Sensitive plans urgently needed for Preston's former orphanage for destitute girls and later convalescent home
Mount Street Hospital, Preston, Lancashire (Grade II, 1872, RW Hughes)
National architectural charity, the Victorian Society, has included three Lancashire & Greater Manchester buildings on its 2016 list of the Top Ten Endangered in England and Wales. For the first time there are no buildings in London and the South East on the list - where the Society had comparatively few nominations. The Society considers that the greater number of buildings nominated from elsewhere may reflect the more difficult development situation outside the South East. Griff Rhys Jones, Victorian Society Vice President, has urged people living near the buildings on the list to ‘seize the opportunity' and campaign to save them.
The High Victorian Gothic building was built as an orphanage for Preston's destitute girls. The orphanage closed in 1954 and later became a convalescent home, but has now been empty for over a decade.
We called for an Urgent Works Notice in 2009 to keep this important building weather tight and secured against vandalism or arson. Yet the building continues to be a favourite of ‘urban explorers' with teenagersrecently seen hanging out of top floor windows. Preston City Council is said to be drawing up residential conversion proposals for the site with the owner. However, the buildings cannot afford further delay - sensitive plans urgently need to be put into action before the building is lost. Pictures are here and online video footage is here.
The national exposure from inclusion in the Society's Top Ten often leads to new interest in the buildings which can help save them. Full details of all the buildings in the 2016 Top Ten, and updates on positive developments for last year's buildings, can be found here.
Victorian Society Director, Christopher Costelloe, said: ‘Lancashire and the north west has more buildings on our Top Ten than anywhere else in the country. But for the first time we have no entries for London or the South East. We simply got far more nominations from areas like Lancashire. This perhaps reflects the vastly different financial climate for development. But whatever the reason, I hope inclusion in the Top Ten will spur local authorities and owners to urgently find a way to bring these buildings back into use. At a time when there has been much discussion of creating a northern power house this is more important than ever. Retaining historic buildings like those in the Top Ten is vital to maintaining local identity and creating places in which people want to invest, live and work.'
Griff Rhys Jones, Victorian Society Vice President, said: ‘The nationally important buildings on the Victorian Society's Top Ten list are in dire need of help. Many of them are in prominent locations in their towns and cities. Following my experience with the Hackney Empire I know how difficult finding funding can be - especially outside London. However, restoring important historic buildings is worth investing in as it can be a catalyst for wider regeneration. I hope people living near these buildings will seize this opportunity and campaign to save them. Ultimately, it is the support of local people which will ensure that they are not lost forever.'