Thursday, 26 February 2009

A game of two halves

Spurs stadium redevelopment, one side wants to ruin the historic area, the other wants to SAVE it!



SAVE Britain’s Heritage has commissioned architect Huw Thomas to produce a study showing how 15 historic buildings on Tottenham High Road, London, earmarked for clearance as part of plans for Tottenham Hotspur’s Football Ground redevelopment, could be retained and revitalised.

SAVE is strongly opposing plans for the demolition of this attractive group of 18th, 19th and 20th century buildings (located within conservation area) to make way for a piazza fronting the new stadium. Two of these buildings are listed and eight locally listed.

SAVE’s study shows how the buildings could form a vibrant stretch of bars, restaurants and shops which would bring life to the area throughout the year, not just on match days. By clearing sections of unattractive modern infill within the terrace and opening up the ground floors of the buildings at the front and rear, a permeable buffer could be created between the High Road and stadium, allowing crowds to flow freely whilst preserving the linear character of the High Road and safeguarding the ground’s urban context and its historic roots.

William Palin, Secretary of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, says, ‘If these buildings were demolished the new ground would simply assume the character of an out of town stadium devoid of context. Our drawings show how with vision and ambition this stretch of the High Road could become a jewel within the stadium redevelopment plans.’

SAVE’s scheme has the support of other objectors to the demolition of the High Road buildings including the Georgian Group, the Victorian Society and the Tottenham Civic Society. SAVE will be presenting its plans to the club, formally, in March. A planning application is expected by May.

SAVE Britain’s Heritage has been campaigning for historic buildings since its formation in 1975 by a group of architects, journalists and planners. It is a strong, independent voice in conservation, free to respond rapidly to emergencies and to speak out loud for the historic built environment.

Huw Thomas Associates have been at the forefront of imaginative design for several decades. Their expertise in dealing with the long-term future of historic buildings has brought a new lease of life to many areas all over the UK. The practice is proud of its national reputation for the sympathetic transformation of neglected areas and buildings and has collaborated with SAVE on a number of important projects.

For further information contact:

William Palin (Secretary), SAVE Britain’s Heritage, 70 Cowcross Street, London, EC1M 6EJ
Tel: 020 7253 3500.

Huw Thomas Architects. Tel: 01962 856169.

Here's the letter SAVE sent to Richard Serra, Planning Consultant for Spurs:


The Age of Stupid

Click on pic to enlarge
Advance notice, a film we all need to see:

PRESS RELEASE: 24 Feb 2009
‘The People’s Premiere’ launches Pete Postlethwaite’s
new climate movie on March 15 from solar cinema tent
in Leicester Square and across the UK via satellite link-up

Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite (In the Name of the
Father, Brassed Off) stars as a man living alone in the
devastated world of 2055 as he looks back at archive
footage from 2007 and asks: why didn’t we stop climate
change when we had the chance?
Directed by Franny Armstrong (McLibel, Drowned Out),
this compelling drama-doc explores the social causes
and consequences of humans delaying serious action
to tackle climate change through a heady mix of human
tragedy, corporate greed, bitingly satirical animation and
personal activism. The fi lm’s subjects range from emerging
Indian airlines and anti-wind farm NIMBY-ism (“not in my
back yard”), to Hurricane Katrina and the visible signs of
biospheric collapse in the Alps. It presents an apocalyptic
vision with pathos and humour, but ultimately urges a rapid
escalation in our response to the chaos already coming into
being around the world.
Not Stupid aims to turn 250 million viewers of The
Age of Stupid into climate activists, all focused
virtually or physically on Copenhagen, where the
successor to the Kyoto Treaty must
be fi nalised in December 2009.
Join in at

In Edinburgh, it's being taken very seriously indeed, with many linked events and discussions:

The Age of Stupid
A week of climate change events.

Back later!


Wednesday, 25 February 2009

R and R

The Republic is having a wee break today, back soon with longer news and stuff.

In the meanwhile, just so your visit wasn't a waste, and because there is so much useful and fascinating information which should be given a wider audience, here is a link to pictures on the website belonging to Biff Vernon (see Followers) although at times it's hard to navigate it's worth it.

For those in need of a different holiday break, then Tithe Farm, pic above, with its yurt, may be just the R and R you are looking for.
The Vernon empire doesn't end there: another interesting family enterprise in Louth, Lincs:

Brilliant, and Not T*sc*!

Save food miles, shop locally... and keep Louth special:

Those suppliers include:
and, for mill enthusiasts:


PS Recipes from Roxy for Kitchen Garden mag, which is a must read in the Nem Republic:

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

World Heritage - who cares?

A small section of the SAVE exhibition, snapped at the preview by Nem

Liverpool (a World Heritage Site) featured in this blog a week ago, with news and a report of a SAVE exhibition and book:

and on Feb 12th here:

and I am delighted to report that in today's Independent there is an excellent review of the SAVE exhibition:

Liverpool’s agony has also been an internal one, witnessed by residents and visitors alike, in the unceasing destruction of its architectural heritage. A bomb-site necropolis long after the Luftwaffe had visited, the city began an extraordinary programme of self-mutilation, starting with the demolition of John Foster’s magnificent Customs House in 1947,

despite the fact that its war damage was quite repairable. This story of a disappearing city, which continues to the present day, is chronicled in a superb exhibition of photographs, Triumph, Disaster and Decay, at the milkandsugar gallery....

