Webpage created: September 18, 2019
Webpage updated: September 18, 2019
One of pre-War Plymouth's most prominent and significant landmarks was the Prudential Building that stood on the corner of George Street and Frankfort Street. It dominated the view westwards along Bedford Street.
Whilst it was badly damaged during the Second World War, it could have been saved but in the new City Centre of straight roads it would have stuck out into Armada Way so it had to be demolished. The site is marked by a blue plaque.
Constructed in 1902-04 on similar lines to those in London and other provincial cities, the Prudential Building was designed by Mr Alfred Waterhouse (1830-1905), a Quaker from Liverpool who created a house design for no fewer than 27 Prudential Buildings. It was four-storeys tall, with a central tower surmounted by a 20 foot spire. Its polished red marble facings and ornamental facade added greatly to the dignity of George Street.
For many years the top two floors were occupied by the Inland Revenue offices while in the basement was the Globe Bars and restaurant.
The Prudential Building was damaged during the Second World War, when both and the central and south towers were destroyed and the top floor, the lift and the caretaker's premises were burnt out.
It was a very strongly constructed building, with walls some three feet thick and massive buttresses and pillars running from the basement right up through the upper floors. A story is told of some workmen who were told to knock a doorway through in the basement in connection with the provision of an air-raid shelter. After knocking out one brick they thought it would be easy to push out the remainder but the wall was as hard as granite and it took them three days work just to hack out the doorway.
Prudential Building, Plymouth, in 1951.
On Wednesday December 6th 1950 it was announced that the Prudential Building was about to be demolished to make way for Armada Way. Work was to start in January 1951 and the empty site was to be handed over to the contractors of the Pearl Assurance Building that was to replace it in March 1951.
As a result the many occupiers of the Building had to move to other temporary accommodation around the City Centre. The Prudential Assurance Company itself moved to numbers 9, 10 and 11, Belle Vue Place, in Cobourg Street, for which they were paying Plymouth City Council £900 per year. The Regional Office of the Milk Marketing Board moved to Harewood House at Plympton. The Plymouth and South Devon Trustee Savings Bank, along with the estate agents, Messrs Viner, Carew and Co., the National Employers Mutual General Insurance Association Limited, Messrs Waygood-Otis Limited, the lift manufacturers, Mr William Roseveare, architect and surveyor, and Messrs Price, Waterhouse and Company, accountants, all moved into temporary offices in York Street.
Messrs Coster's Limited divided its shop into three, one part taking over the site of Messrs F W Woolworth and Company Limited in the Pannier Market, another moving next door to the Unity Inn in Ebrington Street, and the third section to a temporary building in old George Street near Derry's Clock. Martin's Bank Limited moved to one of the prefabricated shops in Westwell Street.
The demolition work was carried out by the City Engineer's Department and started on Monday January 22nd 1951.