Serious concern raised over brutal end to town centre artwork

Freeze frame: AMP House this week, with the builders in and the frieze artwork removed, in the latest instance of cultural vandalism in the town centre


There’s growing concerns and “disappointment” that Croydon, the 2023 Borough of Culture, has managed to lose yet another significant piece of public artwork, right from under the noses of the council.

The way we were: how AMP House used to look, with the frieze in place, seen and appreciated by thousands of commuters daily

A much-admired, mid-20th Century frieze on the front of the AMP House office block has been removed, and according to a workman on the site today, has been taken away and destroyed.

The potential loss of what has been described as the best piece of street art in Croydon has caused dismay at the 20th Century Society, and condemnation of the council for allowing this latest piece of wanton Philistinism.

According to sources close to the Town Hall, council officials – based in Fisher’s Folly offices, less than a five-minute walk from AMP House – did not even know that the frieze had been removed.

AMP House is one of the 1960s office blocks in the town centre, located the other side of Dingwall Road from East Croydon Station and Croydon’s hub of crass anti-culture, Boozepark.

AMP House is so named because it was built for and first occupied by the Australian Mutual Provident insurance company, who in 1968 commissioned Fuller, Hall and Foulsham to produce “Humanity Relief” as a piece of public art to go above the main entrance of their Croydon building.

Award-winning architectural author John Grindrod has described the work as an “amazing atomic-age relief”.

The frieze will have been seen by thousands of commuters every day, and appreciated by many.

But the frieze, and AMP House, are not known to be subject to any heritage listing or planning protection, according to research conducted by the 20th Century Society.

Couldn’t care less: Stiles Harold Williams’ Dick Plant (right) often works with Croydon’s piss-poor Mayor, Jason Perry, and his chum, Jeet Bains

AMP House is currently being refurbished by developers Ashley, while office space in the building is being marketed by estate agency Stiles Harold Williams. Stiles Harold Williams acts as estate manager for the borough’s biggest property owners, the Whitgift Foundation.

Ashley refused to comment when approached by Inside Croydon.

Dick Plant is a key mover in the Croydon Establishment, being a senior director at Stiles Harold Williams and the chair of the council-backed Develop Croydon group of big-money business interests. He told Inside Croydon that he knew nothing about the missing artwork or what fate might await it. His tone strongly suggested that he couldn’t care less.

According to Fairfield ward Labour councillor “Thirsty” Chris Clark (who apparently doesn’t know the difference between a mosaic and a frieze), “The developers responded favourably to me when I made the case to their faces that the mosaics should be retained and restored as part of any development of the site.”

But the site manager today said that the frieze has been destroyed – apparently in the mistaken understanding that the abstract artwork was actually the company logo of the long-since-departed Australian insurance company.

If the frieze is indeed destroyed, it will not be the first piece of significant public art to have been lost from what the council once, without any sense of irony, tried to dub “The Cultural Quarter”.

Countless items which were on display within the Fairfield Halls before its £70million refurbishment began in 2017 have never been re-located or replaced, while noted artist Peter Youngman’s metal artwork on College Green, next to the Halls, was removed, its fate never satisfactorily explained.

What we may have lost: the AMP House frieze ‘Humanity Relief’ by Fuller, Hall and Foulsham, from c1968

Today, when asked about the AMP House artwork, a spokesperson for the 20th Century Society told Inside Croydon: “The C20 Society is concerned to see that this fine 1960s agrarian, figurative relief has been removed from AMP House, and at reports that it may have already been destroyed. We’re liaising with Croydon Council to understand the circumstances around its disappearance.

“Commissioned by previous occupants, the Australian Mutual Provident Society, ‘Humanity Relief’ was a focal point above the main entrance, positioned on the building podium – itself decorated with a frieze of precast concrete fins, designed by sculptor Michael Marriott.

“Croydon has some of the finest post-war built heritage anywhere in the country. In recent years there’s been a growing appreciation and re-appraisal of the once maligned architecture of this period, so it’s especially disappointing to see prominent examples continue to be lost.”

Ria Patel, the Green Party’s councillor for Fairfield ward, is pursuing formal enquiries at the council regarding the artwork.

