Our Top 10 Endangered Buildings list highlights at-risk heritage all over the country in the hope of finding new solutions. Please support our fight to protect our precious historic buildings - we're currently offering £10 off our annual membership for the first year if you pay by direct debit. Click here to read more!
Click here to watch Griff Rhys Jones discuss our Top 10 list on BBC Breakfast.
Griff Rhys Jones, Victorian Society President, says: ‘The annual Victorian Society Top 10 lists are both upsetting and enlightening. Look at these fascinating survivors of our history: hospitals and theatres, pumping stations and police stations, insurance offices and glorious pubs... When the Victorians built, they often created lasting adornments to their cities. If they instigated a commercial idea, like a circus theatre in Brighton, they designed it with vim and panache. How does that compare with some of our utilitarian commercial entertainment architecture today? Many of our Victorian gems have a depressing recent story. Often profit takes priority, and buildings are neglected until they have reached a complete state of dereliction. These buildings were built with great skill, and they brighten their urban environment. We know that restoring heritage of this kind adds value to an area. Never has there been a time, with the retail sector dealt another blow and the town centre fading as a business hub, for us to recognise that if we want our city centres to continue to be useful, visited and adored they had better look great. They must reflect their own past achievement and history, and be characterful and interesting. Bradford, Wolverhampton, Brighton and Shepton Mallet need these buildings to be recycled. Cities are competitive - and the better preserved are doing better. We need to see these historic monuments playing their parts again. There are hundreds of examples of imaginative reuse to go to for inspiration. Let’s get on to it, please – the reuse of historic buildings is the sustainable solution to the city centre crisis.’
The 2020 Top 10, in no particular order, are:
Samaritan Hospital for Women - London – Grade II-listed – 1889-90 – W.G. Habershon & J.F. Fawkner
This purpose-built hospital, by W.G. Habershon and J.F. Fawkner,opened in 1889 and was one the country's most important gynaecological hospitals. In 1904 it became the Samaritan Free Hospital for Women, joining the National Health Service in 1948, before closing in 1997. Since then the Imperial College Healthcare Trust’s building has been unused and empty. Today it is rare a sight on Marylebone Road, dilapidated and derelict, with foliage recently removed from the red brick and terracotta. Situated in the Portman Estate conservation area, its prominent position just a few minutes-walk from Marylebone Station makes it ideal for reuse.
Griff said: ‘Why have the owners of this large handsome property in prime central London let it sit empty and deteriorating for 23 years - through some of London’s biggest property booms? This valuable building could lend itself to office, hotel or residential use. Westminster Council must put pressure on the owner to carry out emergency repairs to prevent further harm. Surely someone will want to bring this prime central London listed building back to life.’
Brighton Hippodrome – Brighton – Grade II*-listed – 1901 – Frank Matcham
Brighton Hippodrome, designed by renowned theatre architect Frank Matcham, is the country’s finest surviving example of a circus theatre. The building, originally built by Lewis Karslake in 1897 as an ice rink, was converted into a circus in 1901. It was once a thriving hub of entertainment, today it sits empty and rotting. The most spectacular feature is the circular auditorium with its richly decorated ceiling in the form of a panelled tent. Conversion into a multiplex cinema, requiring partial demolition, was approved, but the proposed operator pulled out in 2015. In 2019 plans for a new hotel, spa and serviced apartments were announced but never materialised. In September 2020, the building was sold to Brighton-based Matsim Properties. The building remains vacant and urgent works are required. These should be urgently undertaken to prevent further deterioration until a viable and sympathetic new use can be found for this impressive building.
Griff said: ‘Brighton is a thriving city with a vibrant culture. If anywhere can support such a unique venue it is Brighton. In Blackpool, the restored winter gardens are being used to revive the towns fortunes. With staycations likely to increase in popularity and Brighton’s easy access to London, surely Matsim Properties can develop a plan which makes sensitive use of this building? What is clear is that losing many more years with nothing happening risks any of the building surviving.’
