Former home of pioneering Victorian explorer Gertrude Bell at risk after developer's plans for housing stall
Red Barns, Redcar, Tees Valley (Grade II* 1868, Phillip Webb)
National architectural charity, the Victorian Society, has included the former home of Victorian explorer Gertrude Bell, Red Barns in Redcar on its 2016 list of the Top Ten Endangered in England and Wales. For the first time there are no buildings in London and the South East on the list - where the Society had comparatively few nominations. The Society considers that the greater number of buildings nominated from elsewhere may reflect the more difficult development situation in areas like Yorkshire. Griff Rhys Jones, Victorian Society Vice President, has urged people living near the buildings on the list to ‘seize the opportunity' and campaign to save them.
Red Barns is an architecturally important building, designed by leading arts and crafts architect, Philip Webb. It is also the former home of Gertrude Bell CBE, a pioneering female Victorian explorer of the Middle East variously described as a political officer, administrator, spy and archaeologist. Philip Webb also designed Red House, William Morris' home in South London, but the contrast between Red Barns and Red House could not be starker. While Red House is lovingly looked after by the National Trust its famous occupant celebrated, Red Barns lies in a terrible state with huge amounts of water damage to the interior.
Bought by a developer after a pub at the building closed, foundations for housing have been dug in the grounds but work has not commenced. Nor have plans to convert the building into flats started. Urgent action is needed now to ensure Red Barns survives. Perhaps the developer could support the local campaign to turn the house into a museum to honour Bell's memory. Pictures are here.
The national exposure from inclusion in the Society's Top Ten often leads to new interest in the buildings which can help save them. Full details of all the buildings in the 2016 Top Ten, and updates on positive developments for last year's buildings, can be found here.
Victorian Society Director, Christopher Costelloe, said: ‘For the first time we have no entries on the Top Ten for London or the South East. We simply got far more nominations from areas like Yorkshire. This perhaps reflects the vastly different financial climate for development. But whatever the reason, I hope inclusion in the Top Ten will spur local authorities and owners to urgently find a way to bring these buildings back into use. At a time when there has been much discussion of the gap between the South East and elsewhere this is more important than ever. Retaining historic buildings like those in the Top Ten is vital to maintaining local identity and creating places in which people want to invest, live and work.'
Griff Rhys Jones, Victorian Society Vice President, said: ‘The nationally important buildings on the Victorian Society's Top Ten list are in dire need of help. Many of them are in prominent locations in their towns and cities. Following my experience with the Hackney Empire I know how difficult finding funding can be - especially outside London. However, restoring important historic buildings is worth investing in as it can be a catalyst for wider regeneration. I hope people living near these buildings will seize this opportunity and campaign to save them. Ultimately, it is the support of local people which will ensure that they are not lost forever.'