirehall Shrewsbury
2019 Alton Estate Roehampton No longer threatened (as of 2023)[21]
2019 Fawley Power Station Hampshire Demolished (2021)
2019 Walton Court Surrey Demolished
2019 Richmond House London Grade II* listed
2019 British Library Centre for Conservation London
2019 BFI IMAX Cinema London Certificate of Immunity
2019 Civic Centre Sunderland Demolished (2022)
2019 Homebase Superstore Brentford At risk of demolishing for new housing (2022)
2019 Ardudwy Theatre and Residential Tower Merionydd Grade II* listed. Up for sale.
2019 All Saints' Pastoral Centre and Chapel Hertfordshire Occupied by an international school
2017 Dunelm House Durham Granted Grade II listing (2021)
2017 BHS murals Stockport and Hull Granted Grade II listing (2019)
2017 Reform Synagogue and Police Station Manchester
2017 Central Hill London Bid to be listed was rejected (2019)
2017 The Elephant and Swimming Baths Coventry Baths are listed Grade II. Elephant was refused listing
2017 High Cross House Devon Awaiting restoration
2017 Cumberbatch North and South Buildings Oxford Demolished
2017 St. Leonards Church St. Leonards-on-Sea Grade II listed
2017 60 Hornton Street West Kensington Demolished
2017 Holborn Library Holborn Bid to be listed was rejected (2010)
2015 St Peter's Seminary Cardross Positive solution found[23]
2015 Western Morning News HQ Plymouth Positive solution found[23]
2015 Hyde Park Barracks London Bid to be listed was rejected (2015)
2015 Robin Hood Gardens London Demolished
2015 New Congregation Synagogue Liverpool Grade II* listed. Approval given to turn it into a series of apartments (2017)
2015 Bernat Klein Studio Edinburgh Listed Category A. On Buildings At Risk register for Scotland.
2015 Church of the Holy Cross Merseyside Listed Grade II
2015 Town Hall Hove Bid to be listed was rejected (2014)
2015 Salvation Army hostel Newcastle Grade II listed. Put up for sale (2021)
2015 Sainsbury's Greenwich Demolished
2015 Civic Offices Durham Demolished

Cases and campaigns[edit]

- The Oxo Tower, designed by Albert Moore in 1929 was threatened with redevelopment, but was subsequently designated part of a conservation area.[24][25]



Firestone Factory

- The society's first high-profile case was the Art Deco Firestone Tyre Factory (built 1928) in West London. In anticipation of it being listed, the building was demolished by its owners over a bank holiday weekend.[26]
- The society protested the proposal to develop Memorial Court, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott at Clare College, Cambridge,[27] saying the new building would "destroy the vista which gives coherence to Scott's design".[28]
- Arthur Scargill "incurred the formidable wrath" of the society, when the National Union of Mineworkers moved headquarters, leaving its 1950s 222 Euston Road location open to threat of demolition. The building was saved.[29]
- Terence Conran's application to change the windows of 1930's Heal's on Tottenham Court Road was opposed by the society. Of Conran, Stamp said "He has turned out to be rather a crude shopkeeper."[30] Their objection ultimately failed.[31]

Red telephone box

- The society spoke out against British Telecom's (BT) attempt to remove the traditional Giles Gilbert Scott-designed red phone boxes.[32] They campaigned for as many as possible to be saved, by contacting every local authority in Britain. A spokesman for the society said, "They fit extraordinarily into their surroundings, whether urban or rural, and they are the most satisfactory neighbours to historic buildings."[33] Ultimately 500 boxes were saved, under a 1987 agreement between the British government, BT and English Heritage.[34] By 1992, 1,200 of the early designed boxes were listed, with a further 18,000 kept in use by BT.[35]
- The society's objection to the alteration to Hoover's cafeteria was unsuccessful, with permission to renovate granted by Ealing Council.[36]
- A fundraising campaign, in conjunction with Save Britain's Heritage, was launched to save Monkton House in Sussex, a surrealist mansion. Stamp said "I cannot think of another 20th century house with its contents intact which is so worth keeping."[37]
- Sudbury Town tube station, (rebuilt 1930), was updated in consultation with the society, amongst others.[38]
- Together with Save Britain's Heritage, the society proposed that Brynmawr rubber factory designed by Architects' Co-Partnership in Gwent, Wales (built 1946-1952), was repurposed as a re-training centre.[39] The building was given a Grade II* listing, the first post-war building in the UK to receive such a listed status but remained empty.[40] The building was ultimately demolished in 2001.