...Individual records of philistinism and neglect unfold across the gallery walls. Of the 19 churches in Everton described by Nikolaus Pevsner in 1969, only six remain. A photograph of Abercromby Square shows Foster’s church St Catherine’s, demolished in 1966 to make way for the university’s Senate House. More heartbreaking still is the fragment of wrought ironwork from a gallery inside the Old Sailors’ Home, a beautiful neo-Jacobean marvel senselessly destroyed in the 1970s. Canning Place, where it stood, itself no longer exists, swallowed up by the huge (and controversial) Paradise Street shopping centre, Liverpool One. It echoes another outrageous scarring, of elegant old Clayton Square, flattened to make way for another mall in 1986. By whose decree? The answer isn’t always clear, but a combination of rapacious property developers and incompetent councillors have usually done for it.

That legacy of near-criminal negligence seems to have been handed down through the DNA of Liverpool City Council. One might leave this exhibition feeling indignant and deeply depressed, for the disasters of the 1960s are returning, in the shape of the Government-sponsored Pathfinder schemes. Hearteningly, campaigns are being fought against further depredations. Elizabeth Pascoe still battles a road-widening scheme that would destroy 400 perfectly good family houses in and around Edge Lane. Florence Gersten also continues a valiant rearguard against municipal vandalism, having helped to save the Lyceum building in Bold Street back in the 1980s. Save Britain’s Heritage itself deserves immense credit for supporting the fightback, and for mounting this exhibition, splendidly curated by Robert Hradsky...

Caltongate in Edinburgh as a place does not of course exist, apart from in the mind of whichever PR drone thought it up as the adspeak new face of ruining a World Heritage Site (see yesterday's blog and the movie The Canongate Project as well as and the related blog, linked to from this site). Currently, it is still a hole in the ground in Edinburgh, following the demolition of a bus garage. Under threat of demolition are listed buildings, with facade schemes for others, and the sale of 'common good' land, a peculiarly Scottish concept, for buildings whose future planned contribution to the 'common good' is baffling many. The council seem to think that selling off these public assets to a private developer for pennies in order to hugely enlarge the development site was sound sense. That says a great deal about the council.

Of course, mega businesses have megabucks to spend on selling their schemes to gullible (or worse) councillors and naturally they have the cash to spend on PR agencies to help overcome any little local difficulties and carefully manipulate the entire process. And indeed Mountgrange was able to take advantage of a spin company called Invicta PA, whose blurb on its website carries with it a sickbag warning before you read it:

A little past history is worth reading:

'Organised and determined' campaign group - militant? Dear me yes! Armed to the teeth with only a love of their community and city and the concept of Word Heritage, into battle they went.

Oddly, many more of the citizens of Edinburgh were not too happy about having thrust upon them yet another crappy scheme of second rate architecture, the city has had too many of those in recent times, with little heed taken of objectors (the planning 'consultations' by the developer Mountgrange carefully avoided taking much note of objections from local residents, Edinburgh World Heritage, ICOMOS, etc). So they joined in the protests, and when local politicians aided by Historic Scotland (whose role in this affair has surely yet to be fully explored and exposed) passed the plans and the Scottish government scandalously declined to call them in for public inquiry, they took their protests to UNESCO, a body to which the UK is a state party and signatory to the World Heritage Convention. UNESCO duly sent a mission to investigate matters.

The mission arrived last November. It first visited Bath, then Edinburgh. The council wined dined and generally schmoozed the two delegates, presumably in the hope that a full belly and copious amounts of alcohol would blur their vision and make them see the Emperor's magnificent suit of spankingly new attire. Such profligacy with cash seems not to have had the desired outcome however, as a draft of the (confidential) report was apparently sent to the council, Historic Scotland and the government last week. Confidentially too no doubt, but apparently forgetting to say so, the Convenor of the Planning Committee 'Sunny' Jim Lowrie (see him in action here:)

managed to spill a few beans to a Scotsman journalist, who felt duty bound to allow the wider public to know that UNESCO seems to not have been entirely delighted by the scheme, and is waiting for the culprits to come clean about what on earth they were playing at.

It should also be pointed out that 'Sunny' Jim is on the Board of Edinburgh World Heritage Trust (a registered charity); quite how he squares that role with his desire to vote through anything and everything which EWH seems to feel not appropriate for the city is possibly a puzzle to many. Let's see how he votes when the plans for the St James' Centre redevelopment come before his planning committee. Heritage and other bodies have all objected, but naturally the council planners have recommended passing the plans.

Latest critical comment is Wilson's Weekly Wrap, on the Architecture Scotland website today:

Given that Mountgrange (one of its Directors serves as a commissioner for English Heritage) seems to have (allegedly) gone financially tits up, and rumoured as trying to get cash to keep the sinking Caltongate afloat from that rock of the finance world the Royal Bank of Scotland, I cannot think many will shed a tear really for its demise.

As Mr Wilson says: Time then for a proper (i.e. not developer-led) appraisal of what this site really needs and what this part of the Old Town can actually absorb. In other European cities such a study would form the basis for an international design competition: here we can only dream of such things.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh City Council apparently has cash in trust to 'temporarily' landscape the site until such time as something can be done permanently. No doubt it will be rushing to spend it. Possibly it can look at the buildings standing empty also, and consider re-letting those.

Edinburgh World Heritage Trust continues its good work in the teeth of such problems, and news from its website is that a Conservation Plan has now been drwan up for Riddle's Court, also in the Old Town:

The conservation statement prepared by consultant Andrew Wright brings together for the first time a combination of archival sources along with a detailed site inspection. His research throws a new light on many aspects of the building.

There is some archival evidence that the lime harling of the exterior walls had at one time been a startling yellow with window margins tinted a pinkish red, some of which still survives on site.

Of particular interest is a stone hood on the south wall of the inner court, considered to be a rare survival from a hoist, suggesting that the upper storey was used as a merchant’s warehouse.

Additionally, a fresh appeal for funds has been launched in order to complete the excellent conservation work at Well Court:

See also the Related Links section at the bottom right of that page for more.

It's not all bad news!


Monday, 23 February 2009

The Canongate Project - the movie!


