Don’t leave it this way: urgent help is needed to save ten significant Victorian buildings, including a Grade I-listed country house and a Grade II*-listed former church.
Britain risks losing an important slice of its 19th-century heritage. In its annual survey, the Victorian Society has identified ten significant buildings that are facing demolition or ruin if action is not taken fast.
‘It is both inspiring and saddening to see this list,’ says the Society’s President Griff Rhys Jones. ‘From libraries to pubs and gorgeous theatres, these are gems. We are not looking at the second rate here. We are looking at real historical monuments.’
Among the threatened structures is Shadwell Court, a Grade I-listed country house near Thetford, Norfolk (featured in Country Life magazine in 1964 and, again, in 1984, when it was sold for £7.5 million). Originally built in the early 18th century, it was completely remodelled, first in 1840 by Edward Blore and later, in 1857-1860, by S.S. Teulon, acquiring a distinctive Gothic look in the process. Although it belongs to members of the Dubai ruling family, the house has been empty since the 1990s and is now in decay, with particular problems with the roof.
‘How can a beautiful, rambling, exemplary Victorian mansion like Shadwell Court lie abandoned?’ wonders Mr Rhys-Jones. “One would expect it to be starring in a TV series, not crumbling away.’
Especially, adds the Victorian Society’s director, Christopher Costelloe, when considering that ‘Shadwell Court’s owner can easily afford to look after this important building properly. This major country house has been neglected for far too long and it will be a scandal if it isn’t put right soon.’
Equally significant is the Grade II*-listed Chatterley Whitfield Colliery, in Chell, Staffordshire. Once an important coal mine which produced one million tons of saleable coal in a year, it had long been disused but the buildings found new life as a museum. After the museum was closed, however, the colliery began to deteriorate and will now need considerable public investment to be rescued.
‘The Industrial Revolution has left few more evocative sites than Chatterley Whitfield,’ says Mr Costelloe. ‘Someone needs to think big here—King Coal was at the heart of our prosperity for centuries, and this complex is far too important to be lost.’
Also Grade II*-listed is the former Church of St Luke in Warrington, Cheshire. Built in 1892-93, it is one of only three churches designed by eminent Victorian architect George Frederick Bodley with a double nave under a single roof, separated by a central arcade. Declared redundant about thirty years ago, it has been used as storage, despite its significance.
‘This is a really unusual church of great architectural interest, by one of the greatest architects of the period,’ explains Mr Costelloe. ‘It is far too good to be lost, and its importance lies predominantly in its interior, making subdivision impossible. Public bodies and Warrington Council need to give serious thought on how to save this architectural jewel.’
Other distinguished buildings on the list include Liverpool’s Grade II-listed Everton Library, designed by Thomas Shelmerdine, which, after two failed attempts at development, has suffered from vandalism, lead theft and water damage, as well as neglect; the former Town Hall and Corn Exchange in Swindon, also listed Grade II, which is declining rapidly; and the elegant, Grade II-listed Pelican Works, in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, built for Thomas Wilkinson of Sheffield, which is only partially in use and under threat from collapses at nearby buildings.
‘All of these historic sites are glorious and imaginative places ready for a new and productive life,’ says Mr Rhys-Jones. ‘How incredible that should feature on the Top Ten Endangered Buildings list. Let us hope that people spring into action.’
For more information and to donate to the Victorian Society, visit www.victoriansociety.org.uk
The Victorian Society’s top 10 most endangered buildings of 2019 list
- Shadwell Court, Brettenham, Norfolk, listed Grade I
- Chatterley Whitfield Colliery, Chell, Staffordshire, listed Grade II*
- Former Church of St Luke, Warrington, Cheshire, listed Grade II*
- Everton Library, Liverpool, listed Grade II
- Hulme Hippodrome, Manchester, listed Grade II
- Pelican Works, Birmingham, listed Grade II
- Former Leslie Arms Public House, Croydon, listed Grade II
- Corn Exchange and Former Town Hall, Swindon, listed Grade II
- Cowbridge School, Valeof Glamorgan, unlisted
- Queensbury Tunnel, Holmfield to Queensbury, Yorkshire, unlisted
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