Saturday, 31 December 2011

Ince Blundell marbles: Telegraph letter 31 December 2011

Risk to ancient marbles

SIR – We are concerned as members of the Society of Dilettanti about the proposed dispersal of 100 marbles from a collection of ancient Roman sculptures formed by the 18th-century connoisseur, Henry Blundell.

For 300 years, these could be seen in the spectacular settings built for them between 1780 and 1810: the Pantheon and Garden Temple in the grounds of Ince Blundell Hall, Merseyside. The importance of these marbles cannot be exaggerated. The collection is rivalled only by the Townley marbles at the British Museum, and the Weddell marbles at Newby Hall, Yorkshire.

We have learnt that English Heritage has raised no objection to an application before Sefton council for listed building consent for these marbles to be removed, presumably with the intention that they be sold. As justification for this proposal, English Heritage cites conservation problems and the danger of vandalism.

As far as we are aware, no attempt has been made to establish the cost of conservation in situ or to explore other ways of keeping them in their original setting. We urge Simon Thurley, the chief executive of English Heritage, urgently to reconsider this decision, which amounts to the desecration of that most rare thing – an intact collection of classical sculpture in its original 18th-century setting.

The 100 marbles embedded in walls at Ince Blundell are part of a collection, of which 500 pieces were given to Liverpool Museums by the Weld family in 1958. By allowing these 100 to be removed, English Heritage is in violation of its duty to ensure that historic fixtures and fittings are not removed from listed buildings. It would be an unwelcome precedent, and destroy any chance of reinstating the entire collection in the Pantheon and Garden Temple.

We call on English Heritage to reverse its advice to Sefton council and to work with interested bodies, including this society, to find a way of keeping this collection intact.


Charles Sebag-Montefiore
Martin Drury
Joint Secretaries, Society of Dilettanti
Colin Amery
Sir Nicholas Bacon
Sir Jack Baer
Nicholas Baring
Sir Richard Carew-Pole
Marquess of Cholmondeley
Alec Cobbe
Richard Compton
Richard Dorment
Marquess of Douro
Lord Egremont
Lord Charles FitzRoy
Christopher Gibbs
Sir Nicholas Goodison
Earl of Gowrie
Desmond Guinness
John Harris
Anthony Hobson
John Jolliffe
Timothy Knox
Alastair Laing
Marquess of Lansdowne
David Mlinaric
Viscount Norwich
Sir William Proby
Lord Rothschild
Marquess of Salisbury
Sir Simon Towneley
Peter Troughton
Sir Humphry Wakefield
Lord Waldegrave of North Hill
Giles Waterfield
Viscount Windsor 

The letter as it appears on the Telegraph website

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Saving Georgian buildings in Newark-on-Trent


To their credit, local councillors refused consent in early November for wholesale clearance of the Robin Hood Hotel site on the edge of Newark town centre, following concerted pressure from us and other conservation bodies. The threatened listed buildings included a distinguished early eighteenth century merchant’s house (shown here), which like its neighbours had been allowed to fall into disrepair; but their condition was not as dire as the applicants claimed and their repair and reuse for retail purposes is not only feasible but economically viable. 

The applicants’ argument that the profit achievable from refurbishment was unreasonably small compared with that achievable from a cleared site inexplicably found favour with local authority’s Director of Growth, who felt that the failure to make a case for demolition under PPS5 criteria was trumped by the Government’s Planning For Growth document of March 2011, which emphasized that priority should be given to sustainable economic growth. In the mid-1990s, a similar battle was fought and won by us and others over a proposal to demolish the listed Town Wharf Café Building on the riverfront, now restored and reused. Less happily, much of a fine nineteenth century school complex overlooking the parish church was recently demolished to provide additional supermarket car parking.  And indeed this is not the end of the battle for the Robin Hood Hotel, as the repair and reuse of the buildings need to be urgently secured. A building preservation trust is interested in taking them on but would need a substantial dowry.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Viscount Linley presents our Architectural Awards

Viscount Linley at the 2011 awards with the Mayor and Mayoress of Allerdale, who had earlier collected an award for the Cockermouth Shopfront Heritage Scheme. View all the award photos on our Flickr photostream A full list of winning and commended projects is given below.

2011 Georgian Group Architectural Awards: winning and commended projects

Our Architectural Awards, sponsored by international estate agents Savills, recognise exemplary conservation and restoration projects in the United Kingdom and reward those who have shown the vision and commitment to restore Georgian buildings and landscapes. Awards are also given for high-quality new buildings in Georgian contexts and new architecture in the Classical tradition.

The 2011 Awards were presented by Viscount Linley on 31 October 2011.

The judges were the architectural historians Dr John Martin Robinson (Chairman), Professor David Watkin and Emeritus Professor John Wilton-Ely; the architecture critic Jonathan Glancey; Lady Nutting (Chairman of the Georgian Group); Charles Cator (Deputy Chairman of Christie's International); and Crispin Holborow (Director of Country Property at Savills).

2011 Winning and Commended Schemes

A record eighty entries were received, of which nineteen were shortlisted and eight were selected as award winners. The remaining shortlisted schemes were commended.

RESTORATION OF A GEORGIAN COUNTRY HOUSE
There are two aspects to restoring country houses. One is about repairing fabric, perhaps dramatically so after a fire. But the other, more subtle but no less important, is about revivifying a place, allowing it to recover its spirit.