And also worth reading (and watching the linked award-winning movie) is today's blog about the Garvald breadmakers of Edinburgh:
It is still a living, working community, despite the best efforts of the council to 'regenerate' by a bit of social cleansing, the usual mix of commercial schemes of dubious architectural merit, and yet more sterile developments which seem to have liitle to do with what local people actually want.

The Nem Republic has also kindly been added to the LINKS section of the Bath Heritage Watchdog website, and more will be appearing in this blog soon.
As the site isn't a blog I can't add it to the Blogger links list at the right, but it's an outstanding example (along with the Independent Republic of the Canongate) of what a bunch of determined people can achieve who care about their World Heritage Site and their city, and who feel that the planning process is frequently stacked against the best interests of conservation. I adore Bath and read the site avidly, to keep up with what is happening there.

Information is power!


Sunday, 22 February 2009

Happy Birthday!

Today's a very special blog as it's Nem's mother's 88th birthday.

Nem's ma had a stroke at the beginning of January, and is currently staying in a residential home to recuperate.

Nevertheless, she is to be treated to a bottle of pink fizz, a cake with candles to share with other residents (although no, not 88) made by my own fair hands, and a posh lunch in a historic building. Following that, I suspect more pink fizz. Hic.

I have avoided writing too much on the cake and stuck to her name, Joan. The first time I made her a birthday cake I was a very young Nem and proudly baked and iced it, then with the icing tube and pink icing wrote 'Happy Birtday'.
Not quite Owl, who famously wrote, "HIPY PAPY BTHUTHDTH THUTHDA BTHUTHDY."

So here it is, spelt propa:
Happy Birthday To You.
And congratulations on last week becoming a great grandmother.


Saturday, 21 February 2009

Travelling hopefully

Geograph is wonderful, and growing daily. However, contributors are now uploading historic photographs also, and the one above caught my eye.

It is of Highway Motors, Kennford, 1929 and here is the Geograph entry for it:

Soon after this photo was taken the new Highway bypass (A38) diverted traffic away from going through Kennford and thus no more petrol sales. Not to be outdone my father then built the "Wobbly Wheel" a new petrol filling station at the corner of the old village main road and the new Highway bypass - see SX9186 : 1931/1932 The wobbly wheel and ST4862 : Paradise Roadhouse.
© Copyright Ronald Loach and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

And indeed, here is the Wobbly Wheel:

1931/1932 The wobbly wheel
The Wobbly Wheel was used as an example by the Devon Planning Authorities as an example of what a good layout for a Petrol Filling Station should be like.Once the Station was operational Ronald Loach, the owner and developer, was off again building another petrol filling station on the A38 at the bottom of Redhill near Wrington in Somerset called Paradise Roadhouse
Link . See also SX9186 : In 1929 known as Highway Motors.
© Copyright Ronald Loach and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The first two all very picturesque I hear you say, but what is the third picture doing here?

Well, it has some relationship with the others although actually not in the UK but in Nuns' Island, Quebec, Canada. Not just any old filling station either, this one was designed in 1968 by (or 'from the office of') architect Mies van der Rohe. And sadly, it's under threat, recently closed and boarded up.

Mies movies online:

There are more photographs of it here,:

and further information, photos and a little history here:

See this story in the Toronto Globe and Mail about the shuttering of the gas station on Nuns' Island in Quebec, Canada designed by the office of Mies van der Rohe ?

The Mies gas station is no more. In December, Esso quietly removed the pumps and put plywood over the glass and the company sign out front. Now, Montreal's Verdun borough is left to sort out what to do with a rare piece of architecture not easily adaptable.

"The thing really is beautiful; it's so unassuming, like a lot of great artworks," said Phyllis Lambert, whose family, the Bronfmans, commissioned the Seagram Building.

"It's not pretentious, not glitzy. The major problem is, what to do with it now."

The gas station was part of a neighbourhood that Mies's Chicago firm designed in the 1960s, after a bridge connected Île-des-Soeurs (Nuns' Island) to the rest of Montreal and the island was developed. ...

"It's of a great simplicity, and it's a building that was really thought out. It's not overstated, it's very modest, very functional, and very well designed," said Dinu Bumbaru, the director of Heritage Montreal, who has described it as the "Ritz" of gas stations.

Sad. Useful and beautiful. No doubt the site will more profitably be redeveloped very soon. Let's hope not, and a re-use can be found.

I like this idea:

A bike shop, with air pumps instead of 'gas'.

There may be some hope:

It possibly was too beautiful and understated to last.


Friday, 20 February 2009

Watering the workers' beer.. and an update

A blog post this morning to bring attention to the Kelham Island Tavern, Sheffield, which has been named by CAMRA as its Pub of the Year. This accolade is despite the pub being at the centre of the dreadful floods of 2007, when the River Don burst its banks. However, undeterred by flooded cellar and a damaged interior, the landlord re-opened his award winning pub again after six weeks and it sounds like a pilgrimage has to soon be made (the sacrifices one makes etc etc).

Details from CAMRA:

The Kelham Island Tavern (62 Russell Street, Sheffield S3 8RW) is crowned National Pub of the Year 2008. The Kelham Island Tavern has been a CAMRA Sheffield Pub of the Year for the last four years, and was a past regional winner in both 2004 and 2007. The pub is also listed in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide 2009 bearing the following description: "An impressive 10 permanent handpumps include two that always dispense a mild and a stout/porter, so you are sure to find something to quench your thirst. A visit in the warmer months enables you to sample the pub's multi-award winning sub-tropical beer garden- a true gem."

Julian Hough, CAMRA's Pubs Director and one of the final judges, said: "The Kelham Island Tavern is a regular in the Good Beer Guide and has been treasured by pub-goers from Yorkshire and beyond since its opening in 2002. It truly is a pub for everyone, and its attention to detail is fantastic. To have won so many awards in such a short space of time, even enduring a disastrous flood in 2007, is a true testament to the dedication and commitment of its staff. The pub is a deserved winner, and a wonderful example of a well-run community pub."

