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Posts Tagged ‘woodhouse’

The demolishing of the Woodhouse is happening right now(see comment on post, woodhouse 1730-2010) , so thought it was time to post the authorities decision to allow demolition.

Below English Heritage have kindly allowed me to share the  English Heritage advice report in response to my application  and the reasons for it being denied. It’s quite detailed and has some fascinating new information on it´s possible use in WWII as a look out post and that maybe the remodelling of  the tower dates from this period. For me this at least was not a reason to demolish it, but actually added historic value to the place. I understand that it was difficult case and that it was a difficult one to preserve and renovate, but if only the authorities had reacted earlier and were more open-minded in their criteria(it´s not all country houses!).

The Ministry of Culture didn´t think it was relevant to protect. I disagree, it was an impressive, highly interesting and unusual historic house, badly managed  in the middle of an ancient wood. A little piece of magic and mystery has been taken away, I repeat  this was an old historic house in middle of ancient wood= that´s special. It was a hidden treasure on Tamworth´s footstep for so many reasons .

At times it feels like some sort of Chairman Mao cultural revolution policy is in place in the area in terms of   it´s past.

Disclaimer: This blog is not responsible for the views held in Abe and Ernst´s protest.

Here´s a link to UKurbanex´s photo archive on the woodhouse, many of them interior photos. There´s some great pictures there, those photos are now historic! There´s even photos of the Woodhouse cellar. Ok the place needed tidying up and there was some really dodgy paintwork  but with some imagination…..

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THE WOODHOUSE 1730-2010

This is a pretty apt subject for heritage weekend with a heavy dose of bitter irony. It´s official The Woodhouse, Hopwas  is being demolished. Photos of the fenced off area appeared on the Midlands heritage forum and my spot listing application  failed at the last hurdle with the ministry of culture. Many thanks for the support and information from people within heritage and others.

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There seems to be only two alternatives for the woodhouse(see previous post)  demolish it, leaving a pile of old bricks in a clearing or letting it rot and continuing to be an atmospheric ruin for exploration forums. In a different world there would be another alternative doing something with it! So below are a few ideas for a future for the Woodhouse. They all share parking problems, a very unique access route, 15 minute walk through dense forest and respect for surroundings and people. I don’t have the resources so I’ll just let the ideas float out to space to be caught by a budding entrepreneur in another place and time.

1) I’ll quickly wade past  the usual stuff, craft centre, centre for marriages, events, hotel (b &b or luxury), private housing.

2)tree house exhibition and shop:  the house surrounded by treehouses of all types in the surrounding land. A sort of treehouse exhibition, play area and sales area for tree houses. It’s a bit of a niche market but what better location than the atmospheric settings in the centre of england. Possible combination with tree house hotel.

taken from environmental Graffitis 5 incredible Treehouses

3) eco- hotel: some sort of luxury camping site. It’s all the range according to the media, its called ‘glamping’, I know. There’s all sorts of luxury camping experiences you could do in this place. Star gazing no light pollution nearby, woodcraft workshops, horse riding, woodland dishes, treasure hunting, tales for the kids, whatever Islington types want is possible here.

glamping it up

4) Related to this, is the restaurant in the midst of forest, imagine the unforgettable access route, atmosphere in woods, large open terrace, badger a la carte,  served by people dressed in woodland animal costumes, ok that’s enough

5) Scary house for weekend adventures,etc. No investment apart from conservation of buildings, just leave it as it is, and hey presto you’ve got one spooky place. potential side earner as  filming location.

6) This one is dedicated to Tarmac: how about a museum on quarries. We are going to have to use the imagination on this one. But could include the geological history of the land, history of quarrying and mining, starting point for  visits to historic quarries in areas(quarry of the cathedral of lichfield,)etc, quarry landscape art, organised quarry activities, abseiling, endurance tests(not sure what health and safety would say about this)

7) museum and workshop on woodlands and woodcraft. centre for the study and appreciation of woodlands, invited speakers Ray Mears, Yanomamo Indians.

8 ) My favourite, How about a space for Afro-funk explosive performances called the Mothership, complete with a light beam pointing skywards, dedicated to the improvement of funk in this little corner of the universe: just remember – you’ve got to wear your sunglasses, that’s the rule round here, so you can feel cool. Naked dancing witches are welcome. Special Considerations will be taken with the  wildlife and they will be duly instructed in the groove. Suffice to say I love this idea and is my secret agenda for wanting to save the woodhouse or should I say the mothership

Parliament relaxing in Hopwas woods

Any other ideas are welcome….