Bracken House

- The society joined several groups in opposing British Coal's plans to demolish the Grade II listed Frizzell baths at Lynemouth Colliery in Northumberland (built 1938).[41] The campaign was successful, with the Secretary of State for the Environment rejecting British Coal's proposal.[42]
- After publishing a report The End of the Tunnel, in conjunction with The Victorian Society, the society held "top level talks" regarding concerns over "widespread destruction" of older underground stations.[43]
- Together with Save Britain's Heritage, the society opposed the demolition of Bracken House (built 1959) in the City, London, with Stamp describing it as "the one thing that isn't rubbish."[44] It was listed in August 1987, becoming "the first major post-war building to be listed".[45]
- After pressure from the society, the British government changed its stance on listing post-war buildings, allowing "buildings of special architectural or historical importance" to be listed if they were minimum 30 years old, or in exceptional circumstances 10.[46]
- The society joined the Urban Design Group's list of signatories in support of the Prince of Wales' "role as scourge of glass stumps and carbuncles".[47]
- The society urged Wandsworth Council and English Heritage to save Battersea Power Station from "demolition by demoralisation".[48]


- Concern was expressed about the future of London Zoo, which needed £13 million worth of repairs to 70 buildings.[49]
- The society backed CAMRA's campaign to save historic pubs from "bogus 'period' facelifts".[50] One success was Prospect Inn in Thanet, Kent, designed by Oliver Hill (built 1937), which was listed as Grade II.[51]
- The society called for the preservation of the Cheltenham Estate in North Kensington (built 1968–1975), designed by Ernö Goldfinger.[52] The society called for the Nottingham Playhouse (built 1964) to be declared architecturally significant.[53]
- The "Lido campaign" called for the preservation of outdoor pools, including the Jubilee Pool (built 1935) in Penzance.[35]
- Odeon House, designed by C Edmund Wilford (built 1930s) was to be saved from demolition in Sutton Coldfield. It received Grade II listing in 1998.[54]
- The society objected to a proposed 25-foot-tall fountain to commemorate the Queen's 40 years as monarch, planned for Parliament Square, London. The fountain was not built.[55]

2 Willow Road

- The society suggested ten concrete bridges spanning the M1 to be listed as historic monuments.[56]
- The society successfully encouraged the National Trust to add Erno Goldfinger's home, 2 Willow Road, (built 1939) to its portfolio. It was opened to the public in 1995.[57]
- The society successfully prevented the demolition of Tunstall's Barber's Palace cinema frontage (built 1920) citing it as an "interesting example of 1920s Modernist Movement architecture".[58]
- The society protested a glass lift being installed in Liverpool Cathedral, saying it would "reduce the awe and majesty of this fine building".[59]
- The society joined English Heritage in successfully protesting the modernisation of Totnes' post office on Fore Street.[60][61]

Humberston Fitties

- The society backed Humberston Fitties residents' appeal to become a conservation area.[62] The appeal was successful, followed by an Article 4 direction in 1998, which ensured the area's character was preserved.[63]
- The society saved a 1960s concrete frieze in Coventry city centre from being removed, stating it was "one of only two examples of Mexican-style public art on pub fronts in the country".[64]

Dunlop Semtex Factory

- The society objected to the demolishing of the Dunlop Semtex Factory, Gwent (built 1945). It was the focus of "many students of architecture, including Frank Lloyd Wright" for the dome structure of its roof and concrete contours. It was authorised for demolition in the same year.[65]
- The society objected to the demolishing of the Empire Pool in Cardiff. It was authorised for demolition in 1999 to make way for the Millennium Stadium.[66]
- The society called for the preservation of Uxbridge's Lido, calling for it to be listed.[67] It was granted Grade II listing in 1998.[68]
- Together with English Heritage, the society proposed Derby bus station, the UK's first purpose-built bus station (built 1933), be granted listed status.[69] It closed in 2005 and was demolished the following year.[70]

