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WOOLTON HALL 

Woolton Hall is a former country house located in Woolton, a suburb of Liverpool, England.
 
Built in 1704 and extensively renovated in 1772 by the influential architect Robert Adam the building is praised as the finest example of Robert Adam's work in Northern England. Throughout its 300-year history the building has been the residence of a number of notable figures, including the Earl of Sefton and Liverpool shipowner Frederick Richards Leyland.

During the later part of the 20th century the building went through a number of uses eventually becoming a school in the 1950s and later being abandoned with plans for its demolition. A campaign against its destruction was successful and the hall is now a Grade I listed building.

However, this Grade ONE listed building is now rotting away in Liverpool and a campaign group has been set up by Jonathon Wild who has had previous experience in running abandoned building campaigns. Can this Grade 1 listed building be saved from demolition?

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I set up a Facebook group back in 2021 and researched the building and the past involvements with its previous and present owners. It was incredible to find that this building is one year younger than the 1st part of Buckingham Palace and was noted as the finest example of Robert Adam’s work in the North of England. I was even more shocked to see that it was completely derelict and somewhat abandoned.

In May 2019 there was a large fire in the grounds of Woolton Hall and the Fire Service battled to save this spreading to the Grade 1 listed building. I therefore e-mailed the City Council and asked the following:

What is the immediate next steps that the council are taking to secure this property?

Their response: The authority is requiring the owners to secure their property. The authority is also currently discussing with the owner’s architects, potential development schemes with the view of  repairing the Hall and bringing it back into use.

I then asked: Have there been a previous attempt of a CPO against the owners of this building unless urgent repair works have taken place? Has this been completed? Have they been fined if this wasn’t undertaken? Their response:

The authority has not served a Listed Building Repairs Notice, which could  lead to a CPO. Urgent works were carried out in 2013 and 2020. The works were to secure the building and repair leaks and were carried out by owners after requests from the local planning authority. 

As seen on the left, the hall is now in a shocking state from what would be considered as 'managed decline'. It is in a very poor condition and Save Britain's Heritage, Historic England and Liverpool City Council are aware of the condition of the building. 

The images on the right are a mixture of ‘then and now’ images showing the timeline of the building. It has gone from a gentleman’s private residence to now sitting on the cusp of being set fire to with the constant influx of urban explorers who are breaking in each week to access the building.

Let us make no mistake on what is on offer. This is a Grade 1 listed building (the same category as Liverpool Cathedral or the Royal Albert Dock) and should be treated as such. It was built a year after the start of Buckingham Palace and has survived all this time to be left sitting here rotting away with no real concern from the owner to keep the place in order or to provide more security on the building either.

 

It has survived numbers fires either side of the property and we fear that one attempt further will complete lose this fine structure off the map.

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So what have I personally done to highlight this building and its current plight?

1 - I was interviewed on the BBC to put my campaign across on the plight of the building. This was a very fair and well-structured interview via Radio, and I came across as someone who can see that there is a disconnect between what the owner wants for the future of the building, and what we want as campaigners. The link can be found below.

2 – I liaised with Historic England and gave them the full background on Woolton Hall. After many months of trading e-mail’s, I was delighted when they included it on their Heritage at Risk Register 2021. It is now listed as in poor condition and is at the highest level at their register because of its deterioration.

3 - I’ve spoken to Liverpool City Council and all of the councillors in the ward on many an occasion. They too agree that something needs to be done, but with the cost of restoration, it’s out of the City Council’s hands.

4 - I’ve spoken to the Echo and asked for an update. This was the last article in which I featured in. Again, the owner seems to have their own agenda but what is apparent is that no money is being spent on the very basic level of security.

5 - I also asked Save Britain’s Heritage to feature this building in their monthly feature. They featured this for April 2022 giving fantastic information on the campaign. They have also included this on their At Risk Register!

NAME AND LOCATION:

Woolton Hall, Speke Road

LISTING & OWNERSHIP

Grade I - Privately owned 

SECTION 54 OR SECTION 48 SERVED:

No feedback from the City Council as to whether either have been served. 

