Friday, 22 January 2010
The startling image at the top, of Cowes on the Isle of Wight, shows the extent of relatively recent demolition of (largely Victorian) waterfront houses. All the crossed-out houses have now gone. 'Obliteration' might indeed be a better word, and would be entirely accurate were it not for the fact that one villa, Hamlet Court, survives. But for how much longer? It has been turned down for national listing (and is not even on the local council list) in spite of a strong link to John Nash to which even the famously fastidious architectural historian Sir Howard Colvin gave credence shortly before his death in 2007. We are renewing our calls for listing, but meanwhile developers are circling. Their appetite for inappropriate development is shown by the aggressively ahistorical residential block (Vantage Point, shown in the lower picture) that is currently being built immediately alongside Hamlet Court, which can just be seen, dwarfed, on the far right. What price a similar block rising shortly where Hamlet Court now stands? If that happens, we shall have lost a building designed, quite possibly by Nash, for Lord Belfast, later 2nd Marquess of Donegal. At the time (1832), Lord Belfast was also commissioning Joseph White to design a new brig, of a type that would revolutionise the development of Admiralty ships. Hamlet Court features on all the nineteenth century Brannon engravings of Cowes waterfront, a vista we have now all but lost through successive planning consents. Its disappearance would diminish Cowes and echo another scandalous demolition of a late Georgian building on an island in the English Channel - that of Sir John Soane's Colomberie House on Jersey, torn down in the 1990s.