I have a predilection for corner buildings, and also for Victorian architecture, and so it’s no surprise that I have a fondness for the Waterstones buildings on Bridlesmith Gate.
The corner structure (1-3 Bridlesmith Gate) was designed by Lawrence Bright in 1873. The little alleyway to the left of the corner door is Bottle Lane, whose buildings have a wonderfully dusty and abandoned feel hinting at a recent past. From my younger years I have memories of the Queen Elizabeth pub (the exterior only, I hasten to add!) now visible on the south side of the lane. There are a plethora of old doorways and rear windows lining this steep, cobbled alleyway.
Modern Waterstones is actually spread over two older buildings. Neighbouring the Lawrence Bright corner building is a red-brick construction by Gilbert S.Doughty, built in 1895, which now feels so intergrated that customers would have little clue that they were perusing books over two structures built two decades apart. An impressive view of Doughty’s building (technically 5-9 Bridlesmith Gate) can be had from the top of St Peter’s Gate. I have a fanciful notion that it offers a glimpse of how the old Victoria Station buildings on Milton Street would have looked, with it’s gothic gables and arched windows. Doughty didn’t design the station, but they were built only four or five years apart and so I think it’s reasonable to assume that prevailing architectural trends could mean there were similarities betwixt the two.