Tuesday, 29 October 2013



Townhead, Slaidburn, Lancs
By and for Robert Staples

Early C18 stone house. Previously on buildings at risk register, acquired by present owners 2010, conservatively restored using traditional methods.

Hadlow Tower, Tonbridge, Kent
Thomas Ford and Partners for The Vivat Trust

1832 by Walter Barton May as part of a now largely demolished country house. 185ft Gothic folly in brick with covering of Roman cement. On World Monuments Fund Watch List by 2003. Now restored and refaced, with lantern (removed after storm damage in 1987) rebuilt.


Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London
RHWL for The Really Useful Group Theatres

Restoration of Grand Saloon, The King’s and Prince’s Staircases and the Rotunda. Redecoration with advice from John Earl, Lisa Oestreicher and Edward Bulmer to match as closely as possible Benjamin Dean Wyatt’s original design. Installation of copy of Canova’s Three Graces in the Rotunda.

Great Fulford, near Exeter, Devon
Ceiling by Geoffrey Preston for Francis Fulford

New decorated plaster ceiling for the C17 double cube Great Dining Room. The original ceiling collapsed C19 and the room was then abandoned until C20; in 1960 a temporary ceiling composed of acoustic tiles was installed to make the room habitable. The 1700 picture hang has also been largely reinstated.


Mostyn House, 42 Vale Street, Denbigh
Milrick Ltd for John and Janis Franklin

1722 townhouse, restored in project initiated by Denbighshire County Council and part-funded by Townscape Heritage Initiative with HLF support. Main elevation fully returned to its original appearance, with removal of pebbledash and excrescences (later oriel window to first floor and bay windows to ground floor). Façade limewashed. Internally, lost oak panelling and missing section of oak staircase re-created.

116 High St, Boston, Lincolnshire
Anderson and Glenn for Heritage Lincolnshire

1728 merchant’s townhouse, later bank; by end of C20, gardens concreted over and house officially at risk and near to collapse. Compulsorily purchased by local authority and restored by building preservation trust supported by Architectural Heritage Fund and HLF. Envelope conserved and some lost features reinstated. Interior fitted out for office use and premises for small businesses built in grounds, giving a boost to a part of Boston cut off by a 1960s ring road.

107 Great Mersey Street, Liverpool L5
Brock Carmichael for Rotunda Ltd

1820s house, the only Georgian building left in Kirkdale area of Liverpool, near docks. In atrocious condition and on buildings at risk register by 2003, Urgent Works Notice served in 2007. HLF-funded project to restore envelope and restore or replace internal fabric.


St. Helen’s House, Derby
Brownhill Hayward Brown for Richard Blunt

1766 by Joseph Pickford, Grade I, one of the finest C18 townhouses to survive in a provincial city. Sold by the Strutt family to Derby School in the 1860s, in educational use till 2004, since when vacant and formally at risk. Bought by Richard Blunt in 2006, now restored and converted to office use, the recession having put paid to a planned hotel conversion.

Norwood House, Beverley, East Riding
Elevation Design for The Brantingham Group (specialist advice from Patrick Baty)

1765, Grade I townhouse, acquired by local authority 1907 and used as a girls’ school until 1990s, then disused; deteriorated to the point where it was formally at risk. Arson in 2004 damaged the Rococo drawing room and the 1825 Grecian library. Subject to unsympathetic proposals but now sensitively restored and let in its entirety to a culinary school who use it in part as a restaurant.

Stable block, Sulby Hall, Northants
JWA Architects for Mr and Mrs Sandercock

1790s, attributed to Soane. Sulby Hall was demolished in 1952 and the surviving stable block was subsequently in various uses including as a store for farm equipment and grain. By 2005 it was ruinous and roofless. Natural England initiated restoration as part of a management plan for the owners’ mixed farm and the stable block, fully restored, is now used as a stable yard for stallions in a national breeding programme.


