Thursday, 29 April 2010

Don't destroy the Madelvic factory!

                                      The Madelvic electric car

UPDATE May 7th

Short article (slightly garbled) in Building Design:

Fraser slams Maldevic (sic) demolition

6 May, 2010

By David Rogers

Architect Malcolm Fraser has spoken out against plans by Edinburgh Council to demolish the listed Maldevic electric car factory in the Granton area of the city to make way for new houses.

                                                                     Malcolm Fraser

Council-owned developer EDI has (had?) linked up with the Burrell Company to convert the factory, which opened in 1898, into apartments and commercial space. The developers will retain its office block but demolish the main factory building.

Fraser said it should not be demolished and added: “Is it the case that, in a recession, any listed building can be sent for landfill?”

 Read more:

UPDATE 30th April

Madelvic in the Guardian, excellent piece by Tom Allan

 A request has been made (by me) to have the factory placed on the Scottish Buildings at Risk Register:

(Also of course there is the sad loss of most of the historic interest of this piece of motoring heritage in Glasgow. )

It's a worry, is Scotland, and failure to really protect listed buildings.  Cynical of me I know, but it does seem that it's so easy to override national policy...

Original post

The Madelvic Factory production block at Granton, Edinburgh, is under threat of demolition.  This is the oldest remaining purpose-built car factory in the UK; it may be the oldest in Europe. It dates from c1898. Alongside the small office block (not currently under direct threat) this is an important piece of historic industrial architecture.

Listed building description:

Requests for the permission to demolish by City of Edinburgh Council to be called in by the Scottish Government (Historic Scotland objected to the demolition, the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland and SAVE Britain's Heritage all sought a call-in, arguing that not all avenues for retention and re-use have been explored and it is believed that  national policy has not been fully followed or taken into account) have been refused. This is a worrying situation, and this really should have been fully explored at an inquiry.

Urban Realm has taken up the story, and published yesterday and today two articles, one with the background, the other multi-award-winning Edinburgh architect Malcolm Fraser making a passionate plea for retention and re-use, if not with the scheme his practice has already designed then for another scheme.

I agree; landfill should not be an option, and the building should be properly mothballed and secured until such time as the market picks up again and viabilty of a re-use scheme can be looked at further.

Listed buildings should not be so lightly disposed of. Sadly, Edinburgh Council seems to see them not as an asset but a nuisance which get in the way of development.

And so our shared history and national heritage is wiped out, historic landmarks razed, because it's more convenient than imaginative re-use, and of course the profit motive is more important to some than those wider issues. No it's not a 'pretty' building, that's not always the point;  it is certainly of historic importance.

Urban Realm reports:

and as Malcolm Fraser says:

“But the buildings are not dropped yet! And if there is any specialist developer out there who is interested, come and see me, and we can approach the site’s owner together.”

The Granton History Group has an excellent website detailing the interesting history of the Madelvic car and factory:

 Secret Scotland:


Tuesday, 20 April 2010

St John & St James: more Liverpool at Risk

UPDATE May 7th

The church has, sadly, now been demolished; see SAVE link for pictures:

More Pathfinder madness as landmark Liverpool church is flattened.

Liverpool has just lost another important landmark building. St John and St James, a finely detailed and pleasingly quirky Edwardian church by James Francis Doyle, was demolished at the end of April, the victim of a deal struck between the Diocese of Liverpool and a property developer. The site, which is part of a Pathfinder 'regeneration' area, is to be developed as 16 dwellings.

The furnishings and fittings of the church were stripped out in advance of a listing inspection with many items sold at auction. The church, distinguished by its octagonal bell tower and good Gothic detailing, was a building of real quality in an area which has all but lost its identity and community. Even the leader of Liverpool Council recently conceded that the Pathfinder clearances had 'ripped the heart out of local communities'. Yet, his penitential words have come too late to prevent the tragic loss of St John and St James.

Further information can be seen on this dedicated website:

Save Bootle's Heritage; St John and St James Church

Original post:

I have been asked to give this campaign some publicity. So here it is.

A website and Facebook campaign have been set up in a last ditch attempt to save an historic Bootle church from demolition. (warning - the site has music, so if that's a problem, press the mute button)
Pictures, Youtube videos and a great deal of further history on the website.

The Church of St John and St James in Monfa Road, Orrell, was dedicated to two brothers, Sir John and Mr James Wilcox, who were proprietors and editors of the Daily Post and Echo.

