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We reveal our Top Ten Endangered Buildings

The Victorian Society's Top Ten Endangered Buildings for 2008 has been announced this week following a nationwide appeal to uncover the best and most threatened Victorian and Edwardian buildings in England and Wales.

Drawn up using nominations from heritage enthusiasts, campaigners and members of the public around the country, this year's list features a wide range of intriguing buildings. These include a church built for Swedish mariners, a former convalescent home, a pair of cemetery chapels and the country's only Grade II*-listed swimming pool in which it's still possible to swim. Following the success of last year's Top Ten, which threw the spotlight on such threatened treasures as Shadwell Park in Norfolk and St Walburge's, Preston, the Victorian Society hopes that this year's list will help improve the future of this new raft of threatened heritage gems.

‘Competition for this year's Top Ten has been much tougher than last year,' said Dr Ian Dungavell, Director of the Victorian Society. ‘We've been flooded with information about fascinating endangered buildings, many of which were very strong contenders for the list. It's clear that there's still a long way to go before all our heritage assets receive the protection they deserve. We hope the list will be a step in the right direction.'

Already things are looking up for several of the buildings featured on the Victorian Society's Top Ten Endangered Buildings list for 2007. While emergency repairs are being carried out at Shadwell Park, grants have been awarded to the Lanfyllin Union Workhouse and St Walburge's in Preston, and the long-neglected Easington Colliery School has at last been put up for sale.

‘There are many reasons why good buildings become threatened,' continued Dr Dungavell. ‘Often the most difficult to help are those that have been locked up and left to rot or forgotten about for many years. In these cases, a bit of well-timed publicity can make the difference between seeing a historic building given a new lease of life and watching part of our national heritage lost for good.'

The Victorian Society's Top Ten Endangered Buildings

Stonebridge School, Brent, London

(1898, GES Laurence, Unlisted)

An impressive survival, Stonebridge School is one of the most complete late-Victorian Board Schools in the South East. As well as its schoolmaster's house, manual instruction workshop and other ancillary buildings, the school also retains its original railings, gates and gateposts for the playground. Despite still being used by two schools, the Stonebridge School site has been earmarked by Brent Council for redevelopment, a move which would destroy one of the last vestiges of nineteenth century heritage in this area of high-rise estates. The quality and completeness of the site is such, that we hope the building will merit listing. We have asked English Heritage to consider it and hope that this fine community building can be saved for the people of Stonebridge for many years to come.

Gustav Adolfs Kyrka (The Swedish Church), Liverpool, Merseyside

(1884, WD Caröe, Grade II-listed)

This church, built to minister to Liverpool's large population of Swedish mariners, still maintains a strong congregation drawn from across the Nordic countries. The Church of Sweden now intends to pulls out, however, leaving this remarkable building, a red-brick reinterpretation of a Scandinavian stave church, without a use. The Friends organisation is working to consider the building's future, whilst the Council is pushing for the building to be upgraded to Grade II*. We hope these efforts bear fruit as dereliction could spell disaster for this arresting embodiment of Liverpool's maritime past.

Newsome Mill, Huddersfield, Kirklees

(mid C19, Architect unknown, Grade II-listed)

Battles have raged around this striking mid-Victorian worsted mill since it was sold to a developer in 2006. Plans to demolish the main body of the building were thankfully shelved late last year when the listing for the clock tower was extended to cover the whole building. Since then, the derelict mill has been under siege from vandals, thieves and arsonists who have taken advantage of the inadequate security of the site to set fires, steal materials and architectural features, and smash the faces on the mill clock. Spurred into action by a vigorous local campaign, Kirklees Council issued an urgent works notice in July, requiring the owner to secure the site. This has improved the situation slightly, although the building itself is still far from weather-tight and there are now plans to fill in and develop the mill ponds, stripping away yet another feature from this significant industrial site.

Red Lion Public House, Handsworth, Birmingham

(1901-2, James & Lister Lea, Grade II*-listed)

The latest in a string of West Midlands pubs to face an uncertain future, this outstanding building with its splendid interior tiles and fittings has stood empty and vulnerable since it closed last year. Following calls from our Birmingham Group, the City Council has taken action to ensure that a full record of the pub has been made and to press for adequate security for the site. Efforts are underway to resolve structural problems and to find a new owner and a suitable use. In light of the fate of several of the city's other listed pubs, which have been closed, then vandalised and destroyed, we feel that the Red Lion can't be reopened soon enough.

