Members Hastings Borough Council  -- Wednesday 09 February 2000

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Summerfields A Conservation Plan.

Summerfields staircase A question concerning historic structures at Summerfields was answered at the Full Council Meeting on Wednesday 16th February 2000. The following information may be of interest to members to provide some background to the subject raised

 

In 1972 Hastings Borough Council were responsible for the demolition of Bohemia House and the attractive imperial style staircase. In the year 2000 I hope that this Council has greater concern for our historic heritage and will be less cavalier in the decisions to destroy the past or allow its slow decay.

 On 25th May 1999 members will be aware that the DCM & S listed the Summerfields Ice House and later in the year on 9th November 1999 the Victorian folly  - Mock Roman Bath also received the protection of being listed. Currently a Victorian walled garden occupying 20,000 sq. feet is not listed but remains an important feature of Summerfields. Until recently all structures were in the care of HBC. Since their acquisition 34 years ago, they have not been regularly maintained. I hope that now some of these structures are listed, the Council will look upon themselves as custodians taking care for future generations to ensure that repairs and maintenance are carried out on a regular basis.

 

Roman Bath in Summerfields Woods

At some time in the future the Council is likely to take responsibility for maintenance of the Summerfields woodland encouraging public access, and these remnants of the Summerfields Estate will be important features of this recreation area.

 

A conservation plan, whether commissioned by the Council or another party is the first step in ensuring that this council takes responsibility for these interesting and historic buildings. It is essential for all the structures to receive some form of care in order to prevent further deteoriation that may result in permanent damage.

 

early picture of Summerfields Ice House

Members that require further information or who would like to be shown the area, particularly the Walled Garden are welcome to call me.

 

 Pictures

Top:        Imperial Stairs Destroyed 1972

Middle:  Roman Bath Summerfields

Bottom:  Ice House

REPORT - CULTURAL EFFECTS

 The power and riches of a minority of the population provided employment for staff working in Summerfields House and grounds as well as job creation during the construction of parts of the property. The estate of a wealthy man would have provided an income for a wide range of workers. With the coming of the 20th century the upper classes invested their wealth in other ways and the country house with stables and lots of servants began to diminish. The large house found a new role as a prep school. From the foregoing it can be seen that the construction of the house and development of the estate at Summer Fields has contributed to an area close to the centre of town remaining undeveloped during the Victorian development boom. Also the severe slopes which make the area unattractive for building have provided some protection from development. In the last 100 years the appearance of the estate has changed a great deal. Early maps show much of the area which is now woodland in the 1870s was then pasture dotted with occasional trees.

COUNCIL ABUSE

When the site was acquired by Hastings Borough Council they had the opportunity to retain all of the buildings on the site whilst releasing plenty of land adjacent to Bohemia Road for the construction of the required municipal buildings. Unfortunately throughout the sixties and early seventies many local authorities showed a philistine attitude to conservation and preservation It was a time when streets of fine buildings were demolished for the creation of new roads and high rise development was popular among the town planners. Summerfields House was to suffer the same fate as many other buildings in England at this time.

The Council had the opportunity of retaining and developing Summerfields House and its surroundings to provide a central office location for all their services. At one time there was a plan for this to occur. The Council currently rent a range of offices scattered around the core shopping area to provide accommodation for its staff. As a result much needed car parking is taken up by scores of council employees who park all day free in nearby car parks whilst shoppers have difficulty in finding somewhere to park. With foresight a convenient civic centre could have been developed around the attractive Summerfields House with large amounts of car-parking near the cricket ground. The municipal buildings we now have along Bohemia Road especially the Ambulance Station and Law Courts Complex" are a dismal example of architecture.. The Registry and Trading Standards Offices actually occupying the site of Summerfields House look like temporary structures and are depressingly dreary. For an organisation responsible for the creation of the Borough Plan and upholding planning law one can only express concern that the Officers and Councillors of Hastings have neglected their responsibilities over many years and continue to do so on a range of matters.

Hastings Borough Council seem to have failed on virtually all counts. The Council decided to demolish Summerfields House and failed to save important internal features from the house. They have allowed the Walled Garden and Roman Bath to fall into disrepair and in the last year have failed to take into account the existence of the Ice House when giving permission for the development of the Horntye Cricket Ground, a scheme associated with the Boots Priory Meadow Shopping Centre development. The subject of much controversy and machination. At this moment the Conservation Officer is still prevaricating on the relative merits of listing buildings of merit set against what appears to be the normal officers attitude of ignoring structures with the hope that they are not damaged

POLICE STATION Opened 11 October 1972 by Duke of Norfolk 

HASTINGS COURT Opened 10th October 1975 Lord Widgery

Bob Hart

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