Repton pleasure grounds, Woburn, Beds
Woburn Abbey gardeners for The Duke of Bedford

Restoration, and re-creation where lost, of the Georgian pleasure gardens and garden buildings, including Holland’s Chinese dairy, Repton’s pagoda, temple, aviary and cone house and Wyatville’s Camellia House.

Cow Pond, Windsor Great Park, Berkshire
Russ Canning for The Crown Estate

Part of the ten-year Royal Landscape Project to reinstate the lost historic landscapes of Windsor Great Park. Cow Pond, part of Wise’s 1712 plan for the Park and taking the form of a canal, was overgrown by 2008 and had regressed to swamp. Restoration included dredging and draining, construction of a Baroque footbridge and arbour and new planting.

Sir James Tillie Mausoleum, Pentillie Castle, Saltash, Cornwall
Cliveden Conservation for Ted Coryton

1713, in ruinous condition and covered in vegetation when Pentillie bought by present owners in 2007. Fully restored following archaeological survey, damaged Tillie statue repaired, vault excavated.


Onslow Park, near Shrewsbury, Salop
Craig Hamilton for Mr and Mrs John Wingfield

Schinkelesque country house on established estate. Five-bay, the centre three bays slightly recessed with arched openings to ground floor, forming an arcade on the garden front. Rendered with stone dressing. Top-lit stair hall with gallery and spiral cantilevered staircase.

Oval cricket ground, London SE11 (new forecourt pavilion)
Hugh Petter of Adam Architecture for Surrey County Cricket Club

Forecourt pavilion in brick with Bath stone dressing, replacing functional C20 banqueting suite. Central portico articulated with stone columns with bespoke Prince of Wales feather capitals and surmounted by stone urns.


8B Aubrey Road, London W8
Craig Hamilton Architects for Mr and Mrs Andrew Deacon

New classical mews house replacing former mews in grounds of 25 Holland Park Avenue (1820s). Soanean echoes, especially in recessed arches and rectangular sculpture gallery. Public façade composed of pediment and Diocletian window above full-width front door imitating typical mews garage door.

A lodge for a country house in Gloucestershire
Craig Hamilton for a private client

Classical lodge in stone on cruciform plan, each axis terminating at either end in a broken pediment; deep block-modillion cornice.

Trinity Church Terrace, Trinity Street, Borough, London SE1
By and for London Realty

Terrace of ten five-storey houses, forming infill development adjoining Trinity Church Square and designed to harmonise with existing context.

(See below for the full citations for each project)

Monday, 28 October 2013

Georgian Group Architectural Awards / Shortlist / Restoration of a Georgian Interior

This year we bring interior decoration out of the shadows, recognising it as a specific discipline and its practitioners as highly skilled and creative contributors to restoration projects. Too often perhaps we are seduced by outward transformation, but even where historic buildings remain unchanged externally magic can be wrought internally, sometimes to Georgian interiors within older buildings and sometimes within tight physical limits: a single room, perhaps, or a single ceiling. 

Our first scheme is exactly that, the reinstatement of a lost Georgian ceiling for the seventeenth century double cube Great Dining Room at Great Fulford, near Exeter. The creation of this perfectly proportioned room within the Tudor walls entailed cutting through tie beams and retaining walls, with the result that the ceiling collapsed in the nineteenth century. The room was then abandoned until the mid twentieth century, when a temporary ceiling of workaday acoustic tiles was installed to make the room habitable. That in turn has now been replaced by a plaster ceiling to an approximation of the original design: without documentary evidence, imaginative interpretation was needed. This has been amply shown by Geoffrey Preston, who has rejected timid inoffensiveness in favour of creating something vigorous and of lasting interest. In his skilled hands, it works beautifully, at a stroke allowing a fine room to recover its sense of hierarchy, proportion and meaning – all reinforced by the parallel reinstatement of the 1700 picture hang and the ex-situ restoration of the Ashburnham marble fireplace. It is a powerful statement of confidence in the future of the house, which is now firmly on an upward trajectory.   