JOINT WINNER Easton Neston, Towcester, Northants (Ptolemy Dean Architects for Leon Max) Easton Neston, 1702 by Hawksmoor for the Fermor-Heskeths, who sold up in 2005, is a house for which the adjective ‘delectable’ might have been invented. But it was left forlorn, denuded and neglected, in part fire-damaged, until rescued by the fashion designer Leon Max, who in an inspired move commissioned Ptolemy Dean to draw up a scheme for restoration and renewal. His scholarly approach has advanced our understanding of Hawksmoor’s architecture, especially in the superbly restored basement, previously so debased. As much as the restored fabric, though, it is the energy about the place that is striking: Easton Neston is once again the centre of a thriving country estate, but one with a distinctively twenty-first century inflection. To walk through the new design workshops in the Wren Wing is to understand how a large, non-agricultural estate can have a productive life and provide employment for local people without sacrificing anything of its spirit or setting.

JOINT WINNER Strawberry Hill, Twickenham (Inskip & Jenkins for The Strawberry Hill Trust) Strawberry Hill was built in the 1750s by Horace Walpole as his idiosyncratic country villa. Encroached on by London suburbia, it had become a building at risk by 1993 but after years of knife-edge negotiations has now been rescued by a dedicated trust. The award is partly a tribute to the perseverance and vision of those who solved an intractable problem and partly a recognition of the painstaking authenticity of their work, underpinned as it is by the most meticulous research aimed at recovering the form and spirit of Walpole’s creation. His plan and decorative scheme have been restored and selected furnishings, including bespoke damask, have been recreated. The effect – a complete rebirth – is stunning. A seminal, totemic property has been brought back from long-term decline, in the most impressive way possible.

COMMENDED Wilton House, near Salisbury, Wiltshire (Coade Ltd et al for the Earl of Pembroke) The two-tier Gothic cloisters were inserted into the central quadrangle at Wilton by Wyatt at the beginning of the nineteenth century, partly to improve circulation around the house and partly to provide a gallery for the 8th Earl’s collection of classical sculpture. The collection had been compromised over the years by migrations through the house and grounds and, more fundamentally, sales to pay death duties. Some of those pieces have now been re-purchased, others brought back to their proper home and the whole collection conserved and rearranged as Wyatt intended. The cloister stonework has also been conservatively repaired. The result is a new unity of architecture and contents and the recovery of lost historical integrity.

RESTORATION OF A GEORGIAN BUILDING IN AN URBAN SETTING

We are all well aware these days of the key rôle that historic buildings play in urban regeneration, and part of the purpose of this award is to acknowledge the contribution made by restored Georgian buildings to the quality and vitality of our towns and cities. As usual, competition in this category was especially fierce.

JOINT WINNER Cockermouth Shopfront Heritage Scheme, Cumberland (By and for Allerdale Borough Council) Allerdale Borough Council has taken the opportunity of the severe flooding in Cockermouth in November 2009 to orchestrate the restoration of fifteen degraded shopfronts in Main Street and Market Place. We were deeply impressed by the determination of the local authority and local people to bring something positive out of adversity. The flooding must have been a serious shock to the system but, far from being defeated, Cockermouth seems to have emerged stronger – it is the kind of robust response that other British neighbourhoods that have suffered trials in recent months, albeit through man-made rather than natural disasters, would do well to study. We congratulate Cockermouth on its resilience and positive attitude and for recognising that improving its physical fabric, in the shape of its historic buildings, is both a powerful statement of intent and a tonic in times of trouble.

JOINT WINNER 88 Dean Street, Soho (David Bieda et al for Romil Patel) We were delighted by the meticulous restoration of a 1791 shopfront at 88 Dean Street, Soho, an exceptionally rare survival. The overpainted and dilapidated gesso fascia board and the damaged fanlight have been transformed in a project underpinned by extensive research, including detailed paint research by Patrick Baty. We are all fed up with the tide of cheap, garish plastic fascias swamping our shopping streets and often obscuring historic detail. This scheme, the brainchild of Romil Patel and David Bieda, is a standing reproach to such identikit laziness and stands in glaring counterpoint to the simultaneous obliteration of two entire blocks of Dean Street, just a few yards away, by the Crossrail juggernaut.


COMMENDED Creative Ropewalks scheme, Liverpool This umbrella project encompasses coordinated grant and enforcement action by Liverpool City Council to rescue and restore disused and derelict Georgian buildings. Included are several in Seel Street, a notoriously derelict Georgian street with numerous buildings at risk. If we at the Georgian Group were given to the weakness of despair, this street would surely have provoked it, over the years, as surely as any other in the country. Enormous physical changes are happening in Liverpool, as brash new architecture sweeps into the centre, and buildings such as these stand on land often seen, not least by their owners, as development opportunities. This project shows that rehabilitation is possible, as we maintain it is, mutatis mutandis, for those rows of Victorian terraced houses in Liverpool being demolished more or less as we speak. The success of the Creative Ropewalks Initiative, and the vision behind it, should give pause for thought. 

REUSE OF A GEORGIAN BUILDING

Redundancy can often herald a miserable period in a building’s history but it also offers opportunities for those who can see the almost endless potential of historic buildings for adaptation and flexible reuse.