For more from CAMRA, and pictures and details of the other regional finalists, click here:

CAMRA Press Release and the runners up:

Kelham Island website, with further history and pictures of the flood:

A real pub, a real pub sign!

Brewery website of the week (No3 in a series which happens when I remember):

Pub signs, sadly, in this day of the mega corporate pub chain, are a literally dying art. They came top in the recent Icons of England vote carried out by the CPRE, however, proving that we do as a public value them:

Pub signs came top in our recent Icons of England poll, second was red post boxes and third canal boating. We fear the traditional pub sign is dying out as independent ale houses close down and old fashioned pubs receive a makeover.

Sebastian Faulks who nominated pub signs to be included in our 'top 25 list' of icons said:
People who think of England as a practical country with little flair for the visual would never have imagined that its lanes and roads would be regularly punctuated by what look like cards from a wooden tarot pack – optical extravagances, creakily offering delight, escape and risk. But it is so; and sometimes we hardly see the strangest things by which we are surrounded

Bill Bryson, President of CPRE, said:They are as characteristic of rural England as church spires and ancient hedgerows. The diversity of English life has been reflected in these intriguing and deceptively informative artefacts for centuries.At a time when 36 pubs per week nationally are closing their doors, it is heartening to hear of the value still placed on this heralded tradition. Only around 30 independent pub chains and breweries in Britain are still ordering individually painted signs, amazingly a few of these fine artists are still working and there are some notable examples such as The St Austell Brewery in Cornwall that still employ sign writers. But it is a shrinking market and the dominance of a few chains has contributed to the disappearance of traditional British pub names, and led to a profusion of bland corporate makeovers.I’m delighted pub signs won the Icons vote, and of course there is no better place to celebrate this result than inside an equally iconic British pub.

A brief history:

There's even a society, with a fascinating website:

And the title of today's blog? Song written 1938 by Paddy Ryan, The Man That Waters The Workers Beer

All together now:


I'm the man, the very fat man,
That waters the workers' beer.
Yes, I'm the man, the very fat man,
That waters the workers' beer,
And what do I care if it makes them ill,
If it makes them terribly queer,
I've got a car and a yacht and an aeroplane,
And I waters the workers' beer.

Now when I makes the workers' beer,
I puts in strychinine,
Some methylated spirits
And a drop of paraffin;
But since a brew so terribly strong
Might make them terribly queer,
I reaches my hand for the water tap,
And I waters the workers' beer.

Now ladies fair beyond compare,
And be ye maid or wife,
O, sometimes lend a thought for one
Who leads a sorry life;
The water rates are shockingly high,
And malt is shockingly dear,
And there isn't the profit there used to be
In wat'ring the workers' beer.

Now a drop of good beer is good for a man
Who's thirsty and tired and hot,
And I sometimes has a drop for myself
From a very special lot;
But a fat and healthy working class
Is the thing that I most fear,
So I reaches my hand for the water tap,
And I waters the workers' beer.



UPDATE February 21st

Please see comments, and thanks to the author Elaine Saunders for the information and link. Anyone reading this who has anything to say, you know who to contact!

This is one of my favourites:,_7_Clerkenwell_Close&Pub=515

A fun sign and a good pub!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Save Our Old Town!

(Click to enlarge)

A Press Release has just pinged its way into the Nemesis Republic inbox from the Canongate Community Forum.

Here it is:

"Opportunity for city council to rescue Canongate from the ashes of Mountgrange" say campaigners

With Caltongate Developers Mountgrange in financial distress, a window of opportunity has arrived for city planners and the council to reconsider their stand on how the New Street Site is to be developed.

The buildings at risk from demolition should be bought back to life and serve the community and city’s needs once again and the council should freeze all work on land sales to Mountgrange in present situation, say Save Our Old Town campaigners today.

A UNESCO report singles out for criticism the way Caltongate scheme was approved by the authorities despite protests from a host of heritage groups and the community.

Earlier this week responding to this UNESCO report, which the council have just received Jim Lowrie, the council’s planning convenor, told The Scotsman -

"(The report] does criticise us over the Caltongate development. We are going to have to look at (that] before we respond in detail."

The campaigners are continuing to call on the council to uphold the decision to use the £100,000 Bond from Mountgrange to allow a temporary landscape scheme to be implemented on the New Street gap site.

The Old Town campaigners are to present the results from a year long project at a seminar this Saturday which decision makers as well as the public have been invited to attend.

Key Findings of the Report are likely to prove embarrassing to planners and politicians.

They include:

Having a living world heritage site in the city centre came out as a top priority but housing policies and city development fails to support this.

There is an urgent need for community facilities and spaces.

There is a clear lack of 'public' responsibility in the management of public space.

Small independent and start up businesses require support and initiatives.

Opportunities and sites for community development should be identified.

Urban communities should get access to '”community right to buy”

Pressure on council to keep a properly accounted and managed register of Common Good Land & Assets.

No more “selling off of the family silver” and no more privatisation of public space.

Over the year opinion was sampled from residents and public -

79% want social & affordable housing
77% want family housing
77% want play parks/areas for children & teenagers
70% want a better mix of shops
62% want more grassed areas & trees
57% want artist's working facilities

Report Launch Event Saturday 21st February

2pm The Scottish Storytelling Centre, 43-45 High St. Edinburgh (John Knox’s House)

More information and details of launch see -

The pictures above are (top) the Canongate Venture, former school then business start up facility, a listed building in a conservation area, to be sold by the council for demolition in order to build a conference centre (despite the fact existing conference centres are losing money and staff are being made redundant). Below, the listed Sailor's Ark (a former hostel for seamen) and the Ebenezer MacRae (city architect) model housing tenements. These are to be made the facades (the rest to be demolished) of a five star Sofitel hotel. A new high pend or opening will be driven through to access the new development. This is the Canongate, part of the Royal Mile and Edinburgh's World Heritage Site.
For further pictures and information see the site.


Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Damned if you do, damned if you don't

In fact, just damn.

Sad news yesterday from Caius Plinius about the loss of so much grant aid for conservation. As I said in the comments section of his blog: when it's boom time, conservation gets it in the neck as developers claim such ideas as 'heritage' and 'conservation' stand in the way of 'economic development' and 'regeneration'. When it's bust, there are always other things to spend the cash on.

I visited Liverpool last weekend, for the opening of the SAVE Britain's Heritage excellent exhibition (see:,DISASTER AND DECAY: The SAVE survey of Liverpool's Heritage

Frankly, rather too much 'regeneration' has been going on there and too little note taken of saving 'heritage' for my taste. What is happening adjacent to the magnificent Albert Dock defies description, the hemming in of the Three Graces with 'iconic' lumps unbelievable, I will in the near future post links and pictures. Some of the most crass development I have ever viewed is crammed into a tiny area along the waterfront in and adjacent to the World Heritage Site. However, don't miss the exhibition, if you can't make it call SAVE and order the catalogue. Now.

The pic top of me blog is of SAVE President Marcus Binney and exhibition curator for SAVE Robert Hradsky smiling through. The other above is of Will Palin, SAVE Secretary, modelling the SAVE publication, also baring his gnashers. Maybe it was the free wine wot did it, as certainly a great deal of the exhibition was tearjerking stuff.

One piece of good news from Liverpool is that at last the Lutyens crypt under 'Paddy's Wigwam' is now open to the public for the first time, although I have reservations about the architectural merit of the new addition. Judge for yourselves, see the pictures here:
Crypt pics:

I also note that the government has now published its draft strategy for saving the planet, as reported in the AJ:

"Energy-saving refurb planned for all UK homes

Green campaigners have welcomed plans to give every UK home a green refit by 2030 – but the source of funding remains undecided

The government's draft Heat and Energy Saving Strategy, released for consultation (12 February 2009), sets out a framework to bring existing houses to a level 'approaching zero carbon' by 2050.

It admits further financial support may be needed 'to encourage people to act now', but offers a series of suggestions in place of firm commitments. These include changes to the building regulations requiring energy saving measures to be fitted, and loans and grants funded by further levies on energy suppliers...

The strategy proposes fitting cavity wall and loft insulation in all suitable properties by 2015. Solid wall insulation and further energy saving measures will be added to another seven million properties by 2020, cutting household energy emissions by a third.

By 2030, all properties will have received a 'whole house' package including, where possible, the addition of renewable heat and power equipment such as biomass boilers and geothermal heating..."

So no new cash then. Oh well.

However, I ponder, how many of these measures will in a wider sense use more energy than they save? Keep it simple and suitable where period buildings are concerned, is my view. Interior cladding may well not allow the building to breathe, and no doubt the uPVC double glazing purveyors (see: are rubbing hands with yet more glee. I read a comment on a recent national newspaper site by a homeowner crowing how she had replaced a small number of small windows in a Conservation Area with double glazing to 'save the planet', at a cost of around twelve thousand pounds. The cash might have been better spent on some simple secondary glazing, or roller blinds. I wonder how many years it will take to recoup that outlay?

Here's the government blurb and the documentation:

No doubt those whose gravy train is running dry developing 'iconic' buildings and 'regenerating' historic areas will simply shift focus to 'greening the planet'. After all, as the government states, one of its aims in introducing these measures is:

"to take advantage of the economic opportunities presented by the shift to a low carbon economy in the UK and in the rest of the world, helping us during the current economic downturn and over the long term"

Read this and be afraid:

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

More Old Town (and New)

A brief update: see

Seems someone, somewhere has been leaking like a sieve about the UNESCO report regarding Edinburgh's World Heritage Site and the UNESCO mission.


It will be interesting to hear the excuse of a council's excuses.

Meanwhile, the World Heritage Trust is planning on putting solar panels on listed buildings as a trial.

Ugly but at least reversible, when something new comes along. That's unlike Caltongate.

Renewable Heritage Project

"A ground-breaking project has started this month, installing solar water heating panels on the roofs of seven B-listed Georgian tenements in the heart of World Heritage Site.

The £200,000 Renewable Heritage project, benefiting social housing properties, is being run in partnership with Edinburgh World Heritage, Changeworks, Lister Housing Co-operative, eaga Charitable Trust and The City of Edinburgh Council, who have granted all permissions for the work.

Renewable energy installations in listed properties are extremely rare, especially in multi-occupancy buildings such as tenements.

Renewable Heritage is ground-breaking not only because the work is being carried out on listed tenements in the World Heritage Site, but also because the pipework will be run down to serve all flats possible. The panels should provide over 50% of the annual hot water requirement of 49 properties, even those at basement level.

The project will provide a model for others living in historic homes to generate their own free, clean energy. A guide to installing all types of micro-renewable technology on older and historic buildings, will be launched at a national conference in May 2009.

Adam Wilkinson, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage, said: "Fuel poverty and sustainable energy are very much on the agenda at the moment, and 75% of the buildings within the World Heritage Site are listed. So it is essential to establish good practice and pass it on to the residents who make the Site such a vibrant place. This study will help dispel the myth that historic buildings are neither energy efficient, nor capable of being sensitively retrofitted with sustainable energy measures.”

As part of the Renewable Heritage project, a comprehensive good practice guide for householders and professionals is being published in May 2009. This will be launched at a conference at The Hub in Edinburgh on Friday 15 May 2009."


