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Undershaw Milestones

08 Feb

A number of websites, individuals, societies, groups and “ambassadors” are endeavoring to raise funds on-line to save Undershaw at Hindhead. This blog is not a solicitation for funds.

Undershaw by Charles Bone

   A watercolour by Charles Bone

1896. ACD lived at Morefields, a small local Hotel, and visited the property daily to supervise the construction with the architect Joseph Henry Ball. Virginia Wolfe visited the building site.

October18, 1897. The Doyles move into Undershaw. ACD reckons it cost him £10,000 and annotated it in his notebook. Bernard Shaw did not move to the area until two years later.

1902. ACD received his knighthood here.

July 1906. Wife Touhy died after a long illness with Tuberculosis and is buried at Grayshott Church Cemetery approximately one mile away. Doyle’s mother was also interred there in 1921. Doyle’s Son Kingsley in 1918, and daughter Mary interred there in the 1970s.

Early 1907. ACD takes up the cause of George Adalji. This case and the case of Adolph Beck result in the establishment of the Court of Criminal Appeal.

July 1907. Bram Stoker interviews Doyle on the eve of his marriage to Jean Leckie

1907. Sir Arthur remarried and moved to Windlesham in Crowborough, and rented Undershaw for another 14 years.

1908. Rented Undershaw to a retired Headmaster of a Public School, a widower  of Aldous Huxley’s mother’s sister.

1910-1912. Aldous Huxley, as a teenager resided at the property and went to write Brave New World 10 years later. Doyle wrote The Lost World in 1912.

1921. Undershaw sold for a “sacrificial price” of £4000. All real estate was depressed after WWI, and ACD needed the money to support his Spiritualistic Crusade.

late-1920s. A new wing was constructed on the east side facing south of about 2000 sq feet.

1935-2004. Undershaw was purchased by the Bridger family who lived locally but never occupied the house. They leased Undershaw to individuals who operated a Restaurant-Hotel there. These individuals were always undercapitlaized, and therefore made very few changes to the building and grounds. Fortuitously many of the original features still exist.

February 2004. Property sold to Fossway Limited (a company registered in the British Virgin Islands) for £1.1 million.

May 2005. The Undershaw Hotel forced to close by the owner. Shortly after the closure the pair of antlers that were mounted at the entrance were stolen. All the lead in the valleys of the roof was also stolen resulting in significant water damage to the interior ceilings, and not the walls.

May2005. Doyle’s multi-storied heraldic window was partially broken and remains broken to this day (against all regulations of Listed Buildings.)

June 2006. An application by The Victorian Society with information supplied by JM Gibson was submitted to English Heritage and the Grade 2 status was confirmed. An appeal also failed in early 2007. English Heritage did not consider the stables and the brick-lined well in their reaffirmed assignment of Grade 2. One of the major reasons in their decision was that Conan Doyle did not have the same status as a writer as Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. It should be noted that those two homes are both Grade 1, and were occupied for short periods of time, and both were built and designed by and for somebody else altogether. This decision was also based on Undershaw’s Architecture. It should be noted in response that Undershaw was designed and built by Conan Doyle for his sick wife. The architecture of the home is essentially irrelevant, but it is rather the history of the home that is important. For example ACD had one of the first telephones in the area, and was a pioneer in electricity in the home coming from a steam furnace in the basement.

20 December 2006. Plan to develop the property unanimously defeated at Waverly Borough Council. John Michael Gibson made a persuasive speech to council pointing out there was no security and the doors were open

January 2007. Waverly Borough Council erected scaffolding, tarpaulin and increased security and spent £70,000 which was recovered from the owners. The roof was repaired with cheap roofing felt and this is still in place today.

2007-Nov 2008.  A modern exterior was installed in the coach house. The renovation was carried out without Listed Building Consent.

Late 2008. The Undershaw Preservation Trust was registered as a Charity to preserve Undershaw by JM Gibson.

November 7, 2008. Waverly Borough Council served an urgent Repair Notice, which was time restricted, and was not complied with by the owner. In spite of this No Compulsory Purchase order was issued.

Negotiation were started with Wilson the architect for the property to be carved up into 3 houses vertically with a solid cement block in between, the add-on would be removed, and a terrace five separate Units would be added on the east. The coach house would make it 9 units altogether.

2009. The single story 600 sq foot kitchen containing asbestos is completely torn down and removed. The plaster was stripped from the upper floor. A plumber and the security guard removed all the asbestos line pipes, and the plumbing fixtures

March 10, 2010. A planning application received for the Southern Area, and considered by the full council in June 2010 and passed by a 7 to 1 majority. All conditions were finally satisfied. The plan called for 7500 square foot house to divided into three with cement partitions. The removal of 1800 addition, and five new 3-story townhouses.

June 10, 2010. Conditional on having the  money in the bank. Plaster off top floor

September 10, 2010. Full planning permission granted subject to Judicial Review.

Under British Planning Law any individual can initiate a Judicial Review.

December 2010. Application made to the Royal Courts of Justice with no relief of costs. Legal Assistance was not available. The case was accepted because it had an arguable case. JM Gibson vs. Waverley Borough Council. There was an attempt to make the legal case The Undershaw Preservation Trust (UPT) vs. Waverly Borough Council, but this was not possible because UPT was impecunious.

June 2011. Pre-trial Judge approved the case to be heard in the High Court of Justice.

May 23, 2012. Case heard in The High Court of Justice. (I was there!) and a decision to quash the development was given 7 days later.

July 2012. Fossway’s application to appeal was turned down by another Judge.

September 2012. The detailed reasons for the decision  of May 2012 are contained in the issue of Journal of Planning Law.

November 2012. A second appeal was granted for an oral hearing which was flatly turned down by a final third judge in the Hugh Court of Justice.

December 20, 2012. A “For Sale” sign was posted on the property by Aequitas Property Agency.. The telephone number given was not answered until January 2013.

January 6, 2013. The Sales agent, Rupert Maxwell-Brown stated on the phone the asking price was £1.2 million, He also indicated that any individual making an offer would have to provide evidence of adequate financial resources to purchase.

March 2013. A business man, who has ..  makes an urgent application to English Heritage for the grading to upgraded from Grade 2 to Grade 1 or Grade 2*. English Heritage is still considering this application 11 months later.

May 2013. A second supplementary portfolio of evidence was also submitted about ACD’s importance as a writer.

October 2013. A group headed by Marek Ujma “negotiates” a purchase price of £1.65 million, and also has a six month window to complete the fund raising and presumably complete the transaction.

January 7, 2014. in a BBC television interview Ujma (from Grayshott) estimates the cost at £3.5 million to purchase and renovate Undershaw. Ujma does not mention the ongoing costs associated with operating a Heritage Centre.

Febraury 2014. English Heritage has appointed a team of Assessors to view Undershaw with the permission of the owner. Their report is eagerly anticipated.

mid-February 2014. The original ‘FOR SALE’ board is still in place at the entrance of the property.

Res Ipse Loquitor  (The matter speaks for itself)

This debâcle is still unfolding. I shall amend and update this blog post as necessary — George A. Vanderburgh\

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