New Penny: update

25 10 2009

A year or two back I wrote a piece called Doomed: The New Penny. This is an update on the site’s redevelopment.

BEFORE: Georgian pub building, not looking its best here with its sash windows boarded up, but whose original walled courtyard retained a beautifully preserved stable block and hayloft within a mature orchard garden.

AFTER: Plastic-clad toytown flat-pack junk architecture with tight-arse Lego windows and nauseously disjointed elevations, completely out of kilter with the early Victorian terrace it adjoins.

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Why?

WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY?!?


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Dereliction: Tripura House

20 02 2008

This, unfortunately, is how Cheltenham’s historic buildings are so often treated.

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Photos taken January 2004

The former Tripura House Indian restaurant in Winchcombe Street has been derelict for a number of years. The restaurant closed some time ago, although it still has its tiled frontage, and the residential area above it is also abandoned.

Until the government takes action to curb the practice of “land-banking”, it’s all too profitable for investors to hang on to empty properties like this while the land accumulates in value. By leaving the buildings in an appalling state of neglect, their condition becomes uninhabitable and it gets easier to get permission to demolish them.

This once magnificent Regency townhouse is in Cheltenham’s conservation area, so permission to redevelop is not a quick and easy process. Fronted with Cotswold stone ashlar, the house is part of a terrace which dates back to the early 1820s. This is not a run-down area … it’s a prime town centre location, so when the house eventually becomes dangerously dilapidated and beyond repair someone will make a huge fat stinky packet replacing it with newbuild flats.

What is the point of having a conservation area when our heritage is squandered like this? With the housing crisis gathering pace, not to mention the sheer affrontery of treating a beautiful building with such contempt and subjecting the people of Cheltenham to the miserable sight of its rotting hulk, the insidious practice of land-banking should be taxed into oblivion and its perpetrators whipped through the streets and pelted with rotting cabbages.

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Doomed: The New Penny

9 02 2008

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Photos taken February 2008

It may not look very much, a scruffy old building awaiting demolition. But this is actually a very lovely old traditional pub which has stood on the corner of Gloucester Road and Millbrook Street since at least the early part of the 19th century. Underneath the boards and metal screens it still has its beautiful original mullioned windows. Inside there are many more original features.

Originally the New Inn, in its last incarnation the pub was known as the New Penny, named in 1970 to commemorate the switch to decimal currency. It wasn’t one of Cheltenham’s finest … it was noisy on Saturday nights and may have had one or two drug issues. But the building was full of character and still had an unspoiled rear yard and a mature walled garden with very old fruit trees. It’s been derelict since the middle of 2005 when the pub ceased trading and has since been allowed to fall into increasingly poor condition.

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The demolition proposal was submitted by Evans Jones Planning on behalf of RS Developments of Gloucester, whose intention is to build two blocks of flats on the site. As if Gloucester Road needs any more cram-’em-in hamster-cage flats. There’s some jolly marketing bilge on their website about the much needed “investment of capital” to “improve” the area, but no mention of where the occupants of 14 flats are going to park their cars at this already congested crossroads, or why it’s necessary to demolish a 200-year-old building, other than for the whiffy stink of cash.

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Gloucester Road has had a bad time with ugly redevelopment over the last five years. Maybe the town planners think that as the area has already been spoiled it doesn’t matter what else they slap up. Or maybe they’ve never bothered to visit the place and haven’t seen the fruits of their rubberstamping. The redevelopment of the Calcutta Inn site (just a few hundred yards from the New Penny) is an atrocious example of ugly, disproportionate planning. After demolishing the landmark curved Regency corner building with chequered bricks which had been a post office for many years before it was a pub, a grotesquely oversized white slab of modern concrete was rammed in against the end of the Victorian terrace, crammed with miniscule “luxury apartments” with tiny prison-like windows, rudely barging against a pair of cottages on its east side. An eyesore for the whole length of Gloucester Road due to its huge size and sore thumb design, it’s known locally as the Communist Block because it looks like it came from behind the Iron Curtain.

Just the other side of the New Penny, another landmark building, the former Gloucester Road school, was also lost to developers in 2003 despite a vigorous campaign to save it. At least in that instance they made an effort to replace it with housing which was in proportion to the site, but the loss of the original building (which was used as a Red Cross hospital in WW1, treating wounded soldiers straight from the front line) is in itself a blight on the area.

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A curlicue shadow cast by the iron bracket which formerly held the pub’s sign. Underneath the boards are the original square-paned mullions.

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Ceramic plaque built into the front wall of the pub to indicate that it served real ales from Cheltenham’s local brewery. West Country Ales was an amalgamation of the Stroud Brewery with the Cheltenham Brewery. Will this historic item of street furniture be saved?

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Old iron bracket supporting the brickwork on the back wall of one of the outbuildings. The bricks were hand made in those days, hence all the variations in colour.

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Round the back, photographed from Old Millbrook Terrace. Demolition work has already begun with the destruction of the original 1800s brick wall which formed the walled garden. A temporary mesh fence takes its place.

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The view through the mesh. This is the back of the pub with its courtyard and outbuildings. The upper storey of the larger one was originally a hayloft, and the smaller building may have been a stable.

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Wreckage of the walled garden. The wall is spread across the ground as hardcore. Only one of the gnarled old fruit trees is still standing. Gloucestershire was once a major apple growing area, but the loss of individual old trees like this have left many of the county’s native varieties at the point of extinction. I don’t suppose anybody knows whether this one is an endangered variety or not.

The New Penny could so easily have been renovated and cared for. Those who took the decision to destroy this characterful nugget of Cheltenham’s heritage should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.