Village link to the past destroyed
Demolition work at Holy Cross site sparks outcry from Chalfont St Peter campaigners
A 3D drone image of the Grange Manor House in Chalfont St Peter taken on December 31 shows skips full of materials and vans parked on site.
The building and roof, which dates back to the Victorian era, has been stripped and trees have been cleared, reminiscent of a construction area.
The Grange – previously part of the Holy Cross Convent School – is right at the heart of a battle between the district council and the parish council to prevent 200 homes and a care home being built on the site.
The estate has a long history – the father of modern socialism, John Bellers, is said to have lived there, along with Hanging Judge Jeffreys and Napoleonic Wars hero General Sir Terence O’Loughlin.
Occupation of the site dates back to the 11th century, and the Grange itself became a regular Quaker meeting place when Isaac Pennington lived there in the early 1600s.
While much of the original building was destroyed in a fire during the Victorian period, a replacement was built on the old footprint and foundation.
Parish councillor Richard Allen said: “We have lost our historically most important building in the village.” And added: “I hope people can then see for themselves the cultural vandalism of our village’s historical heritage.”
Philip Donaldson, of community action group SENSE4CSP, said: “Development of the site and the demolition of the Grange will deprive this old community of one of its few remaining links to its past.
“Why would the nuns who have lived amongst us, educated many of the girls and women who live here and who have been so much part of our community wish to deprive us of one our few remaining and arguably most important of our heritage assets?”
He added: “We didn’t ask that the site should not developed, we didn’t ask that Chiltern District Council should not have the required housing quota in Chalfont St Peter, we simply asked that a more considered approach to town planning should be exercised.
“We wanted to save our precious Grange from demolition, we wanted a land swap deal so that the CSP Academy could occupy a replacement school on the site and that a mixed use development which favoured a better retail offer for our village was included.”
Volunteer historian Denise Beddows said: “Like councillor Allen, I too lament the loss of The Grange and find it shocking that demolition has been started even before the parish council’s objections to this have been fully considered or rejected.”
She added: “The importance of The Grange to our community and in the history of the Quaker movement cannot be overstated.”
A spokesman for developer Charles Church North London said: “The Holy Cross site in Chalfont St Peter has long been identified as an area for housing in the region, with the development plans having been approved by the local council.
“We are committed to providing the right homes for each location in which we build, aiming to build a community while bringing much needed new homes to the area.”
A drone image of The Grange, on Holy Cross, shows extensive building work