21st century[edit]

- The society joined the Ancient Monuments Society in trying to save the grade II listed private home Greenside in Virginia Water (built 1937) designed by Connell, Ward and Lucas, from demolition. The following year the owners demolished it without consent, "arguing that the Human Rights Act justified his actions".[71]
- The society submitted an application for Sheffield's Crucible Theatre to be listed. The application was successful, with Grade II listing status given in 2007.[72]
- The society's appeal for Swindon's Renault Distribution Centre (built 1982), designed by Norman Foster to be listed was successful.[73]
- After many years of campaigning for the listing of Building Design Partnership's 1969 Preston bus station, it was granted listed status.[74]
- The society called to save parts of the Eduardo Paolozzi mosaic, installed at the Tottenham Court Road station (created 1984). Threatened with permanent removal as part of the station's overhaul, the Society arranged for the decorative arch designs to be restored at the University of Edinburgh, where Paolozzi studied.[75]
- The society called for the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in Deptford to be listed. If successful, it would become "the youngest building on the list – and the first 21st Century building to make the cut".[76]
- The society campaigned to save Bristol's NCP Rupert Street Car Park, (built 1959-60). The car park, which was built in 1959–1960 was set to be replaced with a 21-storey apartment building, but the Twentieth Century Society argued that the car park should be preserved because it was "a good example of an absolutely pivotal building type from the 20th century".[77]

The Twentieth Century Society's successes[edit]

The following are some of the buildings and objects that the society has successfully campaigned to save:



The society published a journal between 1981 and 2018; initially entitled The Thirties Society Journal[78] it became Twentieth Century Architecture from 1994.[79]


The following books were published by C20, unless otherwise stated:

  • Art Deco (1994)
  • Interiors and Decorative Art in Britain 1920–1940 (1994)
  • The Modern House to 1939 (1994)
  • Small Houses 1920–1940 (1994)
  • The Heroic Period of Conservation (2004) Ed. Alan Powers, Elain Harwood
  • British Modern: Architecture and Design in the 1930s (2007) Ed. Alan Powers, Elain Harwood, Susannah Charlton
  • Housing the Twentieth Century Nation
  • McMorran & Whitby: Twentieth Century Architects (2009) Edward Denison, Twentieth Century Society. Pub. RIBA Publishing
  • The Seventies: Rediscovering a Lost Decade (2012) Ed. Alan Powers, Elain Harwood
  • Twentieth Century Architecture: Oxford and Cambridge (Vol 11) (2013) Elain Harwood
  • 100 Buildings, 100 Years: Celebrating British Architecture (2014) Pub. Batsford
  • 50 Architects, 50 Buildings: The Buildings that Inspire Architects (2016) Ed. Pamela Buxton
  • 100 Houses 100 Years (2018) Pub. Batsford
  • The Architecture of Public Service (2018) Ed. Elain Harwood, Alan Powers
  • 100 Churches 100 Years (2019) Ed. Clare Price, Elain Harwood, Susannah Charlton. Pub. Batsford
  • 100 20th-Century Gardens and Landscapes (2020)
  • 100 20th Century Houses (2022) Pub. Batsford
  • 100 Twentieth Century Shops (2023) Pub. Pavilion Books