She said, “It’s concerning to learn about the removal of the street art from the facade of AMP House, a key part of Fairfield’s 1960s architectural and cultural heritage.

“It’s even more concerning that no one appears to know what’s happened with it.

“I hope the piece is still intact and can be recovered promptly.

“The possibility that it may have been destroyed speaks to a culture of carelessness, where profit and development is prioritised over heritage, culture and local people’s priorities.”

Meanwhile, a short walk away down George Street, thousands of pounds of public money is being spent through the Borough of Culture to stage street art and mural workshops in the Whitgift Centre shopping mall.

You really couldn’t make this shit up.

Additional reporting: Annabel Smith

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11 Responses to Serious concern raised over brutal end to town centre artwork

  1. No says:

    If people cared so much why didn’t they give the thing legal protection in the 40 odd years it’s existed. Typical anger fomenting piece. No laws have been broken. Should have cared more while you could.

    • Hmm. We would not usually publish ranty comments from deliberately anonymous accounts.

      Might it be that the building contractors, or Dick Plant, have got a bit squeeky-bummed (“No laws have been broken”) over the latest crass example of cultural vandalism inflicted upon our town?

  2. Lancaster says:

    What do you expect from benighted council officials and staff who think graffiti is art and wonky glass buildings are good architecture ?

    Perhaps learning what the definition of culture is might help the council !

  3. Lewis White says:

    There are or were a few nice stone big badges on better-looking 60’s buildings….
    1- a stone Whitgift coat of arms on the South corner of the building forming the High Strete frontage of the St George’s Walk development, at 2nd floor level at the junction of Katharine Street / High Street (still there)

    2- there used to be a Scottish looking coat of arms in colour, in stone on the front of Go-head House, Addiscombe Road, an elaboarate white stone relief of traditional appearance, but this seems to have been taken away maybe 20 years ago? Big shame, as it was elaborate , a real work of heraldic art. Perhaps an Insurance Company too.

    3- the wonderful 1960’s zodiac figures of Zodiac Court in London Road.

    What with the Fairfield Safety Curtain, and now this Aussie Scultural group and raidating lines like a Quantas ad, it seems that the Phlistines are out trashing the artwork of their Parents and Grandparents’ generation.

    Are these protected ? If not, can’t the Concil conservation officers slap a protection on 1 and 3 above, before the culture vandals get round to them?

  4. derek thrower says:

    I can’t believe the scrappers have chucked this artwork. The building work commissioners may have said chuck it, but normally scrappers will do a bit of research regarding artworks to see if it has any sell on value. It clearly has some artistic merit and has been created by an artist with a provenance.

  5. Bernard Winchester says:

    It’s beautiful: I hope it is recovered. Well done, Steven, for bringing this issue to our attention.

  6. Tim Longhurst says:

    Years ago I’m sure this piece included a UK outline in one corner and an Australia outline in the other. Don’t know when or why those elements got taken off. At the time, I assumed it was a change to a logo.

  7. Ian Kierans says:

    Poking tongue firmly in cheek here

    Perhaps those culpable – responsible (or irresponsible) took the view they did not wish to be ascociated with humanity relief. It would not be in keeping with its value’s of ripping the heart out small local communities and building huge monolithic rabbit hutches to be sold at (un) affordable leaseholds or highly inflated (un) reasonable rents. But it meets the perceived needs of Town planning that ostensible the Borough requires more living space but this maximises rates income whilst changing the make up of the area into either generation Alpha professionals or as with those on the london road foreign owned and with a lot of housing benefit residents. Either way it creates segregation, isolation and disharmony.

    Removing tongue

    It was just a piece of Art – quite nice and with a bit of meaning.- if they did not want it why not donate it?
    But how come the Council did not soecify with planning coditions? Did they not bother actually getting out and visiting , where they just avoiding guilty knowledge? Or were they just not fit for purpose?

    Perhaps with Ria on the case they will be between the Rock and a Hard Face.

    It would be good for Labour and Conservative to support miss Patel andif they do not then clearly neither party has much interest in Humanitarian Relief despite bleatings!

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