WINNER Greenlaw Town Hall, Berwickshire (Adam Dudley Architects for the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust) Greenlaw Town Hall in Berwickshire, built in 1831 by John Cunningham as the Berwickshire Courthouse. Redundant and a building at risk since 2001, the old town hall has been restored and adapted by Adam Dudley Architects for use as office space for local businesses and as a hall for local people. Here is an example of what can be achieved with redundant public buildings, whose future in these straitened times is a major problem, as local authorities and public bodies seek to realise assets and cut spending. This year we have seen town halls auctioned, even put up for sale on eBay, with no controls at all over the suitability of the purchaser. This is a poor end for buildings that are the product of, and still speak of, civic pride. Encouragingly, this one in Greenlaw remains a building in civic use, a focal point not just visually but functionally, a building whose place in the architectural hierarchy of the town is still reflective of a higher, communal purpose.

RESTORATION OF A GEORGIAN CHURCH

This award is reserved for churches that remain in use for worship. For several years the category has been dominated by blockbuster restoration schemes on London churches, with the odd diversion to the provinces for excellent schemes such as last year’s winner, St Alkmund’s in Shrewsbury.

WINNER St George’s Hanover Sq, London (Molyneux Kerr Architects for the Rector and PCC of St George’s Church)  London has been so blessed in its recent church restorations that it seems almost hackneyed to shortlist another, but on merit St George’s Hanover Square deserves a laurel. St George’s, 1720s by John James, has benefited from a litany of improvements, both functional and aesthetic. The plasterwork has been painstakingly repaired, the servicing and lighting renewed, the reredos restored, the woodwork cleaned, the original decorative scheme reinstated, the clock faces restored and the gallery pews restored, even in part put back: now there’s evidence of cultural Counter-Reformation. Happily, so far at least, this has been a restoration tout court, unaccompanied by fashionable capital works. Almost as much as anything, the client deserves praise for knowing when to stop.

COMMENDED St Peter and St Paul, Wolverhampton (Rodney Melville and Partners for Roman Catholic Church) St Peter and St Paul in Wolverhampton, dating from 1729, is the oldest surviving post-Reformation public urban chapel for Catholics; and being pre-emancipation it was disguised, in this instance as a townhouse. Extended and altered in 1826 by Joseph Ireland as memorial to Bishop Milner, its setting was blighted by a 1960s ring road. Dereliction and the threat of demolition followed. Happily it has been rescued and restored, with works culminating in a reorganisation of the interior. A new altar and confessional build to apotheosis in a spectacular new crucifix by Rory Young. 

RESTORATION OF A GEORGIAN GARDEN OR LANDSCAPE

This award is especially prone to the vagaries of timing, as landscape restoration schemes are prolonged affairs. As usual, we include within the category schemes that involve the restoration of garden buildings and monuments and this year we have shortlisted three projects, one dauntingly broad in its sweep and two relatively petite.

WINNER Boughton, near Kettering, Northants (The Landscape Agency and Lance Goffort-Hall for Buccleuch Estates) Restoration of the main structure of the canal system, key water and earthworks features and the grand avenues (over a mile of lime avenues using home grown stock has been planted); repair of garden railings and gates; creation of a new formal landscape element, Orpheus by Kim Wilkie. The landscape restoration at Boughton in Northamptonshire, one of the great ducal estates, and indeed the extraordinary ambition of the scheme befits the ducal station. The work is undeniably heroic, representing not simply restoration but in effect a new phase of patronage. It encompasses restoration of the main canals and earthworks and reinstatement of the grand avenues, with over a mile of lime avenues planted using home-grown stock. The 1720s Mound, created for the 2nd Duke, has been rescued from dereliction and is now dramatically juxtaposed with an inverted sibling, Orpheus by Kim Wilkie.

COMMENDED The Obelisk at Hagley Hall, Hagley, Worcestershire (Reading Designs for Viscount Cobham) The designed landscape here is impressive and dramatic but has intractable problems, being on the edge of the Birmingham conurbation and bisected by a busy road. The farther parts, being hard to protect and police, are easy prey for vandals and the eyecatchers catch the eye of miscreants. We have seen similar problems elsewhere, not least at the Darnley Mausoleum in Kent, the exemplary restoration of which won this award three years ago. Here too there is a redemptive quality to the project – a determination to avoid defeatism, to inject hope where a shrug of the shoulders and abandonment to the forces of darkness would have been the easier path. We therefore choose to see the obelisk not only as an eyecatcher but as a beacon of civilised values, and its restoration by Lord Cobham as a fusillade against the barbarians.

COMMENDED Stourhead, Wiltshire (Temple of Apollo) (Caroe and Partners for The National Trust) The National Trust does so much excellent work of this sort that it is easy to take both the work and the institution for granted, but the initials NT stand just as well for National Treasure; it is part of the fabric of Britain and occasionally it is worth reminding ourselves how enriched we are by its presence, and conversely how impoverished we would be if were not there to undertake – often quietly, always meticulously – projects such as this. At Stourhead it has replaced the 1950s domed roof of the Temple of Apollo with one following the original, shallower profile and has restored the interior, recreating the gilt representation of the solar rays. This had been lost but was remade using evidence from contemporary correspondence and a surviving Flitcroft design at Woburn.

