Heritage is not all about the past


Heritage is not all about the past, we live with examples of buildings that can teach us lessons about new ways of living today. Sometimes it pays to look back at innovations designed by architects to resolve issues of their day that are also contemporary concerns, states the latest addition to our Heritage team, Ruth Gray.

For example, ventilation is currently very much on the agenda. With the Covid 19 pandemic wreaking havoc throughout the country we are again wanting methods of ventilation to ensure our patients and nurses in hospitals and schools’ children and teachers are healthy and can maintain a high standard of education. The below case studies of Planning & Design Practice projects with community buildings are a fascinating example of what can be learned from our heritage buildings.

Planning & Design Practice were commissioned by Green Square Accord on behalf of Worcestershire County Council to prepare an assessment into the heritage significance of Holyoakes Field First School and Nursery, which is situated on Bridge Street, Redditch. Whilst there is historic interest in the school being an example of the work of talented Architect Lieut.-Colonel Alfred Vernon Rowe (1880-1940) it is not his most notable or high-profile work. But our research found that the school is possibly unique for A. V. Rowe, who built many larger, multi-storied schools but these did not include Holyoakes experimental feature, the ‘marching corridors’.

The Education Act of 1907 introduced periodic medical inspections in schools to address the poor health of children across the country. This resulted in experiments in school architecture with a greater focus on light, ventilation, and provision of space indoors and outdoors for exercise. The use of single storey school buildings allowed a larger plan form, with open air verandas stretching the length of the building allowing for ‘marching corridors’, often leading to a large hall where indoor recreation could be held. Holyoakes is one example of such a plan form and having been designed in 1911 is quite early, whilst these principles had been established in the early 1900s it took some time to gain traction, being adopted nationwide after WW1. Read more about this aspect of school design here. 1

Planning & Design Practice recent research of Outwoods House as part of their assessment into the heritage significance for a project with University Hospitals of Derby and Burton (UHDB) NHS Foundation Trust, found that the original part of Outwoods House was constructed in 1895 from brick and sandstone dressings in a gothic revival style. The original building was purpose built as part of an isolation hospital, which has historic significance and modern-day resonance. The Isolation Hospitals Act (1893) enabled County Councils either to provide isolation hospitals or compel local authorities within the county to do so. From the early 1890s to 1914 some 300 local authority isolation hospitals were built. Hospitals were large, dominated by parallel rows of detached ward blocks linked by a covered way, in an extreme form of the pavilion plan that even provided distinctive ventilated basements to allow the free movement of air beneath the wards.

We discovered that overall, whilst buildings of this age/type are not uncommon, and the building has been subject to some alteration/ extension, the original core is a reasonably good example of its type (architecturally speaking) and there is historic interest deriving from its links to the hospital and the story of healthcare in the area. Read more about Isolation hospitals in Historic England’s Health and Welfare Buildings document here. 2

Neither of these case studies are listed buildings but Holyoakes school is potentially eligible for categorisation as a “non-designated heritage asset” by the local authority and Outwoods House is identified by the council’s conservation officer as a non-designated heritage asset. Meaning their importance is recognised for the role they can play in providing future generations solutions. Essentially heritage buildings can help us to understand the society of former eras through their architecture, architects, and their ideas. By understanding our heritage, we can prepare for the future. These two buildings that we have discussed are commonplace but were both designed with ventilation in mind they are examples also of why heritage assessments are an important part of the planning process as the collaboration between conservation officers, planners and developers means that we can retain and reuse buildings and, in the process, discover and retain key pieces of our heritage.

At Planning & Design Practice, we recognise the importance of the built heritage in our towns, villages and rural areas. Our Heritage team includes Director Jon Millhouse, who is a Full Member of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation, Architectural team leader Lindsay Cruddas, a registered Specialist Conservation Architect and Heritage Assistant Ruth Gray who recently completed a Masters in Public History and Heritage at the University of Derby. For more information on the heritage services we offer, or for a free, no obligation consultation to discuss your project or property, please don’t hesitate to get in touch to find out how we can help.

1: Elain Harwood’s book ‘England’s Schools: History, architecture and adaptation’ (English Heritage 2010)

2: Historic England’s book ‘Health and Welfare Buildings

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkdin
Share on Pinterest