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Below are the two reasons  the woodhouse has been given a demolition order and my counterarguments:

1st reason:The buildings are a focus for vandalism and ‘goings on’ and are in a state of disrepair.

Speaking with former members of ‘friends of Hopwas Woods’ who know a lot more history about the site than me, they  have given me some interesting information about its history of vandalism and  abandonment, with Bob Geldoff and badgers included!

The source is reliable as the person is a  lifelong supporter of Hopwas Woods, I’ve received the news second hand and a lot of the information is cloudy and I take all responsibility for the information given but it does gives the general gist. The entrepeneur George Bryant sold the property to Tarmac at a date interdetermined date probably 80′s/90′s. It was then used by an employee of Tarmac for a time, after which time it was abandoned although still under the ownership of Tarmac. The buildings were brought to local attention by the report by a local person that badgers had entered and were in the  cellars of building. This reached the attention of Tamworth’s newspaper, The Tamworth Herald. After this brief media exposure the buildings were more known in the area and people entered the grounds(abandoned atmospheric buildings in atmospheric woods:it’s going to happen!) This came to a head when news reached local authorities that  a ´suspicious person´  was staying there, and there was a response by police.  Since then people from around the country have visited the site and it has appeared on some exploration forums. Apparently, this is crazy but I’m just reporting what I was told by a reliable source, Bob Geldoff, sorry Sir Bob Geldoff visited the site!!! I know crazy. Looking at the current state of the exterior buildings it has suffered from vandalism, ( hole put through back wall) and equally damaging  counter measures, bricking up of windows and doors. Apart from that the building survives surprisingly  well in its integrity(the interior state is unknown) and has not had any graffiti or major damage. The outbuildings present little interference.

Even if the buildings are a focus for ‘goings on’ this is not a reason to demolish buildings of potential  great historic and architectural interest. If you apply that same logic to say an abandoned Stonehenge. Does that mean we should demolish it if it had been abandoned for 20 years and had become a focus of ‘goings on’(pagan rituals, swinger parties, raves, the mind boggles!) Also and more important than my counter-argument is point 16 in English Heritage’s principles of selection for listed buildings ” the state of repair of a building is not a relevant is not a relevant consideration when deciding whether a building meets the test of special interest.” pretty conclusive I think

2nd reason: The buildings have been altered, there is a lot of modern brickwork and they are of not sufficient interest.

Although I’ve worked within archaeology abroad I’m no expert on 18th century architecture and brickwork in Staffordshire but I think I can make a sufficient case for it to be worthy of at least re-examining by the competent authorities. The sources available are sparse but based on what there is and local knowledge as well as my own analysis I can make a number of statements. As mentioned in previous post, the buildings were probably built on orders of the Marquess of Donegal around 1750 for use as a hunting lodge and retreat, being close to his Fisherwick estate. Local hearsay reports that there was a site here as far back as 1540, from the wife of the earl of Comberford, I cannot confirm any of this but its worth investigating. Also Fisherwick estate and buildings were designed by the infamous ‘Capability Brown’ As the woodhouse was commissioned by the Marquess of Donegal, did Capability Brown have a hand in its design? It’s pure conjecture but I think it’s more than worth investigating.

There is a watercolour of the woodhouse, called painting of Hopwas Hayes Lodge, done by J. Spyers in 1786. I’ve compared  the painting and a modern photo in the previous Woodhouse post and its undeniably very similar (I´ve included it again below). At least the integrity of the building set are still there. The two attached cottages, the two porches and unique tower structure are all still there, as well as side wall, with entrance(not in photos) It can be seen that the main roofing has been altered and there’s been tinkering with  the tower. I haven’t personally seen a building type quite like it and wonder if it conforms to a type of 18th century hunting lodge or is it unique?

There is not much available information on subsequent use of the Woodhouse, apart from what I have in my original post. The building was used throughout the 19th century as a gamekeepers lodge and was  remarkable enough  to be included in William Pitt’s topographical history of Staffordshire 1817 with the following description:´ Hopwas is a small hamlet situated at the bottom of a hill, the most remarkable object on which is a house on the summit, environed by a wood called Hopwas Hayes´ Thankyou William Pitt for putting the case for the Woodhouse so eloquently!

