Still time to save town’s re­main­ing gems

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Remember When? -

There have been many oc­ca­sions in the 30 years of my ex­plor­ing the history of Ash­ford that I have been an­gered and shocked when see­ing ev­i­dence of the mass oblit­er­a­tion of the town’s her­itage as­sets – many of which dis­ap­peared be­fore my ex­is­tence.

Opin­ions may dif­fer from one per­son’s view to another when iden­ti­fy­ing what is an as­set, but the town re­ally did have some beau­ti­ful build­ings that should never have been de­mol­ished.

Once they are gone they are gone, but one can­not help but think what might have been if plan­ning de­ci­sions had been dif­fer­ent.

The big­gest mis­take was putting up new build­ings too close to the town’s heart, thus dis­turb­ing its rich her­itage, some­thing many older Ash­for­dians still speak of with much dis­ap­proval.

But rest as­sured that, as well as my­self, there are in­di­vid­u­als with a knowl­edge of the town and its history, and above all a pas­sion for sav­ing the Ash­ford of old, that are stren­u­ously work­ing be­hind the scenes to try to se­cure the re­ten­tion of our re­main­ing ar­chi­tec­tural as­sets for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. Some we may win and some we may lose, and some­times we say to our­selves that we should have tried harder.

For ex­am­ple, de­spite a con­sor­tium of ex­perts try­ing to save the re­cently de­mol­ished col­lege build­ings in El­wick Road and up­com­ing de­mo­li­tion of neigh­bour­ing prop­er­ties, the ef­forts didn’t prove fruit­ful.

This week Re­mem­ber When takes a look back at three such el­e­ments of Ash­ford’s her­itage that plan­ners should have taken a dif­fer­ent de­ci­sion on – i.e. re­tain­ing them! The pic­tures are from 1962, 1965 and 1972.

Do you have any pho­to­graphs or slides that you would be will­ing to loan me, to en­able them to be scanned and fea­tured in the Ken­tish Ex­press? If so, please write to me: Steve Sal­ter, Ken­tish Ex­press Re­mem­ber When, 34-36 North Street, Ash­ford TN24 8JR, email met at re­mem­ber­when_k­mash@ hot­ or fol­low me on Twit­ter @SteveKMAsh­ford. Or you can also leave a tele­phone mes­sage for me with brief de­tails by call­ing 01233 623232.

Lo­cals were up in arms when per­mis­sion was given for the de­mo­li­tion of the pic­turesque cot­tage of Mum­mery’s the seeds­man in East Hill in 1962. It was to be re­placed by a car park for Ash­ford School, which has for many years oc­cu­pied al­most all of the build­ings in what was a main thor­ough­fare from the coast to Lon­don in the days be­fore the by­pass opened. It is ar­guably one of the worst de­ci­sions that plan­ners could ever have made back in the town’s pre-bor­ough days. Sac­ri­lege with a cap­i­tal ‘S’!

The Duke of Marl­bor­ough pub is pic­tured at the junction of East Hill and Sta­tion Road in 1972. Dam­aged dur­ing the war and re­mod­elled with its fa­mil­iar roundel cor­ner, the pub was yet another of the town’s her­itage as­sets whose re­mains now sit un­der­neath the Ring­way. The pop­u­lar Wat­neys house was a stone’s throw from the County Ho­tel and en route to the Star at the bot­tom of East Hill and the Queens Head, which stood op­po­site East Hill Mill un­til March 1968. This pic­ture was taken just days be­fore the bull­doz­ers moved in.

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