Secondly we have the triumphant reinstatement of the Benjamin Dean Wyatt interiors at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, opened in 1662 but substantially Regency as we see it today. The civilised, tasteful opulence of Wyatt’s decorative scheme had been more or less wholly lost beneath successive redecorations and alterations, so that the interiors had lost their coherence and become a riot of the usual monotonous red plush. Under Lord Lloyd Webber’s direction that has all been spectacularly reversed: the front of house spaces now form a superbly uplifting and legible sequence, redolent of Regency refinement. The Grand Saloon has been transformed from a cloying and clogged space, truncated at one end and dimmed by a blocked-in window, to an ethereal wonder where the architectural elements read properly. The King’s and Prince’s Staircases have recovered their splendour and the Rotunda, newly enriched with a copy of Canova’s Three Graces, is breathtaking under its coved dome. After years of nicotine-stained and gin-soaked dowdiness, the Theatre Royal has recovered its status as one of the finest public interiors in London. 

The awards will be presented by The Marquess of Salisbury on the evening on 29 October 2013.

Georgian Group Architectural Awards / Shortlist / Re-use 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. 

We have shortlisted three projects. The first is Norwood House in Beverley in the East Riding, a 1765 Grade I townhouse acquired by the local authority in 1907 and used as a girls’ school until the 1990s. Then disused, it deteriorated to the point where it was formally at risk, a state of affairs exacerbated by an arson attack in 2004 that badly damaged the Rococo drawing room and the 1825 Grecian library: all proof that damage begets damage and neglect soon spirals out of control. We at the Georgian Group, through our Trustees Professor John Wilton Ely and Patrick Baty, offered a guiding hand as restoration proposals were developed. The building has now been sensitively restored both externally and internally, where the decorative scheme, deinstitutionalised at last, complements the architecture. Norwood House is now let in its entirety to a culinary school which uses it in part as a restaurant, thus allowing the burghers of Beverley to appreciate the transformation.  

St. Helen’s House in Derby is also a Grade I townhouse, a monumental Palladian work of 1766 by Joseph Pickford and one of the finest Georgian gentleman’s townhouses to survive outside London. It too spent much of the twentieth century as a school and again the ending of educational use (in 2003) was followed by a dark period of disuse, prolonged uncertainty over its future and descent into at-risk status as neglect, vandalism and arson began to undermine the structure of the building. The white knight here, not for the first time, was Richard Blunt, who on taking possession in 2008 was faced with two inches of standing water directly above the splendid elaborate plasterwork of the ground floor ceiling. The main roof valley and parapet had failed and quantities of water were cascading through the middle of the house. In spite of these manifold physical challenges, allied to financial ones posed by the recession, he has now restored St Helen’s and converted it to office use, securing the future of a building of national importance.

A different type of project is the reuse of this stable block in Northamptonshire. Dating from the 1790s and attributed to Soane, it formed part of the estate of Sulby Hall and survived as an isolated relic after the hall was demolished in 1952 and the estate split up to pay death duties. In the succeeding half-century it went through various uses, including as a store for farm equipment and grain, but by 2005 it was ruinous and largely roofless. Natural England initiated restoration as part of a management plan for the owners’ mixed farm and the stable block, fully restored using traditional materials and methods, is now used as a stable yard for stallions in a national breeding programme. The ochre limewash is an appropriately vibrant coating for a building brought back to vital and viable use. 

The awards will be presented by The Marquess of Salisbury on the evening on 29 October 2013.

Georgian Group Architectural Awards / Shortlist / 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 also to address the depredations of time and longstanding neglect. The other, more subtle but no less important, is about revivifying a place, allowing it to recover its spirit. Our two shortlisted schemes, summarised below in alphabetical order, cover both aspects in varying degrees.