As mentioned the building was in the hands of George Bryant  from around the 1950′s. He apparently was responsible for some landscaping and may have been responsible for alterations to the property as there is brickwork present from the 1950′s.

Present state of buildings

There is aforementioned watercolouring showing the integrity of the original form of the present building but the question is how much is original? As said before I’m no expert but there is a presence of brickwork which I consider could perfectly be 18th century brickwork, the percentage is at least 50% The roof has been changed at what date I don’t know and the tower, at least the top part has been altered. Are any of the alterations reversible?

The best evidence are photos so I’ve provided a few photos below with arrows pointing out what I consider different types of brickwork. brick type 1 looks the best candidate for 18th century brickwork. The porches on the front of the building  appear to have slate roofing. Also there is number  of blocked 18th/19th century windows, but the window arches(sorry about terminology) are still there( altering of windows is very common in old buildings) It´s a rough guide and hopefully not too confusing but  I believe demonstrates that there is at least 50% possible 18th century brickwork(brick type 1) and is worthy of further investigation.

Front of building, with rough indication of different brick types

right hand side of front of building

southern side of building,

back of building, with detail on right

tower from the back

Interior

The interior is an unknown quantity and understand that there has been no inspection of the interior. Information from the reliable source from Friends of Hopwas apparently states that there is a well inside!(common in buildings before modern water supply), the survival of a double cellar,  fireplace and wooden cladding.I think anyone would agree that the interior warrants inspection.

Outbuildings.

There are a number of outbuildings 3-4 ranging in types and age. In front of the main woodhouse is a barn-like structure converted into a garage of undetermined age(probably pre-20th century) it has attached a sidebuilding with the evidence of an old laundry(see first posts comments)

Well there are my counterarguments, I hope I’ve put across the historical and architectural value of the place and a valid counter counter argument to the often used reason of abandonment and vandalism. What has to be concluded by the experts is the level of altering  to the exterior and INTERIOR of buildings and if it´s reversible. So I will be putting the case forward to the relevant authorities and english heritage. What I don’t think can be denied is that it’s worthy of further investigation before potentially making the tragic mistake of  demolishing it. I hope it’s not too late!

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I’m momentarily going to turn the blog into a campaign to save the 18th century historic Woodhouse, Hopwas. It’s historic significance can be seen in this earlier post. I’ve recently heard that the Woodhouse has had a demolition order go ahead, so it’s demolition could happen any day now! Here’s the post below :

Hello all ,I have just joined this forum as I was looking into the History of Wood House and came across you all.

This evening (Sunday 15 August 2010) my wife and I and our 2 border collie dogs went for a walk in Hopwas woods as we have done now for 30 years . When we got to the gate for Wood House we were suprised to see that the barbed wire that covers the gate (along with some very oily sticky black crud) had been cut on the right side giving  access to the drive to the house . What an amazing place it is . The building is in a sorry state now even the Opel Manta car has been burnt out by some scum chav shits. Such a shame that this very historical house and out buildings are to be demolished. Tarmac who own the building and land have been granted a demolition order by Lichfield District Council on 25/06/2010. The work has already started as the rhoderdendrons that used to encrouch onto the drive have been cut back using a brush cutter .This has happened very recently and I presume work will now progress at a swifter pace. So if you want to see this house in all its glory, I would do it very soon as I am sure when the demolition boys get in ,the access will definately be closed off forever.I just thought I would update you all regarding Wood House .I am sure we will become regulars on these forums now we have found them . I am just sorry that my first post should be so gloomy.

Regards  Snooper/ her indoors/ Finn& Pogue ( the woof woofs)

Midlandsheritage forum

I’ve confirmed this with Lichfield council and I’d like to make  a case to save if it’s not too late. I urge anyone reading this who cares about our shared heritage to make as much NOISE as possible about this. It’s a unique set of buildings, I don’t know how many 18th century gamekeepers lodges in their original settings exist in the UK but I’m guessing you can count them on one hand.

I will be putting the case forward for it’s defence, applying for listed status with english heritage, etc over the next few days so I will be putting updates and info on the blog over the coming days.

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