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.

newpennysite09

Why?

WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY?!?


Advertisements




Lower Mill Street

25 10 2008


Photos taken February 2008

At one time a through-road, but now bricked up and closed off at its north end, Lower Mill Street is a narrow L-shaped lane which links Gloucester Road (opposite the Honeybourne Way junction) with Tewkesbury Road, taking in a 90 degree bend along the way. It’s a low-lying area and prone to flooding. It’s also suffered a bewildering flurry of name changes. Largely free of buildings, apart from the tall brick walls of the gas works which mostly survive, its one solitary surviving Victorian house stands in the upper section of the street as part of the premises of a scrapyard. It is they who proclaim themselves OPEN in the above pic. The lower leg of the street is now regarded as part of neighbouring Arle Avenue.

lowermillstreet1

At the Gloucester Road end, the uninhabited and largely untrafficked roadway runs alongside the wooded banks of the River Chelt in what was, until 2006, one of Cheltenham’s pockets of unspoiled character where you could stand and listen to the rushing of the water under the canopy of trees and really get a sense for what the town was like 200 years ago. This tiny unassuming street is older than most of the town. It’s been tentatively identified as “Green Street” mentioned in 1733, and maybe in 1605 as le greene Laine. The new flood defence works (seen above at top left) which were probably necessary, resulted in this area getting a very ugly municipal make-over, which wasn’t. The scruffy old bollarded road bridge, although unglamorous and floodprone, had more character than the urine-stained brick, concrete and mass-produced railings which replaced it (and which still flooded during the inundations of 2007). Much much worse, the flood defence works involved the demolition of Alstone Lower Mill from which Lower Mill Street gets its name.

The mill stood on the river bank at the bottom of Arle Avenue (originally called Six Chimney Lane). I’m not sure how long ago the first mill was installed, or whether the recently demolished one was the only one. It was Victorian and doesn’t appear on the 1806 map.

 

1806 map (orientation is weird – south west at the top)

Don’t be confused by the odd orientation of the 1806 map. The road marked “to Gloucester” in the lower right corner is not Gloucester Road, it’s present day Tewkesbury Road. That was the main way to Gloucester at the time because there was no Gloucester Road! So Lower Mill Street is the solitary road you see here linking with the hamlet of Alston across the fields. Present day Gloucester Road runs parallel to this road. In 1818 the green fields became the town gas works and the area was soon named Gas Green.

The upper part of the street was called Coach Road during the 19th century and was packed with labourers’ cottages. It gets a special mention in the 1841 census, where the enumerator reported that much of the population was displaced, particularly “Labourers employed in excavating railways &c. who have removed in consequence of no employment.” Estimating the absent men to number about a hundred, he added “The calculation is made with reference to that part of the Enumerator’s district known as the ‘Coach road Gas Green’.” He also noted that 14 males and 6 females from the neighbourhood were known to have emigrated in the past 6 months.

By the 1850s Coach Road had been renamed Gas Lane. And then somewhere along the line it became Lower Mill Street. Most of the housing disappeared when the gas works expanded.

 

1921 map (orientation normal, north is up)

The 1921 map shows a few houses left amid the industrial stuff which sprung up in the 19th century, the most obvious being the gas works with its three large round gasometers. The lower one still survives today, converted into a sportswear shop, of all things. Lower Mill Street was by that time intersected by railway tracks which connected the gas works with the Bristol to Birmingham main line.

The photo above shows the Chelt running alongside Lower Mill Street, looking back towards Gloucester Road, where an old brick bridge carries the river under the road. Dumping of litter on the banks has always been a problem here (photo is discreetly cropped).





Doomed: The New Penny

9 02 2008

pennypub8.jpg

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.

pennypub1.jpg

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.

pennypub2.jpg

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.

pennypub3.jpg

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

westcountryales.jpg

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?

pennypub4.jpg

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.

pennypub7.jpg

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.

pennypub6.jpg

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.

pennypub5.jpg

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.