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  35. ^ a b Bailey, Martin (26 July 1992). "Apostles of Art Deco to wage a modern war". The Observer. London. p. 6.
  36. ^ "Hoover changes". Southall Gazette. London. 4 October 1985. p. 8.
  37. ^ "Race is on to save surrealist mansion". The Daily Telegraph. London. 17 January 1986. p. 18.
  38. ^ "Historic tube gets an update". Wembley Observer. London. 8 May 1986. p. 19.
  39. ^ "Threat to "masterpiece"". The Daily Telegraph. London. 22 October 1986. p. 18.
  40. ^ "Lost Modern: Brynmawr Rubber Factory, Gwent, Wales". Twentieth Century Society. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  41. ^ "Plans to demolish baths is attacked". The Journal. London. 18 March 1987. p. 16.
  42. ^ "Listed pithead baths to stay". Evening Chronicle. Newcastle upon Tyne. 29 July 1987. p. 11.
  43. ^ "LRT 'killing history'". Evening Standard. Newcastle upon Tyne. 8 April 1987. p. 4.
  44. ^ Rose, David (11 August 1987). "'Classic' City post-war building faces threat of demolition". The Guardian. London. p. 2.
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  46. ^ Bailey, Martin (26 July 1992). "Apostles of Art Deco to wage a modern war". The Observer. London. p. 6.
  47. ^ Ardill, John (11 May 1988). "Urban designers vow to promote Prince's quest for better cities". The Guardian. London. p. 7.
  48. ^ Bar-Hillel, Mira (4 December 1989). "Chilling warning over Battersea". Evening Standard. London. p. 85.
  49. ^ O'Brien, R Barry (9 April 1991). "London's £13 million appeal to 'save our zoo'". The Daily Telegraph. London. p. 2.
  50. ^ Small, Peter (10 April 1991). "Pubs 'ruined' by fake looks". Burton Mail. Burton on Trent. p. 5.
  51. ^ Smithers, Rebecca (21 September 1991). "Thirties thing". The Guardian. London. p. 56.
  52. ^ Powell, Kenneth (13 July 1991). "Palumbo calls to protect council flats". The Daily Telegraph. London. p. 16.
  53. ^ Curry, Lynne (2 August 1991). "Playhouse set for accolade". Evening Post. Nottingham. p. 12.
  54. ^ "Fight is on for "Odeon House"". Evening Mail. West Bromwich. 9 September 1991. p. 7.
  55. ^ Power, Lynn (12 September 1991). "A right royal dispute". Westminster and Pimlico News. London. p. 1.
  56. ^ "Motorway bridge is history in the making". The Daily Telegraph. London. 25 July 1994. p. 30.
  57. ^ Brown, Paul; Ezard, John (14 July 1994). "National Trust gives hard-edged 1960s terrace house the seal of heritage approval". The Guardian. London. p. 3.
  58. ^ Holmes, Peter (22 June 1994). "Eyesore rap over cinema". Staffordshire Sentinel. Stafford. p. 18.
  59. ^ Todd, Ann (17 March 1995). "A big ding dong verily on high". Liverpool Echo. Liverpool. p. 5.
  60. ^ "Heritage group lick Ex-PO bid". Torbay Express and South Devon Echo. Torbay. 17 February 1995. p. 3.
  61. ^ "Pane in the glass cured by planners". Torbay Express and South Devon Echo. Torbay. 17 April 1995. p. 15.
  62. ^ "Over 800 signed petition". Grimbsy Daily Telegraph. Grimsby. 8 January 1996. p. 12.
  63. ^ "Humberston Fitties". Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  64. ^ Murray, Eddy (29 March 1996). "Pub art is saved from scrapheap". Coventry Evening Telegraph. Coventry. p. 10.
  65. ^ Meek, Julian (25 February 1999). "History on your doorstep". Gwent Gazette. Gwent. p. 10.
  66. ^ Griffiths, Glanmor (30 September 1999). "From dream". South Wales Echo. Cardiff. p. 4.
  67. ^ "Swimming pool is an asset to us all". Harefield Gazette. Harefield. 21 August 1999. p. 19.
  68. ^ Sherwood, Philip (2007). Around Uxbridge Past and Present. Stroud: Sutton Publishing. p. 72. ISBN 978-0-7509-4794-7.
  69. ^ Smith, Caroline (24 September 1997). "Bid to save station may halt big plans". Derby Daily Telegraph. Derby. p. 3.
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  72. ^ "The Crucible Theatre". Retrieved 5 July 2023.
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  74. ^ Waite, Richard (10 January 2013). "New bid to list Preston's Brutalist bus station". Architects' Journal.
  75. ^ Khomami, Nadia (31 July 2015). "Eduardo Paolozzi Tottenham Court Road mosaics to go to Edinburgh". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 July 2023.
  76. ^ Ing, Will. "Campaigners call for storm-damaged Trinity Laban centre to be listed". Retrieved 20 May 2023.
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External links[edit]