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We reveal our Top Ten Endangered buildings for 2009

A list of the ten most threatened Victorian and Edwardian buildings in England and Wales has been published today by The Victorian Society.

The list includes Oldham's decaying town hall, a fortified barracks on the Welsh coast, a grand but crumbling Victorian house in Lincolnshire and a grade II*-listed hotel in the west Midlands.

For the third year running the list includes the Moseley Road Baths, the country's only Grade II*-listed public swimming pool in which it is still possible to swim. Most of the buildings are listed, but there are three which have no such protection; a church in Salford, a cemetery chapel near Leeds and a small station building in Suffolk.

The Top Ten was drawn up after a national appeal to find the nation's best and most threatened buildings. Nominations flooded in from conservationists, campaigners and members of the public.

To be eligible a building has to be at risk, but the nature of the risk varies considerably. Some are at risk of closure, such as the Moseley Road Baths in Birmingham; or demolition, which has been proposed for Trimley Station in Suffolk; but for most it is years of neglect which threaten their future.

'We have been amazed at the response from the public. People clearly feel very strongly about beautiful, robust buildings being left to decay. Many of the buildings in our Top Ten have empty for more than a decade and are in a very poor state', said Dr Ian Dungavell, Director of the Victorian Society. 'Even in the current economic climate money must be found to weather-proof these buildings and protect them from vandals. Future generations won't forgive us for leaving our heritage to deteriorate beyond repair.'

Featuring in the Top Ten can have a very positive effect; the chapels at Cathays Cemetery in Cardiff which were on last year's list have now been completely re-roofed. The Swedish Church in Liverpool has had its listing upgraded to II* and Stonebridge School in Brent has recently been listed at Grade II, following an application by the Victorian Society.

The Victorian Society's Top Ten Endangered Buildings

Oldham Town Hall, Oldham
( 1841, Joseph Butterworth, Grade II-listed)
The Town Hall's demise began as far back as 1978 when council officers moved out of Butterworth's grand classical building to a new Civic Centre. In 1995 the remaining courtroom also closed and the boards went up. Nearly fifteen years later and the boards are still there concealing an interior now riddled with wet and dry rot. The council admits that water is still seeping in, that the roof is at risk of collapse and the floors are dangerous. Inside and deteriorating by the day are the town's old courtroom and an Egyptian Room, so called because of its ornate pillars and decoration. Outside there is a blue plaque which commemorates where Winston Churchill stood on the steps when he was elected MP in 1900. In the last ten years there have been three major proposals put forward for the Town Hall, but all have come to nothing. This early Victorian building is now in desperate need of a saviour.

Defensible Barracks, Pembroke Dock, Wales
(c1844, Captain Farris of the Royal Engineers, Grade II*-listed).
Back in the 1980s the developer which owns the Defensible Barracks had plans to convert the site into an 80-bed hotel. Building work began on six rooms but funds ran out before the work could be completed. Since then this imposing reminder of Pembroke Dock's strong military tradition has been allowed to decay, it now sits abandoned amid housing and a golf course. The fortifications were built in the 1840s to house the garrison charged with defending the Royal dockyard. A dry moat surrounds the barracks, guarded by corner bastions and a drawbridge then leads over the moat and through an entrance arch in the gatehouse. But neglect has taken its toll and parts of the barracks are thought to be in danger of collapsing. Campaigners fear that unless action is taken to shore up the barracks the finest Georgian-style square in Wales will be lost.

St Edmund's Church, Rochdale, Manchester
(1873, Medland and Taylor, Grade II*-listed).
Built for the local industrialist and freemason, Albert Royds, St Edmund's was clearly an expensive and ambitious commission. It is thought to have cost at least £28,000 to build, an enormous sum at the time, and was of high quality and richly fitted. References to the traditions of Masonry are everywhere, in the weathervane and lectern in particular. Pevsner describes the church as ‘Rochdale's temple to freemasonry, a total concept as exotic as Roslin Chapel in Scotland'. None of which has been enough to keep a congregation going in the 21st century and earlier this year the church closed. This unusual and extraordinary building now faces an uncertain future.

Chapels at Pudsey Cemetery, Pudsey, Leeds
(1875, William Gay, unlisted).
The cemetery, also the work of William Gay, is listed at Grade II in the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens but the beautiful pair of chapels at its heart have no such protection. They were last used more than ten years ago and are now in a very poor state of disrepair. Leeds City Council recently designated a new Conservation Area to include the chapels, which is a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done to secure their future. The chapels are key to the setting and appearance of this historic landscape and must be saved.

Former St Mark's Infant School, Battersea, London
(1866, Benjamin Ferrey, Grade II-listed)
This rare and little altered example of a small London church school has been vacant for almost a decade. With each passing year its condition deteriorates and its existing structural problems get worse. There has been talk of a purchaser (the school is still owned by the Diocese of Southwark) and a new community use but progress seems to be deadlocked. The style is an informal domestic Gothic, in red brick with banding. For such a diminutive yet attractive building, by a leading church architect, to be neglected and unused so close to central London seems extraordinary. Progress must be made before it is too late.