Built in 1910 to the designs of Liverpool architect James Francis Doyle, the church also has a link to the famous Liver Buildings, whose designer was a pupil of Doyle. He worked with the celebrated Richard Norman Shaw on the White Star Line HQ on James Street, where news of the Titanic's sinking was first announced to a shocked world, and built the gold-domed Royal Insurance building on North John Street. 

Now the building has been stripped of its features and is facing the bulldozers, with planning permission granted by Sefton Council for 16 houses.

Conservation experts have criticised church authorities for abandoning heritage buildings to pursue land sell offs, and questioned English Heritage's decision not to grant emergency listing status by suggesting the Liverpool designer is 'not of national interest'.

Planning specialist Jonathan Brown from Merseyside Civic Society said:

"This church was the work of a man associated with some of Liverpool's finest mercantile buildings, and dedicated to the owner and editors of our great city newspapers, the Post and Echo. If English Heritage accept James Doyle is 'regionally important', from what is after all  World city, why isn't that of 'national interest', the criteria for listing? Would the same be true if the connection was with famous buildings and newspapers in London? Of course not - these are simply double-standards. It's one rule for Bootle and another for Bromley."

The website's designer Jonathan Wild, whose partner lived in the adjacent Klondyke terraced streets until recently moved out under the New Heartlands (Pathfinder) demolition scheme said:

"This is another case of a church losing its congregation to  a misguided clearance programme while the Diocese washes its hands of the building. As with the listed St. Cyprian's on Edge Lane and St.John's in Fairfield, church authorities have stood by while so called regeneration evicts families, draining community facilities of their life-blood. The result is loss of character and civic pride."

National campaign group SAVE Britain's Heritage have also expressed their alarm at the state of some churches in Liverpool's clearance areas. Secretary Will Palin said:

Bishop James Jones's chairmanship of the Stop the Rot campaign has given real focus to the city's historic environment, so it is very disappointing to see his Diocese still overseeing church closures that lead to demolition of well-loved local landmarks like this, and failing to speak out over the wasteful return to sixties style housing clearance."

For further information, contact SAVE

Merseyside Civic Society has an excellent website:

The campaign:

Forum discussion:

As regular readers of this blog will know, SAVE has been concerned about destruction in Liverpool for many years. Last year it staged an acclaimed exhibition to highlight the neglect and destruction.

The review from the Indie is below.  This picture is of a small section of the exhibition at the milkand sugar gallery, Liverpool RIBA (click to enlarge):

The book which accompanied the exhibition is still available from SAVE:

Triumph, Disaster and Decay: The SAVE survey of Liverpool's Heritage

as is the SAVE Pathfinder report, which also features Liverpool, and which has of course been highlighted in this blog a number of times, especially with the campaign to save her home from the bulldozers by Elizabeth Pascoe.

see Publications

A comprehensive Flickr set, Lost Liverpool:


Triumph, Disaster and Decay, milkandsugar, Liverpool

Reviewed by Anthony Quinn

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

No city, with the possible exception of Jericho, has suffered such a dramatic collapse as Liverpool. Within 100 years, it has gone from being one of the wealthiest in the world to one of the poorest in Europe. The Second World War, the decline of its port trade and the rise of containerisation all figured in its economic perdition, to say nothing of its wildcat politicians and other wilful saboteurs – even in 1935, the Communist Party were calling the place “an organiser’s graveyard”.

Yet 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 reparable. 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.

Liverpool Customs House, demolished post-war a 'job creation' scheme

Laid out in two sections – the first an account of lost Liverpool, the second a report on those buildings under threat – its cumulative effect is at once heartbreaking and deeply shaming. That whole swaths of late-Georgian and early Victorian terraced houses still survived in suburbs such as Toxteth and Everton into the 1960s is almost as startling as the mass clearances that would soon condemn them. The city’s population crashed by half in the next 30 years. Jonathan Brown, in his catalogue essay “Liverpool Betrayed”, interestingly argues that the accepted history – people left because the docks closed – got it the wrong way round. The economy stalled because working people were cast out and marooned in distant housing estates.

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.

The Old Sailors' Home

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.
(Alas, a battle now lost 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.

Why does it matter? Because when you obliterate familiar buildings and street patterns, you cut people off from a sense of belonging. The writer Iain Sinclair recently described landscape as a “refracted autobiography”. If we keep losing that landscape, we lose our sense of self. It’s a bitter lesson that Liverpool, even after the infamy it has endured, still seems reluctant to learn.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Castlemilk Stables - another win...

