Falling down…the scandal of neglect that blights our Victorian buildings

Falling down…the scandal of neglect that blights our Victorian buildings

- in Real Estate


The John Summers Steelworks at Shotton (Image: NC)

Each building tells its own story of neglect, but there is no denying they all have fantastic potential to be regenerated

Society director Christopher Costelloe

All appear on the latest list from the Victorian Society which monitors at-risk structures throughout England and Wales.

They are all Grade II or Grade II*-listed but after years of neglect are at a critical point of dereliction.

Society director Christopher Costelloe said: “Each building tells its own story of neglect, but there is no denying they all have fantastic potential to be regenerated.”

The top 10 includes the Winter Gardens, Great Yarmouth (1878-81), built in Torquay and relocated by barge to Norfolk but now empty.

Bromley-by-Bow gasholders, London (1872) are a true symbol for the Industrial Revolution and of high historical value but now unused.

Centre for the Deaf, Liverpool (1887) – the gothic structure became a community hall but is in a poor state.

Hartley’s Village, Liverpool (1886- 95) was a jam factory but has been neglected and is largely derelict. Former Legat’s School of Ballet, near Rotherfi eld, East Sussex (1865) was built to be an orphanage.

In the 1990s it was run as an Islamic school before it was raided on suspicion that it was being used as a terror training camp. Oldway Mansion, Paignton, Devon, (1873) was the private residence of American inventor Isaac Singer, remodelled by his son in the early 20th century in the style of the Palace of Versailles.


Interior, left, and exterior, of the Winter Gardens at Great Yarmouth in Norfolk. (Image: NC)

It was used as council offices from 1946 until 2007 when it was scheduled for sale. John Summers Steelworks, Shotton, Wales (1907) is on the banks of the River Dee. But its location has made its reuse complicated and unsuccessful.

Langley Maltings, Sandwell, West Midlands (1870) were saved from demolition in 2012 but with no current proposals for repair and reuse they have fallen into a very bad state.

Brandwood End Cemetery Chapels, Birmingham (1898) are of red brick and provide a dramatic central focus for the cemetery.

Closed for over 30 years, they suffered a serious arson attack in 1995. St Mary’s Convent Church, Leeds (1852) is on a disused plot. Pictures show dilapidated interiors but much of the detailing and glass is intact.


Get involved says Griff (Image: JOHN PHILLIPS/UK PRESS/GETTY IMAGES )

Comment by Griff Rhys Jones

Responsibility on us to save architecture’s crown jewels

Every year the Victorian Society publishes its list of the top 10 endangered Victorian buildings in Britain. It’s all about awareness.

A century ago everybody from Virginia Woolf to PG Wodehouse seemed confident that the Victorians left nothing but rubbish buildings behind.

Now I am glad we have other opinions. We love Victorian architecture and its ornate flamboyance, and it is sad to see some magnificent specimens like these needing attention and care.

This list is a little microcosm of why we owe the Victorians so much. Forget grim industrial slums, we have monuments to enlightenment and progress here.


‘Versailles’…Oldway in Paignton, Devon (Image: NC)

It was Britain that led the way in granting holidays to working people and created the great seaside boom, exemplified in the Winter Gardens of Great Yarmouth.

It was Victorian Britain which founded corporations to provide gas to its dark cities and made the elegant and iconic gas holders (now so few remaining, but a splendid example here in Bromley), crying out to be preserved.

It was the Victorians who saw need for public health provision and built orphanages and schools for the deaf. Who sent steel and beer out to the world, and who used money to found churches and even built private palaces.

That story is here in bricks and mortar and metal and stone and we can save it for our grandchildren.


Fall from grace…St Mary’s Church, Leeds (Image: NC)

Many of the buildings that the Victorian Society has drawn attention to over the years have gone on to be saved and to provide proper uses for their communities going forward.

It’s not just that they are adornments.

They are history, good recycling and a focus for our increasingly anonymous, uniform towns. How can you help?

Well I am honoured to have recently been made the president of this society.

You can Google, get involved and become a member. This vital preservation and conservation work can be done. But we need to be the voice.

www.victorian society.org.uk/join

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