A magazine architecture column that was first edited by Sir John Betjeman has added its considerable clout to the campaign to save and preserve the White House, the grand, Victorian-built mansion at the top of sloping parkland at Norwood Grove.
Inside Croydon reported last month how locals fear for the future of the neglected building, which is owned by cash-strapped Croydon Council. Sources predicted that the poorly secured out-buildings, which have already been already subject to vandalism and damage, might yet come to more harm. And there has, indeed, been a small fire in the out-buildings since our first report.
The out-buildings, once used as stables but more recently potting sheds and storage areas for the council’s lost and lamented gardens department, may yet be among properties that Tory Mayor Jason Perry tries to flog off to balance the Town Hall’s books – even though there’s a strong argument that the property is not the council’s to sell.
Norwood Grove was once described as “surely… the most beautiful of all the parks to be found in South London”.
The Grade II-listed White House, which is thought to be 200 years old and steeped in history, is now looking in a very sorry state, its once prized gardens having been left untended by the council for several years.
Norwood Grove, including the parkland and the house, was bought 99 years ago through public subscription.
Now local campaigners fighting to get preserve this bit of neglected built heritage have attracted significant support from the Campaign for the Preservation of Rural England and the Streatham Society, and the last issue of Private Eye has also reported its plight.
Sir John Betjeman, the poet laureate, was also renowned for his love of Victorian architecture, which saw him involved in several notable campaigns in the 1960s. This led to the “Nooks and Corners” column in the Eye, which for 40 years was edited by his friend and co-campaigner, architectural historian Gavin Stamp, under the pseudonym Piloti.
Stamp’s robust assaults on the Philistinism of modern Britain, especially its local councils, saw him devise new architectural prizes: the Attila the Hun Award (for vandalism that never ceases), and the Emperor Nero Award (for fiddling while Rome burns).
It’s entirely possible that if Stamp’s successor at “Nooks and Corners” were to seek suitable winners for those prizes in 2023, Croydon Council could be a real front-runner. In both categories.
The latest column mentions Inside Croydon’s reporting on the White House, saying, “The site, surrounded by parkland and with impressive views over London, could be very lucrative for a developer.”
And in the spirit of Betjeman and Piloti, they add, “In the meantime, of course, there’s hardly a penny being spent on the upkeep of the supposedly protected historic pleasure grounds, where the fountains and bird baths are uncared for and the once lovely formal gardens are unkempt.
“It’s the kind of neglect a council’s heritage conservation officers ought not to put up with from private owners – and certainly not from their own council.”
Read more: Locals concerned that Perry plans to sell listed Norwood Grove
Read more: Council’s once-prized listed building Heathfield House left to rot
Read more:Cressey College looks to be on the rocks over park and Ofsted
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