Bringing historic buildings back to life

RENOVATION The Vulcan building at Gunwharf Quays
RENOVATION The Vulcan building at Gunwharf Quays

LETTER OF THE DAY: Housing - more needs to be done

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It was a decaying wreck which many feared would crumble away to nothing.

But after a £5.5m makeover, Gosport’s former railway station has been given a new lease of life.

A project to transform the old station into 35 affordable flats and houses was officially completed earlier this year.

It has seen the 1840s design and layout of the station restored to the way it once was.

Developers Guinness Hermitage even followed the architect’s original plans for the station and built a waiting garden which couldn’t be included at the time.

The restoration project is an example of how historic buildings in our area are being kept alive through modern usage and not left to deteriorate.

Too often interesting old buildings are pulled down in favour of high-rise blocks of flats or businesses.

But increasingly, developers are taking the more expensive option and having them preserved.

And with an ever-rising demand for accommodation, many see it as the way forward.

Roger Mawby, the chairman of the Gosport Society, says: ‘It’s amazing because if you look back, this building suffered 40 years of decay. Now it has been restored to the elegance it had in the beginning.

‘It is here because of the willingness of Guinness Hermitage to take on the project. It has transformed the station from ruin to its original design.’

He adds: ‘The Gosport Society and the Gosport Railway Society were very much involved in consultation on the project. I think it’s an amazing achievement for everybody who was involved.’

The project, which took 18 months to complete, has also seen the track preserved, with the original height of the old platforms remaining in place.

Gosport’s railway station, off Spring Garden Lane, was designed by renowned architect Sir William Tite and cost just £10,980 to build.

The army insisted the station be built outside the town’s defences and the height of the building was restricted to one storey so it wouldn’t get in the way of soldiers firing from Gosport’s ramparts.

It was completed in late 1841 and was used by Queen Victoria on journeys to and from Osborne House on the Isle of Wight until her death in 1901.

Then Second World War bombing severely damaged the station.

In 1941, incendiary bombs destroyed most of the passenger side including the large wooden roof.

At the end of the war, the station was low on the list of priorities for repair.

The railway station continued to be used by passenger trains until 1953 and closed fully in 1969.

Hampshire County Council bought the site for development in 1973 and made preservation of the Grade II-listed station building a priority.

Various development proposals were considered over the next 20 years, but never came into being.

But the Hermitage Housing Association bought the site in 2007 and started extensive research of the building before coming up with the final design.

The company wanted to include replica timber sash windows and the stucco render used on the original buildings.

The development opened earlier this month. Madeleine Clark, 62, moved into one of the houses with her husband.

She says: ‘I think the way they have restored the place is brilliant. They have kept all the old windows at the front which is really nice.

‘The platforms at the back are still there and form part of a communal garden and it just looks fantastic.’

The former railway station now includes 35 homes, a community room and three business units.

Eastney barracks

Luxury houses now occupy the building which used to be the home of Hampshire’s Royal Marines.

The Royal Marines Barracks in Eastney were built in the 1860s and became the Hampshire headquarters for training, reserve and special forces.

The compound had its own church, water tower, school, theatre, and an officers’ mess.

The mess is now the home of the Royal Marines Museum, but the long row of barracks was turned into apartments when the Ministry of Defence closed the site and sold the land in 1991.

Several buildings were demolished, but the remaining barracks are now Grade II-listed.

Vulcan building

The foundation stone for the historic Vulcan building at the then HMS Vernon in Portsmouth was laid in 1811 by the Duke of Clarence.

But it took another 63 years for the building, which was used as a naval storehouse and mining school, to be completed.

The north wing and clock tower were heavily damaged in the Second World War and were restored in the 1990s.

In 2006, with the Gunwharf Quays development steaming ahead, developer Berkeley Homes invested £3m in the renovation of the building.

The Grade II-listed storehouse is now used for apartments and the Aspex art gallery.

Fort Gilkicker

Fort Gilkicker was completed in 1871 and used to defend the deep water anchorage at Stokes Bay.

It held 22 gun emplacements designed to sweep the approaches to Portsmouth Harbour with gunfire.

In 1986, Hampshire County Council bought the crumbling Gosport fort to protect it until an alternative use could be found.

Work to transform the Grade II-listed fort into 22 luxury houses and apartments is due to start later this year.

Askett Hawk, the development company, says turning the fort into a residential development is the only way to save it. But local residents and heritage campaigners have fought the plans since their inception.

Langstone Mill

The Old Mill in Langstone’s High Street was built in around 1730.

The mill was operational for nearly 200 years, but fell into disrepair by the late 1920s.

The four-storey tower, which milled corn, once had four sails and worked in conjunction with a nearby tide mill.

It was derelict by 1934 but was converted into a home by the Second World War with the tower tarred and a new cap put on.

The old mill was given listed building status in 1972 and is also a scheduled ancient monument.