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Demolition of Brunel's Totnes Engine House - Printable Version

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Demolition of Brunel's Totnes Engine House - Paul Belford - 21st February 2008

It appears that the Totnes Atmospheric Engine House is in the process of demolition. Mark Horton has flagged this up on Britarch and there has been some debate there today and amongst members of the AIA. I thought it was worth bring to the attention of BAJR-ites as well.

Here is a copy of Dr. Horton's original message to Britarch for those (like myself) who are not subscribers.

Quote:quote:Many of you will will know about Brunel's atmospheric railway in South Devon - powered by stationary steam engines. Only two engine houses survive intact - at Starcross and Totnes. English Heritage have apparently declined to list the Totnes example - quite extraordinarily and the developer is in the process of stripping the roof, in a way that can only seem to be preparatory to demolition. This is clearly a monument of national importance in every way, and EH should immediately step in and spot list it - and this post is really to alert everyone to the real threat that seems imminent.

He later added

Quote:quote:It seems that EH's initial recommendation was that it was of insufficient architectural importance. In fact, it is one of the very few buildings that we have direct evidence that it was designed by Brunel personally, as we have the sketches for it (or one very similar) in his notebooks at Bristol. I hope that this might comprise sufficiently new information to warrant EH to change their minds!

More information is available on the sites below:

The AIA have been in discussion with EH about this and I would hope that disaster can be averted. However various Britarchers have taken the step of writing to the Chief Executive of the company who are demolishing the site (Dairy Crest), and BAJR-ites may wish to follow their example. The Britarch debate can be found at:


Demolition of Brunel's Totnes Engine House - Sparky - 21st February 2008

This is very sad indeed. Interesting to note that EH still haven't fully evolved a spine. I supppose these things take millions of years. Who is the EH inspector for this area?

Not wanting to be pessimistic on this matter but hasn't the stable door been firmly shut while the horse is pulling the roof off?

Are there e-mail addresses available for both the EH inspector and the chief executive of Dairy Crest as I would imagine the post would take too long?


Demolition of Brunel's Totnes Engine House - Gog - 21st February 2008

Doesn't Steven Brindle work for EH - biographer of Brunel, discoverer of a surviving Brunelian (ouch) bridge at (please insert name of London railway station here, as I have forgotten - must be Paddington[:I])

Demolition of Brunel's Totnes Engine House - Oxbeast - 22nd February 2008

It was indeed Paddington: a Brunel designed bridge 'fossilized' inside a later one.

This one got saved, or at least relocated.

I am not sure who the inspector is, Sparky. There may even be a vacancy. The post was advertised either late last month or early this month. I do hope that they do something about it. I am not sure a letter writing campaign will really have the same clout as a quango, when it comes to stopping demolition.

Demolition of Brunel's Totnes Engine House - Gog - 22nd February 2008

Thanks Oxbeast - its obvious really, GWR and all that!

Demolition of Brunel's Totnes Engine House - Noddy - 22nd February 2008

Has the press been alerted? The fact that I can't see anything on the BBC Devon news site or BBC Spotlight is worrying. Brunel has a massive public following and I'm sure a bit of publicity would help in averting this. Here's the email address for the Devon news website and I guess if enough people email the matter might be investigated

Demolition of Brunel's Totnes Engine House - Curator Kid - 22nd February 2008

Perhaps EH would be more interested if there was the possibility of marketing the site as a location for cheesey weekend breaks?

Demolition of Brunel's Totnes Engine House - Steven - 22nd February 2008

Hi Chaps
This isn't really one for the Inspector (we can't blame them for everything }Smile).

Its a buildings issue and so its down to EHs built environment staff (of which there are more than archaeology staff as EH is building biased).

The regional EH office is Bristol, here are the contact details :

29 Queen Square
Bristol, BS1 4ND
Tel: 0117 975 0700
Fax 0117 975 0701

From my (rather limited) research it seems the local council cannot really do anything as the building is not in a conservation area, so there is no requirement to get planning permission for demolition. It is completely down to EH and the listing bods. It does seem that EH has already looked at this building and declined to list it. It is even possible (though I don't know if this is the case) that a immunity from listing has been given by EH (I have been plagued by one of these on a case).


Demolition of Brunel's Totnes Engine House - beamo - 22nd February 2008

Eeven if it is not listed, the heritage advisers to the LPA could have requested a programme of detailed building recording (perhaps they have, or maybe the recording was done as part of the application for listing). Current local plan policy states:

1. The Council will make diligent use of all the powers
available to it to protect historic buildings in their setting,
whether listed or not.


Demolition of Brunel's Totnes Engine House - Steven - 22nd February 2008

Yes indeed it is possible that the LPA could have required recording, but any wise developer would just withdraw the application and then demolish the building before re-submitting.

Also your presuming that the LPA consulted their heritage advisor!

This isn't really about recording is it? Its more about preserving built heritage and if EH have already commented then the LPA have had advice from the governments advisor on built heritage.

It falls directly at EH's door because their statutory duty is to deal with listed buildings and to compile that list. If a LPA goes to EH for advice its beholden on them to act on that advise. Its not really the LPAs fault if EH decide that the building is not of sufficient quality (or whatever other criteria they applied) to list.

Its a foobar situation with EH basically devolving responsibility on to an LPA when this was