The first, Hadlow Tower in the Weald of Kent, might seem on the face of it an eccentric choice for this category. ‘Is this a country house?’ you might ask. The answer is ‘yes’, albeit the remnant of one. In its artificial state of splendid isolation it resembles a slightly madcap folly, but as at William Beckford’s Fonthill, on which it was modelled and where the Gothic tower reached 300 feet, it was actually built (in 1832) as part of a much larger country house. Hadlow is 100 feet shorter but far superior in sturdiness. Its condition had, however, deteriorated badly and ten years ago it was placed on the World Monuments Fund Watch List. Its saviour has been the Vivat Trust, which has rebuilt the 40ft lantern removed after storm damage in 1987 and has given the whole tower a sustaining coat of Roman cement, a render patented in the 1780s and later produced by Samuel Wyatt, brother of James who designed Fonthill. The craftsmanship and attention to detail have been deeply impressive and the result is spectacular both internally and externally.    

Our second scheme is Townhead, in the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire. This fine early eighteenth century stone house was on the Buildings at Risk register and was languishing in deteriorating condition with significant structural movement and collapsing spine walls; its fragility was such that the panelling was almost holding it up.  Acquired in 2010 by the present owners, it has since been meticulously restored using traditional methods. The rendered north elevation has been freshly limewashed and the coursed rubble of the east front repointed in lime. Panelled rooms have been brought back from dereliction, as have overgrown outbuildings well on the path to terminal decay. This is a genuine rescue, because the house could easily have entered that crepuscular netherworld where it slid into terminal decrepitude. Instead, refreshed and revivified, it has recovered its long-absent joie de vivre as a family home. 

The awards will be presented by The Marquess of Salisbury on the evening on 29 October 2013.

Georgian Group Architectural Award / Shortlist / 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 distinguished architectural historian Dr Giles Worsley, who served as a Trustee of the Georgian Group for many years. This year we also remember his late father, Sir Marcus Worsley, a fine custodian of Hovingham Park in Yorkshire and a member for many years of The Georgian Group’s Council.

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.

The first of our three shortlisted schemes is in Aubrey Road, Holland Park, where a mews house in the classical idiom has replaced a utilitarian garage in grounds of an 1820s house. Its public face is pedimented with a Diocletian window above a full-width front door imitating a typical mews garage door: but this is a mere curtain-raiser to the exquisiteness of the robust and muscular garden front. The seriousness of purpose it suggests is gratifyingly realised in the main internal space: a small but perfectly-formed sculpture gallery with clear Soanean echoes in the recessed arches, all handled in a way that gives a deceptive sense of spaciousness. It stands in a noble tradition of enlightened private patronage, of the kind that makes historic streetscapes in the inner south-western suburbs of London places of such civilised architectural variety.  

Trinity Church Terrace is an impressive infill development in a fine late Georgian enclave in south London, an area whose visual integrity is under increasing attack from the glass towers of the City and its borders. Initially the local authority sought a new insertion in a contemporary idiom but the developers, to their credit, pushed the case for an historicist scheme that responded to its immediate context. The resulting terraces sit comfortably and easily between two delightful Georgian squares, linking them again rather than driving a wedge between them, as a less contextual approach might have done. What we have here is considered, well-detailed, unmeretricious architecture that has value in itself but acquires added value when judged against  what might have happened had the local authority’s initial impulse been indulged: the narrow escape from the kind of ham-fisted, cacophonous, fussy residential architecture evident in the streets round about is not the least of the reasons to celebrate this scheme.

Our final project is an elegant classical lodge for a Regency country house in Gloucestershire: a deceptively simple building, spatially arranged to perfection with its cruciform plan, each axis terminating at either end in a broken pediment. The deep block-modillion cornice gives depth and solidity and the whole conveys a no-nonsense robustness, appropriate for a perimeter building that serves in part as a point of surveillance, interception and interrogation. Such a building might have been a utilitarian afterthought where quality was skimped, but instead it is celebrated as a public face of a largely hidden estate. It scores highly as a miniaturised embodiment of the Vitruvian principles of commodity, firmness and delight. 

The awards will be presented by The Marquess of Salisbury on the evening on 29 October 2013.

Georgian Group Architectural Awards / Shortlist / New Building in the Classical Tradition

There is clearly no shortage of commissions, despite the prevailing economic conditions. From a large number of entries we have shortlisted two very different projects.

