Holden, Charles

Date of Birth:
Date of Death:
Holden, Charles

Charles Holden was born in Bolton in 1875. He left school at 13 and his first job was as a railway clerk. Charles attended evening classes in mechanical drawing, and later drew house plans for his brother-in-law, D F Green. Green recognised Charles' talent and organised an apprenticeship to a Manchester architect.

Whilst apprenticed, Holden attended further evening classes, first in architecture at the Manchester Municipal School of Art, and then at Manchester Technical School. He achieved first class honours in Building Construction, Brickwork and Masonry. Holden completed his apprenticeship in 1896 and moved to London. By 1899 he was working with architect H Percy Adams, who specialised in hospital design. Holden later became a partner in the firm. He established his reputation with buildings including the King Edward VII Sanatorium in Midhurst, Sussex. He went on to design the headquarters of the British Medical Association on the Strand. In keeping with Holden's typical approach, combining art and functional architecture, sculptor Jacob Epstein carved a series of figures for the exterior of the building.

In 1917, during the First World War, Holden was sent to France to mark and register the graves of soldiers killed in battle. He was appointed to the Imperial War Graves Commission in 1920 and helped design many war cemeteries in France and Belgium.

Charles Holden had met Frank Pick, then commercial manager of the Underground Electric Railways Company (U.E.R.L), in 1915. Pick wanted to improve the overall design of Underground stations. He shared Holden's view with that architecture could be both practical and aesthetically pleasing. In 1922 Pick commissioned Holden to redesign a side entrance at Westminster station. It was the first project in a long collaboration. Holden redesigned many station facades on the Central line, including Holborn. Common features of these designs included a projecting canopy displaying the station name in Johnson script. Holden also designed the critically acclaimed stations for the Northern line extension, completed in 1926. His firm, Adams Holden & Pearson, acted as consulting architects to the U.E.R.L. and later the London Passenger Transport Board (L.P.T.B) (London Transport) throughout the 1920s and 30s.

In 1926 Holden was commissioned to design a new headquarters for the U.E.R.L, 55 Broadway, which became the London Transport headquarters. It won Holden the Royal Institute of British Architects' London Architecture Medal. His design was highly innovative, including many large windows and open plan offices. The building had many Art Deco-style features and Holden even designed some of the furniture.

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