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Pallant House: cutting edge from first to last

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Justine Sambrook

How a gift of art saved Chichester's fashionable 18th century merchant's house from use as council offices

Pallant House
Chichester, around 1712 

Pallant House in Chichester, photographed here by Edwin Smith in 1958, was built around 1712 for merchant Henry Peckham. Designed by a London architect, the building was admired as the first example of the fashionable Queen Anne style in the city.

After a period during the 20th century as council offices, the house was restored when the Dean of Chichester Cathedral gave his collection of Modern British art to the city with the condition that it be displayed in Pallant House. It opened as a gallery in 1982. The collection grew, and when the architect Colin St John Wilson offered his own art collection to the gallery in the 1990s, the need for more space was clear. Consent for a new gallery was eventually granted and in 2006 a wing by Long and Kentish, with Wilson, opened.

The modern extension exists in considerate contrast to the historic building, the new galleries carefully scaled to relate to the early 18th century rooms. Sustainability was a key concern and the building was the first gallery in Britain to use geothermal heating and cooling. It seems appropriate that Pallant House should continue to be cutting-edge 300 years after it was built.