From penguins to pubs: London’s most unusual listed buildings

Every year around 10 million passengers file through the doors of Victoria Coach Station to be whisked away to over 1,200 destinations across the UK and Europe.

Visitors could perhaps be forgiven for remembering it as a hectic travel hub full of departure screens, delinquent pigeons and the unlovely aroma of fast food.

But Victoria Coach Station’s Art Deco exterior is something else entirely, with stylish straight lines and an imposing corner tower. So it is only fair that this week the coach station has been designated a listed building.

Speaking to the Evening Standard, Culture minister Ed Vaizey, who announced the move to protect the London landmark, said: “Victoria Coach Station, with its soaring Art Deco frontage, harks back to another - more stylish, perhaps - era in public transport.

“It certainly merits listed building status, and I hope it continues serving Londoners and visitors to the capital for many years to come.”

The coach station has been given a Grade II listing.

We take a look at some of London’s more unusual listed buildings

Penguin Pool at London Zoo

Penguin Pool London Zoo

With its iconic double helix ramps and elliptical shape, the Penguin Pool at London Zoo is a “landmark of early modern architecture in England”, according to English Heritage.

Completed in 1933, and designed by Russian architect Berthold Lubetkin, the Penguin Pool was awarded a Grade I listed status in 1970.

Stockwell Bus Garage

Stockwell Bus Garage

Stockwell is an odd sort of no-man’s land stuck between the hubbub of Vauxhall, the vitality of Brixton and the pubs and clubs of Clapham. So perhaps it is right that one of Stockwell’s most celebrated contributions to the capital is its bus garage. It’s not even a station, it’s just where buses go to bed. It was opened in 1952 and won its Grade II listing in 1988. When it was built it could house an amazing 200 buses and was Europe’s largest unsupported roof span. Who would have thunk it? Stockwell Bus Garage – putting the Pantheon to shame since 1952.

Cleopatra’s Needle

Cleopatras needle 1930

Cleopatra’s Needle in 1930

Perhaps it’s not a surprise that this ancient hieroglyph-encrusted monument is listed, but it’s worthy of inclusion due to its sheer age. While the majority of listed structures were created some time after the Norman Conquest, work on Cleopatra’s needle had finished up by 1,500 BC, making it more than 3,500 years old. The solid granite needle weighs about 224 tonnes and was given to Britain in 1819 by the ruler of Egypt and Sudan, one Muhammad Ali. It took 59 years and some disastrous sea voyages to bring the needle to London’s Victoria Embankment where it now stands. It was Grade I listed in 1958.

Hammersmith Apollo

Hammersmith Apollo

The Art Deco beast that is the Hammersmith Apollo opened in 1932 as the “Gaumont Palace”. Originally a cinema, it became a major concert venue by the 1960s. It was Grade II listed in 1990 and renamed the Apollo by brewing company Labatt in 1993.  

One of the building’s key features is its pipe organ which was present when the building opened. It was restored to full playing condition in 2007.

Trellick Tower

Trellick Tower

Woah there. This Brutalist tower in north Kensington has got another tower strapped onto its side like a computer-game caterpillar. Also known as the Goldfinger Tower, after its architect Ernő Goldfinger, the tower has gained something of a cult following and has featured in numerous music videos, including those of Blur and The Verve. The tower won a Grade II listing in 1998.

The George Inn

George Inn Southwark

The George Inn in 1967

No list is complete without a pub on it. No list. But the medieval era George Inn in Southwark is a very worthy addition to this listed buildings list. First recorded on a map of London made in 1543, it has been with us a while. Charles Dickens even refers to it in Little Dorrit. The pub is still going strong, and made it into the headlines last year when a customer managed to apprehend a bank robber fleeing through the pub brandishing an AK47. I’m not making this up.

Railings to Churchyard at St. Paul’s Cathedral

Railings at St Pauls

Obviously Sir Christopher Wren’s domed masterpiece is one of London’s most prominent listed buildings, but who knew that the railings outside St. Pauls have got their own separate listing?

Yep. Built in 1714, these prize railings were Grade I listed in 1972

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