‘Heritage’ of pub is only a facade
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.