IHBC                         North West

Newsletter of the North West Branch of  the Institute of  Historic Building Conservation

June 2002                                                                                                                     Issue 3



Inside: Sheila Stones Leaves North West




English Heritage, Liverpool City Council and other bodies have come together to launch the Historic Environment of Liverpool Project (HELP), to give the public an opportunity to tell developers how they see the future of their city.


The project aims to increase understanding of the city’s heritage, in a bid to avoid the mistakes that have characterised the redevelopment of other cities.


A preliminary poll of residents, carried out by MORI in February, showed great enthusiasm for the historic environment and public attitudes will be constantly monitored during the project.


The project will address three issues that were brought up during earlier surveys.

·         The number of boarded up and disused buildings in the city.

·         Insufficient funds to save the city’s built heritage and

·         A lack of knowledge about the value of the city’s historic environment.


The project follows the Stop the Rot Campaign that featured in the evening paper the Liverpool Echo.


The city centre and suburbs will be the subject of a heritage mapping exercise and the project will see development of a buildings at risk strategy for the city.


The City Council and English Heritage will be jointly funding a conservation officer post during the life of the project.






This is the first North West to be produced since Sheila Stones surprise departure to London (see below). She will be a hard act to follow. Under Sheila’s stewardship, the branch has grown in both strength and stature. The highlights have surely been the three branch conferences which, as well as raising the profile of the branch, have had an immense impact on branch funds. Indeed this publication is only possible thanks to our healthy financial position and on page 3, Nick Grimshaw asks for your thoughts as to how we should best spend our current surplus. While our success has been down to more than one person, it is unlikely we would have achieved what we did, without Sheila’s drive.


Immediate issues are, replacing Sheila as branch chair and national committee member. But, in the longer term, Sheila’s departure provides an opportunity to consider how members see the branch developing and what we expect of the branch chair. Do we want a leader? Or do we want somebody to simply chair the branch meetings, with the branch committee or membership as a whole making decisions? As our membership is so like minded, is it important anyway?


Members should give these matters some thought, and make every effort to attend the branch AGM in December.


The views expressed by contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation


Sheila Takes A Bow

 Sheila Stones has recently left English Heritage’s Manchester office to begin working as historic areas advisor at the London branch of English Heritage.


Sheila announced her move, at the March meeting of the IHBC branch committee, and advised that, as a result, she would need to resign as national branch representative, branch chair and branch committee member. Sheila said that she would be happy to resign with immediate effect or at the AGM, whichever the other committee members felt most appropriate. The committee offered Sheila their congratulations and best wishes and it was agreed that the question of her resignation should be discussed at the June branch committee meeting, when everyone had had a chance to think matters over.  It was agreed that if possible she should at least attend and chair the June branch committee meeting but that if she was not able to, the committee should agree an acting chair for the purposes of the meeting from amongst those members present.










Greater Manchester Manual of Conservation Techniques


Greater Manchester Conservation Officers Group are nearing completion of their Manual of Conservation Techniques. The IHBC NW Branch have agreed to act as sponsors, giving it their approval, although not providing financial support. Publication is expected later this year.



Historic Landscape Characterisation


County archaeologists are currently being sponsored, by English Heritage, to define the character of the regions rural areas.


The research aims to identify and interpret various types of landscape, such as pre enclosure agriculture, by looking at the effects of human activity on the physical landscape.


The information gained will be used to help interpret information contained on sites and monuments records, as well as providing informed advice for development control purposes and projects such as Countryside Stewardship.


It is envisaged that the character appraisals will ultimately become supplementary planning guidance and will be used to review the quality of existing designations such as areas of special county value, feeding into new landscape strategies.


Lancashire’s countryside has already been characterised while Cheshire is expected to be complete within 18 months. Adjacent shire counties will carry out studies for Greater Manchester and Merseyside.



World Heritage Sites

From Chester to Kathmandu Valley


Chester City Council is assisting two local authorities from the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site in Nepal to develop effective conservation policies and practices. An EC-funded project is giving conservation staff in both countries a rare opportunity to benefit from international experience, training and professional development. Our East Asian correspondent Paul Hartley reports from Kathmandu.

Poorest Countries

Nepal has frequently been in the news over recent months with reports of the fluctuating fortunes of the national government’s efforts to eliminate a Maoist rebellion in the remote rural areas of the country.  Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world (it ranks 151 out of 174 countries on the UN Human Development Index) and has only a relatively short history of democracy, the first free elections taking place in 1991. The need to alleviate urban and rural poverty is central to finding a solution to the country’s problems and this project, funded by the European Commission, seeks to address this issue at a local level within the Kathmandu Valley, the main population centre in Nepal.



