A locally listed Victorian building which has received a Heritage Lottery grant towards its preservation is at real risk of demolition by the council, after years of neglect and lack of maintenance.
Sutton Council is expected to publish a report on Culvers Lodge in the next couple of weeks, and there’s real fears that they will recommend demolition of the 140-year-old building, to allow them to build flats on the site.
A campaign in Hackbridge managed to secure a £10,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards securing the future of Culvers Lodge, which was built around 1875 as part of the former Culvers estate. The grant was made to the Wandle Valley Regional Park Trust, who spent the cash on consultants whose ultimate advice last year was that it was not economically feasible for the Trust to take over the Lodge.
According to one campaigner, “Not a penny was spent on the building.”
Instead, a cycle of neglect and poor maintenance by the Lodge’s owners – Sutton Council, through one of its arms-length housing associations – has seen the condition of the property deteriorate further, even after residents alerted them a year ago to a gaping hole in the roof.
Although ward councillors previously assured residents of their desire to maintain and protect this under-threat piece of local heritage assets, there is no guarantee that the Lodge will not be demolished.
Residents and local historians have begun a campaign, supported by the Victorian Society and Save Britain’s Heritage, to save Culvers Lodge from the bulldozers.
The Culvers Estate on which the Lodge stood was owned in the 19th Century by the Gassiot family, who made their fortunes in the port wine trade and became well-known Victorian philanthropists, donating massive sums to hospitals, the arts, and to the parish of Carshalton to be spent for the benefit of local communities.
St Thomas’s Hospital in central London has a Gassiot Wing to this day, to recognise the family’s contributions to the healthcare of Londoners more than a century ago.
But in Hackbridge, where the Gassiots lived, there’s little that remains of their time in the area, apart from Culvers Lodge.
“Heritage assets represent history, cultural values, identity and are part of a fundamental sense of community,” according to a local resident who is campaigning to preserve the Lodge.
“This is what the Lodge represents for Hackbridge in its own small way – history, cultural values, identity and community. The building is more than just its bricks and mortar, the importance lies in what it represents and this is what its owner, Sutton Council, should respect and protect. It should be restored and returned to full use, preferably providing an affordable home to a local family thus providing benefit today and to future generations for many years to come.”
Bob Steel was one of the campaigners who managed to get local listing status for the Lodge, which led to the Heritage Lottery Grant, and he’s keen to see the Lodge properly maintained.
“Now that the Wandle Valley Regional Park Trust have pulled out of taking on the Lodge, we are very worried that Sutton Council might be tempted to demolish the building as the easy way out,” Steel said.
“Hackbridge and Beddington Corner has already taken a massive hit in terms of new development: Culvers Lodge is one of the very few links to Hackbridge’s past that remains and we need the council to keep faith with us and rule out demolition.”
“The bottom line for us that this link with our past needs to stay. This is the right thing to do in terms of stewardship of Hackbridge’s dwindling history.”
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