Lewes Eye Sores 2

I did not imagine that a blog on the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Lewes’ townscape would have generated such a great number of responses. As there are some very valid comments it is only fair that I give air to these in a similar vein to my original ramblings, along with my own contribution from parts of Lewes I missed the first time. Therefore, on a second glorious day in June I took my camera out for an hour of wandering and snapping. (Click on the pictures to enlarge them and see the full gory details)

Cannon O’Donnell Centre

In my original amble I missed out the top of the town. So my first target had to be the Cannon O’Donnell Centre. My research tells me that the building was sold in 2007 and by 2008 the Council were refusing permission for its development into 11 residential units. The District Conservation Officer described the building as “a landmark” and an “imposing example of Arts and Crafts architecture”.

Photo by Graham White

Boarded-up and uncared for. Cannon O'Donnell Centre - Spital Road

For all the wrong reasons it is definitely a landmark, its visibility heightened by its derelict state. Sadly this tatty shell is one of the first things seen by the thousands of people coming into Lewes every day along the busy Western Road. Also, I would not describe it as imposing – more a case of menacing – with its boarded up windows, shabby exterior and flaking paintwork. The Arts and Crafts building style is one of solid, well-proportioned forms. Unfortunately, the Cannon O’Donnell Centre is now degenerating into something a little less solid.

Photo by Graham White

The Landmark that greets thousands coming into Lewes each day

The Police Garage

The Spital Road area is like the Bermuda Triangle of Lewes architecture – style, attractiveness and well-being have mysteriously disappeared. Such a lack of merit is demonstrated by the building across the road from the Cannon O’Donnell. I know it as the Police Garage.

Architectural style failure - The Police Garage, Spital Road

I am not deliberately having a go at the Police but, they do not appear to be the best guardians of our architectural heritage nor do their buildings enhance our townscape. Since my first blog I see that the mountain of pigeon pooh at Lewes Police Station has been cleared and a planning notice has appeared about the building’s future conversion into 14 residential units.

Their other great Lewesian edifice, the Police Garage, is in the heart of the Spital Road / De Montfort Road residential area. From the front it is a brutal block of a brick building. The few windows that break up the huge expanse of brickwork are all covered, giving the building an impression that it is inhuman and there is no one inside wanting to look out. By day there are always vehicles scattered around making a messy industrialisation of the street. At the rear it is giving the residents in De Montfort Road one of the worst sights of inappropriate and uncared for construction in the town.

An unprepossessing view for the residents of De Montfort Road

I would suggest that the whole operation would be more suited to the North Street, Phoenix or Brooks Road industrial estates and the site could be redeveloped into a large area of new housing.

The Pewter Pot/Meridian

I know that a developer wants to convert the old Pewter Pot, or more recently the Meridian, into housing. However, until they do something, the boarded up building is just adding to the aura of dereliction of Western and Spital Roads. Such a situation can be contagious and it is noticeable that other nearby properties are also taking on an uncared look. I would be worried if I was the developer of the old pub. Were I a buyer I would not consider paying top price for a new house when my neighbours are the Police garage and the crumbling Cannon O’Donnell Centre with its uncertain future. Overall this area of Lewes is changing from attractive and historic county town to modern inner city sink.

Photo by Graham White

The old Pewter Pot. Boarded-up and adding to western Lewes' aura of dereliction

Keere Street

Comments were made about inappropriate repairs on Keere Street, the creation of a patchwork of concrete instead of cobbles and brick. However, when I arrived with my camera I was immediately taken by the insensitive placement of a rubbish bin. In prime position, at the top of the hill, underneath the nice street sign and outside the door of the 15th century Bookshop – a honeypot spot for thousands of tourists each year.

Photo by Graham White

Tourist attractions of Lewes. Keere Street, 15thC Bookshop and a historic Litter Bin

As happens with rubbish bins, this one was full and some nice person had left a black plastic sack full of waste beside it. Rubbish bins attract rubbish and where there are no bins people tend to take their waste away with them. They are a necessary evil and should be located in the places where the rubbish is being created – picnic areas and outside shops that sell take away food. Neither of these exists at the top of Keere Street and I cannot think of a logical reason why a rubbish bin needs to be located here at all.

Church Twitten

During this particular amble I found that Church Twitten is now closed. I wanted to use it to nip from School Hill to the Library but found that access is prevented, probably due to Health & Safety, by the building work on the old Lewes House / Walwers Lane sites.

