RAILROADED: Hundreds of historic houses will be flattened or ruined by new high speed train link – by Harry Mount – Last updated at 3:05 AM on 14th January 2012

In Uncategorized on January 14, 2012 at 5:21 pm

There are few English villages more idyllic than Chetwode in Buckinghamshire, just on the Oxfordshire border. The Grade I listed priory church of St Mary and St Nicholas was built from the remains of an Augustinian priory founded in 1245. In its chancel window is England’s oldest heraldic stained glass, showing Henry III’s coat of arms.

In the nave, there’s a plaque to John Betjeman’s father-in-law, Field Marshal Lord Chetwode. In the churchyard, you can’t hear anything apart from the sound of birdsong.

But this week, Transport Secretary Justine Greening confirmed that the HS2 high-speed train line will now go ahead — and once it is up and running, you won’t hear a bird around here for love nor money. Any vicar taking a service in the church will, as the trains pass,  have to bellow out his sermons at the top of his voice.

John Barnes with his home Packington Moor farmhouse near Tamworth close where the proposed HS2 route would run

Christopher and Celia Prideaux’s Doddershall House, in the Buckinghamshire village of Quainton, is under threat from the proposed HS2 rail route

‘This is where the trains will hit 225mph — the noise will be like a Formula One car,’ says Ken Cooper, 67, a chartered surveyor and office developer who lives next door to the church in the Grade II-listed, 17th-century Priory House, 300 yards from the prospective track.

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‘That’s 90 decibels. We came here for the sound of silence. It’s the most wonderful part of the world. We wanted to stay here for ever, and hand the house onto our son, but who’d want to live here when the trains come?’

Ken and his wife Barbara are among hundreds of people whose lives have been destroyed by the prospect of the new line slicing through the heart of England — ‘the Berlin Wall for Britain’, as it’s been dubbed by the campaigning conservation magazine Cornerstone.

The Lower Farm house, in the village of Lower Thorpe, near Banbury, Oxfordshire, is owned by Tania and Russell Parsons and on the route of the HS2 rail line

Dozens of listed buildings like Priory House are due to be demolished, or severely blighted, if HS2 is built.

Thanks to compulsory purchase order legislation, the Government has the power to force through the HS2 line on its chosen route. This allows the Government to buy property or land without the owner’s consent.

Country cottages, Georgian farmhouses, medieval rectories, ancient manor houses . . . in all, 314 listed buildings will be damaged or destroyed by the high-speed train, despite a valiant campaign to save them by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.

This week, Lord Astor, David Cameron’s stepfather-in-law, who lives not far from the line in Ginge Manor, Oxfordshire, attacked the project. Outside Aylesbury, Lord Rothschild’s venerable Waddesdon Manor will shudder to the sound of the passing trains.

But it’s not just the rich and the grand who will have their historic houses blighted by the railway. At the stroke of a planner’s pen, lifetimes of careful saving, back-breaking renovation and self-sacrifice have been rendered futile.

Those properties which are not actually demolished are likely to see their values plunge. And yet not a soul from the Government warned the victims about the disaster thundering towards them at 225mph.

The Coopers bought Priory House and its surrounding 50 acres in 1989 when the building was in severe disrepair. They spent £350,000 reconstructing this rare architectural gem: a 1655 double-gabled house, refashioned in 1833 with a charming panelled drawing room, and a hall and dining room fitted out with elegant 18th-century fireplaces, cornices and doorcases.

With his own hands, Ken Cooper built a Doric-style temple by the lake, where the priory monks used to keep their carp. An ancient moat runs round the old kitchen garden, only 150 yards from the spot where 18 trains an hour will come roaring through at more than 200mph.

Ken Cooper in front of his home The Priory, which adjoins St Mary and St Nicholas church in Chetwode, Buckinghamshire.

Sally Cakebread at the Savay Farm in Denham

When plans for the route were first mooted two years ago, no one got in touch with the Coopers to tell them their world was to be turned upside down.

‘We heard about it from a neighbour,’ says Barbara Cooper. ‘The authorities never tell you anything.

‘The first our neighbours heard about their home being demolished was when they looked up the route and saw a circle with a cross on their house — meaning it was due to be demolished.

