‘Don’t demolish history’ – conservation chiefs urge Hartlepool council to save Tunstall Court

DERELICT: Tunstall Court
DERELICT: Tunstall Court

CONSERVATION chiefs have written to council bosses to try to save a historic building from being flattened.

Bosses at English Heritage and The Victorian Society have written to Hartlepool Borough Council chiefs in an eleventh-hour bid to save Tunstall Court, an historic mansion in the West Park area of Hartlepool.

The controversial landmark has been repeatedly targeted by arsons and vandals in recent years and owners Ruttle North East recently submitted plans to demolish it and build 14 houses on the site.

But English Heritage say the loss of the building, designed by architect T Lewis Banks and built in 1894-5, would pose “substantial harm to the significance of the Park Conservation Area” and are calling for evidence that there is no other option for the site.

The Victorian Society have dubbed Tunstall Court as “one of the most important great villas built by Hartlepool’s late Victorian industrialists” and hail it as “testament to the wealth and testament enjoyed by its owner”, shipbuilder and MP Christopher Furness.

The society is urging the council to refuse consent for the demolition of the building, saying the owners have failed to demonstrate that the site could not be redeveloped while restoring Tunstall Court.

James Hughes, conservation adviser at the Victorian Society, said: “Demolition of Tunstall Court would be a great loss to the character of the conservation area and to Hartlepool’s wider architectural heritage.

“The poor condition of an important building - whether due to neglect or a failure to secure it against vandalism and arson - should not be used as justification for demolition.

“We understand local frustration at the building’s worsening condition, but urge restoration and sensitive development in its grounds as the solution, not demolition.

“It is important that Hartlepool Borough Council rejects this proposal to avoid setting a precedent by, in effect, rewarding developers of important buildings for neglecting them and allowing them to deteriorate to such a degree. This is vital if Hartlepool’s architectural heritage is to survive.”

In a letter to the council, English Heritage’s principal inspector of historic buildings and areas Catherine Dewar said: “We recommend that the applicant should submit development appraisals and details of the marketing of the site as evidence of the lack of financial viability for the conversion of the villa.”

She adds that if there is a “reasonable avenue of re-use that has not been explored then we recommend that the property is marketed for at least six months to see if there is demand for such a use.”