'˜Restore our ageing landmarks'; Concern for five famous Doncaster buildings

Some of them have been jewels in Doncaster's townscape for more than 100 years - but now there are concerns for their future.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 21 September, 2016, 07:53
Grand Theatre. Picture: Andrew Roe

Today the Doncaster Free Press reveals the buildings experts in the borough believe to be most at risk, and which they believe should be restored to their original condition from back in their heyday.

The list has been compiled by the Doncaster Civic Trust - the organisation and pressure group founded in 1946 to help in the work of conserving and improving the town and its surroundings.

50 Market Place. Picture: Andrew Roe

The list is topped by The Grand Theatre - the building which as a theatre featured performers ranging from Charlie Chaplin to Max Wall and Morecambe and Wise.

It went onto be used as a bingo hall, but has not been used since the 1990s. A Save the Grand campaign was set up, but had no success, despite thousands signing a petition.

Also on the list is the South Parade home of the Victorian MP Edmund Denison, an 18th century row of town houses on Hallgate, the former High School for Girls on Waterdale, and the former Brookes store at Market Place.

John Holmes, chairman of Doncaster Civic Trust, said there were no easy answers to restoring the buildings on the list. But he said he thought the best hope was tied into the economic success of the area and businesses taking the sites to use as their premises. He said: “I think part of the issue is the march of the supermarkets, taking the initiaive away from the town centres in terms of things like shopping.

Doncaster High School for Girls. Picture: Andrew Roe

“I think the council are really having to struggle now. There have been massive cuts.

“There are many former council buildings in private hands now. They have shining new offices, and don’t want buildings like Nether Hall any more.”

He said there had been a Heritage Lottery Fund bid for money for Mansion House turned down. He said although the HLF frequently put money into historic buildings, they had not usually been a factor in smaller buildings. He does not see the fund as the solution to keeping many of Doncaster’s old premises, although he would like to see more grants available.

“We are slowly losing all our attractive older buildings, and I don’t have a clear answer, but I feel very sad about it and very disappointed.

41 Hall Gate. Picture: Andrew Roe

“The way forward is that we must try to get Doncaster noticed, to get more investment and get more people interested.”

Mr Holmes said he accept the needs for towns to change. He said that there would have been great problems in Doncaster if the town had remained as it was at the end of World War Two, a time when the route of the A1 came through Doncaster town centre.

Changes to the town centre’s roads were responsible for the demolition of many buildings in the 50s and 60s.

“Towns are living and breathing systems. Some buildings come and go, but some of them are worth saving,” he said.

15 South Parade. Picture: Andrew Roe

A spokesman for the Frenchgate Centre declined to comment on the future of the Grand.

The Doncaster Council cabinet member in charge of regenerating the borough said the authority was aware of the importance of its architectural heritage. The council still owns the former girls school site, which is one of the buildings on the Civic Society list.

Coun Joe Blackham, cabinet member for regeneration, said: “We know that for many people the former Girls’ School is a valuable local landmark. The Council will continue to progress options for the site and we hope the original entrance features can be incorporated into any future development.”

“We certainly recognise the importance of Doncaster’s rich and proud heritage. Where possible the Council will invest in historic buildings and aim to secure sustainable futures for them, a recent example being our project to restore Doncaster’s wonderful Mansion House on the High Street.

“Most historic buildings need economically viable long term uses to ensure they can be effectively maintained and we will do what we can to support the owners of important buildings across the borough who obviously must ensure they have the appropriate consents for any works if their building has Listed status.”

50 Market Place. Picture: Andrew Roe
Doncaster High School for Girls. Picture: Andrew Roe
41 Hall Gate. Picture: Andrew Roe
15 South Parade. Picture: Andrew Roe