Syngenta’s shame: proposed demolition of Dalton Grange, Hudderfield

To paraphrase: ‘all that is required for heritage to be lost, is for good people to do nothing‘.  Sometimes this can be through deliberately ignoring a situation or through lack of awareness that a situation even exists. So, this is a quick post to highlight the shamefully poor justification that Syngenta Ltd have proposed as reason to demolish the mistreated but ‘hugely characterful’ Dalton Grange in Huddersfield.

Dalton Grange, Huddersfield, Yorkshire (Image: Huddersfield Examiner)

Dalton Grange, Huddersfield, Yorkshire (Image: Huddersfield Examiner)

Syngenta Ltd is a Swiss-based, global agri-business with revenues of over $14bn and profits of over $1.6bn (2013) – and I have no problem with that at all; big business provides jobs but it also creates local responsibilities.  The corporate website is bathed in the language of sustainability and waste reduction – noble, certainly, but sadly in Huddersfield, they appear to not be interested in following these aims.

A recent application was made by Syngenta to Kirklees Council to demolish Dalton Grange; a building the Victorian Society have identified in their response as being locally significant, both historically and architecturally.  They note that it was built in 1870 by prominent local industrialist Henry Brook, of J.H. Brook & Sons of Bradley Mills (both north and south mills at Bradley Mills are listed Grade II).  Sited on a hill, the house is:

…a sturdy and handsome essay in baronial Gothic, with a prominent castellated turret providing dramatic views of the building at the end of its drive. It is a hugely characterful building and is set in large terraced gardens that in recent years have been restored in order to provide the beautiful landscaped setting that it once enjoyed.
Consultee Responses: Victorian Society

Dalton Grange staircase (Image: Dalton Grange)

Dalton Grange staircase (Image: Dalton Grange)

Care for a local area should be integral to how a company operates, respecting the traditions and heritage which surround their sites.  In both local terms and in relation to national guidelines, the bar needs to be set high to justify the loss of heritage – so how do Syngenta address this:

Reason for demolition: No foreseeable future use for the building. In addition there are anticipated excessive costs associated with ongoing maintenance & refurbishment
Source: Application 2014/68/91888/W

Allow me to paraphrase: ‘Syngenta can’t be bothered to use this heritage asset which is in their care and it’s looking a bit expensive to look after in the way we are supposed to, so we would prefer it if we could just get rid of it.‘ In some meeting, this must have seemed like a quick solution. Hold on though, we’d better think of something we can usefully use this space for once we’ve cleared it. What inspiring solution can we find? What might conceivably justify this lost of a building which has been part of the Huddersfield landscape for nearly 150 years – let’s look at their application again, specifically section 5:

Please describe details of the proposed restoration of the site: A possible outcome is that parking provision for a number of cars will be made available to help ease traffic problems during stadium events.

A car park. Well done, Syngenta.  Speaking to the Huddersfield Examiner, Syngenta community relations manager (ha ha!), Carl Sykes said “This is a private building on private industrial land.” Which I think is his way of saying ‘It’s none of your business’. He continues:

“Times have changed and now they don’t want to run a social club and we no longer have a use for the building. [Or ‘if we can’t have it, no-one can have it’]

“We’re looking to keep skilled manufacturing jobs in Huddersfield for future generations, we cannot continue to subsidise a tired and decaying building that is becoming beyond economic repair.

“We know there is asbestos in the building and attempts to renovate or modify the building would run into tens of thousands of pounds.” [Asbestos is now the new dry rot – used to justify any sort of historic demolition]

“When the demolition is completed, we shall explore how we might use the land to give some real value to the area, rather than becoming a shuttered up, rotting, old building. [Of course, if you sold it to someone who cared about Huddersfield’s heritage it would avoid the fate you are clearly planning for it]

“For example, the land could be used for allotments or maybe stadium match day parking.” [Oh yes, that’s definitely better. What a fine swap].

This is symptomatic of the casual way in which heritage is being treated up and down the country.  Although there are some great examples of sensitive corporate care for heritage assets, there are many others – from small developers to global multi-national agri-businesses – who fail to recognise that heritage is to be cared for and respected.

Dalton Grange, Yorkshire (Image: Huddersfield Examiner)

Dalton Grange, Yorkshire (Image: Huddersfield Examiner)

Kirklees Council also need to take the role expected of them and reject (forcefully) this casual destruction of historic buildings which are an integral part of the character of their local area. Syngenta may be a major local employer but that’s all the more reason to stand firm and provide a precedent that will ensure that the local residents know that the Council cares about protecting a local environment, rich in character and heritage.  The Huddersfield Daily Examiner, should also be leading a campaign to save their heritage, giving voice to those who live in the area who, if asked, would almost certainly prefer to retain a fine old historic house – an article published on 21 March 2015 does start this with a suitably sceptical headline: ‘Proposed demolition of Dalton Grange sparks outrage‘.