LAST CONTACT WITH CITY COUNCIL:

APRIL 2024 – I raised the plight of this building to my contact at Liverpool City Council. Liverpool City Council confirmed that they have met with the owner and his representatives at site. LCC were able to fully access the interior and took a number of photographs of the interior and exterior, and around the site.

I am hoping that this report will be available in due course and that further action will be taken against the owner/building on further urgent works notices.

CONDITION:

Substantial house of 1704, enlarged and re-fronted by Robert Adam 1774-80. In a neglected, damp, condition and vacant since approximately 2003. The current owners have had plans to use the building as the focus of a retirement village, but their proposals have failed to get financial support and the building has continued to decline. Subject to vandalism.

An e-mail was sent to Rt Hon Greg Clark MP in August introducing myself and how I have campaigned for the saving of Woolton Hall. To date I have not received a response. 

Rt Hon Greg Clark MP 

 

My name is Jonathon Wild. Born and bred in our great city of Liverpool, I am a local historian within the city and run a portfolio under www.braygreen.co.uk which I provide detailed and historical content both on the history of well-known districts within Liverpool as well as some of our noted buildings such as the history of St Luke’s Bombed Out Church.  I also run a number of local history Facebook groups (4 in total) with over 27,000 members in total and again, these are localised history groups for different subjects. 

Further to this, I also run a number of campaigns for our listed and yet ‘abandoned’ buildings in Liverpool and wanted to provide a brief update on my work so far so I can set the scene for my reasons to contact you. All of the below campaigns can be found on the website link above.  

 

1 – Sandfield Tower, West Derby, Liverpool. (Grade 2). A twenty-two-year campaign to have this building recognised and restored to its former glory. A former private villa built in 1854 and a Church for 50 years, the building is privately owned and is now little more than a folly. I have researched the complete history of this building, written a website, formed a Facebook campaign group and also authored a book on the history of the building. To date, in the twenty-two years I have campaigned for this building, nothing has been done to safeguard this building. It has been subject to vandalism and fire damage and despite repeated attempts to contact the City Council, the City Council have not issued any urgent works notice on the owner (who is locally known) in recent years and it is sitting there rotting away on the main inner ring road at the entrance to West Derby. I can provide 22 years’ worth of e-mail’s in correspondence with the City Council over this building. I am in contact with Historic England and Save Britain’s Heritage, and this was featured as Save Britain’s Heritage ‘building of the month’ back in 2021. (www.sandfieldtower.co.uk

 

2 – Eddesbury, West Derby, Liverpool. (Grade 2). A two-year campaign to have this most important building recognised and restored to its former glory. Built in 1884 by the noted architect James Francis Doyle (White Star Line HQ/Royal Insurance Building), this is one of the last surviving original buildings that Doyle designed. Originally for the Latham family, it was sold to the City Council who ran it as the Margaret Beaven School until 2016 when it was sold into private hands (without tender). Since then, the building has been at the mercy of numerous break-ins and vandalism to this original listed building. I begged the City Council on numerous occasions to step in and issue an Urgent Works Notice to the owners. I asked the local councillors to step in and to help to secure this property. A local developer has recently submitted a planning application to turn this building in to apartments, but sadly, only last month, the building was near gutted by a serious fire which resulted in most of the buildings upper floors being lost. Again, the City Council have not acted on this building to put any pressure on the preservation on this building and as such, we have lost one of the most complete James Francis Doyle’s original works. (www.eddesbury.co.uk)

 

3 – Woolton Hall, Woolton, Liverpool (Grade 1). Another frustrating campaign on the hugely historic Woolton Hall in Liverpool. ‘Noted as one of the finest buildings in the North of England – a Robert Adams special’. Built in the same year as the first part of Buckingham Palace in the early 1700’s, this Grade ONE listed building is again in private hands and has been subject to numerous break-ins over many successive nights. The caretaker has informed the police on multiple occasions, and I have then e-mailed the City Council and councillors on multiple occasions to highlight this issue. The building is now a ‘free for all’ and children are getting access into the building and there have been reports of fires trying to be started in the property. I have littered the City Council with e-mail’s begging them to serve an urgent works notice on the property to have this properly secured. The response from Tony Reeves was ‘must advise that, as a council we must use our resources wisely and, should you make further contact about issues we cannot assist with we will note your comments but may not respond.’ And this was a response to repeated break-ins!  

