'Fix The Bull and you will fix Long Sutton'
Three conservation areas in our area are classed as ‘at risk’ by Historic England. Andrew Brookes explores the current state of play in Long Sutton, Gedney Dawsmere and Kirton to find out more.
Hotel has been deteriorating for 20 years
The long-standing troubles with The Bull Hotel have been blamed for placing Long Sutton’s conservation area ‘at risk’.
We recently revealed that more than 20 historic sites in our area feature on Historic England’s Heritage At Risk register.
While many of the sites are significant buildings or archaeological sites, the whole of Long Sutton Conservation Area is listed.
Historic England says all the sites on the register ‘are at risk of being lost or significantly damaged’.
In the case of conservation areas, this can mean a risk of losing this special status - and making it harder to protect the character of a place for future generations.
Tim Machin, chairman of Long Sutton Civic Society, said: “I think if you can fix The Bull then the Long Sutton Conservation Area will pretty much look after its own.”
He added: “It’s been such a prominent cornerstone building and its condition has been gradually deteriorating for more than 20 years.
“The conservation area largely coincides with the business quarter and the rest of the business quarter is quite vibrant.”
Mr Machin said The Bull’s poor appearance does not appear to be having too much of an impact on businesses for now - but worries that there is a danger that it becomes a negative symbol of the town if its economic fortunes struggle.
He explained: “The upcoming worry now is what happens post Covid if local businesses continue to struggle and there are more vacancies there.
“Then you could very rapidly get into a downward spiral which The Bull would then exacerbate.”
He’s worried that Government legislation that makes it easier to convert businesses into residential properties could place the character of the town at risk - especially if it loses its conservation area status.
Residents have become frustrated by several failed attempts to find a solution for The Bull.
Mr Machin said: “I continue to be gloomy and continue to be bemused and anxious that the council seem to be completely unable to persuade the owners to at least smarten the palace up.”
Village 'at risk' of decay
The small village of Gedney Dawsmere was established in the mid-19th century on behalf of a landowner.
Politician Edward Cardwell - who served in one of Gladstone’s governments as Secretary of State for War - and brother Charles bought up 3,000 acres of land in Gedney Marsh.
The Marsh had a creek running through it which is thought to have been named after Sir Abraham Dawes, who helped reclaim the land from the sea in 1660, and gave the village its name.
Cottages, a smithy, joiners, school, shop, parsonage and church were all built as part of a new community for land workers.
It’s thought the ‘risk’ might come from a lack of funds to maintain properties as they originally looked - or from the general flood risk ascribed to communities near The Wash.
The Lincolnshire Historic Environment Record describes the village as ‘attractive in its neatness’.
We must preserve heritage
Councillors are striving to preserve the centre of Kirton and keep its character, even if its traditional businesses have been lost.
Peter Watson - who represents Kirton on the parish and borough councils and sits on the planning committee - said members are trying to ensure no plans are passed that could harm the look of the area.
He said: “It’s part of our heritage - the war memorial, the town hall and all of that area.
“I do think it’s very important that we keep it how it is.”
Coun Watson said the focus had to be on preserving the heritage of Kirton, with commercial pressures ensuring that it was impossible to return to past times for traders.
Residents have raised concerns about too many takeaways in Kirton.
Coun Watson said: “A lot of people want the village greengrocer and the village butcher but unfortunately shopping in supermarkets has changed all of this - it’s not viable unfortunately.”
Coun Watson said he was impressed by Lincolnshire Heritage’s work to restore the Old King’s Head in High Street and highlighted that as a good example of what can be done to protect Kirton’s past.