PS pic above shamelessly nicked from the EWH website. Lovely buildings.

Monday, 16 February 2009


I have been enthralled by the 19th century for decades; the engineering, inventions, buildings, literature, art, the philanthropy of worthies striving to improve the lot of fellow men. I am also still readily shocked, even at time's safe distance, when confronted by reminders of the squalor and poverty and harsh working conditions, an era when labour was cheap, hours long, and workers easily replaceable. I have read Mayhew on London. I have made my pilgrimage to Osborne House on the isle of Wight to see the desk where the great Queen signed so many papers, lived her happy family life until the tragically early death of her Albert, and stood in reverent silence at the side of the bed where she died. Yup, I'm a sucker for the 19th century.

TV also seems to be suddenly in love with the social history of the 19th century. This love affair is certainly a mixed bag, with the Victorian Farm, which hasn't grabbed my attention, What The Victorians Did For Us, which is unmissable, and now, as discussed by Caius Plinius in his blog today, Victorious Viewing, the latest, Jeremy Paxman's The Victorians.

I was impressed by Paxman the presenter; here was a greatly more mellow Paxo than we usually see on the box, hectoring hapless politicians or students. I had feared that he would be irritating, yet he was warm and mostly erudite. He mucked in, splashing through London's sewers and eating gruel and breaking stones in a workhouse. His was an enthusiasm which he wished to share, rather than simply a desire to instruct. Indeed, at times he had the air of one astonished to find himself allowed to be doing such a programme at all, and pinching himself at his good fortune. The scope of the first programme was wide, yet there was a narrative thread woven through which drew the various strands together. On a personal level I can't say I learned anything new, but as an intelligent introduction to the subject I hope it draws in a new audience keen to find out more.

My favourite part of the programme, however, wasn't the wading through Bazalgette's vast sewerage system, nor the mad glory of Waterhouse's Manchester Town Hall, Wonders of the World though both be, it was the visit to Glasgow's Kelvingrove, where Mr P was confronted with a painting which nonplussed him, Guthrie's Highland Funeral.

Clearly The Glasgow Boys' school of social realism has passed Paxman by, but in Scotland at least this unsentimental painting is considered a masterpiece, and rightly so.

Maybe next year, when an exhibition of the work of the Glasgow Boys has reached Lunnon, Mr P will have learned to appreciate it a little more.

Anyhow, today I thought I'd add my own farthing worth of erudition and post the above picture to fill in a small gap in last night's programme. Its long name is In the nineteenth century the Northumbrians show the world what can be done with iron and coal by William Bell Scott 1861 (courtesy of the National Trust). Its short name is Iron and Coal. It clearly was inspired by Work and in turn was part of the inspiration for the sequence of paintings at Manchester Town Hall. It is one of the impressive scenes of the history of Northumberland painted for the central courtyard at Wallington Hall, Northumberland.

"Scott painted Iron and Coal, the last and most important of the series at Wallington, between January and June 1861.

Bell Scott visited Stephenson's railway-engine works to see a locomotive wheel being forged to give him his central action, but the painting as a whole is a composite showing the Tyneside industries: an Armstrong gun barrel and a shell, a locomotive wheel, barges carrying coal, a train crossing Robert Stephenson's newly completed High Level bridge. One of the men wielding the hammers (the figure on the left) is drawn from Charles Edward Trevelyan, who in due course inherited Wallington."

"In 1855, the year in which Pauline had conceived the Wallington scheme, a local journalist wrote in despair that the 'fine arts in Newcastle appear literally to be dead and buried', and that with the growing prosperity of the people of Newcastle and Sunderland came a growing ignorance of art and a preference for 'champagne and claret'. By 1862, that opinion had significantly changed. The Wallington scheme was recognised as an innovation of national as well as regional significance, and it was widely reviewed in the national press. The paintings were exhibited in London before finally being hung in Wallington. The only comparable (though not closely comparable) recent decorative scheme were the frescoes of Arthurian subjects painted by Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Morris, Prinsep and others in Dean and Woodward's new Gothic Union building at Oxford in 1857. Bell Scott's Wallington paintings prompted similar decorative schemes elsewhere in the country, such as the cycle of twelve historical paintings for Manchester town hall (depicting episodes in the history of Manchester from Roman times to the recent past) undertaken by Ford Madox Brown in the 1870s, and the later decorative scheme commissioned for the Scottish Portrait Gallery."

Two reviews of The Victorians

The Telegraph didn't like it:

The Scotsman did:

As for the mawkishness of the TV presentation of Lark Rise, I can only express the hope it at least sends some to seek out the books, which are worthy of reading, and can I also growl about the failure of attention to detail?

For a start, no 19th century female of any social standing would be rushing outdoors and parading around the streets in their indoor clothing, without a hat. They just wouldn't. Something simple in straw, but a hat. Gloves also, and a jacket for more formal occasions. Please please ladies - cover it up. Folk will gossip.


Sunday, 15 February 2009

Old Town

To add to this morning's blog, here's a piece from Joanna Blythman in the Sunday Herald which made me cheer (this isn't fiction citizens, Caltongate was for real):

for more details read

Grand failure offers green light for green space


CALTONGATE,Edinburgh's grandiose £300 million development project, looks dead in the water because the company behind it, Mountgrange, has run out of dosh. The company has clocked up a loss of £24m and is so indebted that there is "a material uncertainty that casts doubts over the company's ability to continue as a going concern". As someone who always thought the Caltongate project was a crock of ordure, I won't shed a tear if Mountgrange goes down the pan, taking its ill-conceived plan with it.The Caltongate scheme, in the now-ubiquitous phoney language employed by puffed-up councillors, posturing architects who fancy themselves as latter-day Le Corbusiers, and Flash Harry speculators, was to contain "an eclectic mix of offices, retail, residential, leisure and hotel facilities". It was to add a "vibrant and attractive new business and cultural quarter" to the capital. What that meant, in practical terms, was historic buildings and people's homes being demolished to make way for five-star hotels, a second conference centre, more yuppie flats, the inevitable supermarket, a "signature" office building (spare us the pretension) and yet another coven of Claire's Accessories, Clinton Cards and Costas - as if we needed another dose of property developer's quack miracle regenerating formula...