Photo by Graham White

Church Twitten closed with a diversion

Behind the holed flint wall of the Twitten at Walwers Lane they are currently building 24 units. But, the main Lewes House site through which the Twitten runs is still unworked. I understand that planning approval has still not been finalised and it may be sometime before anything happens. I presume the Twitten will remain closed until the whole building project has been completed. As this could be years into the future I have to ask the question of whether we may lose Church Twitten forever because it will have been out of use for so long.

Photo by Graham White

Lewes House inactive building site blocking Church Twitten

Ugly Buildings

In my last blog I labelled the Telephone Exchange in North Street as the second ugliest building in Lewes. Two further nominations have been made to the gallery of the Ugly. The first is Albion House, home to a well respected estate agency amongst other businesses. When you stand back and look at the building as a whole you have to wonder if the architect used a Lego model for his design. It is just two oblong blocks punctuated by oblong windows. Its only features are a concrete string course and an insignificant, curved canopy over the front door. I hope the payment to architect did not include anything for creativity or imagination.

Photo by Graham White

Albion House. Nominated one of the ugliest buildings in Lewes

The second nomination is Temple House, home to the Sussex Express and other businesses. Built on the site of the old flea pit cinema forty years ago, its style and construction methods are not in keeping with its neighbours. At least the architect had a go at some design but, it was not exactly from the right design school. It is all straight lines and 90 degree angles, except for the tops of the windows. The neighbours have straight or arched lintels while the profusion of windows in the façade of Temple House all have triangular tops. The different materials used for the exterior facing on the ground floor compared to the brickwork of the upper storeys looks decidedly odd. Also, I could never work out why the name of the building is actually stuck on its 19th century neighbour’s wall on an out of keeping patch of 20th century bricks.

Photo by Graham White

Temple House. Another nominee for the ugliest building in Lewes

Lewes Castle

The last nomination to the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Lewes is the asphalting of the road from the Castle Gateway. This runs past the former tilting yard which, for the past 400 years has been a bowling green, and on towards The Maltings. From the High Street and through the Gateway it is all well laid stone and brickwork. Unfortunately, from Castle Lodge onwards it is just an asphalt surface that successfully cheapens this wonderful area. To make matters worse, the parking fanatics have plastered double yellow lines all over their insensitively managed piece of road. Anyone know the penalty for parking a knight’s horse on a double yellow line while he waits for his next joust?

Photo by Graham White

Lewes Castle Precinct - No parking on the asphalt


5 Responses to “Lewes Eye Sores 2”

  1. Paul Says:

    You can blame all and sundry for this sorry collection – architects, developers, planners and many who live in Lewes. There does seem to be an “over my dead body” attitude to new developments in the town which leads to some buildings standing empty and derelict for longer than is necessary.

    It is easy to blame the developers/planners/councillors but some in Lewes need to look to themselves.

    They should ask: How can we encourage and get good, sensitive new development in Lewes? If you say no, no, no, no you end up with some of the eyesore featured in this blog.

  2. Ian Eiloart Says:

    Church Twitten should be reopened when the current phase of development is completed. It’s closed because access to the site is through the Lewes House site, and across the twitten.

  3. Penelope Parker Says:

    The Canon O’Donnell building has had an accident yesterday. The developers are demolishing by neglect and the Council have their hands tied when it comes to securing the building because there is an open planning application in process.
    The heavy cast iron guttering fell off yesterday and the Council had to act swiftly for the safety of the general public. I do not know the full story because I was out of town for the day, but it appears that the Developer sent someone to remove the remaining unsafe guttering and they have left some plastic tape around the building in an effort to keep passersby away from the area.
    Only yesterday, two different individuals mentioned how they had enjoyed community events at the CO’D in the past. The top of Western Road is dying as community because of many reasons, one adding to another.
    The Meridian Pub building is another victim of the general blight. The last venue for any community activity is the Black Horse and many people with long memories refuse to visit this excellent pub. Without a fully accessible community space this will become a commuters’ dormitory neighbourhood owned by absentee landlords and people who do not know each other.
    The CO’D had been given to the community by a benefactor and was not to be sacrificed on the altar of developer’s profit.Yes, it is an eyesore and is desperately in need of care and attention. How can we force the developer to bring it back onto the market and move forward with this impasse?

  4. Bored Of Nimby's Says:

    How many of those wittering on about The Meridian pub being vital to “the community” actually ever drank there? Probably none, hence its closure.

    As for that Arts & Crafts “Gem” the Canon O’Donnell, the sooner it gets flattened and replaced by some housing the better

    • Jo Says:

      In response to “Bored of Nimby”, not only did the writer of this blog frequent The Meridain Pub, but his family did too. They used to do excellent food and had a pool table. Additionally, he also supported the Cannon O’Donnell Centre which not only had a bar but a large function room too.

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