Onslow Park, near Shrewsbury, follows on the footprint of two previous houses on an established estate: a Georgian house destroyed by fire in 1960 and a more prosaic replacement, best described euphemistically as very much of its time, that was built by the current owner’s father in 1961. Now, in direct line of succession, we have this Schinkelesque country house, a beautifully composed classical essay grafted onto the surviving historic outbuildings. As always with Craig Hamilton’s country houses, it is exquisitely detailed but intriguingly spare. This is as much classicism of the mind as of the heart, sourced from the intellect rather than worn on the sleeve. Visual excitement is generated not with frippery or superfluous ornament but through careful shifting of volumes and clever articulation of mass, typical of which is the slight recession of the centre bays and the use of arched openings to form an arcade on the garden front. Inside, the top-lit galleried stair hall and the spiral cantilevered staircase are carried off with aplomb. Above all, one has a sense of every part being deeply considered, both for itself and for its contribution to the whole. Onslow is the mature work of an architect who stands as a bridge to the great British classicists of the early twentieth century.

Our second scheme is a radical transformation and embellishment of the public face of the Oval cricket ground in south London. The new forecourt pavilion, seamlessly grafted on to the well-mannered red brick stand at the Tavern End, replaces a tired and pedestrian banqueting suite with a monumental tiered building that forms a clear and coherent entrance in place of a chaotic jumble. It accomplishes this in a way that is emblematic and festive, creating a sense of occasion and whetting the appetite for the sport to come. The confident central portico has clever and well-handled flourishes, evident in the bespoke Prince of Wales ostrich feather capitals and the stone urns subtly referencing the Ashes. This is a fine beginning to an exciting longer-term project by the Duchy of Cornwall to clothe the Oval in the vestments of a latter-day Colosseum.    

The awards will be presented by The Marquess of Salisbury on the evening on 29 October 2013.

Georgian Group Architectural Awards / Shortlist / Restoration of a Georgian Garden or Landscape

This award is especially prone to the vagaries of timing, as landscape restoration schemes are prolonged affairs: to some degree, work on organic tableaux vivants is never done. As usual, we include within the category schemes that involve the restoration of garden buildings and monuments. This year we have shortlisted three projects.

The first is Cow Pond in Windsor Great Park in Berkshire, part of an ambitious ten-year project to reinstate its lost historic landscapes that marks the tercentenary of Henry Wise’s ‘Generall Plan’. Cow Pond, as its name doesn’t suggest, is a formal canal, part of the Baroque landscape setting to Cumberland Lodge introduced by Hans Willem Bentinck, Ranger of the Great Park, following his visit to Versailles and meetings with Le Notre in 1698. By the late twentieth century it had become overgrown and had more or less regressed to swamp. The geometrical plan was no longer discernible, the banks were impenetrable in places and the scalloped semi-circle at the northern end had been consumed by dead trees. Extensive restoration included dredging and draining, construction of a Baroque footbridge and re-creation of an arbour to a 1748 design by Flitcroft, all using oak planted in the eighteenth century on the Windsor estate. The result is the recovery of one of the few surviving Baroque features at Windsor, following the removal of Wise’s Maastricht Garden in the eighteenth century. 

Second is the early nineteenth century  Repton pleasure ground at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire. Again, there had been a gradual descent into dereliction, as fabric decayed and the outlines of the designed garden became blurred. The gardening team has wrought an extraordinary transformation, magicking back from the scrub and mud the 1820s garden complete with its scattered bijou buildings. It is a remarkable achievement, involving the restoration of Henry Holland’s Chinese dairy of 1794; Repton’s pagoda, at the centre of the maze that had become an unnavigable and stunted tangle; and Repton’s classical temple. Beyond this, three lost Repton buildings were re-created: the cone house, designed as a shelter from which to view animals in the menagerie, now stands again, as does the dodecagonal wooden aviary and, perhaps most impressively, the exuberant rockery pavilion.

