Tuesday, 27 November 2012

METAMORPHOSIS!

Simon Johnson and Peter Burrows at Craven Court,
 PHOTO: Tim Williams (Melton Times)
ONWARDS AND UPWARDS

A year has already passed since I last waxed lyrically about the ongoing rescue and timely regeneration of Craven Lodge, the beautiful old house on Burton Road which was pretty well consigned to the fate of the demolition gang only two or three years ago. Thank goodness for the foresight of developer Peter Burrows of Rochford Homes who was to arrive from out of town equipped with the required will and business acumen to confront and eventually rebuff all complaints of and obstructions by, a combination of 'angry local residents' who were ably supported by a stuffy and 'apprehensive' Council committee, to heroically rescue this historic jewel of the town for future generations to admire. As I have previously stated, I live as close to this building as anyone else in the town and have always supported the project with a passion. Now, as the months have passed by, venture to ask the opinion of those who now live opposite this grand pile and you will almost certainly receive a 99% satisfaction response - we are in fact very proud of our new landmark which has emerged from the undergrowth of half a century of neglect to enhance the whole area. (I know who the one-percent are and I wish them luck with their house move!)



The Shrubbery
I do believe that a suggested target for completion of the whole job was to be by Christmas of this year, but as I look out of my window today I do have my doubts, suffice to say that what I have witnessed over the past 12 months has pleased me no end. As some of the completed units became occupied, sixty or more years worth of tangled undergrowth and accumulated detritus was ripped away to reveal hidden paths - probably once strolled along by the late Prince of Wales and his lady-friend - which are once again exposed to the daylight. 'Weed' sown trees, mingled with the unrelenting, uncompromising and choking wild ivy in the unkempt shrubbery which once engulfed the retaining wall, have been unceremoniously removed and destroyed with the result that the original trees, many of them of very rare species, are now appreciating the extra ground space and will no doubt once more find their 'feet'. Of course, the original sprawling gardens cannot be replicated as the property is by now sub-divided into nine dwellings, but the fact that the whole remains surrounded by mature trees is a definite bonus.

The Main Entrance
The main house, together with its classic front facade providing a grand entrance befitting of the early 18th century, remains under intense renovation and will probably prove to be the final chapter in this delightful success story (what will I have to watch then? - perhaps the old War Memorial Hospital, which I can see through my back widows could benefit too).  As I write and darkness falls, I can now see through the shrubbery to the almost completed work and the warmest sight of all is the presence of the large stone windows showing behind them, rooms again lit up and almost ready once more to receive their new owners. Its been a long time.

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THE LODGE HOUSE

A string of the Prince's valuable hunters off to the railway station

I have previously posted this photograph which is pertinent to the regeneration of the present Craven Lodge, as it relates to a point in time when the Prince of Wales was to reluctantly retire from his beloved sport of hunting due to the continuing and deteriorating ill-health of his father, King George.  I discovered this old and grainy photograph in an archived Australian Newspaper which reported events pertaining to that fateful Friday of 22nd February 1929, when the Prince's horses were taken to Leicester by train to be sold at auction the following day. The scene shows Burton Road at the main entrance to Craven Lodge and at the extreme left, are the wooden rails leading to Brook Lane. What immediately drew my attention was the gloomy presence in the background of what was then the Lodge House which once stood at the bottom of the driveway to the main house. From local enquiries I believe that this small building was probably still around when the Leicestershire Education Department bought the premises for the County in 1951; I cannot speak of its demolition. I wrote at the time of posting this photograph ....        

'... but sadly, the lodge-house set just inside the entrance gates is no longer there. Hopefully the old Craven Lodge itself which is currently being restored, could soon see it returned to its former glory...'

Well, it seems that the developer was as fascinated as I was at the thought of the gate-house being re-instated and what a grand opportunity to provide one more unit to help defray costs! As of this time, plans are apparently proceeding for building work to commence on a new lodge when once the main building work has finally been completed. Read this from the Melton Times.


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