News hot off Twitter... Castlemilk Stables, Architect: Tom Connolly of Elder and Cannon (and David Hamilton* for the original building)  is the winner of the inaugural Scottish Civic Trust 'My Place' Awards:

Gallery of all entrants, with pics; congratulations to all, for although there could only be one overall winner, the projects nominated by local communities are all superb. It is particularly heartwarming to note how many historic buildings are treasured and, no matter how poor a condition into which they are allowed to deteriorate (and see my previous post for a little history of another worthy contender, Edinburgh's Infirmary Street Baths, Dovecot Studios/ Malcolm Fraser Architects, which I gather came 2nd with a High Commendation
there is hope, and a will to succeed. So much of the rescue of historic buildings is based on philanthropy and untold hours of time by volunteers, campaigning, fundraising. At times the odds seem so stacked against you, but there are exemplar projects on the list which bring pride to local communities, and show both the standard which can be achieved of repair/restoration/re-use and the excellence of many architectural practices working in Scotland.

Castlemilk Stables: gallery

The Scottish Civic Trust's My Place Awards is a unique new award scheme supported by the Scottish Government, that celebrates good local design and conservation as judged by local people. A panel of four industry experts are presently judging projects as diverse as a restored suspension bridge in Aberdeen and a regenerated public baths in Edinburgh. Entries have been received from across the country; from Arran in the West, throughout the Central Belt including Glasgow, Bo'ness and Edinburgh, to Banff in the North -East. There's plenty of diversity and many skills are on display.

In this, its first year, a Scottish Civic Trust My Place Award will be presented to the project that contributes most positively to local place-making. Chairing the judging panel, Angus Kerr, architect and trustee of the Scottish Civic Trust, said "that the panel's aim is to celebrate a project that has had a positive impact and offered additional benefits in a local community." He is joined by fellow trustee Alistair Scott, director of architects Smith Scott Mullan Associates, Petra Biberbach, Chief Executive, Planning Aid for Scotland and Donnie Munro, who trained in fine art and, after huge success as Runrig's lead singer in the 80s and early 90s, is now Director of Development at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic college in Sleat, Skye. The judges are looking for creativity, imagination, originality and innovation.

The Scottish Civic Trust's My Place Award 2010 will be presented at a ceremony in The Lighthouse, Glasgow on Monday 19 April 2010.

As the Supporting Statement has it:

The building is a Georgian Stable Block and the only surviving remnant of a historic country estate. It was first built around 1750 and provided a magnificent landmark situated on high ground with an impressive octagonal tower topped with a dome. It is Category B-Listed, a fine example of its kind and unique in the area. The original Castlemilk House of the estate was demolished in the 1960s. Although the Stable Block survived, by 1994 it was empty and had become damaged by fire and was a building at risk.

The people of Castlemilk Housing Estate, mounted a 10 year long campaign to save the building and give it a sustainable re-use. A feasibility study identified the local housing association as an end user that would use the principal space as offices and lettable office accommodation which would in turn provide income for community uses and maintenance of the building. To be viable we needed to increase the usable floor area whilst avoiding compromising the architectural integrity of the building. Our organisation purchased the building, assembled the design team and raised the funding with our partners (in excess of £4m from a total of 26 agencies and charitable organisations), then oversaw the specialist work in terms of the careful repair and restoration of the listed fabric and the delivery of the re-use of this local landmark.


Completed in July 2007 and handed over to the community this project is situated in an area of multiple deprivation on the periphery of Glasgow. The vision came from the community who were intent on saving a derelict 18th century Stable Block in the heart of their area; this is a community inspired project. Our organisation Glasgow Building Preservation Trust (GBPT), a charitable trust, entered into partnership with Cassiltoun Housing Association, to meet the aspirations of the community to restore the building and retain it for community ownership with a long term sustainable use.

Architect: Elder and Cannon, Tom Connolly

Building User's View

The conservation led restoration, started in 2005 and completed in July 2007, was placed in the hands of Elder and Cannon, the Glasgow-based award winning architects. They worked to find a way of restoring the historic fabric of the Category B Listed building and at the same time give it the new floor area required for a viable social enterprise. The answer has been to sensitively conserve and repair the external elevations very much as they were, and add a simple glass and steel cloister and inner foyer which allow the original fabric to be viewed whilst enabling the creation of a modern multi-use space.

