Wednesday, 10 May 2017

198 Upper Chorlton Road ......... a house reborn

Tired and in need of some care, 2016
Now there will be those who think I might just have gone over the top with the title but not so.

Number 198 and its twin were built in 1871 and time and a succession of landlords have not been kind to either property.*

Once they were grand homes built when much of the surrounding area was still fields but sometime in the 1970s they were converted into flats.

The conversions were not done well and in the process some of the original features were lost including the staircases, and the elaborate plaster mouldings.

Built in 1871
The exterior brickwork, window frames and roof had been neglected and parts of the property were damp and a home to various sorts of rot.

Added to which part of the garden had been sold off in plots and long ago had been built on.

The easiest solution would have been to call time on the two and demolish them replacing these 1870s villas with blocks of flats.

This had already happened to both the buildings opposite and to an equally fine house which had stood the other corner of Upper Chorlton Road and Wood Road.

But I am glad that Mr Armistead who bought the two chose instead to save them. It has taken a year and there is much still to do but already the first of the new flats in 198 are finished and they have been tastefully done.**

There will be sixteen flats where once two families lived.  The 1911 census records that no 200 had fifteen rooms, excluding “scullery landing, lobby, closet, and bathrooms” and no 198 had twelve rooms.

Few families today would need such a lot of rooms, and the cost of heating such properties will be expensive. But back in the 1870s there were servants to keep the place clean and an abundance of coal to keep the house warm and if there were cold spots the solution was the application of another layer of clothes.

Now I won’t be alone in remembering a time when few houses had central heating, ice formed on the inside of windows in the winter and the best weapon against draughts were carpets on the floors, heavy duty curtains at the windows and equally heavy duty curtains behind the doors.

A work in progress, 2016
But the sixteen flats of numbers 198 and 200 Upper Chorlton Road are very different, offering up elegance and comfort that the first owners of the two houses could never envisage.

That said I bet they would have embraced the new features with enthusiasm reflecting on how much more comfortable the flats are when compared to what was on offer in 1871.

There is still much work to do but already the buildings are beginning to look good again, as good perhaps as they had been in 1881 just ten years after they were built.

Coming together, 2017
And that raises that interesting question of what to do with an old building.

Many, like schools, warehouses and mills long ago ceased to be places where children were taught, things were made or in the case of our Victorian workhouses,  places where misery was distributed in uncaring heaps.

The solution in the middle decades of the last century was to tear them down, and in some cases that might still be appropriate, but for many others it is about finding a new use and then carefully restoring the old fabric while making them relevant to today.

198, exterior cleaned and beginning to look like it did in 1871
So I am glad that our two houses once again to do what they were designed for, with the added bonus that more people can share them.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; 198/200 Upper Chorlton Road, 2016-17 courtesy of Armistead Properties

*At 200/198 Upper Chorlton Road,

**Armistead Properties,

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