16 August 2016

Llandrindod Garages I - Automobile Palace

Commenced in 1906 and completed in 1911, what was originally known as The Palace of Sport, trading as Tom Norton Ltd from 1908, was founded by Tom Norton. Norton started in 1906 one of the earliest public bus services in Wales, between Llandrindod Wells and Newtown, held the first Wales-wide Ford agency, and was also a major agent for Austin and Ferguson.

The architect was Richard Wellings Thomas, and the building a very early example of steel construction. It was enlarged in 1919 to about three times its original size, providing nine bays along its curved frontage. Although built to the same Art Deco design, with faience facing throughout, the extension was constructed using reinforced concrete.

22 lions sejant-rampant, each with a shield, guard the building, which faces onto three streets. The elevation to Princes Avenue includes a pedimented entrance to No. 2 Garage. The ground floor fascia boasts faience tiles with raised lettering, including the word Aircraft. Circa 1913 Norton had invited pioneer aviator Gustav Hamel to give flying demonstrations from the nearby old race-course, in an effort to introduce aviation to mid-Wales.

The facility was renamed The Automobile Palace in 1925. It operated as a garage into the 1980s, and was Grade II* listed in 1985. Regrettably, much of the building is unoccupied, but it is home to the National Cycle Museum, a collection of over 250 bicycles that brilliantly charts their history. Apt given that Norton's first business was selling and repairing bicycles.

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