NEW BUILDING IN THE CLASSICAL TRADITION

Well, the apostles of glass are recanting! Even the architect of the Gherkin feels we are fed on thin gruel and acknowledges a desire for a richer and more satisfying architectural diet. When we inaugurated this award some might have thought us wilfully perverse, hopelessly kicking against the pricks. Even now we feel a little like recusants denying the orthodoxy, and certainly no other awards are yet prepared to acknowledge that the classical tradition survives. But, inch by inch, classicism is edging back into the mainstream, asserting its validity as an architectural language. The proof is in the quality of the projects we see annually.


WINNER Shilstone Manor, Modbury, Devon (Christopher Rae-Scott for Sebastian and Lucy Fenwick) Shilstone is a fascinating palimpsest, a new country house grafted onto an 1800 remodelling of a mediaeval house. The building had been progressively reduced in size during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries until it was effectively a ruined farmhouse. The task of rebuilding it over the past ten years has been daunting enough, but what especially impresses is the painstaking thoroughness of the work, using locally quarried stone and directly-employed local craftsmen and basing the plans on meticulous historical and archaeological research. Among the hills of south Devon this must at times have seemed a Sisyphean labour, but the result is a triumph.

COMMENDED Mickley Park, near Ripon, Yorkshire: new dower house (Francis Johnson and Partners for Mr Robert Staveley) Mickley is a new dower house on the Staveleys’ North Stainley Hall estate in Yorkshire. Set on the site of derelict modern farm buildings within a 140 acre redundant dairy farm, the house has all the attributes you would expect from a master practitioner like Digby Harris: elegance; controlled panache; the flourish of the Venetian windows and Gibbs surround; and above all, perhaps, rootedness in context. This is a Yorkshire house, robust and dignified. What gives it added distinction is its status as an eco-house. The marriage of modern eco-friendly insulation and heating systems with classical architecture can lead to strained results, but the lesson from Mickley, which has a sophisticated ground heat recovery system, is that it can equally well be achieved unostentatiously and with aplomb.

COMMENDED Ann’s Court, Selwyn College, Cambridge, new accommodation block (Porphyrios Associates for Selwyn College) An Oxbridge project won this award last year and evidence of enlightened varsity patronage continues this year with Demetri Porphyrios’s Ann’s Court at Selwyn College, Cambridge. Undergraduate accommodation can be startlingly banal and perfunctory – much is being built at the moment in our major cities which shows how far the depths can be plumbed – so this is a refreshing reminder that well-made, serious architecture still has a place and that Oxford and Cambridge remain a bastion against the wider preference for cheapjack squats. Everything here, from the load-bearing dressed brick to the carefully-composed arcade, the pedimented dormers and the masculine chimneystacks, suggests a taking to heart of Ruskin’s imperative: “When we build, let us think that we build for ever.”

COMMENDED Whittlebury Lodge, near Towcester, Northants (Peregrine Bryant Architects for Mr and Mrs Colin Lees-Millais) Whittlebury is a charming limewashed house at the heart of the ancient hunting forest of Whittlebury in Northamptonshire. It is a sylvan idyll that could easily have been spoilt by an ill-judged building. The site is superb and the effect of being set within a natural rather than a designed landscape is compelling: the architect has responded cleverly by conceiving the building as a hunting lodge, allowing the forest to flow unmediated up to the rear elevation, creating dramatic vistas. Again, there is a subtle responsiveness to context here which suggests that the architect has spent hours on site formulating a bespoke response. The result is satisfying, with a sense of drama that stops short of bombast.

GILES WORSLEY AWARD FOR A NEW BUILDING IN A GEORGIAN CONTEXT

We were delighted to be able to name this award, introduced in 2006, in honour of the late Dr Giles Worsley, who served as a Trustee of the Georgian Group for many years among his many other accomplishments.

The award is an especially apt tribute to Giles, as he himself inspired it. He was, as we know, equally comfortable with historic and contemporary buildings and he sensibly saw past, present and future as part of the same continuum.

WINNER Richard Green Gallery, 32-33 New Bond St (George Saumarez Smith of Adam Architecture for Richard Green Gallery) In our view this building is bolder, more iconoclastic and less conventional than a self-consciously ‘contemporary’ solution. It does the job asked of it to perfection, both functionally and aesthetically. Elegantly planned, elegantly designed, judiciously but not extravagantly ornamented, it never strays into showy self-obsession. It is in some ways a startling addition to its context, if only because cool, crisp design executed unapologetically in the classical language is so rarely allowed or achieved. The restrained Greek Revival idiom is beautifully controlled, the incised giant pilasters and Greek key frieze set off by a bas-relief stone frieze of Homeric subjects by Alexander Stoddart. All in all, an impressive essay in street architecture.

COMMENDED Old Rectory, Church Langton, Leicestershire (Kitchen extension) (Nick Cox Architects for Mr and Mrs Mark Newton) The test of adding extensions to historic buildings is all too often failed. We know that as well as anyone, being consulted as we are on proposals that range from the stridently inharmonious to the inoffensively pedestrian. Both detract from the host building. Stylish additions that respectfully and literately fit in their context are much rarer and are worth lauding when found. Here is a quiet, elegant solution to a deceptively simple problem. Properly subservient in height, properly deferential in scale and properly harmonious in its materials, this single storey brick extension cleverly uses existing screen walls as a foil to a building that is at once self-assured and restrained.

