4 relief panels, 1 each side of two windows at the top of the rounded corner façade of Benthalls Centre, each one carved with a nude figure, either profile or frontal, hanging on a branch with large flat leaves.
Between the windows in the centre, a coat of arms in relief of stylised leaves, a shield with a crowned lion, surmounted by a crown and leopard in profile.
A set of large plain sculpted stone letters forming the name BENTALLS across the top of the façade above the windows.
A further 3 sets of elaborate curling carved initials (L.E.R.B.; L.E.B.; G.C.B.) set above glazed modern doorways around the base of the main façade, surrounded by a decorative leaf shapes and surmounted by a leopard and crown.
During 1930's a new building for the Bentalls store was commissioned by Leonard Bentall, son of Frank Bentall the founder, from the firm of Aston Webb, with Maurice Webb responsible for the main design. LB was an admirer of Christopher Wren's work on the façade of Hampton Court and wanted this, rather than a more contemporary design, to inspire the new store. Gill was commissioned by Maurice Webb.
Conflict arose between Gill and Leonard Bentall over the carving of the coat of arms. Benthall complained publicly to Gill while standing in the street that the tail of the leopard curved downwards rather than up saying it looked like a dog and dishonoured the family name. Gill replied that this was unavoidable because of the nature of the stone and offered to add a few more spots. Gill was not skilled at carving animals and often asked his assistants to do it for him, although in this case probably did all the carving himself as both the coat of arms and window reliefs were carved in situ. The letters were carved in the workshop, the L and S by an apprentice called David Kindersley who worked for Gill for many years and wrote an account of his time spent with him. No mention is made of Gill's work on the Bentall's façade by Rowan Bentall in his memoir of the store.
New building unveiled on 9th September 1935
Initials and crests/coats of arms those of the Bentall family and its various members.
'BENTALLS' is the name of the store.
The significance of the figures hanging to leafy branches is not known, but is a frequent theme/motif in Gill's work, particularly his illustrations.
On banner under Coat of Arms:
Related works : Eric Gill, East, South & North Winds, London Transport Headquarters, St James's c.1928
PMSA recording information