Times Past: Fairkytes Art Centre, Hornchurch, and the rumours it was to be demolished


fairkytes - Credit: Archant

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Fairkytes being the borough’s arts centre.

Fairkytes. Date unknown

Fairkytes. Date unknown - Credit: Archant

A building has been recorded at its Billet Lane, Hornchurch, site from 1520.

Cllr Andrew Curtin.

Cllr Andrew Curtin. - Credit: Archant

None of this structure remains. The core of the current building (one room either side of the central staircase) is late 17th/ early 18th century.

Rooms were added to the side and back during the late 18th/early 19th century. Large rooms overlooking the garden were added in the late 19th century.

The building was one of 27 in Hornchurch recorded by the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments in 1923, and was added to the national list of buildings of historic or architectural significance in 1955.

Despite rumours that it was to be demolished as part of the Hornchurch Central Area Development Plan reported in Hornchurch Old and New (1961), published documents place Fairkytes outside the area to be affected.

There was, however, widespread demolition of historic buildings both locally and nationally during this period.

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The 1947 Town and Country Planning Act advocated a planned approach to development after many areas had been destroyed by bombing, made provision for local authorities to preserve “any building of special architectural or historic interest”, and focussed debate.

In 1940 the Modernist J.M.Richards had condemned “the sentimentality that prefers an inconvenient, extravagant, old-fashioned - even obviously ugly - building” over new buildings where people could live “comfortably, conveniently and economically”.

Alternatively, in 1933 the poet John Betjeman wrote of plans to demolish Euston Arch: “If vandals ever pulled down this lovely piece of architecture, it would seem as though the British Constitution had collapsed.”

Locally the debate often lacked the grace of its national equivalent.

One businessman said of 1961 proposals to demolish The Golden Lion, Romford: “How long would it take to pull down the Golden Lion and solve the traffic problem at the Market-place crossroads?”.

The Recorder said of attempts by Romford councillors to preserve Laurie Hall in 1954: “The more sentimental refer to its “antiquity” and would preserve it as a relic of old Romford.

“The fact is, of course, that it is not an ancient building though it is old enough to merit consideration for demolition on the ground that the cost of its complete restoration would be excessive...”.

A councillor said of 1971 proposals to demolish the Clockhouse, Upminster; “It is old, it is crummy and I am all for blowing it up”.