The main contractor for this project was Chard Construction who are increasingly involved in working on historic buildings and building up a strength of specialist expertise. This complex restoration project required traditionally skilled stone masons, lead workers and slaters with specialist skills and knowledge in working with traditional materials. GBPT’s strict conservation philosophy was applied throughout the project. GBPT aspires to best practice in architectural conservation, informed by the principals embodied the conservation policies and practises formulated by the International Council on Monuments and Sites, in particular the Venice and Burra Charters. Articles 1 and 5 of the Venice Charter in particular relate to fundamental objectives of GBPT in terms of providing, where possible, a socially useful purpose to ensure long-term sustainability of the building and its place and wider urban setting.

“After a hard day travelling round Scotland, looking at a whole series of fine buildings, on entering the restored stables block, the immediate impression was - this is a totally different order of building, controlled, superbly spatially manipulated, poetic, it’s architecture of the highest order.

The fine Georgian building renovated to provide a historical sense of place for the surrounding community, melded with stunning contemporary construction providing a social focus for local organisations and a lively day nursery, all built round a wonderfully peaceful courtyard which encourages a host of temporary local functions.”

Professor Andrew MacMillan

Building Owner's View:

Since the completion of the rescue and restoration of this beautiful community building it has become the centre of local activity. It represents our community’s sense of place and captures our civic pride in what the community has achieved. Attracting now thousands of visitors, it has given us confidence and the aspiration to do more ”

Charlie Millar of Cassiltoun Trust
The Castlemilk Fireplace.This fireplace was created in 1794. It depicts the Battle Of Orleans- 1429, where two Stuart brothers perished. It stands 15ft high and was rescued during the demolition of Castlemilk House in 1969. It was returned to Castlemilk in the early 2000's were it was housed in the CEDA building. It now has pride of place in the recently refurbished Castlemilk Stables.

That adds to a number of other awards, including the RIAS Best Building in Scotland Andrew Doolan Award 2008:

Judges' Citation: This late eighteenth century stable block, whose original architect has recently been confirmed as David Hamilton, survived demolition in the 1970’s because it was serving as a store for workmen’s tools, by the 1990’s it lay in a ruinious condition, its roofscape virtually completely collapsed.

The intervention of the local community, in particular Cassiltoun Housing Association working alongside Glasgow Building Preservation Trust, determined that this last great building of historic Castlemilk must survive. However, its restoration to the skillful designs of Elder and Cannon has not been about preserving the building in aspic as a museum piece but about creating a lively community focus, with offices for the housing association, other local organisations and a pre-fives nursery.

This project has been a catalyst to other positive development in the area and has already become a cultural and leisure hub. The stable block’s sustainable energy programme has also received significant praise. This is a building infused with a real feeling of joy.

For more information about Elder & Cannon Architects please visit:

and the Georgian Group 'Best Re-use of a Georgian Building' award  2007

The stables are 1750, the only surviving remnant of Castlemilk House. They were empty by 1994, fire-damaged and at risk. All things considered, the prospects for survival were seriously bleak. This is a comparatively deprived part of Glasgow with more than its fair share of social and other problems. But there is a strong community spirit, carefully fostered, and that in the end saved the building. After a ten-year local campaign to preserve it and find it a new use, it is now a beacon at the centre of a housing estate and serves as a home for various community facilities.

For much of the day it is now alive with clearly very happy nursery school children. There are small touches that demonstrate attention to detail. We were impressed that the rough stone of the stables was left uncovered on the walls of the nursery corridors, so that young children could feel its texture. The internal spaces and the beautifully restored stable courtyard are commendably free of clutter.

This has been a victory against significant odds. Local attachment to the historic stables shines through. Notably, the building has suffered no vandalism or graffiti since it was restored. The civilising power of fine buildings kept in good order is evident here as elsewhere.

Further information and thumbnail pictures here (click to enlarge):

Doors Open Day information:

A great deal more information and many pictures here, the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust's own website:

Conservation, adaptation  and re-use - it makes sense!

*David Hamilton:

"....The painting of Hamilton by Saxon shows a rather dandified young man, but the later one by Macnee is of a friendly old man with a mischievous grin. It is this kindly, humorous, fatherly figure that his apprentices remembered, treated, as they were, as part of the family in the old-fashioned, office-house. This was the training ground for many of Glasgow's Victorian architects - Charles Wilson and J. T. Rochead are names that spring immediately to mind; and it was Hamilton's example that enabled them and their colleagues to maintain such a high standard. He died on December 5th 1843, the most loved and revered of all Glasgow's architects. From his stature and influence, David Hamilton can fairly be called the father of Glasgow architecture."  "

A collection of the surviving drawings of David Hamilton is held at the Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow University


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