Dalton Grange in the snow (Image: Dalton Grange)

Dalton Grange in the snow (Image: Dalton Grange)

Of course, perhaps Dalton Grange isn’t the most spectacular building or in the best condition or in the best position, on the edge of a huge Syngenta production plant but it is separated by a pleasant band of woodland so it would not impact the integrity of their site if they sold it. And perhaps that plant won’t always be there but during their tenure they should ensure that they show respect to local architectural heritage which has been there since long before them.  To demolish the house on such flimsy grounds as ‘maintenance is a bit expensive’ and ‘we fancy a car park’ would be a shameful episode.  Syngenta should immediately withdraw the application, explain how they are going to restore Dalton Grange or sell it, and help find a sustainable long-term use (in line with their professed corporate philosophy) for this small but locally important part of Huddersfield’s heritage.

——————————————————————————————————

Prior notification for demolition of building: Dalton Grange, 19, Bradley Mills Road, Rawthorpe, Huddersfield, HD5 9PR [2014/68/91888/W]

Proposed demolition of Dalton Grange sparks outrage‘ [Huddersfield Examiner]

Victorian Society

Dalton Grange

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About Matthew Beckett - The Country Seat

An amateur architectural historian with a particular love of UK country houses in all their many varied and beautiful forms.
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8 Responses to Syngenta’s shame: proposed demolition of Dalton Grange, Hudderfield

  1. Rupert Pitt says:

    What can we do to stop the demolition of this excellent house?

    • Matthew Beckett - The Country Seat says:

      Hi Rupert – this has build on the existing local concern to build the campaign as the Council will want to know that it is responding to local concerns (though those from afar can of course offer support). There are three main options that the campaign should look at:

      – raising a petition to prove broad support
      – having it classified a community asset
      – get Dalton Grange listed (as the Victorian Society have recommended) – either locally or under the national system.

      To me, it seems the last one would have the greatest effect as it would prevent the house being demolished and would also ensure that Syngenta are forced to deal with their legal obligations. As the Grange is currently occupied and used for events it should prevent any sudden, unfortunate, pre-listing deterioration.

      Those in Huddersfield should also contact their councillors and make them aware of the threat. The Examiner should also continue to expose this and keep up the pressure.

      Does anyone else have any suggestions?

  2. The kind of reasoning that left a lot of America without its historic buildings! So much was torn down in the 50s & can never be replaced. And our head of Historic Preservation in NC says that the “asbestos” reasoning is completely false, since it has to be contained in demolition too. I don’t know the area, but it seems so lovely & in decent shape. Shame on them! I hope it’s stopped.

  3. James Constable says:

    Without question, that which is lovely and brilliant of Yorkshire must be saved. As to asbestos, Canada still ships as a material in use to Europe and the world. The environmental laws are supposed to be shields and not swords ( Source: LSE Law School, London ). The craftsman and Mason of Yorkshire used to be the finest in the world – why deny an honest people the opportunity to stand up and prove their skills?

    Something must be done to somehow stop England from throwing away a culture, design, and level of craftsmanship that is, really unsurpassed. Consider the costs of rebuilding such really wonderful property – I do hope that England is given a chance locally to showcase really brilliant local skills in craftsmanship, masonry, and in architectural excellence; and that these buildings somehow serve a guide to the descendants to find not only their heritage, but the meaning of the generations before them – that so carefully built such buildings to be beautiful for the succeeding generations.

    With E.U. tax harmonization England is in danger – this is a local battle. I do hope that it is won on behalf of your community. The building is lovely, and Huddersfield deserves its many compliments.

  4. James Canning says:

    Bravo, Matthew.

  5. Evelyn says:

    Replacing an historic house like this with a parking lot is a disgrace and is also a redundant foolishness because it’s so often the answer with large corporations. I hate to see them have control over anything of this type of historical value because money is always the priority with them and not the fact that it is more valuable because of national heritage. I wonder what Richard III would say ? Probably something like, “For centuries upon centuries I laid beneath that parking lot ! !” It’s too bad that the historical preservation societies aren’t more financially powerful than them. It would change the whole game wouldn’t it ?
    Thanks for posting this ! The Castle lady

  6. simon.wardell says:

    I noticed that Dalton Grange is mentioned under the bad week for section in this weeks Country Life.

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