Saving historic houses

An ‘agonising parade of delightful and decaying historic buildings’ is how SAVE Britain’s Heritage describes its 20th annual Buildings at Risk report, which it says is the most shocking yet. The charity cites 106 buildings that are ‘begging for restoration’, including a perfect William and Mary doll’s house owned by the Ministry of Defence, and a weather-boarded Essex farmhouse. Landmark buildings include the art college at Derby and the prison at Plymouth, plus town houses, forlorn village pubs, post offices, chapels, schools and hotels.

‘Obviously, these buildings should be better looked after than this,’ says SAVE’s Catherine Townsend, who compiles the list. ‘We’re keen that conservation-minded people buy the ones that are for sale, and we hope that people will come forward and negotiate with local authorities to perhaps lease and restore others. These are all buildings that are worth keeping, and we want to make sure that the right people see them.’

The report’s ‘scandal’ chapter cites Rhosson Uchaf Farm, St David’s, ‘the last well-preserved Flemish chimneyed farmhouse in Pembrokeshire’, where ‘unsympathetic alterations’ have taken place, and The Maltings, Thorpe-le-Soken, Essex, where SAVE is ‘disappointed that Tendring District Council has failed to exercise its statutory power to end a cycle of wilful neglect’. More positively, rescues include the Royal Hall theatre in Harrogate and Glentworth Hall in Lincolnshire, now on the market with Knight Frank (020–7861 1549).

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Great House, Laugharne, West Wales, is now available for holiday rent ( following its 10-year restoration programme by Tim Lowe, who had been scouring SAVE’s reports for years before buying the 18th-century village house. ‘Anyone who takes on a derelict building needs a healthy degree of recklessness, because the process is completely open-ended and impossible to budget,’ he warns. ‘Eventually, I realised the project had morphed into a fully functioning home, and, at that point, there was a slight feeling of sadness. I love being here, but a part of me knows that it’s the journey rather than the destination that holds the greater appeal.’

SAVE’s building of the month is late-18th-century Corngreaves Hall near Birmingham, a three-storey house built by local ironmaster James Attwood in the 1780s, and subsequently Gothicised with crenallations and pointed windows. It has stood empty since the 1950s and is in desperate need of renovation. Those interested must submit offers in writing marked Corngreaves Hall by 12 noon on June 26 to Bigwood Chartered Surveyors, 104/106, Colmore Row, Birmingham B3 3AG.

To order a copy of the Buildings at Risk 2009–10 report, All We Need is Love! (£15), or to subscribe to the online list of more than 1,000 properties (costs £25), visit

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