04 June 2012

Doylian Delights: Doyle's former home--Undershaw--saved from development!

Undershaw Saved!
in Oregon adds its voice to the campaign.
The local Baker Street Irregular scion

At 2:30am on the 30th of May I was still up and, it turns out, it was a good thing because I got to hear the news when those of us on this side of the Atlantic who cared where either tucked away in bed or maybe starting their day. 

A cause that had become important to me a couple of years ago--the preservation of Conan Doyle's residence Undershaw, came to a head last week with a judicial review in London's Royal Courts of Justice. On  April 23 the Undershaw Preservation Trust (UPT), an organization dedicated to preserving the building, went to court to oppose a decision that would grant permission for the property to be split up into nine separate homes.  The Trust was backed and supported by a global campaign of people from around the world who did not want to see the author's home destroyed for future generations.  After a day in court, the judges took the opportunity to delay the decision.  The judgement could have taken as long as two months, but a week later a judgement was announced that planning permission 'must be quashed' because of  'legal flaws' during the process.  

John Gibson, a Conan Doyle scholar who helped found UPT, reacted to the news by saying that it had been a long and difficult battle, but he was thrilled with the decision to 'quash planning permission to redevelop the property'.  

He also said, " Conan Doyle's life and works are a fundamental part of British culture and arguably their stock has never been higher.  We have been absolutely delighted to see enthusiasts from across the world get in touch and pledge their support to our efforts."

What's next?

Now that the permission has been halted, what's next for the Trust and Undershaw?   The Trust continues to work on preservation by submitting an application for an upgrade in status from grade II to grade I.  What does that mean?  According to the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport website,   a grade II buildings are noted as 'special interest'.  It means the building is 'protected against unauthorized demolition, altering or extension', which means if proper channels are taken then it allowed to be changed.  Grade I is a building with 'exceptional interest' and could not be changed under any means. There are several criteria for each listing.  Undershaw has been listed as grade II since 1977.  

The ultimate goal for the property would be to see it preserved as a single building, and as a museum or centre for future generations.  Claude Monet's home at Giverny outside Paris, France, and Horta's home in Brussels, Belgium, have been restored and converted into just such sites of cultural and historic information.  Having visited Giverny myself and being an enthusiat, I would love to see Undershaw preserved and restored in such a fashion.  I would pilgrim to England PDQ to experience the place where Conan Doyle worked, lived and wrote and resurrected perhaps his most (in)famous creation, Sherlock Holmes.  I am happy to have done what I could do (and will continue) for this worthy cause.  Yay, Yay, Yay!


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