‘Her­itage’ of pub is only a fa­cade

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - News -

Ispent a fair bit of time last week pon­der­ing the idea of ‘her­itage’. As any­one who has read the KE reg­u­larly will know, the once-thriv­ing pub but now derelict build­ing known as the Prince Al­bert has been the sub­ject of a great deal of con­tro­versy – should it be re­stored or would the site be bet­ter used to pro­vide much­needed liv­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion?

The build­ing in ques­tion was never called the Prince Al­bert un­til a brew­ery chain bought the Prince of Wales and knocked through to the smaller pub next door (which was the orig­i­nal Prince Al­bert), join­ing the two into one, ditch­ing the name of the larger one and call­ing the new, Franken­stein cre­ation, the Prince Al­bert.

The old Prince of Wales, a to­tally unin­spir­ing ex­am­ple of Ge­or­gian ar­chi­tec­ture, had nev­er­the­less been granted a Grade II list­ing by the Her­itage peo­ple, largely I un­der­stand on the strength of the por­tico which has since been nicked by some en­ter­pris­ing char­ac­ter, who has prob­a­bly stuck it on the front of an old farm­house some­where in or­der to raise the price of the prop­erty by de­scrib­ing it as a manor house.

So here we are, left with a mis­named shell of a build­ing, sans listed por­tico and a town di­vided be­tween nostal­gia and prag­ma­tism.

It is im­por­tant to recog­nise that the build­ing is just a shell which would re­quire so much re­build­ing to make it pre­sentable that there would be noth­ing but a Dis­neyesque and su­per­fi­cial ver­sion of any­thing re­sem­bling a her­itage site.

“Keep the fa­cade and turn the rest into of­fices” is one sug­ges­tion from the nostal­gia brigade. It would seem they haven’t no­ticed that the town is chim­ney deep in of­fices and, with the new ‘busi­ness quar­ter’ un­der­way there are likely to be more of­fices than peo­ple liv­ing in the town.

The as­pect of her­itage, which seems to mat­ter lit­tle to sen­ti­men­tal nos­tal­gics, is in the beau­ti­ful ‘Gar­den of Kent’ coun­try­side. It is this they should be fight­ing for, re­sist­ing ev­ery ef­fort of gov­ern­ment and coun­cil to turn it into a con­glom­er­a­tion of hous­ing es­tates.

The re­plac­ing of an un­sightly pair of derelict pubs, hav­ing no great in­trin­sic ar­chi­tec­tural merit, with liv­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion would con­trib­ute, in a small way, to­wards the preser­va­tion of our true and all-too-frag­ile her­itage.

I am not the only one old enough to shed a tear for long­gone or­chards and hop­fields.

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