Friday, September 15, 2017



I was saddened to read about the demolition of a Jacobean plaster ceiling in a building in Bristol the other day. This beautiful piece of craftsmanship, which was neatly 400 years old, was in a building in Small Street which had been a bar and which a developer is converting into student flats. The removal of the ceiling was quite legal, but an application had been made to protect the building by listing it and the destruction of the plasterwork was carried out before the listings officers from Historic England had been able to inspect the building and carry out their assessment.

This sort of thing is not unusual. My mind went back to one of the most famous cases, the Firestone factory in West London, which was bulldozered over a Bank Holiday weekend in 1980, hours before a listing was due to come into force. The Bristol case is different – even if they’d had the chance to look at it, the inspectors may have decided not to list the building – but just as deplorable: 400 years of history gone with a few strokes of the sledgehammer.

There is a way of making pre-emptive demolition more difficult: introducing interim protection of buildings while the listings assessment takes place. Such a system already operates in Wales and in the opinion of many it’s time it did in England too. A petition, supported by groups such as the C20 Society, has been started to urge the government to bring in such a measure. I’d encourage readers who can do so to sign the petition here.

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The picture above comes from the SAVE Britain's Heritage website, where there is more about the ceiling here


Nathalie Hachet @ LBM/ Mirabelle said...

It breaks my heart that yet another architectural vestige has gone to waste in the blink of an eye... Such a ravishing ceiling had survived two world wars and the ravages of time and should have been allowed to stay on and cast its poetic stance onto a new generation of residents. However those who are blind to beauty and view the past as an encumbrance will always find a way to delete it ipso facto.

Anonymous said...

That is shocking. We have spot listing and building preservation notices for a reason. Why on earth did the council not take some temporary action pending the inspection?

There is a nice "before" picture here.

bazza said...

Petition signed. 482 more needed! In my locality people cut down trees illegally with no real come-back. I would like to see a similar scheme to protect trees as well.
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Philip Wilkinson said...

Thank you all for your comments.