A Piece of White City History is Brought Back to Life
A century-old building will be new bus depot
While the grandeur of the 1908 Franco-British Exhibition has been all but swept away, two even older buildings, which lie at the northern edge of the Westfield shopping centre, have survived.
The Dimco Buildings, built in 1898-9, originally served as an electricity generating station for the Central London Railways, the forerunner of the Central line, before becoming a machine tool shop for the Dimco firm. The buildings then fell into disrepair but have recently been refurbished and restored and the eastern shed will come back into use from next Saturday (29th November), becoming an overnight garage for the new White City bus station.
Angela Dixon, Chair of the Hammersmith and Fulham Historic Buildings Group, said that when plans for the shopping centre began being drawn up, her members campaigned hard for the Dimco buildings to remain and to be restored.
She said, given the buildings’ original use, her group was pleased to see the transport theme being continued. “We think it is very appropriate that it is still being put to this use (as a bus depot),” she said.
As the Dimco buildings are Grade II listed, they could not be demolished and the Westfield shopping centre had to be built around them.
“We are extremely pleased that they are free-standing. There were all sorts of plans to link them in with other buildings,” said Dixon. “They have kept the overhead gantry and the roof," she added. "The buildings look marvellous, they are a very dignified shape.”
She said many local people probably had no idea of the buildings' history or significance. “It reminds us all of the industrial heritage of our borough,” said Dixon. “Continuity with the past is very important. People like to know what was there before and it is nice to know there was a past before Westfield and it was largely industrial. We asked for a proper history plaque to be put on the buildings and
we hope it's going to be put up."
Picture by Pyramid Builders Ltd.
The Dimco buildings, used as the location for the ‘Acme Factory’ in the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, were painstakingly restored recently by Pyramid Builders over a period of two years.
Pyramid’s Oliver Foss-Smith said that when his company started work on the site, there were trees growing out of the buildings and the temporary office accommodation inside had to be stripped out. “We had to repair the outside, re-form some of the windows and give it a good clean, removing 100 years of west London dirt,” he said.
He said English Heritage had surveyed the site before the refurbishment work began, specifying which features had to be retained. “We could only take out a certain number of bricks. A certain amount had to remain original. If it was broken, we had to restore it,” he said.
In the eastern shed, the northern elevation is entirely new while the rest of the building remains original. But Foss-Smith said replacing the glazed cream, green and brown bricks – typical London Transport colours of 100 years ago – was no easy task.
“We had to go to Poland to get hold of glazed bricks and had to use dyes to match the existing brick colour. It was like a jigsaw,” he said.
He said that at the peak of the work, there were 20-25 bricklayers working at the site. Some were cleaning, some laying new bricks, some repairing.
Picture courtesy of Pyramid Builders Ltd.
"We are absolutely delighted with the result," he said.
The Southern Interchange and White City Bus Station are both due to open on Saturday 29th November.
25 November 2008