SPECIAL AWARD

Dumfries House, Cumnock, Ayrshire (By and for The Great Steward of Scotland’s Dumfries House Trust) To recognise a remarkable conservation achievement, namely the saving of Dumfries House in Ayrshire and its contents. The importance of historic buildings often lies not in their fabric only but in their contents; when the latter have been commissioned and made for the house, the loss caused by dispersal is immense and usually irretrievable. So it would have been at Dumfries, where the remarkable collection of Chippendale furniture commissioned by the 5th Earl of Dumfries, including a superb rosewood bookcase and mahogany bed, was put up for sale along with the house by his descendant in 2007 and was heading south to London along the M6 when a dramatic intervention by the HRH The Prince of Wales led to a literal U-turn. The reunification of the 5th Earl’s house and furniture, the acquisition of both by The Great Steward of Scotland’s Dumfries House Trust, specially-formed for the purpose, and the subsequent careful restoration of the house is one of the success stories of the past twenty years.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Reduced to rubble


The locally-listed Georgian terrace at 530-536 High Road, Tottenham, grievously damaged in the London riots in August when looters attacked a jewellers' shop, has finally succumbed after hanging on in perilous condition for a month. Although reduced to a shell, it is probable that a portion of the handsome facade (bottom picture) could have been saved, given the necessary political will, with the remainder reinstated in replica. We have at least managed to save the nationally-listed property at 662 High Road, which was also attracting the attention of demolition contractors. Though also gutted, this has been shored up and stabilised and awaits rebuilding behind the facade.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Riots: aren't we missing a trick by imprisoning first offenders?


The news that a young man who opportunistically stole a bottle of water during the riots has been sentenced to six months in prison has about it a slight whiff of the eighteenth century, writes Robert Bargery, Director of the Georgian Group. If not exactly transportation to Australia, the punishment seems an extreme response to an act conducted in the heat of the moment – a response that will stain for life the reputation of a youngster of previously good character. There are other very similar examples of first offenders responsible for minor transgressions being imprisoned.  

There seems a risk here of a loss of perspective and subtlety. Justice that is punitive must also be condign, in other words appropriate to the offence. Locking up petty thieves who acted irrationally and out of character in a moment of madness is highly inefficient, committing the state to fund their board, lodging and round-the-clock supervision when there is no suggestion that they are routinely a threat to the public. It also forces them into day-to-day contact with offenders who are exactly that. Basically civilised people such as the one-time water thief might be able to weather that storm, but we are creating a wholly unnecessary risk of contamination for those you might call ‘floating offenders’, impressionable people who might never reoffend if managed properly but who, confined to the wrong environment, might get sucked into a life of crime.   

Disproportionate penalties breed resentment as they appear contrary to natural justice. A far better response for petty offenders would be sentences based on redemption.  This is an underused principle of justice and one that custodial sentences make hard to exploit. Incarceration is the epitome of unproductiveness: offenders are removed from the society they have harmed, unable to redeem themselves in any meaningful way even if they wanted to and freed from the need to confront the effect of their actions on others. A physical and emotional wedge is driven between them and society, driving out any real possibility of constructive engagement.

For types such as the water thief, should we not stop trying to emulate Judge Jeffreys and instead introduce a new category of Redemption Orders, where minor offenders are required to perform constructive tasks to help the communities they damaged and to earn society’s forgiveness. There is no need for chain gangs or Guantanamo jumpsuits: the Orders could be supervised in a civilised manner by respected volunteers. This would allow them to have a double purpose as a form of mentoring.  

Our streetscapes, townscapes and historic environments could benefit hugely from such a policy. Over the past eighteen months, Britain has seen the emergence of numerous civic societies dedicated to the improvement of local environments. Could they and the amenity societies be asked to perform a public service by overseeing the Redemption Orders? As director of the Georgian Group, I can commit one such society to playing a full role. The benefits could be considerable: genuine action to improve debased environments (think of all the rubbish-strewn towpaths, pockets of flyblown no-man’s land and graffiti-defaced walls that need attention) and a class of offenders who, instead of languishing in prison for unpremeditated petty theft, would be given satisfying work making our cities better places to live. They might even end the process with some applicable new skills.  

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Tottenham: don't rush into demolishing fire-damaged historic buildings

We have asked the Leader of Haringey Council, Cllr Claire Kober, to defer a decision on the future of the fire-damaged Georgian buildings on Tottenham High Road until a conservation accredited structural engineer has been able to inspect the damage and give an expert opinion.

Structural engineer Brian Morton, founder of The Morton Partnership and hugely experienced in the heritage sector, has given the following initial assessment based on photographic evidence:


"A quick assessment of the information from your website suggests to me that the damage to these buildings is not likely to be any greater than a similar fire that occurred in the Market Place at Stockport a few years ago. There was a proposal to demolish the buildings due to the danger of accessing the building because of Health and Safety Risks. We were able to propose that, using a large cage attached to a crane, it was possible to go inside the building and drop damaged elements into the ground floor, and then clear them out from the shop front.


"The form of damage, looking at the photograph of the Grade II Listed Building 662 High Road, suggests that the front elevation externally is unlikely to be seriously damaged because there is no great heat generated on this open facade and similarly, I suspect, that the bressumer would only have been affected by burning of the surface face of the timber.