Former Anglo-Bavarian Brewery – Shepton Mallet, Somerset – Grade II*-listed – 1864 – architect unknown
The imposing former Anglo-Bavarian Brewery, claimed to be the country’s first lager brewery,demonstrates the growth of colossal brewery buildings following the 1830 Beerhouse Act, which liberalised the brewing and sale of beer. The building was converted into a trading estate, but only a small portion of the ground floor is currently used. The rest of the building has been vacant for many years. This grand brewery is in a very poor condition and is on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register. Historic England state that a feasibility study has identified a substantial conservation deficit. Owners J H Haskins & Son Ltd need to take action now to ensure that it does not deteriorate past the point of repair.
Griff said: ‘With a conservation deficit, saving this striking building will be a challenge. I hope heritage loving small businesses will now seek out space at the brewery after seeing it highlighted. The 20th century saw many breweries close but recent years have seen a revival for locally brewed beers. We understand that cider is already processed in a small area of the site, perhaps more local brewers or a group of brewers could return to this landmark building?’
Former Captain Cook Pub – Teesside, Middlesbrough – Grade II-listed – 1893 – Robert Moore
The former Captain Cook Pub has stood boarded up and empty for ten years. The sorry state of the building today is a far cry from when it featured on English comedy-drama Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. The Jacobean style building has vast potential, although plans in 2017 for Python Properties to convert it into a high-end gastro pub fell through. Coving and ceiling roses remain - the building also features the Vaux Breweries blackbird motif. Vaux Brewery was a major brewer based in Sunderland. A plaque on the pub explains that it is named after the famous explorer Captain Cook, who was born in Marton on the outskirts of Middlesbrough.
Griff said: ‘This pub has a huge amount of potential. Once lockdown is over people will be looking for places to meet. In an area with few historic pubs left, a sympathetic restoration of this listed establishment would surely be popular. Let’s hope it is Auf Wiedersehen and not adieu for the Captain Cook.’
Northgate Malt House Building – Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire – Grade II-listed – 1864 – T & W Bradley
Malt houses soaked cereal grain in water to create malt to brew beer. The traditional malt house was largely phased out during the twentieth century by mechanised production. The former Warwick's & Richardson's Brewery malt house was constructed in 1864 using local bricks from the Cafferata company at Beacon Hill with the ironwork supplied by the Trent Ironworks of W.N. Nicholson & Sons. The malt house has been empty and derelict since its closure in 1964. This unique building stands with a forlorn ‘To Let’ sign, but with such strong links to the local history of the area, deserves restoration.
Griff said: ‘This is one of 3 beer related buildings on this year’s Top 10 list, and perhaps the most unusual. It is certainly unusual for a building to be empty for 54 years and still be with us. Today, very few malt houses survive unaltered. A sympathetic conversion should retain this survivor’s historic fabric as far as possible.’
Bracebridge Pumping Station – Worksop, Nottinghamshire – Grade II-listed – 1881 – architect unknown
A Worksop landmark, the former Pumping Station has been abandoned for decades. Although surrounded by an overgrown plot, it is easily accessible by road and is only a mile from Worksop's town centre. In 2018 the auction catalogue noted that the building had had a new roof and planning permission for 23 two bed apartments and one attached house. The condition of the Italian Romanesque style building is rapidly deteriorating and the striking, slender chimney is steadily eroding.
Griff said: ‘Pumping stations are one of the best examples of how today’s approach to architecture tends to differ from the Victorian. Our utilitarian buildings rarely have any thought for their aesthetic design. This unusual building is situated so close to Worksop Town centre, it could be perfect for restoration as a dramatic home.’
