Country houses for sale

Save our architectural treasures

The Victorian Society reveals its list of national architectural treasures in danger of being lost.

The crumbling remains of Trentham Hall, near Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, once one of England’s greatest houses, are just one of 10 national architectural treasures in danger of being lost entirely if immediate action isn’t taken, warns The Victorian Society.

The charity, which today reveals its list of the most vulnerable Victorian and Edwardian buildings in England and Wales, is concerned for the future of the country house that was rebuilt by Sir Charles Barry in 1840 in an Italianate style. Such was Trentham’s former magnificence that, on a visit to the property in 1873, the Shah of Persia was said to have remarked to the future King Edward VII that their host was ‘too grand for a subject, you’ll have to have his head off when you come to the throne’.

Sadly, within decades, this ‘private palace’ had been abandoned, blighted by the sprawl of Victorian urban and industrial expansion and, as Country Life noted in 1968, the accompanying sewage from Stoke-on-Trent.

The Victorian Society, which is calling for the VAT on repairs to private dwellings to be cut to 5% so that fewer historic houses fall into disrepair, is hoping that an investor, who appreciates the success of the restored gardens as a tourist attraction, will see the potential in Trentham.

This year’s collection of sad buildings that are ripe for restoration includes several unusual structures, such as the Grade II*-listed hammerhead crane in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, the huge Tonedale Mill complex in Somerset and a Grade II*-listed church in Hastings that could soon be demolished— daylight can be seen through the dilapidated roof.

‘As the economy recovers, it’s vital that owners and local authorities redouble their efforts to find new uses for these buildings,’ urges the Society’s Chris Costelloe. ‘Victorian and Edwardian architecture makes a huge contribution to the character of places people live in and love. That All Souls Church in Hastings is facing demolition is shocking—once these buildings are gone, they will be lost forever.’

The list is completed by two further places of worship—a former Wesley Methodist church in Hartlepool and the Abney Park Cemetery Chapel in Hackney, London—as well as Salford’s Collier Street baths, the Coal Exchange in Cardiff, the Navigation Colliery in Wales and Sheffield’s Crimean War Monument.

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