The reason for contacting the Chief Executive was that my last eight e-mail’s on abandoned buildings to our present Mayor of Liverpool have been ignored! 

I recently wrote again to the City Council after the fire at Eddesbury begging them to speak to the owners of Woolton Hall to secure the property and received this response, ‘In response to your enquiry received on 4 July 2022, we would like to reiterate our previous response and advise that Liverpool City Council do not have any funds available to maintain privately owned properties. You should forward any concerns about listed building to Historic England.’ 

That was a frustrating response seeing I was a, not asking them to maintain private buildings and b, I was the one who through my campaign and with the help of some good people on my group, had Woolton Hall successfully added to Historic England At Risk Register! 

The reason for my e-mail is simple. I am well aware that the City Council are in financial dire straits. The report announced today is a shocking read. I speak in no capacity apart from being a local historian, born and bred in this city, yet I need to pose the question. 

If the City Council is in such a bad way, what is going to happen to our heritage in Liverpool?  

As you know, private individuals do not have to legally ‘upkeep’ their listed properties although if the building is in a poor state, the City Council can serve an Urgent Works Notice to the owners as per the standard procedure by Historic England. If we now don’t have the budget in the City Council to do this, what happens next? Are we now going to enter a new phase in Liverpool City Council where any listed and abandoned buildings will just be left to rot? The owners will see this as a green light and just wait for the buildings to become fired so they can demolish the buildings on safety reasons and then sell the land for housing.  

Historic England are well aware of my campaigns, as are Save Britain’s Heritage. I very much understand that there will be countless more urgent subjects that will need money to be spent on within Liverpool, especially after Covid. But if no one cares for our heritage then what happens? Do we abandon all of the above because nothing will get done and sit by and watch our Grade 1 and 2 listed buildings fall apart?  

What is the next chapter for our Historic Buildings in Liverpool?  

I would like to finish on a verse written on Recollections of a Nonagenarian in 1863 who have summed up Liverpool in its present times:  

Could we draw aside the thick veil that hides the future from us, we might perhaps behold our great seaport swelling into a metropolis, in size and importance, its suburbs creeping out to an undreamt-of distance from its centre; or we might, reversing the picture, behold Liverpool by some unthought-of calamity—some fatal, unforeseen mischance, some concatenation of calamities—dwindled down to its former insignificance: its docks shipless, its warehouses in ruins, its streets moss-grown, and in its decay like some bye-gone cities of the east, that once sent out their vessels laden with “cloth of blue, and red barbaric gold.”  Under which of these two fates will Liverpool find its lot some centuries hence? Which of these two pictures will it then present? 

SAVE BRITAIN'S HERITAGE 

HISTORIC ENGLAND

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LIVERPOOL'S HERITAGE - AT RISK 

These buildings do not belong to us only...they have belonged to our forefathers and they will belong to our descendants unless we play them false. They are not our property, to do as we like with. We are only trustees for those that come after us. 

 

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SAVE has been campaigning for historic buildings since its formation in 1975 by a group of architectural historians, journalists and planners. SAVE is a strong, independent voice in conservation, free to respond rapidly to emergencies and to speak out loud for the historic environment.

SAVE is a strong, independent voice in conservation that has been fighting for threatened historic buildings and sustainable reuses since 1975. 

We are at the forefront of national heritage conservation. We intervene to help historic buildings and places in serious danger of demolition or decay. We stand apart from other organisations by bringing together architects, engineers, planners and investors to offer viable alternative proposals. Where necessary, and with expert advice, we take legal action to prevent major and needless losses.

Historic England are the public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England's spectacular historic environment.
We protect, champion and save the places that define who we are and where we've come from as a nation. We care passionately about the stories they tell, the ideas they represent and the people who live, work and play among them.

Working with communities and specialists we share our passion, knowledge and skills to inspire interest, care and conservation, so everyone can keep enjoying and looking after the history that surrounds us all.

We make sure people understand and appreciate the benefits England's heritage brings and why it should be respected, cherished and enhanced as part of the very soul of our nation. We open up heritage for everyone, using digital resources, media campaigns, our unsurpassed archive, publishing, public information and exhibitions.

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