Dancing days are over, leaving endangered building

Endangered Building

Planning & Design’s Heritage Consultant Ruth Gray discusses the plight of one of Derby’s prominent heritage buildings, the former Education Department that has had an eclectic past, but now makes the Victorian Society 2024 list of endangered buildings.

Listening to the radio on the way to work one morning I heard Griff Rhys Jones, Victorian Society President mention Derby in an interview about a national top ten. Making it onto a national top ten list is usually cause for celebration. However, in this case he was mentioning the former Derby Education Department offices, it is in commiseration. The Grade II listed building on Becket Street in Derby’s city centre has been listed on the Victorian Society’s ‘Top 10 Endangered Buildings list of 2024’. To be nominated buildings must be dated between 1837 and 1914. The UK charity campaigns to promote and preserve architecture based on public nominations and selects buildings that represent industrial, religious, domestic, and civic architecture from across the nation with “unique historical and community significance and value”.1

I have admired this building and I have posted an image of it on my LinkedIn as it is a striking building. W. Giles and R. Brookhouse architects built this imposing ashlar fronted house in Becket Street for the Board of Poor Law Guardians 1861-68 and this was rebuilt further by R. E. Ryley thirty years later converting into the Derby Education Department. It became the nightclub Berlins, then Aruba nightclub until 2009 when it was sold. It has since remained empty.

Endangered building in Derby
A large stained-glass window over the staircase left from its former life as the Poor Law Offices.[3]

Today it has become another building used as an investment only, left to slowly fall victim to vandals and the elements (parts of the leading and roof tiles have gone missing and vegetation has taken over). A quick google search reveals that the owners The Tchenguiz Family Trust own many investment properties throughout the UK including more within Derby. The Victorian Society placing this building on its top ten endangered building list can only be good as a starting point for raising awareness of another one of Derby’s finest buildings that has been allowed to deteriorate.

Griff Rhys Jones, Victorian Society President, said:

‘Oh dear. This is a great building, in a great location. It has earned its own keep for a long time. What is happening here? It’s a familiar story. An ownership that doesn’t seem to notice its terrible recent decay. The front of this magnificent building declares its pride in Derby. Derby surely has pride in it too. We beg the family trust who own it to concentrate on its reuse, recycling and important future.’

James Hughes, Director of the Victorian Society, said:

‘Despite its poor state of repair, the dignified architectural character of this building shines through. But for how much longer will that be the case? The condition of its roof has worsened considerably in recent months, leaving gaping holes in the roof that are discernible even from the street, and with them water pouring in every time it rains. In such circumstances, the fabric of the building can only deteriorate drastically. Immediate intervention is required to make the building watertight. Meanwhile, the process of securing a conservation-led regeneration of the building should begin.’”

Derby city centre has many buildings that are owned by trusts, groups and individuals that use them purely for financial investment. While some do maintain their properties many do not care for their fabric or for the impact that a deteriorating building can have on a cities street because they are not invested in the city as a whole. Empty properties hollow out the centre of a city causing pockets of deprivation to occur in what was once a thriving environment. Derby residents and visitors must wonder what has happened to cause properties to sit empty. This is a large building that could be useful again to the citizens of Derby and could be used for a variety of applications.

Planning & Design Practice Ltd have worked on large city centre endangered buildings and brought them back to life as residential, offices, shops and co-working spaces. Our Specialist Conservation Architect can develop designs that work with the building utilising the information discovered by our heritage experts who have pinpointed the buildings most significant aspects and create a tailored a solution that we can present to the cities planners. These buildings are listed for the good of the nation and owners are their custodians to ensure they are kept well maintained for the future. When client, agent and local authority are able to work together great solutions can be found for these properties. But if the client is not even in the same city or even country it is incredibly difficult to hold them to account let alone work with them.

Ruth Gray, Heritage Consultant, Planning & Design Practice Ltd

Dancing days are over, leaving endangered building | Notes and Citations:

  1.  https://www.victoriansociety.org.uk
  2. M.Craven. Derby An Illustrated History. P.181
  3. https://www.28dayslater.co.uk/threads/becket-street-miscellany-derby-october-2021.131646/
  4. https://www.victoriansociety.org.uk/news/Listed+former+Education+Department+Offices+in+Derby+on+The+Victorian+Society%E2%80%99s+Top+Ten+Endangered+Buildings+list+2024
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