Finally we have the restoration of the 1713 Mausoleum to Sir James Tillie at Pentillie Castle, overlooking the Tamar near Saltash in Cornwall. Originally a watch tower, it was used by Tillie as an Arcadian retreat and in death as his mausoleum: apocryphally, his corpse was dressed and seated there until decay forced his burial and the substitution of a life-size Beerstone statue. When Pentillie was bought by its present owners in 2007 the statue was moss-covered and the mausoleum decked with ivy and in danger of imminent collapse through subsidence. Following an archaeological survey, the mausoleum and its expressive Tillie statue have been painstakingly restored, extending the life of an impressively monumental piece of architecture with eccentric innards.   

The awards will be presented by The Marquess of Salisbury on the evening on 29 October 2013.

Georgian Group Architectural Awards / Shortlist / 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. Restoration often involves a degree of compromise and occasionally we have to accept some departure from the absolute ideal so that threatened buildings can be wrested from the dire circumstances in which they languish. It is all too easy for the best to be the enemy of the good and for dogmatism to have the opposite effect to that intended, so some latitude is often needed. As usual, competition in this category was especially fierce.

We shortlisted three projects. The first, in Liverpool, is an 1820s house in Great Mersey Street: the only Georgian building left in the once-affluent Kirkdale area of the city, between the docks and Everton. Its unfortunate singularity says something about the degree of attrition suffered by Liverpool’s Georgian heritage in relatively recent years. As we at the Georgian Group are daily aware, the threats continue, sometimes caused by a flush of investment no less than by penury. This building was in atrocious condition and on the buildings at risk register by 2003, having been disused and vandalised since the 1970s and burnt by arsonists in 1993. Breeze-blocked windows and security fencing bespoke a building in dire straits. An urgent works notice was served by Liverpool City Council in 2007, providing the catalyst for an HLF-funded project that has restored the envelope and reinstated the cast iron area railings. Internally, lost and damaged fabric has been recreated and repaired, with the staircase accurately modelled using details from the charred original. So many of this type of solid late-Georgian building in Liverpool have gone that it is a cause for rejoicing that this one, the last in Kirkdale, has survived.      

Secondly we have 116 High Street in Boston, Lincolnshire, a 1728 merchant’s townhouse, later a bank, that by the end of the twentieth century was in deplorable condition, its gardens concreted over and the house officially at risk and near to collapse. As in Liverpool, there was decisive intervention by the local authority, in this instance Boston Borough Council, which compulsorily purchased the building and transferred it to a building preservation trust for restoration. The facade has been impressively conserved, its handsome street presence now boosting rather than sapping civic pride, and lost fittings reinstated internally. The building has been fitted out for office use and modest premises for small businesses have been created in the grounds, giving a fillip to a part of Boston marooned by a 1960s inner ring road.   

Finally in this category we have Mostyn House in Denbigh, a 1722 townhouse restored by John Franklin in partnership with Denbighshire County Council: again, the local authority has contributed hugely, in this instance through the Townscape Heritage Initiative, to finding a solution to a longstanding, intractable problem. And again a woefully abused Georgian building has sprung back to life, embellishing an important streetscape where it previously stood as a kind of standing reproach. The street elevation has been returned to its original appearance, with the removal of pebbledash and accumulated excrescences, notably a later oriel window to the first floor and bay windows to the ground floor, that detracted from its appearance. The façade is now a satisfying deep limewash. Internally, lost oak panelling and a missing section of oak staircase have been re-created. A depressing ‘problem’ building has been transformed into something uplifting.   

The awards will be presented by The Marquess of Salisbury on the evening on 29 October 2013.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Good news from Northampton as attempt to delist 1836 St Edmund's Hospital fails

From the Northampton Chronicle and Echo, 8 August 2013

The Government has refused to delist Northampton’s historic St Edmund’s Hospital building. Earlier this year, an unknown organisation applied to English Heritage to remove the historic building’s listed status - leading to fears it could one day be demolished.

But now, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has said the listed status should not be removed, meaning the 176-year-old building in Wellingborough Road cannot be knocked down without specific listed building consent. The move has been welcomed by officials at English Heritage, who advised the Government that the building should be protected for the future. 