‘When you see the HS2 on telly, they show a normal train. But this won’t be a normal train line. It will be a pair of tracks, 100 yards wide, with no vegetation on either side and high fences to keep deer out.’

Pat Dillon at his home Dunton Hall and Barn in Curdworth, Warwickshire close to which the proposed HS2 route would run

Only homeowners whose houses are to be demolished will get full compensation. Otherwise, they must seek partial compensation for their blighted properties, and they can only do that in 15 years’ time, once the trains are working. Meanwhile, they face years of misery as the line is built.
If none of your land is lost — as is the case with the Coopers — you can claim only for things like vibration, noise and fumes. They cannot claim for the loss of their view, which has remained largely unchanged for 350 years.

‘Yet the value of this house has already been halved,’ says Mrs Cooper. ‘Who’s going to buy it when the trains are here?

Across England — through Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire — the message is the same: the Government has ridden roughshod over the property-owning rights of people who have given their lives to their houses.

Gary and Lynn Eastman, both 65, moved to Twyford, Buckinghamshire, in 1987 with their three children. For 25 years, they’ve been renovating the medieval, half-timbered St Mary’s House. The former rectory, which is next to the Grade I-listed Norman church of St Mary’s — is where John Sergeant, the BBC broadcaster and son of the local vicar, grew up.

The original HS2 plans placed the railway 50 metres from the Eastmans’ front door. The new plan puts it 150 metres away, but the line will still be highly visible — and, at 77 decibels, most certainly audible — in a neighbouring field currently used for grazing sheep.

St Mary’s is a rare, Grade II-listed double-hall house — a pair of adjoining medieval buildings which have become one charming family home.

‘When we came here, it was pretty much derelict,’ says Gary Eastman, who has just retired as managing director of a construction company. ‘We’ve done all the building work ourselves, and put our lives into it. And then HS2 came along. It’s an ill-considered vanity project, which will only shave a fraction off journey times.

Sylvia Arnold at her home Woodend Lock Cottage, King’s Bromley in Staffordshire, close to which the proposed HS2 route would run

Jon-Paul Weaverat his Lavernder Hall Farm in Berkswell near Solihull close to which the proposed HS2 route would run

Jon-Paul Weaverat his Lavernder Hall Farm in Berkswell near Solihull close to which the proposed HS2 route would run

‘This is a little rural village, a delightful part of England, and some bright spark comes along and just says, “Let’s run a railway through the village”.

‘HS2 is already casting its shadow here. No one here has been able to sell their house since March 2010 when it was announced.’

‘What’s going to happen when the children in the village school grow up?’ says his wife Lynn. ‘Who’s going to want to bring their children up here?’

‘And they never told us anything about their plans. I first heard about it on the radio. There’s heartache in this village.’

John Freestone with his home Sunflower Farmhouse in the village of Chetwode, Buckinghamshire. The propesed HS2 route would run nearby

Those sentiments are echoed all along the railway line, right into the Buckinghamshire fringes of London. Savay Farm, in Denham Green, is the family home of Sally Cakebread, her mother and her nine-year-old daughter.

A Grade I-listed manor house dating back to the 11th century, it was used by Henry VIII as a hunting lodge. The farm was bought by Sally Cakebread’s father in 1945.
Under the HS2 plans, the Colne Valley Viaduct — a concrete and steel structure some two-and-a-quarter miles long, and 30 metres high, wrapped in power lines and caging — will pass 200 yards from Sally’s garden.

‘I really can’t believe it,’ says Sally. ‘Our home is among the protected houses in Britain, and we can’t even get permission to add a tiny extension. But the Government can run this eyesore past the foot of the garden. If this goes ahead, the view from our house will be awful. England is all about its heritage. If we don’t protect that, what will we have?

‘My daughter is worried she won’t be able to sleep at night, with trains passing every four minutes, and the noise and speed of them will make our windows rattle. ’

The train runs through the heartland shires of the Conservative vote. As I travelled through them this week, I met staunch Tories who said they’d never vote for the party again because they felt so let down. Again and again, those affected talked about ‘betrayal’.

‘We’ve been ignored — it’s almost as if we don’t exist,’ said Shirley Baker, 71, who has lived with her family in the Grade II-listed Dale House in Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, since 1983.

