Tag Archives: Restoration

Restoration Man – Cedric Mitchell on the implications of being the owner of a Historic Listed Building

The Pallants are an ancient area in Chichester. Originally known as the Palatine (of the palace) these four streets belonged to the Archbishop of Canterbury and this situation persisted until the nineteenth century.

The Four Pallant Streets

In medieval times it was an area of commerce with many malt houses and other merchant properties. In 1724 Daniel Defoe wrote that Chichester was “not a place of much trade, nor is it very populous”, having a population of just 400 souls. The eighteenth century though was a time of expansion and much of the town was re-built in brick giving birth to a flourishing brick industry. In this century many of the houses in the Pallants became “gentrified”, some being completely re-built and others leaving a timber structural frame to be clad in brick according to the Georgian fashion.

The view presented today is that of a fine Georgian street but this hides the much earlier beginnings of the streets. In particular 9 West Pallant, sporting a handsome Georgian façade dates back to the early Tudor period and internally there is much to remind one of this. After the last war many of these wonderful buildings were listed Grade II to ensure that they are preserved. In recent years there has been a tendency for the commercial occupiers to move from the area and this has led to many houses reverting to residential use.

Today most of the houses are in residential use and they certainly make elegant homes which are a delight to the eye. However, with elegance comes responsibility. In effect the owner of a listed building becomes a caretaker of the heritage. Unlike many ordinary properties where the building might be extended without planning permission under the Permitted Development rules if you are the proud owner of a listed building the size of the planning dossier can become quite daunting. For almost every alteration no matter how small and application for Listed Building consent is required which includes a Heritage statement and a Design and Access statement. In addition you may well also need planning consent. The Pallants are of course within a conservation area, so account is taken of the effect of any alterations on the surrounding area. So plenty of pitfalls and professional advice is seriously recommended.

By way of illustration I give by way of example a project in West Wales with which I have been involved and which was recently the subject of a Restoration Man programme on Channel 4. This particular project was unusual in that it involved both a listed building and a scheduled ancient monument. Another fly in the ointment of this project was that over the thirty or so years it took to complete the project legislation changed and rules were altered.

Thirty years ago my client bought a gazebo which had been built on top of a medieval tower forming part of the town walls in Pembroke. The gazebo and the surrounding piece of garden had once formed part of an elegant 18th century house on the high street but which had been separated because the owners lacked the means to restore the gazebo.

The 18th Century Gazebo

The gazebo was in a ruinous state and the accommodation, which it offered, was limited to one room on each of the two floors. In order to make the property useable it would be necessary to extend it. So plans were drawn up and we consulted with CADW (the Welsh equivalent of English Heritage). After several visits and much discussion CADW gave their blessing and we applied for planning permission which was eventually granted with many conditions. With paperwork secure we employed a contractor to commence the works. Because of the existing town walls (which we were not allowed to touch) everything for the work had to be craned over the wall. All went well to start with and much of the structure for the new extension was completed. Then disaster struck. After three months the contractor suddenly went bankrupt bringing the work to a sudden halt. My client was quite distressed by this turn of event s was so fed up that he walked away from the project.

Unfinished business

A hiatus of over two decades ensued before I received, quite out of the blue, a phone call from my client suggesting that as he was now retired it might be a good time to resurrect this project.

Early in 2014 the documents for the project were retrieved from the archives and dusted off. Over the intervening years my client had had time to think more about the project and some changes were necessary which involved Planning applications and Listed Building consent. In the meantime the construction drawings were prepared and a new contractor engaged to carry out the works. So far so good.

The only way to deliver materials

By April 2014 the contractor had been on site for several weeks when one morning a lady from CADW turned up on site and told us that we must cease work immediately as we did not have planning permission for the work which we were undertaking!

The lady from CADW explained that although we had all the correct planning consents including Listed Building consent for the 18th century gazebo we had no consents for the medieval tower on which it sits. For this we needed to apply for Scheduled Ancient Monument consent. I did point out that the work which affected the medieval tower had been carried out thirty years previously. My pleas fell on deaf ears. We would have to apply for ancient monument consent which she said, had we applied for it thirty years previously it would have been refused! My response was that in that case she would have no alternative but to refuse consent following which my client would involve CADW in a very costly lawsuit. After several months permission was granted but with a rider that CADW did not approve of what we were doing.

Despite the amazing tangle of planning paperwork the project was successfully completed in 2015, although it has to be said that there were two zeros on the contract price compared with the original contract.

Worth it in the end!
The moral of the story is that it is a wonderful experience to own a listed building – but never do anything without sound advice.

Via Ravenna Underpass Mural Restoration

Via Ravenna mural, North side with Chichester Cathedral Via Ravenna mural North side with the Festival Theatre

Older city residents still remember the days when cows used to graze right up to the city walls.

All that changed, however, nearly 30 years ago in the 1980s when someone followed the “wisdom” of the time and ran a road through Westgate Fields.

The road, in its turn, required an underpass in order to keep the pedestrian link which connects, notably, Chichester College and the railway station and sees hundreds of students each day, not to mention all those Waitrose shoppers too.

And if an underpass is to be attractive, it needs to be more than a concrete tunnel. So a competition was launched to design a set of murals. This was rather fittingly won by a Chichester College student, Victor Hang, whose vision was completed in early 1987.

Nearly thirty years on, the underpass was very much showing its age. So in 2012 we started working to get the pass spruced up again, hopefully in time to form part of the Society’s own 40th anniversary celebrations in 2013.

Via Ravenna mural South side with marine views

The first essential was to commission a survey, and the Society was fortunate to obtain the services of Katey Corder, a conservator of international standing specialising in murals and walls paintings. Her report informed the Society’s bid to West Sussex County Council for a grant to fund the works. The County accepted our proposals and awarded the grant. We then appointed Mark Lewis and his team at Art and Soul Traders whose colourful murals are illustrated here.

As it turned out, the project overshot our target by a year, but painting work did finish in mid July 2014, and on 30 July 2014 we had a small gathering to celebrate the completion of the work. We were particularly pleased to be joined by Clare Smith and Debbie Burford, landscape architects who had been very active in helping progress the original project all those years ago.

Wall plaque