Ex-Prudential Assurance Company Offices — Oldham, Greater Manchester — Grade II-listed —1889 – A. Waterhouse & Son
This fine building is one of a series of offices designed by one of the Victorian period’s greatest architects Alfred Waterhouse. Waterhouse’s other buildings include the Natural History Museum and Manchester Town Hall. The Prudential Assurance Company was wildly successful in the second half of the 19th Century and it commissioned offices for many of Britain’s newly wealthy industrial cities. While varied in style, almost all are built in a red brick and terracotta. Many of these prestigious buildings have been sensitively altered and reused, but the example in Oldham remains empty, un-maintained and deteriorating. Yet this hides a stunning lavishly tiled interior designed to impress potential customers – and still effective today. Union Street was transformed in 2014 when a Metrolink tram stop opened right in front of the Prudential. Yet the deplorable state of this landmark building is extremely uninviting. A sensitive conservation-led regeneration scheme is long overdue.
Griff said: ‘Oldham is a town with a rich heritage and huge potential for regeneration, potential which the Council has really begun to engage with. The ‘Pru’ is such a prominent building that a scheme to return it to use could kick-start heritage-based regeneration in Oldham Town Centre. We strongly urge the local authority to put pressure on the owner to pursue a scheme of reuse, and if necessary to consider enforcement action or compulsory purchase.’
Former Bavaria Place Police Station – Bradford – Grade II-listed – 1877 – Milnes & France
This dramatic gothic towered former Police station on a corner plot in Bradford is in dire need of saving. Built in 1877 by Milnes and France architects, the building is surprisingly ornate for a relatively small building. Milnes & France was one of the largest firms in Bradford and built key buildings like the Bradford District Bank building (1873) and the exquisitely detailed Bradford Old Bank (1885). The building has been empty for many years, and is in need of restoration. In 2003 the council served an Urgent Works Notice and the building was made secure and weathertight - but further repairs are now long overdue.
Griff said: ‘Bradford is well known for its wonderful Victorian buildings, it perhaps has so many wonderful examples that it lets them slip away too easily. As Bradford regenerates, it should do all it can to save the buildings by its key local architects, those who made it a great city. It is irreplaceable historic buildings such as this police station which will attract investment to Bradford, the city’s heritage must be protected.’
Darlington Street Methodist Church – Wolverhampton – Grade II*-listed – 1900-01 – Arthur Marshall
This impressive Baroque style church in Wolverhampton City Centre Conservation Area is a significant local landmark with its copper dome and twin west towers. The interior has vaulted ceilings with richly ornamented plasterwork, as well as original gallery seating. It also features an organ by Nicholson & Co of Worcester. Worship ended in 2019 followed by other functions in the large basement and adjacent halls and schoolrooms, leaving the building vacant. Security is a serious concern – there was a fire in the halls in 2014. The condition is poor and deteriorating with leaking roofs, failing rainwater goods, signs of dry rot and in places structural cracking. This irreplaceable building faces a bleak future as efforts to find a purchaser have failed.
Griff said: ‘To have such a wonderful building in such a state in the centre of Wolverhampton sends out a terrible message. Too often this leads to accusations of buildings becoming an eyesore. Surely a community can be found for this stunning building that has long served the people of Wolverhampton? The council should take enforcement action to prevent further deterioration.’
Plas Alltran – Holyhead, Wales – Grade II-listed – c.1890 – Arthur Baker
Plan Alltran’s picturesque style is said to be modelled on Plas Mawr, a fine Elizabethan town house in Conwy, which survives to this day. Built as Holyhead’s first purpose built Doctor’s surgery, Plas Alltran had a variety of uses from the early 1900s; rented housing, classrooms for a girls’ training institute, district nurse accommodation and boarding house, but has been disused since the early 1970s. Situated next to Holyhead Port, the building is empty and crumbling. The owner, based in South Korea, has no known plans for it. Funding is desperately needed to give this unusual building a sustainable future. The small local authority is struggling to fund even the necessary urgent works to prevent further deterioration.
Griff said: ‘The sad case of this building raises the question, why buy a building on the other side of the world and then not do anything with it? This building is of great historic importance to Holyhead, and now desperately needs its owner to do the right thing and put it on the market. Plas Alltran’s rich history shows that it is a versatile building. We hope that inclusion on our list will help to secure the funding to save this fantastic building.’