Sad news, folks.
I only passed this sad old pub – ex-Swan, ex White Swan, ex-Millers, soon to be ex-anything – the other day thinking to myself, ‘I must see what’s happening with this.’
I was beaten to it by Philip, who tells me we’re about to lose it. Very, very imminently – i.e. the demolition gang are in there right now.
This lovely, if somewhat dilapidated example of late Victorian/Edwardian pub architecture was flagged up as important for preservation in a 2009 Heritage report for the Mayor of London’s office. And indeed, a Deptford Creek Conservation Area came into force – but only on the Lewisham side of the Ravensbourne, leaving the Swan(and the waterworks) unprotected.
We often say, when lamenting the dreadful loss of historic buildings in the 1960s and 70s ‘That would never happen these days’. We are so bloomin’ wrong. Philistines exist in every age, and philistine developers seem to get an especially macabre joy from demolishing beautiful buildings.
This one is to be razed to the ground for shops. That lovely Wedgewood-style roundel of the Swan, the stunning red brickwork, all to be ground into the dust for some soulless project that almost certainly won’t see out the century’s teens.
Cluttons got planning permission for demolition back in July 2011, and since then Philip believes the site has been sold on twice. The latest soulless Philistines are Galliford Try. Check out their website for the kind of architectural merit we can expect to see along Greenwich High Road in the future.
Philip says “I wish there was an ‘emergency heritage alarm’ you could hit!”
I agree. There’s not much hope for doing anything about this one now, though Philip says “I have written to everyone except my MP (will do that now)”. Good luck with that one, Philip, if your MP is Nick Raynsford, Enemy of Heritage. A man whose well-documented and self-confessed loyalties to the construction industry come, if past form is to be taken as present, a long way before any kind of duty to his constituents, his surroundings or even, one might hazard to guess, his conscience.
In some respects I sort of blame myself for not banging on about it more at the time. I knew it was in a precarious position, but in my innocence, I assumed that the worst could happen to such a valuable piece of heritage would be turning it into dreary flats – that we wouldn’t actually lose the fabric of the building. I never cease to wonder at my own naivety.
But I also blame the council planning department, so quick to jump on any private resident who might want to put a double-glazed sash window in their period property but quite happy to sign off the demolition of an historic pub that has, just two years previously, been recommended for conservation. It could have been a Section 106 – for community use or – heavens – actually used as a pub when the new development went up. But no. It’s all to be flattened – within days.
The Swan is to be consigned to memories, then forgotten entirely in a day and age when we claim to give a damn about our architectural past. And perhaps us heritage lovers are partly to blame. But what is a part-time Phantom with no actual power whatsoever to do against such a deluge of ignorance? The sheer volume of historic buildings being lost just now in this construction boom is dizzying, daunting and depressing.