A spokesman for English Heritage said: “We’re pleased the Government has agreed with our recommendation to keep St Edmund’s Hospital in Northampton on the statutory List. Built in 1836-7, it was one of the first generation of New Poor Law workhouses, designed by the eminent Victorian architect George Gilbert Scott, and it represents a key moment in changing social attitudes towards the provision made for the poor and destitute. “

The main hospital building has stood derelict since 1999 despite a Tesco and a restaurant being built on neighbouring parts of the former hospital site.

Northampton Borough Council’s cabinet member for regeneration, Councillor Tim Hadland (Con, Old Duston) said the authority would now work with the site’s owners to get the hospital redeveloped. He said: “We welcome the decision of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to retain St Edmund’s Hospital on the list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest. Owning a listed building comes with a duty to protect it, so we will continue to talk with the landowners about their plans and how they can bring the site back into use.”

St Edmund’s Hospital was built in 1836 as a workhouse and was converted into a hospital in the 1930s, before closing in 1999.

Character of our village 'will be ruined by tourism scheme'

A major tourism development in an East Riding estate village will spoil the old-fashioned character which makes it special, residents claim.

Sledmere Estate wants to convert a complex of 180-year-old farmbuildings on the estate which serves Sledmere House, which is open to the public, into a range of new facilities, including a larger art gallery, café, restaurant, garden centre and farm shop.

As part of the plans walled paddocks at Home Farm would be converted into parking and a former barn and kennels into a tourist office and bicycle hire point.

Other buildings would be converted to create more space for the Triton Gallery and the former estate sawmill converted to a garden centre.

The Grade I listed Georgian country house, set within a park landscaped by Capability Brown, is in a village where the last houses were built in the 1950s and parish councillors are worried that the main road will be urbanised, with signs and a zebra crossing outside the main entrance to Sledmere House on the “highly scenic” B1253.

The council is also unhappy about putting parking on the green field bloodstock paddocks which once formed part of the famous Sledmere Stud.

A letter from the parish council objecting said: “The residents of Sledmere are very accepting of the fact that we are a ‘public’ village during the summer months but look forward to the quieter winter period when Sledmere House is closed to the public and we get ‘our’ village back to ourselves. We would resist any development being open throughout the year.”

Another added: “To most people the attraction of Sledmere is that it is a village that has changed so little over the years. This aspect of ‘going back in time’ when passing through the village helps to keep Sledmere special.”

The Georgian Group described the proposals for the paddocks as “extremely insensitive”. English Heritage and the council conservation officer now support the plans, following alterations. But English Heritage did say they regretted the new zebra crossing – needed on health and safety grounds – as it would “harm the rural and informal character of the streetscape.”

However the estate says the development will create eight full-time jobs in the first phase and will provide benefits to the wider economy, with an increase in visitors, new jobs, a knock-on for the local supply chain and “ultimately and very importantly the continued prosperity of Sledmere Estate”.

Planners agree and are recommending approval at a meeting next week. The plans will then go to the Secretary of State for a final decision.

They say the extra facilities “will no doubt mean increased traffic, visitor numbers and an extension of the tourist season and this will have an impact on some residents. This has to be balanced against the positive benefits that will accrue including local employment and to other businesses Overall and on balance it is considered the benefits of the proposal outweigh the potential negative impact on the village.”

(Yorkshire Post, 5 August 2013)

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Sheerness Dockyard Church rescue deal celebrated

The future of one of Kent’s most important buildings looks to be secure following a landmark rescue deal between a council and a building preservation trust. 

Grade II* listed Dockyard Church at Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey has lain empty and derelict since a fire in 2001. However, on 5 July, the compulsory purchase of the building by Swale Borough Council will be complete. Ownership will then be passed to the Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust.

The church, with its impressive classical portico, was built in 1826-28 to the designs of George Ledwell Taylor (1788-1873) to serve the officers of the new naval dockyard at Sheerness. The dockyard was built in one campaign to a masterplan by the great engineer John Rennie (1761-1821).