Nepal possesses a unique landscape, culture and built heritage and tourism, principally based on trekking in the Himalayas, is its largest earner of foreign exchange.  Cultural tourism related to historic sites and monuments has remained relatively under developed and has great potential for generating income for the benefit of local people and businesses in urban areas. 


Development Pressures

However the integrity of the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site is under continuing threat from intense development pressure.  There has been substantial demolition of historic buildings in and around the monument zones.  Lack of public and private resources for conservation coupled with ineffective development control by local authorities in the face of rapid population growth and

Patan Dunbar Square (Lalitpur)


the resultant needs for new housing have led UNESCO to consider placing the site on its World Heritage ‘in danger’ list.


Under particular threat is the traditional housing stock which typically consists of three or four storey structures constructed of local fired or sun-dried brick, hardwood and small ‘jhingati’ clay roof tiles.  Most date from the 17th – 19th centuries and are particularly notable for the astonishing levels of craftsmanship displayed in carved timber



architectural details :  especially window and door apertures, projecting second floor balconies and struts  supporting overhanging eaves.  Most houses suffer from poor maintenance and there are high levels of long-term disrepair throughout the monument zones.  Modern, cheaper methods of building construction, often in the form of tall concrete framed houses, are becoming an increasingly common sight in the historic core areas and are evidence of a culture of non-compliance with local building and planning by-laws.  


Local Authorities

Local authorities have recently acquired extensive devolved powers but have little experience in the positive management of historic assets, the promotion of heritage-based development initiatives, and working in partnership with local communities.  It is now recognised that a key first step will be to find effective ways of protecting and promoting a better public understanding of its unique historic and cultural assets – not just the principal palaces and temples but also their wider urban settings.


Chester City Council is working in partnership with two Nepalese local authorities – Lalitpur Sub-Metropolitan Authority and Khokana Village Development Committee – to help in the development of professional staff skills and the implementation of an effective conservation strategy that will combine protection of the site with sustainable development initiatives.



Funding has been provided by the European Commission under its Asia Urbs programme - a cultural programme supported by the Commission’s development and economic funds which is designed to promote closer links between local governments in Europe and Asia by funding development projects that seek to improve living and environmental conditions for those living in urban areas. 


A draft plan and budget proposal was prepared by the partners in conjunction with UNESCO World Heritage Centre for the development of a two year sustainable conservation and training programme.  A second European local authority – Feltre, from the Veneto region in Italy – is helping to provide Nepalese professionals with additional experience of conservation practice outside the UK.



The principal activities contained in the project are :


·         institutional development to increase the capacity of the Nepalese local authorities to manage the urban environment – a local project team has now been established in Lalitpur consisting of conservation officers, architects, archaeologists and tourism officers.


·         provision of international experience in issues of urban management for political leaders, project partners and key officers – a week long seminar is to be held in Chester in June involving delegates from Nepal, United Kingdom and Italy


·         provision of training and capacity building for officers – members of the project team will work within the European local authority conservation, archaeology and tourism teams. European professionals will also visit Nepal to work with the project team and participate directly in the projects


·         building and archaeological recording with a view to developing better systems of recognising and protecting key buildings and areas


·         community based sustainable development initiatives, including the establishment of community offices to provide local people with information and advice on traditional building repair and promote a wider understanding of the value of protecting the cultural heritage


·         promotion of pilot regeneration projects, including the conversion of traditional buildings to provide high quality tourist accommodation and improvements to the traditional urban water supply


·         development and dissemination of information on seismic strengthening – the last major earthquake in the Kathmandu Valley occurred in 1934 and a further earthquake is predicted to occur in the near future


Shared Vision

The project commenced in February 2002 and will continue for two years.  Of course until a greater degree of political stability is achieved and there is a revival in tourism, it will be extremely difficult to measure the full impact of the project.  Nevertheless in the short term it will unquestionably offer an opportunity for local authorities and communities in both Lalitpur and Khokana to work more closely together to develop a shared vision for the future and a better understanding of the potential for sustainable development within their historic urban core areas. 



Further progress will be reported in future editions of this newsletter.




 The Extensive Urban Survey: Lancashire’s Historic Towns


Lesley Mitchell has recently been appointed as project officer for the Extensive Urban Survey for Lancashire. The survey will summarise the archaeological and historical importance of towns in the county, providing a historic/development guidance strategy for each town. Three draft reports have already been prepared for Accrington, Blackburn and Nelson and a further 29 towns are to be the subject of similar reports, carried out by consultants Egerton Lea. Lesley explains what is going on.