"Internally, I have no information but it is likely the damage is greater to the brickwork inside because of the likely intensity of the fire bought about by the floors, partitions, and fixtures and fittings.

"Before demolishing a Listed Building, the very least that should be done is an inspection by an Engineer, via a cherry picker or crane, and advise".

Mr Morton has offered to visit the site this week. We have passed that offer on to LB Haringey and await a response. Obviously there are several competing urgent priorities in the immediate aftermath of a riot, but it is important that demolition is not undertaken precipitately. The rioters should not be allowed to add Tottenham's heritage to the long list of other losses.

Further destruction on Tottenham High Road

As well as the early nineteenth century terrace ay 530-536 High Road, another casualty of the riot in Tottenham has been this Grade II listed building at 662 High Road. Behind the later facade is original early eighteenth century fabric dating from when Tottenham High Road developed as a semi-rural retreat for prosperous Georgian merchants.

It is important that knee-jerk decisions are not taken on the future of these buildings and that conservation accredited structural engineers (such as the Brian Morton Partnership) are consulted on any work to make the buldings safe in the immediate term. As much as possible must be salvaged  for use in restoration and rebuilding.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Tottenham riots destroy Georgian terrace

These before and after photographs show the wreckage of a locally listed Georgian terrace in Tottenham High Road, following the attentions of rioters this weekend.


The Tottenham Conservation Areas Character Appraisal has this to say about the terrace:


"To the south of Dowsett Road, Nos 530 to 536 High Rd comprise an attractive local listed symmetrical three storey early C19 terrace originally built as four Regency houses with a lower right side extension, orignally set well back from the road behind long front gardens. The end bays of the main building are set slightly forward beneath shallow pediments, the others have a parapet with stone copings which conceal the shallow slate roofs, but above which tall brick chimney stacks and terracotta pots add interest to the roofscape. The former front gardens were built over with attractively detailed single storey extensions at the end of the 19th century that extend forward to the High Road.

"This handsome terrace is of particular interest. It is constructed of yellow London stock bricks with largely unadorned facades, which include undecorated pediments and round-headed arcading around the first floor sash windows. The right side addition contains an attractive stucco panel at high level which has pilasters and entablature with Soane-style detailing. In contrast, their retail frontages, restored in the 1990s with grant assistance as part of a CAP scheme, are richly detailed with timber shopfronts with stallrisers and toplights and stucco surrounds with pilasters in the form of Ionic attached columns, entablatures with corbels, moulded cornices and parapets with stone copings and ball finials, which provide the group with a sense of rhythm and proportion and add significantly to the character and appearance of this part of the conservation area." 

We are offering the London Borough of Haringey conservation team our immediate support with a view to getting the terrace restored and where necessary rebuilt.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Demolition to make way for a taxi rank

Carmarthenshire County Council has granted itself permission to demolish these decent, ordinary late Georgian buildings, which contribute positively to the Llanelli streetscape, in order to make way for a taxi rank turning circle. As reasons for demolition of historic buildings go, that ranks pretty low.





The buildings form the corner of Park Street and Island Place - 24 Park Street to 2 Island Place. Among the oldest streets in Llanelli, Park Street and Island Place were the original route into the town for mail coaches running between Swansea and Carmarthen. An old coaching inn, 'Ty Melyn', still exists in Park Street. The threatened buildings are largely unaltered and are the best examples of early commercial properties in the town. The original shop here, The Llanelly Clog, Boot and Shoe Manufactory, was the region's largest clog maker and supplied local colliers and tinplate workers.

Carmarthenshire County Council is now intent on demolishing these buildings within a matter of weeks and using the site as a turning area for a taxi rank in the new East Gate leisure development. Demolition is on hold until the close of the bird nesting season, which is due in about a fortnight. 

To comment, please email rjdavies@carmarthenshire.gov.uk

Monday, 20 June 2011

City capriccio

Well, this would be a capriccio if it weren't real, but this is an actual view temporarily opened up by the demolition of Bucklersbury House in the City of London. For a short time we get a perfect glimpse of London not just as palimpsest, with layers of development overlain on others, but as a jostling ground where the work of great architects co-exists, rather more in messy tension than in smooth harmony. In the foreground is the Roman Temple of Mithras, or what remains of it, and then left to right we have buildings by Sir James Stirling (hiding one by Lutyens), Soane, Herbert Baker, Richard Seifert, Norman Foster, George Dance, Wren, Richard Rogers and Foster again. Available to view for a limited time only!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Success for heritage sector as safeguards built into Localism Bill

The Government's inadvertent weakening of protection for conservation areas and listed buildings in the Localism Bill, currently before Parliament, has been rectified by a Commons amendment that ensures that Neighbourhood Forums and Parish Councils consider the the setting of listed buildings and the character of conservation areas when deciding what requires planning permission within their areas.

Neighbourhood Development Orders, a new mechanism by which planning consent will be able to be granted locally, are thus brought into line with other parts of the consent regime. Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, had conceded that, as drafted, the Bill gave rise to 'understandable concerns on the part of the heritage community'.

Those concerns have now been allayed following a concerted campaign by heritage organisations, led by the umbrella body The Heritage Alliance.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Hope springs eternal...

Georgian Group members yesterday visited the newly-excavated and unsealed Hope Mausoleum on the Deepdene estate near Dorking in Surrey. This is the only surviving building by the highly-influential architect and designer Thomas Hope (1769–1831), whose nearby country house, The Deepdene, was demolished as recently as 1967: the company headquarters of the travel firm Kuoni now stand on the site.

