Press release: Developer mutilates Jacobean ceiling to avoid potential listing

31 August 2017

Press release: Developer mutilates Jacobean ceiling to avoid potential listing

An ornate Jacobean pendant ceiling in Bristol, dating from the 1620s, was demolished by its owner yesterday (30 August 2017), in a bid to avoid it being listed by Historic England.

This is yet another tragic example of the failure to provide interim protection for buildings being considered for listing, giving owners and developers the chance to destroy important features before they can be fully assessed.

The property at 15 Small Street in Bristol, adjacent to the city’s Grade II* Guildhall, is currently the subject of a planning application to subdivide and convert it into student flats.

Recognising the importance of the almost 400-year-old ceiling, Bristol’s Conservation Advisory Panel applied for it to be spot-listed last week. Historic England have confirmed the building was being assessed, but that they had been unable to contact the owner to arrange access. The owner had also deferred a scheduled site visit by Bristol City Council planning officers.

Historic England will continue the listing assessment of the building, but with the ceiling being the main feature of significance, it is thought to be unlikely that the building will be recommended for listing.

Marcus Binney, Executive President of SAVE said: “Bristol today is largely a great Georgian and Victorian city, but it was a great medieval and 17th-century city too and survivals of the quality of the Jacobean ceiling at 15 Small Street should certainly be protected.  All possible means should be used to make the owners reconstruct it.

“Just as Michael Heseltine reacted with fury to the pre-emptive demolition of the Firestone Factory over a bank holiday weekend, so Karen Bradley must respond decisively and ensure that the notice of a potential spotlisting should not allow a prosecution-free window to mutilate or destroy important historic buildings which are being assessed for listing.”

Notes to editors:

1. For more information please contact Mike Fox, Deputy Director at SAVE on 0207 253 3500 or

2. In a statement, Historic England said:

“Historic England received an urgent listing application for 15 Small Street, Bristol last week. We understand a significant amount of the elaborate Jacobean ceiling was deliberately removed and destroyed yesterday, before we were able to see inside the building. We are continuing with the listing assessment but are saddened that this important 400-year-old feature has been lost for future generations.”

3. The planning application to subdivide 15 Small Street into student apartments can be viewed on the Bristol City Council website, by searching for planning reference 17/03656/F.

4. SAVE Britain’s Heritage has been campaigning for historic buildings since its formation in 1975 by a group of architectural historians, writers, journalists and planners. It is a strong, independent voice in conservation, free to respond rapidly to emergencies and to speak out loud for the historic built environment.

Press release issued by SAVE Britain’s Heritage
70 Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6EJ
Registered Charity 269129
Tel. 020 7253 3500  Email
Follow SAVE on Twitter: @SAVEBrit
Donate to SAVE via Justgiving

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