Continued here:
Edinburgh Community Backgreens Association:

New Town

A brief blog today to draw attention to the TV prog from yesterday as mentioned in the Bear of little brain blog: New Town, a slightly bizarre yet amusing murder story, based around a nasty developer, the spoiling of a listed building in Edinburgh's World Heritage Site, a Heritage Hero from a body called Scottish Heritage trying to stop the cultural vandalism, odd architects with ideas of imposing their own strange aesthetic on the city, planners happy to spoil the city for 'economic gain' and a crazy estate agent saying there is no economic downturn.

So - not so far from reality then.

Catch it while you can on BBC iplayer, BBC4:

Worth watching for the views of the city and its buildings (but warning of bad cement pointing at around 33 minutes in, architects' garden wall, so be prepared).


Picture credits: Geograph

Copyright but re-used under the Creative Commons license

Richard Webb St Stephen's Church Edinburgh

Derek Harper Playfair's Royal Circus Edinburgh

where there are other photos of Edinburgh.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Snowdrops and Earl Grey

I did say when I began this blog at times it would be about gardening. In this neck of the Republic, the weather remains cold and snowy, so I thought today, to bring some cheer and a hope that spring will eventually be sprung, I would post a small Picassa picture album (click on the link below) taken in February 2007 of Howick Hall and Gardens, Northumberland, a rather more grand garden than most. As this is the first time I have tried posting an album, fingers crossed it works.

Howick Hall and Gardens Northumberland February 2007

The snowdrop walk is also recommended, followed by a visit to the tearooms. Nourishment for soul and body.

I recommend a pot of Earl Grey tea. The chapel pictured contains his tomb.

There's a monument to him in Newcastle with a statue on top called, not very original I appreciate, Grey's Monument. That's it in the picture above, at the head of Grey Street, voted the finest street in Britain by Radio 4 listeners. Here's a panorama of it:

Grey was Prime Minister of England in the 19th century. The 1832 Reform Act was considered by many his greatest achievement. I recall writing an essay about it for my O level history exam.

Here's a little more about him from No 10:

Several things you may or may not wish to know about Earl Grey:

Earl Grey’s most remarkable achievement was the Reform Act of 1832, which set in train a gradual process of electoral change. Indeed, it sowed the seeds of the system we recognise today.
Around 130 years of parliamentary reform began with this act and culminated in universal suffrage for men and women over 18, secret ballots and legitimate constituencies.
The battle to pass the historic act was a difficult one. Grey resigned after the Lords rejected it, although he returned to office when Wellington found himself unable to form an administration. Wellington then consented, and Grey was able to push the bill through.

Other reforming measures included restrictions on the employment of children, and the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1833.

He was said to be ‘tall, slim and strikingly handsome’ although in later years he went bald and wore spectacles.

Mary Elizabeth Ponsonby married the Earl aged 18. Over the next 24 years she remarkably had 16 children yet remained ‘cheerful and good-humoured’ and was devoted to her family. Letters left to her estate show that she had a keen interest in politics and current affairs.

One of Grey’s other legacies is the blend of tea known as Earl Grey. He reputedly received a gift, probably a diplomatic present, of tea that was flavored with bergamot oil.
It became so popular that Grey asked British tea merchants to recreate it.

Which brings me to one of my favourite websites:

and not forgetting:


Back soon.


(The pic of Grey's Monument above is by Andy Williamson

Thursday, 12 February 2009

SAVING Britain's Heritage

Today's blog is news from SAVE Britain's Heritage:

A reminder that the SAVE exhibition

TRIUMPH,DISASTER AND DECAY: The SAVE survey of Liverpool's Heritage

begins on 16th February and continues until 6th March at the Milkandsugar Gallery, Liverpool.

I posted the Press Release last month in this post:

For more details and the moving picture show see the SAVE website

More about that next week.

The book to accompany the exhibition is now available, that's the cover in the pic above:

"Published to accompany the 2009 exhibition, this catalogue edited by the curator, Robert Hradsky, offers a great read for those interested in architecture, conservation and Liverpool. The report shines the spotlight on fine buildings suffering from long-term neglect and tackles issues such as new development in the World Heritage Site and mass clearance in the suburbs under Pathfinder.Essays written by a variety of authors focus on different aspects of Liverpool's heritage both past and present. The publication also features a gazetteer of buildings at risk in Liverpool.A fantastic selection of photographs accompanies the text; some have re-emerged from archives whilst others have been specially commissioned for our 2009 exhibition.

The catalogue is priced at £12.50 including post and packaging (£10 for Friends). To order your copy you can click here to download the publication order form. Alternatively you can call the SAVE office."


Another piece of news from SAVE is something close to my heart: the proposed DEMOLITION of a historic and architecturally interesting PUB in Cardiff, The Vulcan.

Again, the picture show is here:

"The Vulcan Hotel, Adam Street occupies a vulnerable position - in the area earmarked for the shopping and residential development called St David's 2 in Cardiff. For years the land around the pub in Cardiff has been gradually cleared leaving the Vulcan more and more isolated. Under the current plans for the area, the building is due to be demolished in June this year, with parking space its possible end use!

The original building was constructed in 1853 but the pub was given an overhaul in 1914 by Veall, a well-reputed architect from Cardiff. This saw the building donned in fabulous green and brown glazed ceramic tiles on the exterior with further decorative tile work inside extending as far as the gentlemen's toilets!

