Hospital and circus theatre among 'most at-risk' listed buildings

Charity calls for Victorian and Edwardian ‘survivors of history’ in England and Wales to be saved

A long-forgotten London hospital, an imposing former brewery and a circus theatre, described as “fascinating survivors of history”, are among the top 10 most at-risk Victorian and Edwardian listed buildings, according to a charity.

The purpose-built hospital opened in 1889 was once one of the country’s most important gynaecological hospitals. It became the Samaritan Free Hospital for Women in 1904, joined the NHS in 1948 and closed in 1997.

The Grade-II listed building on Marylebone Road, west London, is now dilapidated and derelict, with foliage recently removed from its handsome red brick and terracotta exterior.

The Victorian Society, which has released its annual list of buildings of special architectural and historic interest, said the hospital’s prominent location cried out for it to be restored and repurposed as offices, a hotel or flats.

Brighton Hippodrome, designed in 1901 and the finest surviving example of a circus theatre, is also sitting “empty and rotting”. Its spectacular circular auditorium, with richly decorated ceiling in the form of a panelled tent, once drew attracted huge crowds. Recent plans for it to become a multiplex cinema, then a hotel, spa and apartments, have failed to come to fruition. It remains vacant and in need of urgent work.

Brighton Hippodrome is the finest surviving example of a circus theatre but is in need or urgent work.
Brighton Hippodrome is the finest surviving example of a circus theatre but is in need or urgent work. Photograph: Theatres Trust

Another striking example highlighted is a former Anglo-Bavarian brewery in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, said to have been the country’s first lager brewery after the 1830 Beerhouse Act liberalised the brewing and sale of beer. Part of the site was converted into a trading estate but the rest has lain vacant for many years and is in poor condition.

Anglo-Bavarian Brewery
The former Anglo-Bavarian Brewery in Shepton Mallet. Photograph: Victorian Society

The former Captain Cook pub in Middlesbrough, built in 1893 and named because the famous explorer was allegedly born on the outskirts of the town, has stood boarded up for 10 years. The charity said the Jacobean-style pub was in a “sorry state” and a far cry from when it featured in the hit comedy-drama Auf Wiedersehen,Pet.

Darlington Street Methodist church in Wolverhampton
Darlington Street Methodist church in Wolverhampton. Photograph: Ian Tatlock/Victorian Society

The list also includes the dramatic, gothic former Bavaria Place police station in Bradford, the Baroque-style Darlington Street Methodist church in Wolverhampton, Plas Alltran doctor’s surgery in Holyhead, Northgate Malt House building in Newark-on-Trent, Bracebridge pumping station in Worksop, and the ex-Prudential Assurance company offices in Oldham.

The society’s president, Griff Rhys Jones, said the list was “upsetting and enlightening”. “Look at these fascinating survivors of history: hospitals and theatres, pumping stations and police stations, insurance offices and glorious pubs,” he said.

Although the Victorians designed with “vim and panache”, he said, many Victorian gems had a “depressing recent story”. “Often profit takes priority, and buildings are neglected until they have reached a complete state of dereliction.”

Plas Alltran doctor’s surgery in Holyhead
Plas Alltran doctor’s surgery in Holyhead. Photograph: Victorian Society

Calling for such historic monuments to be preserved, restored and repurposed, especially during these times when town and city centres are fading, Rhys Jones said: “These buildings were built with great skill, and they brighten their urban environment.”

Joe O’Donnell, the Victorian Society’s director, said: “Owners should put them on the market at a realistic price. Finding new uses for these wonderful Victorian and Edwardian buildings is important not just because of their architectural merit, but also to keep a sense of place and local identity. Looking after the buildings we already have, rather than wastefully knocking them down, should be central to a green recovery from Covid-19.”


Caroline Davies

The GuardianTramp

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