The HS2 line will slice the Bakers’ land in half, with the trains travelling in the shadow of the barn and stables, where they run their horse livery business. The HS2 planner has even redrawn the Bakers’ drive to their house, incorporating a crazy, right-angled blind corner — a death trap for horses and humans.

‘The house will be unliveable in,’ Mrs Baker says. ‘There’s no way we could keep up the business with the trains running right by it.’
Peter Bassano at St John the Baptist church, in Little Missenden, Buckinghamshire

Peter Bassano at St John the Baptist church, in Little Missenden, Buckinghamshire
Shirley and Ken Baker Paul at their home Dalehouse Farmhouse near Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, close to which the proposed HS2 route would run

Shirley and Ken Baker Paul at their home Dalehouse Farmhouse near Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, close to which the proposed HS2 route would run

The Bakers live in the main house, an early 18th-century Georgian farmhouse, with pretty white casement windows, while their daughter Naomi Tailby, 48, lives in the adjoining early 19th-century malthouse, a handsome, higgledy-piggledy building with dormer windows poking through a roof of lichened tiles. The Bakers’ two grandchildren have known no other home.

‘If HS2 comes, we’ll have to leave and the family will have to separate,’ says Naomi. ‘I’ll have to find somewhere rural to run the business, but there’s no compensation for relocating a business, and my parents, because of their age, will have to stay near the town. I see you can’t make national decisions on a family basis, but you’ve got to acknowledge that there is a family basis to these decisions all the same.

‘How can they consider demolishing your business and your livelihood, move three generations of a family, and not contact you? We heard from a neighbouring farmer.’
A protest sign in Wendover, south-west England, over the £17bn ($26.2bn) HS2 new high-speed rail line between London and Birmingham

A protest sign in Wendover, south-west England, over the £17bn ($26.2bn) HS2 new high-speed rail line between London and Birmingham

All along the line, ancient houses are to be demolished or overwhelmed — such as Packington Moor Farm, a fine brick Georgian farmhouse near Tamworth, Staffordshire. For years, the house has been run as a wedding venue, cafe and farm shop by John Barnes and his family.

‘Not only is the house being demolished, but it also cuts the farm in half,’ says Mr Barnes in despair.

‘We only heard about it on the internet, and there was very little interest in our situation when we contacted the authorities.

‘Our whole business will be wiped out. Our wedding and events business and the farmshop will disappear. The family has been here for nigh-on 100 years. I’m the third generation, and my son and daughter are both involved in the business.

‘Now, we’re left in limbo, even though we will definitely be open for the next five years. We’re pretty upset about it all. The real shock came when they moved the  putative route a year ago. It was originally going across my meadowland, and then we heard the line was going straight through the house.’

Also due for demolition is the Grade-II listed, 18th-century Coleshill Hall Farm in Warwickshire, with its medieval moat. The HS2 will run right through the site of the farmhouse and its even older outbuildings. Another slice of history will be lost for ever.

In Curdworth, Warwickshire, the line will run a mere 20 metres from the 17th-century, classical Dunton Hall, once home to Samuel Johnson’s grandparents.

Hartwell House, Buckinghamshire, is a Grade I-listed building, stretching back almost 1,000 years to the reign of Edward the Confessor. Two of the greatest English architects, James Gibbs and James Wyatt, remodelled the building in the 18th century.

A hotel since 1999, and owned by the National Trust since 2008, it generates around £300,000 a year for the Trust. But who will want to stay there once HS2 passes 350 metres to the east of the house?
HS2: The route for the new high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham

HS2: The route for the new high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham

‘We have concerns in terms of the landscape, the visual impact and noise,’ says Claire Graves of the National Trust. ‘There is also the issue of the loss of seclusion and privacy for visitors and guests. Who knows what impact that will have?’

Meanwhile, the Prideaux family and their ancestors have lived at Grade II-listed Doddershall House in Quainton, Buckinghamshire, since it was built in 1520. HS2 will run just 250 yards from the house, destroying a lodge, slicing across the farmyard, and cutting off two private access roads.