St Ignatius of Antioch Church, Ordsall, Salford
(1903, Alfred Darbyshire, unlisted).
Built to serve Salford's first municipal housing project, the New Barracks Estate, the Anglican church of St Ignatius opened in 1903. Most of the surrounding estate was demolished during the 1960s, but this wonderfully detailed redbrick and terracotta church remains, albeit in a derelict state. The church closed for worship in 2002 and has suffered badly at the hands of thieves and vandals. It lies in the twelfth most deprived local authority ward in the country, but it is a gem which must remain for future generations.

Nocton Hall, Nocton, Lincolnshire
(1841, William Shearburn, Grade II-listed).
At first glance Nocton Hall seems to be just an intriguing, burnt out ruin, far beyond repair. Amazingly that is not the case and most of this grand Victorian Hall could still be saved. It was originally built as a private house for the Earl of Ripon, since then it has been an RAF hospital and a residential home. In the mid-90s it was bought by a property developer. The hall was repeatedly targeted by vandals and then in 2004 the main house suffered a major fire. Bringing this impressive hall back into use would be a huge undertaking; in the meantime both the owner and the local authority have a responsibility to protect this Grade II listed building from further decay.

Trimley Station building, Trimley, Suffolk
(1891, architect unknown, unlisted).
Network Rail has issued an ultimatum; if redevelopment plans are not underway by the end of this calendar year then Trimley Station building will be demolished. Its replacement? A four-foot high picket fence. Yet passengers still use Trimley Station and local campaigners insist that a new use can be found for the building, perhaps as a café or information centre. The clock is ticking for this modest but attractive country station built for the Great Eastern Railway.

The Waterloo Hotel and Grill, Smethwick, West Midlands
(1907, Wood and Kendrick, Grade II*-listed).
The Waterloo was a showcase pub built for local brewers Mitchells & Butlers. Behind the grand Edwardian baroque facade is a superb interior with an amazing basement restaurant, complete with its original grill (pictured), still in working order and thus considered unique. Tiles cover not only its walls but the ceiling too. The importance of the Waterloo was recognised by English Heritage in 1999 when it upgraded the pub to Grade II*. But the last ten years have seen a steady decline and this glorious pub is now in a deplorable state with vegetation growing inside as well as out and serious water penetration into the restaurant. It is still open, but for how much longer?

Moseley Road Baths, Balsall Health, Birmingham
(1907, William Hale & Son, Grade II*-listed).
The baths are unique and still facing a very real threat of closure. For this reason we have taken the unusual step of including them in our Top Ten Endangered Buildings list for the third year running. Although there has been some progress over the last year (The local library, which shares the site in a slightly earlier building adjoining to the north, has reopened this year after months of closure for renovation, so the whole site appears much more presentable than a year ago.) the possibility remains that the last Grade II*-listed Edwardian baths in which it is still possible to swim could close as a working pool. We must keep fighting.

Five buildings were short-listed:

Former Easington Colliery Junior School, County Durham (1911,J Morson, Grade II-listed);
St Paul's, Truro, Cornwall (1848, 1882-4, 1889, JD Sedding, Grade II-listed);
St Peter's Church, Cleeve Hill, Cheltenham (1906-7, E Douglas Hoyland, Grade II-listed);
Canon O'Donnell Centre, Lewes, East Sussex (c1907, architect unknown,unlisted)
The Leas Lift, Folkestone, Kent (1st lift 1885, 2nd added in 1890, Messrs Waygood & Co, Grade II-listed)

Last year's Top Ten (2008) were:

St Marie's Church, Widnes, Cheshire (1864, EW Pugin, Grade II-listed)
Moseley Road Baths, Balsall Health, Birmingham (1907, William Hale & Son, Grade II*-listed)
Red Lion Public House, Handsworth, Birmingham (1901-2, James and Lister Lea, Grade II*-listed)
Gustav Adolfs Kyrka, Liverpool, Merseyside (1884, WD Caroe, Grade II*-listed)
Holy Trinity, Hove, East Sussex (1863-4, J Woodman, Grade II-listed)
Palace Theatre, Plymouth, Devon (1898, Wimperis & Arber, Grade II*-listed)
Fletcher Convalescent Home, Cromer, Norfolk (1893, E Boardman & Son, unlisted)
Newsome Mill, Huddersfield, Kirklees (mid C19, Grade II-listed)
Stonebridge School, Brent, London (1898, GES Laurence, unlisted)
Chapels at Cathays Cemetery, Cardiff (1859, RG Thomas, Grade II-listed).


Monday 12 October, 2009

More recent item: Demolition plans opposed for London's largest private home
Earlier item: Sussex school now listed at Grade II

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