Former Nottingham bike HQ is now a listed building

  • Former head office of Raleigh 
  • Inside the Howitt Building, former Raleigh HQ 

Known for his forthright opinions on Nottingham's industrial buildings, MD Tim Garratt ponders on the news that one has been protected from development with a Grade II listing

I’m not always a fan of listed buildings. Like art, they can trigger a ‘Marmite’ moment. People who know me are aware of my views about Nottingham’s Player’s Horizon Factory – a building you should die before you see.
But another of Nottingham’s industrial buildings made the news this week. The former head office of the Raleigh Bicycle Company has become the 400,000th listed building in the UK. And this time, I’m delighted it is the latest to be protected in the 70-year history of National Heritage Lists.
Built in 1931, the Howitt Building (named after the Nottingham-born architect Thomas Cecil Howitt) sits as a reminder to the city's manufacturing past. It is a very substantial statement piece reflecting a company which, at its height, employed well over 8000 people making 2 million bikes a year.
The man credited with founding Raleigh in 1888, Frank Bowden, is said to have taken up the ‘new pastime’ of cycling to improve his health. As inventions go, though, the modern bicycle made a massive difference to the day-to-day lives of ordinary people who could for the first time travel further with their own transport. And that, surely, is something for Nottingham to be proud of and worth preserving.
If you ask most people who grew up in Nottingham about their background, most will be able to point to Raleigh, Boots or Player’s (cigarettes) as being part of the family CV. In my case, my grandmother worked at Player’s and my aunt and uncle met at Raleigh. 
I also have another vested interest here; for the last 25 years I have been involved in acquiring the former Raleigh factory land at Triumph Road – which now houses the University of Nottingham Jubilee campus. There are no original buildings there of architectural merit – so keeping this foot in the history of time with the old HQ is a good thing in my view. 
But as I’ve said: listed buildings provoke a variety of responses so you might disagree!