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A vertical spinning tunnel in Bedfordshire used to test aerodynamics, two 19th century shipwrecks off the Norfolk coast, ingenious Victorian railway platform extensions in Suffolk and a Post-Modern HQ with a designed landscape are some of the more unusual buildings and places that have been listed this year in the East of England.
Over 500 historic places have been added to the National Heritage List for England in 2019 with 88 in the East of England. As the year draws to a close, we celebrate some of the fascinating sites that have gained protection.
Listed Grade II | 1462138
Purpose built for ‘Chemist and Druggist’ Robert Morris in 1851, and still in use as a pharmacy until 2012, this mid-Victorian former chemist shop is a rare survival. Its original and largely unaltered Italianate shopfront, with its arched windows and decorative mouldings, was very fashionable at the time, yet few remain intact today.
Lettering in the window says the ‘Family dispensing chemist’ business was established in 1817, even earlier than the current building. It is one of many buildings in Lowestoft that stand testament to the town’s Victorian prosperity. Inside, mirror backed shelving and cupboards held goods under gilt labels for ‘poisons’ and ‘surgical appliances’ while wooden drawers with glass handles stored dried and powdered chemicals – a feature known as a ‘drug run’. The interior fixtures and fittings have been adapted and replaced over the years, reflecting the evolution of the shop, so what we see today is a combination of Victorian and mid-20th century design.
A fascinating range of historic buildings and sites are added to the List each year, and 2019 is no exception. Examples of our wonderful heritage, from the remains of a Roman villa to a 1980s designed landscape – the most modern on the List – have been newly protected, illustrating how the East of England has been shaped by people and their buildings for thousands of years.
Scheduled | 1461035
The outline of this important site near the River Granta is visible in crop marks seen via aerial photos. Below-ground archaeological remains indicate a Romano-British villa constructed during the period of Roman occupation, from the 1st to the 4th centuries AD. The site was found by labourers in 1826 and investigated between 1846 and 1860 and then again in the 1990s. Excavations showed evidence of a wealthy and extensive settlement in an area known to have had lots of Roman activity.
The complex appears to have been a ‘corridor’ villa built of brick and chalk, with a hypocaust heating system throughout, and an attached bath house. It was likely first built in the 3rd century and was occupied for most of the 4th century. The site is well-preserved and provides information about the lifestyles of its inhabitants as well as the villa’s phases and methods of construction.
Listed Grade II | 1457464
The vertical spinning tunnel, built between 1948 and 1955, was a specialised facility to investigate aerodynamics and flight systems. It is a well-preserved example of a very rare building type. It worked by blowing air upwards against the gravitational force on a free-falling aircraft model, allowing the study of the ways in which an aircraft could enter a spin and how to recover from it.
It was the only steel pressurised vertical spinning tunnel ever made, and its construction pioneered the technique of welding on site pre-formed metal plates for the assembly of large pressure vessels. It was part of the largest post-war development by the Royal Aircraft Establishment – a British research unit that eventually came under the Ministry of Defence – and was one of the most advanced aviation research facilities in Europe.
Listed Grade II | 1454344
Halesworth station is home to a set of four movable railway platforms constructed in 1888 as an innovative engineering solution so that the existing platform could be extended to accommodate longer trains. The popularity of the railway brought with it growing passenger numbers, but at Halesworth the platform could not be extended easily because of the topography of the land and its proximity to the main road to Bungay. Instead, movable platforms on wheels were installed, which could be extended over the road when in use, or pulled back to allow traffic through level crossing gates.
They are constructed of cross-braced wrought-iron with wooden planks forming the platform surfaces, and were finely balanced so they could be operated by just one man. When closed, the platforms also provided a useful bridge for transferring luggage across the tracks. The platforms were in use until the 1950s when a new road to Bungay was constructed, which bridged the railway to the north and the moving platforms were no longer required to move. They are still in situ and permanently set in place.
Scheduled | 1464587
The Seagull is a 19th-century paddle steamer lying off Horsey Gap, near Great Yarmouth in Norfolk. Built in 1848 in Belfast by Coates and Young at Lagan Foundry, it is a rare early example of a sail-assisted paddle steamer, a type of ship that became obsolete in the mid-19th century with the development of propeller driven vessels. It was used as a cargo vessel for around 20 years before sinking in a collision in 1868 while on route from Hull to Rotterdam, with a cargo of raw cotton on board.
The wreck was identified by the discovery of the bell by a local diver in 1994 which was inscribed ‘Seagull 1848’. The vessel remains upright and largely intact on the seabed and the remains of paddle wheels can be seen.
Listed Grade II | 1457674
Colchester’s former library was established thanks to local benefactors and is a particularly good example of a late-Victorian public library building, demonstrating through its architectural quality the civic pride of the town. It is attached to the grand Grade I listed town hall but differs in style. The library is in a neo-Jacobean style, contrasting but complementing its neo-classical neighbour.
The library was built in 1893, opening the following year, to designs by notable architect Brightwen Binyon - nine of whose buildings are listed. The lofty reading room, lit by large windows, is the most impressive space, its dark, prominent moulded timber giving the impression of a baronial hall. By the 1960s the former library was being used as extra office space for the town hall, and then in 2013 converted into a restaurant, which closed in 2017.
Scheduled | 1464597
Xanthe was a sail-assisted steam-powered cargo ship built in Hull in 1862 by Martin Samuelson and Co. The ship was used to trade coal and ore between the Tyne and Spain. It sank in a collision in 1869 off Horsey Gap, near Great Yarmouth, the year after the Seagull paddle steamer, with no loss of life. The Xanthe was discovered in the late 1980s by a survey ship but only dived by local divers in 1991. It lies upright and remarkably intact on the sea floor and an abundance of coal can be seen inside the vessel due to the absence of decking. The early compound engine appears to survive within the wreck.
The Pearl Centre is part of Lynch Wood Business Park on the outskirts of Peterborough. It is a striking Post-Modern building designed by Chapman Taylor Partners as the new headquarters for the Pearl Assurance company which was relocating from London. The building was commissioned to be future-proof so it could adapt with changing technologies and stand the test of time.
Post-Modern architecture borrows from existing architectural styles and was closely associated with the economic boom of the 1980s. The complex was built between 1989 and 1992 and has three square blocks of open-plan offices linked together, each with its own distinctive atrium. Decorative elements around the site echo Moorish traditions and the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, whose work saw a resurgence in popularity at the time. The Pearl Centre sits in a bespoke designed landscape by Professor Arnold Weddle which is recognised as an important piece of design work in its own right. The creation of features including lakes, a wildflower meadow and a ziggurat structure was part of a wider plan to provide an enjoyable setting for staff.
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