A venue where AC/DC played, a hospital where Vera Brittain wrote and the largest glassmaking company in the world are the newest additions to the Victorian Society Endangered List

Every building has a unique story and they are all in danger of being lost, the heritage society warns, unless we act now to save them.

In 1904, when the first £1 million cheque was signed in the Cardiff Coal Exchange, no one could have imagined that, 120 years later, the French Renaissance-inspired building would be falling into ruin. It now numbers among the Victorian Society’s latest Top Ten Endangered Buildings, announced today.

The Cardiff Coal Exchange. Credit: Connor McNeill

‘The Coal Exchange is Cardiff,’ laments society president Griff Rhys Jones. ‘It symbolises the power that built this city and the story of King Coal. Not only that — it is loved. Both as a building and a very successful hotel. It has been structurally damaged by foolish plans to modernise, but is not irreparable and the society is demanding that a proper plan to care for one of Wales’s most important 19th-century buildings gets on the table.’

Kennington Boys’ School in Lambeth. Vera Brittain was posted here and wrote A Military Hospital. Credit: Connor McNeill

Kennington Boys School in Lambeth, SE5 has also been named. It was the first posting for Testament of Youth author Vera Brittain as a VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) nurse; serving there, she wrote her poem A Military Hospital and she described it as ‘one of the few distinguished buildings in the dismal, dreary, dirty wilderness of south London’. Owned by the Lambeth council, the school is not weathertight, it is water damaged, has been on the Historic England At Risk Register since 2016 and its condition was most recently described as ‘very bad’.

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Southend-on-Sea’s The Kursall, former home of AC/DC, Thin Lizzy and Southend United FC. Credit: Marie Clements

Southend-on-Sea’s Kursaal Palace in Essex — with a tower some might recognise from a 2011 postage stamp — is an East Anglian landmark, created by George Sherrin, the architect responsible for finishing the London Oratory’s dome. Thought to be the world’s first purpose-built amusement park, with, once upon a time, a circus, ballroom, arcade, dining hall, billiard room, zoo and ice rink (and, later, a casino and bowling alley), its only occupant is now a Tesco Express.

The outdoor space, long since sold off for housing, was substantial and used to host Southend United football games, ‘Wall of Death’ motorcycle rides and greyhound races. Before it was demolished, the ballroom resounded with big dance band music of the 1920s, as well as Queen, Mott the Hoople, Ozzy Osborne and Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, Dr Feelgood, John Cale + The Boys, Cockney Rebel and AC/DC. ‘It’s an exhilarating building,’ says Mr Rhys Jones. ‘It has more embedded value, commercially and collectively and as a great entertainment complex than it could ever have as a derelict site… It’s time for the stakeholders to try a new approach.’

Jesmond Dene Banqueting Hall in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Credit: Guy Newton

Others on the list include John Dobson’s Jesmond Dene Banqueting Hall, Newcastle upon Tyne; an Arts-and-Crafts lawn tennis pavilion of 1885 at Scarborough, North Yorkshire, owned and near abandoned by the Scarborough College Company; and St Luke’s Chapel, once part of the Bagthorpe Workhouse and used by Nottingham City Hospital as a storage area for decades — the society hopes it can be returned to its intended use.

Bramcote Tennis Pavilion in North Yorkshire. Credit: Robert Walton

St Lukes’ Church in Nottingham. Credit: Ian Wells

Chances Glassworks at Smethwick, West Midlands, with nine Grade II-listed structures and once home to the largest glassmaking company in the world, which developed the first cathode ray tubes for radar and television, returns to the Endangered list for the second time. The site has been derelict for more than 40 years. There is a trust running a £25 million regeneration scheme for an urban village, but further funds are required.

Chance’s Glassworks in Smethwick. Credit: Stephen Hartland

Also at risk are a Gothic villa in Devon; Norman Shaw’s St Agnes’ vicarage beside ‘the most beautiful Victorian church of Liverpool’, in Pevsner’s words; and a Renaissance-style palazzo in Derby (main image) with many former lives, including government offices and a nightclub, but now lacking any vitality save for buddleia sprouting through walls. ‘It’s a familiar story,’ says Mr Rhys Jones of the last. ‘An ownership that doesn’t seem to notice its terrible decay.’