Building of the Month December 2021: 27 Queen Street, Derby, Derbyshire DE1 3DS
Will time run out for this house turned clock workshop with stellar connections? With links to the first Astronomer Royal, Joseph Wright of Derby and the clock of St Paul's Cathedral, this 17th century building has survived a number of traumas including permission to demolish it. It needs a new use if it is to survive any longer.
At first glance this unlisted house appears to be an attractive Queen Anne building. However, further scrutiny reveals its façade as neo-Georgian which was added in 1929 when a road widening scheme removed the original front. Yet much of the original building survives behind the façade, including a panelled room and an early staircase. The house was built c.1670 for Stephen Flamsteed, the father of the first Astronomer Royal. In the late 18th century No. 27 was home to John Whitehurst, a co-founder of the Lunar Society, who is said to have entertained Benjamin Franklin here.
The artist Joseph Wright, well-known for his paintings of industrial and scientific subjects, is another celebrated resident.
In the 19th century the building went into commercial use as a workshop for the clockmakers, Smith’s, who famously built the clock at St Paul’s Cathedral. The family business continued there until 2000 when it was sold to a developer. The new owner planned to demolish the building and replace it with flats and, even though permission was granted, it was agreed that the house should be retained. However, this scheme did not proceed leaving the future uncertain and potentially precarious.
There have been proposals in the past to extend a nearby conservation area to encompass the building and a listing application could be made on the basis of the significant historical associations and interesting, if altered, architecture. But what could do more in the short term than anything else is the owner establishing a new use for the building.