Livewire - July 4, 2012

Layton Hill Convent, which dates from 1870, as pictured in the 1920s
Layton Hill Convent, which dates from 1870, as pictured in the 1920s
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By Christina Leigh-Baker (former pupil of Layton Hill Convent School) of Manchester

IT is ironic that at the time The Gazette featured the conservation efforts nationally of The Victorian Society a number of Victorian buildings in Blackpool which were formerly part of Layton Hill Convent School, on St Walburga’s Road, now St Mary’s College, were in the process of being demolished.

The original 1870 building has been much reduced. From the front, the facade and “two rooms width” of rooms are retained. The north and south wings have been demolished and internal demolitions will no doubt begin shortly in the remaining central part.

The whole of the 1898 building which was integral with the north wing, has gone. This could be seen from the road. The 1883 former boiler house and laundry has also gone. The 1939 ‘Power’ building has also been demolished – this could also be seen from the road. The 1895 chapel block remains. It can be seen at the front, in line with the 1870 facade.

The retention of the whole 1870 building would have been an asset to the Victorian heritage of the town and also in terms of educational history.

Sadly when the plans were passed we knew even with the presentation of objections and campaigning which started in July 2010 we would struggle to preserve the building.

Let us hope Blackpool in the future, is guarded to the loss of more Victorian buildings.

Later we tried to have the buildings Grade-listed through English Heritage, again with no success. The Government initiative for local councils to locally list buildings has been implemented in Blackpool where it is in its early stages of formulation. This process came too late to save the 1870 buildings.

It would seem that even with valiant efforts the retention of iconic Victorian buildings are still a mammoth undertaking in convincing the authorities to prevent their future demise. The energy of campaigners has never ceased, but it would seem that in Blackpool the loss of these buildings has failed to ring necessary heritage alarm bells.

These buildings predate the Winter Gardens, Opera House and the Tower.

Campaigners might argue that “heritage attention” is always drawn towards the centre of the town. Tourists are unlikely to pass this school or stop and visit because of its situation away from the Promenade.

Yet Little Layton deserves more recognition in its history and heritage. All these hamlets were the foundations of the town.

* Livewire contributions to jacqui.morley@blackpoolgazette.co.uk