Since the closure of the naval base in 1961, the dockyard has been run as a commercial port. A number of important buildings were demolished in the 1960s and 70s with others, including the church, sold off to private developers.

In 2001 the church suffered a devastating fire, and has since stood as a forlorn ruin as plans for its redevelopment failed to materialise. Now, as part of an initiative backed by English Heritage and local campaigners, Swale Borough Council has stepped in with a compulsory purchase of the church to enable its restoration by a building preservation trust.

The Spitalfields Trust, which in 2010 fronted the successful purchase of 10 listed buildings in the residential quarter of the dockyard, has stepped in to take on the building and implement emergency works. The church will then be passed to a new trust which will oversee its restoration to provide community space, small business units and, it is hoped, a display area for the magnificent 40ft square model of the dockyard (pictured above) that was made in the 1830s and is currently in the care of English Heritage.

The church rescue campaign project received a boost in 2011 when English Heritage and World Monuments Fund Britain funded a detailed feasibility study looking at how the restoration of the building could be achieved, and what uses would be most appropriate. This report was commissioned by SAVE Britain’s Heritage.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

1832 marine villa in Cowes IOW saved from demolition

From the Isle of Wight County Press 28 March 2013

PLANS to demolish an historic seafront building at Cowes, which is thought to have been designed by John Nash, have been thrown out.

Members of the Isle of Wight Council’s planning sub committee were divided on proposals by BG Cowes Ltd to replace Hamlet Court, Queens Road, with 12 apartments in up to four storeys.

On the casting vote of the chairman, Cllr Richard Hollis, the plans were refused, against officer recommendation.

Although Hamlet Court is not a listed building, the committee heard it was built in 1832 as a marine villa with an input from John Nash but in the 1950s it was converted into seven apartments.

There was no objection from English Heritage, which said the building had been too substantially altered to qualify for listing, but both The Georgian Group and Save Britain’s Heritage raised concerns.

Cllr Roger Mazillius, speaking on behalf of the local member, said: "This building is a very important reminder of Cowes’s Regency past.

"Imagine that building in a good state of repair, it would be a fine example."

He also raised concerns about the impact on adjoining Lantern House, which would become detached under the plans.

Cllr Vanessa Churchman described the Cowes conservation area as an "absolute joke" and said the proposed building was "over-powering".

Cllr Paul Fuller disliked the "fake Georgian facade" but Cllr Arthur Taylor said the building, which had suffered significant distortion and structural damage, was past its useful life.

"I think if we were to turn this down and it went to appeal you will get the same result as the building next door (Vantage Point)," he said.

However, Cllr Hollis said: "I think this building is almost iconic. Hamlet Court is a heritage asset and so is the Squadron, which is virtually next door."

Monday, 1 April 2013

The hunt is on for Lord Byron's explosive memoirs*

The deliberate destruction of Lord Byron's memoirs is one of the great literary tragedies. On 17 May 1824, his publisher, John Murray, burnt them in the fireplace at his offices in Albemarle Street, London. Although he had not read the memoirs before destroying them, he feared that Bryon had written frankly about his boy-loves on his first visit to Greece, his marriage and his affair with his half-sister Augusta. Now, though, there is the tantalising prospect that the memoirs, which would revolutionise Byron studies, might have survived. Costas Papadopolous, muniments officer at the General State Archives in Athens, has unearthed a cache of letters from the months after Byron's death at Missolonghi in April 1824 that suggest that Byron, who gave the original memoirs to his friend Tom Moore when he went to fight for Greek independence, entrusted a copy to his Greek manservant, Aprilios Moros. Literary sleuths are now undertaking the difficult and involved task of trying to piece together its movements since the 1820s, in particular by tracing Moros's descendants, who may be sitting on a manuscript of huge literary and historical significance - and financial value.

Costas Papadopolous (right) of the General State Archives in Athens
Lord Byron in Balkan mode

*Update at midday: the likelihood of finding a copy is indicated by the date of the post and the name of the manservant.