Our visit, led by Alexander Bagnall, Countryside Officer at Mole Valley District Council, included a look at the pitch dark interior, the occupied loculi, or coffin bays, illuminated only by a torch. The sealing and burial in the 1950s was intended to be permanent and was done to great effect - the inside of the mausoleum is in pristine condition, having been protected from the elements and the attentions of vandals.             

The immediate area, recently cleared of scrub, is something of a blasted heath at the moment but will return to gorse and heather once native species regenerate.

The Monuments and Mausolea Trust is now raising money to restore this remarkable building, all we have left of the work of one of our most intriguing designers. If you would like to help you can donate here

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

ANNOUNCING...THE GEORGIAN RAFFLE 2011


in aid of The Georgian Group
helping the preservation of our Georgian heritage


Six magnificent prizes! Your chance to win a week’s superb holiday accommodation in California, Switzerland, Venice, Lazio, the Scottish Highlands or Chelsea. Download the brochure for full raffle details.

Entries are £25 each or £200 for books of ten entries. 

All prizes will be drawn separately on Thursday 1 September 2011. Deadline for entries 5pm BST Wednesday 31 August 2011.

You can enter as many times as you wish (for yourself or for others) for as many prizes as you wish.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Philanthropist rescues Auckland Castle and its Zurbarans

Thirteen remarkable Zurbarán paintings will remain in their home at Auckland Castle in Co Durham thanks to a staggering £15million donation by Investment Manager and philanthropist Jonathan Ruffer.

The 17th century portraits of Jacob and his brothers by Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbarán, which were under threat of being sold by the Church Commissioners, will now remain where they have hung since 1756.

The intention is for Auckland Castle, the home of the Bishop of Durham, to become a leading public heritage site, bringing tourism and economic regeneration to the North East. Partners include the Art Fund, Durham County Council, the National Trust, the Department for Media, Culture and Sport, and the National Gallery about the broader future for Auckland Castle and the paintings within.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Sheerness Royal Dockyard rescued in Save of the Century

The site is the wooded area on the middle left margin of the photograph - click to expand
The Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust has completed the heroic rescue of one of the most important and endangered historic sites in the South East of England.


The Trust, acting as the nominee for a group of investors, and with the help of a loan from the Architectural Heritage Fund, has successfully sealed the £1.85m purchase of a complete 1820s naval officers’ residential quarter at Sheerness Dockyard. The site, on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, contains six Grade II* and four Grade II buildings on four acres of land. It has been empty (save for one protected tenant) and on English Heritage’s national at risk register for the best part of a decade. In 2009 the entire dockyard was added to the World Monuments Fund's international Watch List of endangered historic sites.

In recent years the site has been under the shadow of redevelopment proposals involving the building of apartment blocks on the historic landscape. This application was finally refused at planning last year after a strong campaign involving local people, the national amenity societies and SAVE. Following this decision, the Trust entered into negotiations with the owner to acquire the site.

The investors - who have taken on seven of the ten available properties - will restore them as single homes. The buildings include Regency Terrace (a row of five elegant houses) and the magnificent Dockyard House, built for the Chief Superintendent of the yard and later converted to offices. The three remaining properties will be held by the Trust, to be passed on to suitable purchasers. The Trust will be responsible for submitting the necessary planning applications, will oversee the rehabilitation of the site, and will carry out the repair work to the envelope of Regency Terrace.

The Royal Naval Dockyard at Sheerness was planned and engineered by John Rennie and constructed by successive surveyors Edward Holl and George Ledwell-Taylor. It was Ledwell-Taylor who (during the 1820s and 30s) was responsible for a majority of the residential buildings - all of which were built to exacting standards, with restrained Grecian detailing. When built, Sheerness was arguably the most advanced naval installation in the world. The dockyard closed in 1960 and since then has operated as a commercial port.

William Palin, Secretary of SAVE, says ‘This is one of the greatest heritage rescues of recent years, and proof that viable conservation solutions can be found for even the most difficult historic sites. Against all the odds, the Spitalfields Trust has managed to assemble, within its expert embrace, a group of sympathetic and passionate investors who, together, will return this magnificent site to its former glory. SAVE is pleased to have had a hand in this rescue and wishes the Trust well with this exciting project.’

The Spitalfields Trust was founded in 1977 to prevent the destruction of Georgian Spitalfields in London. Since then it has taken on and repaired over 60 buildings, including a medieval manor house in Wales and Shurland Hall, a Tudor palace on the Isle of Sheppey.


For more information about the Spitalfields Trust and the remaining Sheerness properties contact: Oliver Leigh-Wood or Tim Whittaker (administrators) on 020 7247 0971. 

Friday, 18 March 2011

Councillors abstain on their own scheme

Three Blackburn & Darwen Councillors last night abstained on a vote on whether to give the go-ahead for demolition of an historic building to make way for a new road. Despite the fact that the scheme was devised and promoted by the Council itself, and despite the fact that before the vote Councillors were given a highly unusual (some might say irregular) presentation by the Council's Highways Department in a clear bid to promote the scheme, the abstaining Councillors felt the project was so badly flawed that they were unable to support it. Amazingly, one of the Councillors backing the scheme appeared unaware, on the day of the vote, that objections had been received - in spite of clear and repeated opposition from English Heritage, The Georgian Group and Blackburn & Darwen Civic Voice. Perhaps he's not reading his agenda papers; or are council officers keeping him in the dark? Either way, ignorance seems a curious basis on which to decide planning applications that involve demolition of nationally listed buildings. We and others are now asking the Government to call in the application for decision by the Secretary of State.