St Marie's Church, Widnes, Cheshire

(1864, EW Pugin, Grade II-listed)

With so many churches struggling on in the face of dwindling congregations and punitive maintenance costs, it's particularly frustrating to see a church with an enthusiastic community around it which is forbidden to use the building. Such is the situation facing EW Pugin's unusual High Victorian contribution to industrial Widnes. The building would have been demolished in early 2007 but for an eleventh hour decision to list it Grade II. Whilst the move certainly halted the demolition plans, it did nothing to alter the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Liverpool's resolve to lock the building and walk away, leaving this fine Italian Gothic building to take its chances with pigeons and vandals. With the Catholic population of Widnes on the increase, thanks to the arrival of numerous Eastern Europeans, many groups, including the local council, are anxious for the building to be reopened or, at the very least, given an alternative use. So far the Archdiocese remains intransigent.

Chapels at Cathays Cemetery, Cardiff, South Wales

(1859, RG Thomas, Grade II-listed)

The finest of a series of cemetery chapels to be nominated for our Top Ten list this year, the chapels at Cathays Cemetery are in a sorry state. Built severally to accommodate dissenters and members of the Established Church, the chapels closed for services in 1992 and have been derelict ever since. Good news came recently in the shape of a £100,000 grant from Cardiff Council, however an internal structural survey has since shown the condition of the buildings to be much worse than originally thought and revealed that they are inhabited by a colony of bats. The Cathays Cemetery Friends Group is now urging the council to double its grant so that these fascinating records of Welsh religious history can receive the attention they deserve.

Moseley Road Baths, Balsall Heath, Birmingham

(1907, William Hale & Son, Grade II*-listed)

Moseley Road Baths is the only building to make it onto our Top Ten Endangered Buildings List for the second year in a row. Despite continued pressure from the Friends of Moseley Road Baths, Birmingham City Council still appears resolved to push ahead with plans to close the pool, stripping England of the last Grade II*-listed Edwardian baths in which it is still possible to swim. Already, the First Class pool is derelict, leaving only the Second Class pool in regular use. The loss of this outstanding community facility would be a tragedy both for the local community and the nation as a whole. Facilities like this are becoming increasingly rare, as, around the country, community swimming pools like the 1885 Forest Hill Baths in South London are being closed. As one local swimmer described it, swimming at Moseley Road Baths feels like a ‘holy and endangered experience'. It is an experience we must do all we can to safeguard.

Holy Trinity, Hove, East Sussex

(1863-4, J Woodman, Grade II-listed)

Total demolition threatens this unusual red-brick building, which has been treated as the poor relation of the many nationally significant churches in Brighton and Hove, despite being the only church in the area to have an external pulpit. Other proposals for the building abound, including one from a Christian organisation eager to take Holy Trinity on and use it for worship; yet Chichester Diocese has continued to pursue a scheme which would see the building razed to the ground to make way for a housing development. The fight continues.

Palace Theatre, Plymouth, Devon

(1898, Wimperis & Arber, Grade II*-listed)

Last used as a theatre in 1981, the Palace Theatre was run as a night-club until 2006. Now empty and poorly maintained in an area known for vandalism, this outstanding former music hall, with its coloured tiles depicting scenes of the Spanish Armada, is crying out for attention. Campaigners, including the Theatres Trust, fear that unless action is taken soon to shore up the building and find a viable future for it, Plymouth could lose its only highly graded listed Victorian theatre for good.

Fletcher Convalescent Home, Cromer, Norfolk

(1893, E Boardman & Son, Unlisted)

Built for the benefit of the patients of the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital, the former Fletcher Convalescent Home is now itself in need of some TLC. Absorbed into the NHS during the twentieth century, it was converted into a geriatric unit and then closed and sold for development. Planning permission for its conversion to housing has been granted, but the requirement for some of the accommodation to be affordable housing has proved a sticking point, which has delayed work on the building for several years. Meanwhile, the former Fletcher Convalescent Home sits rotting, its stained glass windows smashed and open to the elements, deteriorating with every passing day.


Victoria Baths, Nottingham (1896, Marriott Ogle Tarbotton, Unlisted)

Holy Trinity, St Helens, Merseyside (1857, W & J Hay, Grade II-listed)

St Paul's, Truro, Cornwall (1848, 1882-4, 1889, JD Sedding, Grade II-listed)

St Mary's in the Wood, Morley, West Yorkshire (1878, Lockwood & Mawson, Grade II-listed)

Police and Firestation, Manchester (1901-06, Woodhouse, Willoughby & Langham, Grade II*-listed)

Church Bank Chapels, (1856-7, Pritchett & Sons, Unlisted)


Thursday 25 September, 2008

More recent item: Demolition risk for Nottingham's historic sports hall
Earlier item: Grand finale of 1000 Year Swim

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