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Friday, 5 May 2017
Sidmouth Drill Hall: "the value people place on old versus new buildings"
Here's the latest newsletter on the Drill Hall - which reflects the most recent research on the building's contributions to heritage:
for the large gap since the last newsletter. Part of it is due to a major
computer problem which took weeks to resolve and part of it is due to there not
being much to report until now.
The dates for public consultation on Port
Royal are not yet known to me although Jillings Heynes have been talking to
leaseholders. There has been an article in the Herald and an EDDC press release
on this; both of which are conveniently available in one place on the Futures Forum Blog run by Jeremy Woodward.
release appears on the EDDC site but not on Sidmouth Town Council site although
the STC are nominally the ‘lead’ on this project.
What the more eagle
eyed amongst you may notice is the reference to ‘major leaseholders’, of which
the Lifeboat and Sailing Club are only two.
On the map from the Local
Plan ED03 ( the area proposed for redevelopment ) covers 1) the Drill
Hall, whose freehold belongs to EDDC and has no leaseholder: 2) the car park
which belongs to EDDC and has no leaseholder that I am aware of: 3) the Lifeboat
Station and 4) the Sailing Club building.
This means that there is no doubt
at all that the redevelopment area under consideration is larger than ED03,
unless of course their press release is not accurate.
Trawlers was included in these talks, which is very odd as they should not be
affected because their buildings stand on the ground given to the town to be for the ‘recreation’ of Sidmothians and visitors alike ( in 1896
shopping was not considered a recreational activity!). I would suspect that the
other leaseholder is LED which runs the swimming pool.
As far as my work
goes I am continuing with all the things that I do. Trying to get people
involved, looking for more information which might sway opinion in favour of
retaining the Drill Hall in any Port Royal development, researching Drill Hall
history and trying to make it all more widely known. Some parts progress better
I have finally been successful in finding an old photograph
showing the interior of the Hall. If it hadn’t been for the recent pictures of
the Hall with the boarding removed I might not have spotted it. It is now up on the research website along other new ones of the exterior, all of which I discovered in the British Newspaper
Archive. The copyright for all these images is held by the individual newspapers
and the British Library.
It was amazing to me to find newspaper
photographs from the first decade of the 20th C. It seems that some of the Devon
papers were at the forefront of technology at the beginning of last
I have also been fighting my way through reams of information
about the contribution old and/or historic buildings make to the economy of
their area. It would seem that there has been quite a bit of research done on
this since 2009 and it has been pulled together in documents by Historic England
and The Heritage Lottery Fund.
Their findings strongly suggest that the
economy of Sidmouth would benefit more from the Drill Hall being refurbished and
used for a particular purpose than if a new building was used for the same
purpose. They state that their surveys show that businesses in old buildings see
a considerable increase (4.4%) in income over those in new ones. I am not sure I
understand why but perhaps they can charge increased fees as their clients are
impressed by their surroundings?
The research also shows what the
public’s attitude to buildings is ‘ A striking area of consensus in the
findings was the value people placed on old versus new buildings. Across all age
groups, older buildings were favoured as being “more beautiful” than newer ones.
The most common reason people gave was that older buildings conveyed a sense of
longevity and grandeur. ‘
Another thing they found was that
restoring an old building to use had a surprising large impact on all sorts of
indicators of social well-being ‘Similarly, an on-street survey of residents
and visitors in areas which have seen significant historic environment led
regeneration found that 93% of respondents felt that the project has improved
their perceptions of the local area and 91% that it had improved the image of
the wider town. 92% of respondents felt that the project had raised pride in the
local area and 93% that it had increased their sense of place. The research
evidenced that the historic environment has a positive and significant
relationship to the sense of place among the adults living there.’ It also
had a positive effect on community cohesion.
If we used the Drill Hall
for something linked to its original intentions the pull for tourist would be
greater than if it was used for an unrelated purpose, and the rewards for the
town would consequently be greater.
So if, for an example we had a museum
about the Volunteers, with the ability for children to try on uniforms and a
(safe) rifle range reinstated, we would have an interactive experience of a type
not easily found elsewhere. It would provide wet weather activities, and the
research shows that this sort of attraction is very popular. Of every £1 spent
on visiting a tourist attraction only 32p is spent at the actual attraction, the
other 68p is spent in the surrounding area in shops and restaurants.
there would be a definite economic advantage to retaining and reusing the Drill
Hall, as well as the advantage of retaining part of our history. Drill Halls are
rapidly being lost, if we save ours it could end up being unique as a small town
example of military history. It already seems to be unique amongst coastal
communities with the basement designed for housing fishermen’s boats. Rare and
unique historical buildings are attractive to tourists.
resulting in the above information was mainly done at large attractions such as
the Iron Bridge Museum, but it should be fairly easy for someone in the know to
tell if a smaller attraction such as Seaton Jurassic has a similar
By the by, all this makes me wonder again why we don’t tell
prospective tourists about all we have to offer. The beach, shops, friendliness
and safety of the town, the country side and the nearby attractions are all
clearly displayed, but the literary connections, the fact that you can still see
houses where authors and people of national importance stayed or lived is not
mentioned. When you think how many people visit Beatrix Potter’s house, or those
of the Lakeland poets, or Shakespeare’s, there is obviously a huge market for
that sort of thing. The books in the Museum will give that information but you
almost have to know it already in order to find it. Surely we can do
I will contact you again when I learn the date for the public
consultation on Port Royal.