New Futures for Birmingham`s Historic Buildings

Friday Photo: Administration Block to the former GEC Witton Works

Posted March 20th, 2015 by Julie Webb with 13 Comments

20150218_152605_resized (2)

Today’s Friday photo is the Administration Block to the former GEC Witton Works, which is grade II listed.  This was built by Wallis, Gilbert and Partners (1920-22) for the General Electrical Company Ltd.  Wallis, Gilbert and Partners were the most noted designers of factory buildings in the inter-war period and this GEC admin block is the earliest building by them discovered in good condition. Their most famous work was the Hoover Buildings (1932-5), however, the listing notes that the quality of the detailing of this building is superior.  Indeed, the most notable exterior feature is it’s impressive entrance, which according to previous workers was strictly restricted for “managers use only”. Since the company first built a factory here 1902, GEC was a really important employer in Birmingham, over the years it employed thousands of local workers.   Indeed, I have several family members who worked in various departments from the 60’s onwards.  It’s nice to see that the building is still in a good condition and is still in full use today.

13 Responses to “Friday Photo: Administration Block to the former GEC Witton Works”

  1. Elizabeth Pallot September 20, 2019

    Hi, could anyone tell me the street this building is on in Birmingham, please? Thank you.

    Reply

  2. Austen Barnes July 20, 2019

    My engineering student apprenticeship 1945 to 1949 at Witton was a rare experience

    It served all of us well.

    Looking back, it is so sad GEC broke up. We could use that range of training today for our young people.

    We got to learn so many skills in so many fields

    Reply

    • Alan Marriott July 29, 2019

      I was a drawing office apprentice 1960 – 65 and then worked in 2DO annexe until I left in 1967. I remember wandering through the admin block many times visiting friends in EDO which I think was on the top floor.
      For some time I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember where the tunnel was that I kept having memories of. I didn’t even know which company it was until Mick mentioned it. Now it is all clear !
      Sad that GEC is now an almost forgotten name. I stayed in the electrical industry right up until I retired in 2009 at 65 and owe most of it to the excellent skills that I learned at Witton.

      Reply

  3. Eric Pettit March 2, 2018

    My apprenticeship at GEC was the best 5 years of my life ( 1956-1961 ) Transformer division. I emigrated to South Africa in 1974 and they sent me for an interview to a place called Knights in Germiston ——- the company —GEC manufacturing transformers!!!

    Reply

  4. Jeff Warren February 4, 2018

    I was a student apprentice at Witton 1946/50 having transferred from Magnet House Kingsway London [ Head Office which I joined as a Sales Trainee in October 1945. I went on to join the Manchester Branch Engineering Dept in June 1952. At the time I arrived there was a large car/motor cycle park in front of the main office block ,but this became the site of the new big shop constructed in 1950/51
    To the best of my knowledge all my old friends at Witton -bar one – have passed on But if there are any still alive I would be delighted to hear from them . I am still in touch with Dicky Bird’s Wife Nora [now in Australia] & Don & Margaret Willie[now in Canada]

    Reply

    • Austen Barnes July 20, 2019

      Hello Jeff

      Glad to hear you are still alive and kicking!!. Am writing my memoirs at 90
      Had an interesting life. Chris Hadfield dropped in for a chat -I ended up in aerospace\defence stuff then tech publishing then my own engineering business then (now) trying out some new ideas on combatting cancer.The RVH hospital in Barrie are helping.
      I live in Wasaga Beach, Ontario Canada. All best wishes
      Austen

      Reply

  5. MICK PARKER July 21, 2016

    The front of the old admin block GEC witton brings back many memories for me , In the late 50,s and early 60,s i was an apprentice at the works , my first job as a probationer was in the cost office in the admin building , that was on the ground floor at the lh side, at the other end was the wages office, at the front main entrance was a marble hallway with a revolving door, ,and just inside a comisionair waited to greet visiting VIP,s ,as an apprentice in green overalls walking along the main admin corridor when a VIP was expected he would chase us out of the way ! from the basement in admin was a tunnel under the road that when to switchworks opposite, this was very popular with courting couples ! happy days

    Reply

  6. Martyn Elton March 21, 2016

    Hi,

    I used to visit this building when it was occupied by GEC Traffic in the late 1980’s early 1990’s. We used to do all the factory acceptance tests on traffic signal control equipment.

    Although the interior was starting to fall into decay, the fixtures and interior fittings of the building never failed to impress me. The interior doors were huge, made of oak and adorned with heavy brass (bronze?) cast fitments. Does anyone remember a mosaic on the stairwell?

    The whole building was just stunning. All the engineers used to comment that such a building would never be built again.

    Sorry if I have missed any earlier posts but has the interior been retained? I no longer live in England (I still miss Birmingham) so I can’t easily visit.
    Thanks.

    Reply

  7. Erin de Voy January 15, 2016

    Hi Keith, when I looked at the ‘photo of the Admin. block of the GEC Witton, it brought back so many memories. I worked as a secretary under the ‘Dragon Lady’, (now I cannot even remember her name, she was a ‘Miss’ something) in the 1950’s.
    I have lived in Australia for over 50 years, but remember my time at the GEC very well.
    Regards, Erin

    Reply

    • Erin de Voy January 15, 2016

      Dear Julie, sorry got your name wrong, was looking at the next comment as I was writing. The comment from me still stands, Erin

      Reply

    • Ron March 26, 2019

      Hi,
      The lady you referred to was Secretary to Jim Gracy, MD. She was affectionately known as Dolly, (Howard) She could certainly send shivers to those whose work was not up to standard. As a carpenter/joined apprentice
      I did some maintenance work at her house. I have got a couple of garden stone pots from her house in Sutton Coldfield.
      Best wishes to all former employees.

      Regards.
      Ron.

      .

      Reply

  8. Keith Bracey March 20, 2015

    ‪#‎Birmingham‬ Conservation Trust’s Friday Photo…….GEC Witton Office Block……I worked on this project while working in the Economic Development and Planning Department at Birmingham City Council…..the then owners of the Junction Six Industrial Estate Sir Robert Edmiston’s property development company IM Properties deserve all the plaudits going for saving this building from dereliction by spending £6 million on its refurbishment and conversion to a viable office building for a large industrial unit that they linked to this building……Sadly OPUS Land and their development director Richard Smith were not so ethical when they owned the former IMI works nearby in Witton (now owned by PRUPIM and called #TheHubWitton. It is about to become the site of the new #Birmingham Wholesale Markets complex) when they demolished a similar office building for the IMI Works before the planners could list it…..I recall a beautiful circular building and an imposing office block with a spiral staircase and a green copper roof….I will try to find an image of the building and post it on my Facebook page…..developers making money by getting rid of great buildings is a scandal and should be prevented when the building has architectural merit in my opinion….
    Friday Photo: Administration Block to the former GEC Witton Works « Birmingham Conservation Trust
    Today’s Friday photo is the Administration Block to the former GEC Witton Works, which is grade II listed. This was built by Wallis, Gilbert and Partners (1920-22) for the General Electrical Company Ltd.

    Write a comment…

    Reply

Leave a comment