The Lancashire Extensive Urban Survey (EUS) is an assessment of selected towns within post-1974 Lancashire.


An initial study undertaken was by Lancaster University Archaeological Unit in 1997-98 when a total of 57 settlements were examined. Of these, 29 were defined as having significant urban archaeological value and historic characteristics, and it is these towns that are now being studied (see diagram).


The EUS is being carried out over a period of two years by Lancashire County Council and the Egerton Lea Consultancy, with the support of English Heritage. The study proper began in July 2001, the work being done in three overlapping phases, comprising i) data gathering, ii) assessment and iii) strategy.


Although EH set in motion a programme of Extensive Urban Surveys in the early 1990s, the Lancashire EUS differs from the ‘traditional’ types of survey. The main difference is the stage of characterisation which is being introduced.





The importance of historical features within urban areas, and particularly their contribution to heritage-led regeneration, is becoming increasingly important. If such features are to be protected or re-used in the best possible way, it is vital that we take stock of the remaining historic features, so that those that contribute most, to the character of a town, can be protected from destruction or unsuitable development.


This EUS is particularly timely, given that a number of factors are increasing pressures for change on the historic fabric of Lancashire’s towns. Such factors include the demands of new industries, coupled with the decline of traditional manufacturing within the county, as well as pressure caused by policies encouraging the re-use of ‘brownfield’ sites.


Change over time is inevitable, but it is important that factors which contribute most to the unique character of Lancashire’s towns are recognised so that this character can be preserved. It is also important to recognise that change can be positive, and that it can involve the creative re-use and revitalisation of historic features and fabric.




The EUS involves an assessment report for each of the towns featured. As part of these reports each town is divided into historic plan components, which include character types such as hospitals, public or private landscaped grounds, textile- and non-textile-based industrial areas, 19th century grid-iron terraces, handloom weavers’ settlements and railways.


This initial work is then taken a step further in the characterisation stage, which defines and describes the character attributes possessed by the historic plan components. Examples of the recorded attributes include:


·         building materials

·         building function

·         building form

·         date

·         method of accessing rear yards (for 19th century terraces)

·         areas of cobbled surfacing

·         presence of old-style street furniture.


The characterisation will extend beyond the identified historic plan components to cover the whole of the remainder of the study area, although in a less detailed way. This will involve the broad characterisation of 20th century housing developments, as well as the identification of areas such as schools, recreation grounds and modern industrial sites.


Assessment and Strategy


Once the data gathering and characterisation processes for a particular town are complete, each character area is assessed according to its rarity, completeness, condition and forces for change. This assessment is used in the formulation of appropriate strategies for management of each area. Both below-ground archaeology and above-ground historic and archaeological fabric will be taken into consideration in the resultant strategy documents.


The main outputs of the Lancs EUS will include:


·         the production of a series of Historic Environment Guidance Strategy Reports for Local Planning Authorities;


·         the identification of zones that merit special management policies, (hopefully to be adopted as SPG);


·         the creation of new records for inclusion within the SMR, which will increase awareness of the locations and importance of sites.


Although provision will still be made

for individual sites of particular importance, it is to be hoped that the Historic Environment Guidance Strategy Reports will result in a change in the way urban fabric is perceived. Rather than comprising a series of disconnected sites, towns could more usefully be viewed as continuous landscapes made up of historic and more recent plan components which each have a defined archaeological value.


Aston Webb Discovered in Liverpool



While preparing for the new Pevsner for Liverpool, author Joseph Sharples has unearthed the previously unrecognised presence of Sir Aston Webb (1848-1930) within the city.


The building in question is on Wood Street and will be well known to North West readers following its iconic conversion into flats by Urban Splash, in the mid 1990’s. A true machine for living, communal facilities in the basement, known as the Baluga, dispense beer, crisps and nuts.


Webb is believed to have designed the building for a drug manufacturing company, owned by family members.


Not always critically acclaimed, Webb was nevertheless a highly successful designer of public buildings around 1900, and was responsible for major commissions such as Birmingham University Buildings, Birmingham Law Courts, the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, The Admiralty Arch and the facade of Buckingham Palace.


Although Webb worked extensively in the provinces there are no other remaining examples of his work on Merseyside, with the exception of minor fragments of a house in Brackenwood, Wirral, built for the owners of the Wood Street factory.


The new Pevsner for Liverpool is expected to be published around Christmas 2003







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