‘Not only will we have noise and vibrations, but we will have to drive miles around the line to a new crossing,’ says Christopher Prideaux, 75, a retired banker. ‘That’s one thing in a car but virtually unworkable in a combine harvester.’

Christopher and Celia Prideaux have three children and eight grandchildren who may now never live in the ancestral home. Half a millennium of family history destroyed to chop 20 minutes off a commuter’s journey from Birmingham to London.

As Shirley Baker of condemned Dale House says of the project. ‘It’s not the British way, going through the back door. It’s underhand, immoral and unethical.’
Here’s what other readers have said. Why not add your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards. The comments below have not been moderated.

Herr Lipp Niedersachsen – Halt die Klappe!

– John, Erehwyna, 14/1/2012 16:53
Rating (0)

See what happens when you give up your guns? Need any? We have plenty here in USA. Sounds like the “commoner” is saying “up the nose” to the “landed gentry” there. Here’s an idea, make the two cities it connects tear down as many row houses as necessary to provide open green spaces, parks with trees in the cities that is equal to what those citizens take from the country. They won’t do it, that would be too much like equality.

– James D, Baltimore, Md, USA, 14/1/2012 16:38
Rating   1

Why dont we be sensible and improve the current rail network. I travel from Manchester to London regurlarly by train and a 30 mins saving in time is insufficient justification to spnd £33 billion. We do we suffer such stupid and inept thinking from our politicians. They make my blood boil at times!!!.

– True Brit, Manchester, 14/1/2012 16:35
Rating   5

… If ordinary, working class and middle class people were in a similar postion, we wouldn’t hear a word about it. – Zak, London, 14/1/2012 16:05 Ordinary, working and middle class people are affected by this. Hundreds of us, all for the sake of pleasing a few rich businessmen who’s country piles and city penthouses won’t be at risk. This will bring nothing to the country but massive debt, the trains are under-used and over-pricey all ready. It will cost every household over £1000 – ask yourself if you get £1,000 worth of use out of travelling from London to Birmingham and the majority of people will say no. Cuts to benefits, hospitals, schools, the NHS, but we can afford this railway? All these people calling us Nimbies because we can’t afford our property prices to plummet, give us your address and let’s route the thing through your garden if you are so in favour.

– Jill, Bucks, 14/1/2012 16:33
Rating   6

Sad, but the country overall will benefit – not to mention the environment, as more people travel by rail. Having lived next to the M3, at least the noise will only be periodic and not a constant drone day-and-night. In any event, as we are talking about 15 years time, it is something that will affect the next generation, who don’t yet live there, than those interviewed.

– Michael, Manchester, 14/1/2012 16:30
Rating   5

Nuts. Should be stopped at all costs. Cultural Heritage is already being destroyed FAR too much.

– J., London, 14/1/2012 16:30
Rating   5

I love the Nimbys, if they had gotten there way in the past we would still be living in caves as to build anything else would have harmed their outlook.

– anon, wilts, 14/1/2012 16:20
Rating   23

Pretty sure they could find a route for the new train line that goes around these villages

– James, Edinburgh, 14/1/2012 16:17
Rating   1

What a disgrace and it’s all towards saving about just 30 minutes off the actual journey and will take15 years to build. I can’t believe this. My heart goes out to those communities affected by this. Does the UK really need this in the light of so many small airports for getting around?

– smokingetna, Sicily, 14/1/2012 16:16
Rating   43

heritage lost is hard to get back

– Stuart, Ottawa, Canada, 14/1/2012 16:16

[[[ *** RESPONSE *** ]]]

Such beautiful and generations old homes! Hey idiot Englishmen. Nail the MPs in that constituency and VOTE ONLY for an MP who will ABOLISH EMINENT DOMAIN POWERS and grant ALLODIAL TITLES. So much for the Inns of Law of England? Not a word from the English Bar Council? Even the heritage families have neglected whats going on in England until this occured. Could someone see if at the heart of this all if the Lord Judges are for ort against and will stand up for the people – indirectly speaking on behalf of the Royal institution? Know your enemies Englishmen . . . (If the worst is confirmed, how about Lord Astor leading a revolt for a new English Dynasty that does grant ALLODIAL TITLES then?) Any connection in this action to that Latvian girl’s body recently found on Royal grounds?


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