SAVE Britain's Heritage believes that this building is a wonderful addition to the character of the city and could be integrated into the development scheme. Its loss will be totally unnecessary and extremely disappointing to all parties involved."


Sign the online petition:

Write to the Heritage Minister, Alun Ffred Jones:

There's more information here:


Also - see comments:

Join the Save the Vulcan campaign on Facebook. Click

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Breathing deeply: trash the plastic!

(click to enlarge)

Following on from yesterday's news about the English Heritage circular regarding buildings regs Part L, I have had it suggested to me that the problem is, although it sounds as though leeway will be given for more than only listed and conservation area buildings, and it is indeed welcome news that there is recognition that traditional buildings other than listed also need to be allowed the 'breathe', there is room for further confusion and demands for a loss of character by over-zealous Building Control Officers. Not all of those seem to have the ability to think outside the tick list. Overworked Conservation Officers (and many local authorities don't actually employ one) will find it difficult to argue even where listed buildings are concerned, if it's left up to individuals to interpret as they see fit.

There. I have ranted in private and no doubt will return to the subject in future alongside more damning photographs. Suffice to say, the supposed 'eco-friendliness' of ripping out perfectly good timber windows in traditional buildings and replacing them with, in too many cases, hideously ugly, bright white and with flat glass uPVC double glazing remains in doubt. As for uPVC doors - what can I say? I wonder who designs these things? A computer set in 'kitsch' mode?

However, I hear many cry, there are now available nice slimline double glazing units which can be fitted into timber sashes and 'look just like the originals'. Indeed, these were even spouted about on Channels 4's Grand Designs (for which more see posts below...) when it was claimed (see the Bath Grade II Listed barn 'conversion' episode) that these were now being fitted to listed buildings in Edinburgh, as though it was a routine matter to rip out historic windows and glass and chuck in new. Of course, there are those who wish it was so, but thankfully it isn't.

Given also that the seals in double glazed units are prone to fail unless buried into rebates in the timber, I also wonder how long the replica windows with thin astragals will actually last. If windows have to be replaced every couple of decades instead of centuries, then it's not really green, cash or energy saving, is it? Modern timber tends not to last like historic stuff either.

Historic windows are items to be treasured, alongside the historic glass. Once they are gone there's no way they can be replaced. Defacing a period building, no matter how humble, with plastic or even slightly more tasteful modern timber when the originals are repairable simply because of claims of eco friendliness, is a little like taking an electric sander to an antique table then slapping a coat of polyurethane varnish on, on the grounds it makes it so much easier to maintain and will protect the wood.

In Scotland, Historic Scotland is taking a lead in researching the realities of the claimed heat losses through historic windows (in reality I suspect nothing like as much as is claimed, many period buildings have tiny windows):

Q. S3W-19118 Alasdair Morgan: To ask the Scottish Executive whether it plans to review the planning guidelines and Scottish Planning Policies relating to listed buildings to clarify the situation regarding replacement of single-glazed windows by windows with improved heat-retention properties. (SP 17/12/08)

A. Answered by Linda Fabiani (14/01/09): The Scottish Planning Policy for the Historic Environment and the Scottish Historic Environment Policy (SHEP) were both published in revised form, after public consultation, on 28 October 2008; the SHEP included revised ministerial policy on listed building consent. Neither document makes specific mention of the issue of glazing options as this is an operational matter; however, the SHEP sets out the general approach and principles. Historic Scotland is undertaking research on the energy performance of older buildings, and this will inform revised guidance on windows for applicants and local authorities, to be published in spring 2009, to replace the guidance in the Memorandum of Guidance on Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas. Applications relating to windows are dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Wider research is being carried out, some of it in partnership with other bodies such as Edinburgh World Heritage:

The thermal performance of traditional windows publication is here:
This report summarises the results of research on the thermal performance of traditional windows and methods of reducing heat loss carried out by the Centre for Research on Indoor Climate & Health, Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) on behalf of Historic Scotland.

HS has also published this informative guide to windows:

and glass:

timber doors:

That little gem is in Bowness on Solway, snapped January 2006. I hope the plastic salespeople have not yet reached it.

Posted by Picasa


Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Pause for breath (updated)

I had intended to write a little about the English Heritage circular regarding proposed alterations to Part L of the building regs and historic buildings which dropped into many an e-mail inbox yesterday, but as both Confessions of a Conservation Officer and Caius Plinius beat me to it, I therefore commend readers to the eloquence of their blogs (links in the right column) and the comments sections under. The picture above has some connection...


Caltongate on the brink of collapse!


See side column for the blog, and for more details and background.

I will be back, dear readers, later in the day with more.

Update: 10.00 pm: Odd what began this morning as a small rant aginst the horrors of what 'updating' historic buildings can bring ( I think I will leave that until tomorrow) ends with very different news.
An update (see comments from Neighbours in the Woods re the Chilterns Water Mill story

"You might like to check out the channel4 comments page for this episode again. They have deleted the post that referred to his gaudi shopfront, as well as one other that referred to him as a "self-righteous city prig" - which I also personally found a bit unnecessarily vituperative - whatever our feelings might be about the guy. However they have left posts that describe us as "nosey","jealous", "petty", "small-minded", "interfering busy-body" and "spoilers". "

Oooh - censorhsip Channel4? And a glance at the related blog reveals more censorship. Interesting. Hope Caius has not had his post removed, nor NB's which links to Confessions of a Conservation Officer blog (click on the green NB).

I note also that Mountgrange's spin machine is spinning re Caltongate, in Edinburgh's World Heritage Site, back soon with more...

In the meanwhile, do read this:

11pm: here's Mark Cummings spinning like a Whirling Dervish (on TV also, looking v worried):