Background

Monday, 14 March 2011

Historic Weathervane returns to St George’s German Lutheran Church in East London


An unexpected phone call to the Historic Chapels Trust from the Art Loss Register brought news of the long-lost eighteenth century weathervane from St George’s German Lutheran Church, just discovered by an investigator in an antiques showroom in the Cotswolds. This amazing piece of copper craftsmanship originally surmounted the turret of St George’s and was retained in the church, along with its bell, when the turret was dismantled for safety reasons in the 1930s. It went missing in the early 1990s before HCT owned the church and was not expected to be heard of again. Apparently the weathervane passed through various hands, on the continent and in England, before being recognised and happily returned to St George’s. The Art Loss Register charged a nominal fee to Historic Chapels Trust, as to all charities.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Success as Cleveland Street workhouse is listed!

Success - for the moment! The Heritage Minister John Penrose has agreed to list the old workhouse at Grade II. There is still an outstanding application to demolish the building, but the listing increases the presumption in favour of retention and the local authority will need to take it into account when determining the application. The listing follows a long campaign which attracted wide-ranging support.

The building served most recently as an outpatients' department of the Middlesex Hospital and has been a source of concern ever since the demolition of the largely twentieth century hospital in 2006. It was built as a workhouse in 1775-78 by the parish of St Paul’s Covent Garden, on the site of their old burial ground, and acquired its pair of projecting end blocks in 1829, when it became known as the Strand Union Workhouse. An article in the medical journal The Lancet in 1865, reporting on the grim conditions in the workhouse, very largely contributed to the passing of the 1867 Metropolitan Poor Act. The Central London Sick Asylum District, an amalgam of former Poor Law Unions, then used the building as an infirmary until it became part of the Middlesex Hospital in 1927.

The old workhouse has a place in the annals of social history and architecturally it is remarkably intact, its H-plan a visible reminder of how the Georgians left it. We submitted a listing request in 2008; despite being supported by English Heritage this was turned down by the then Government.

The workhouse was then occupied by Camelot, a company that provides security for otherwise empty and vulnerable buildings by using them as temporary low-cost housing, as the campaign to preserve the building gathered pace.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Horse Guards parade barriers

This extraordinary barrier erected across Horse Guards' Parade is happily temporary, while the usual bollards (which can be sunk flush with the road, as in the photograph) are overhauled. But even for a limited period of four months (to April 2011) it represents a pretty hamfisted approach to the problem of securing the rear of Downing Street. The barrier was erected under emergency planning legislation (DCLG Circular 02/2006) which nonetheless requires the relevant local authority and English Heritage to be consulted first. It seems that neither was in this case, and we hope that there is no repeat of that omission if other emergency works are planned, especially if they blight their surroundings as badly as these yellow gates, to which explanatory notices have now been attached just in case anyone else thinks they are permanent. These days one can never be sure.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

If you live in an historic building and suffer flooding, here's what to do...

Roger Hunt, co-author of The Old House Handbook, offers the following tips for historic house owners affected by flooding
 
·  Speed but not haste is the key. Always aim to keep as much original fabric as possible and clean and repair sensitively to avoid further damage and loss. Remember that the approach promoted by some insurance companies can be damaging to old buildings so seek advice from the local planning authority’s conservation officer or other experts. The English Heritage publication Flooding and Historic Buildings is invaluable.
·   Once the building is safe to enter, clear away the water, mud and silt from inside, under floors and from the bottom of external walls. Encourage ventilation by clearing air-bricks of silt, moving furniture and pictures away from walls and lifting carpets and other floor coverings. With suspended floors, lift a number of floorboards (but no more than necessary) in each room to allow air to circulate, taking extra care when lifting swollen floorboards to avoid damage. If items such as panelling, door frames and skirting boards have to be dismantled, the work should be done with great care and by a good carpenter. Remember to number and record the position of items as they’re removed and turn them regularly to limit warping.
·    Don’t discard items until you are absolutely sure they can’t be conserved. They may in any case serve as a useful model to create replicas or when trying to find matches. Where appropriate get advice from a conservator or conservation architect.
·    Care and patience are needed when drying out old buildings. Bringing in heaters or turning the central heating to full can make the remedial work more damaging than the flood itself. The work must be done gently and slowly through ventilation and with the aid of dehumidifiers. Fans speed up the drying process by increasing airflow and the evaporation rate.
·    Windows and doors, including cupboard doors, should be left open but be aware of the security risk and, if necessary, fit temporary grilles to secure openings. Stripping non-historic wall coverings will also help the drying process. Older, lime-based plasters usually soften when wet but generally harden again when dry. More modern plasters tend to deteriorate and may need to be replaced.
·    Don’t attempt to redecorate until the fabric has completely dried out. When you do, it’s more important than ever to use traditional ‘breathable’ paints rather than modern, potentially impermeable finishes.

Follow Roger Hunt at http://huntwriter.com