If we want to save buildings like the old schoolhouse then we must do our research. Council planning meetings are very technical and decisions are bound by planning legislation as letters to The Dragon revealed earlier this year.
But if local communities identify, research and highlight buildings of importance then more can be saved.
We cannot and should not save everything but what made the old schoolhouse unique was that it was one of the first buildings erected in the new suburb that grew up around the original Slyfield Farm. The 1916 ordnance survey map shows Slyfield consisted of the school and a few houses (I was not able to find an earlier map online).
So how should we handle similar buildings in the future? Often, only when planning applications are submitted do people notice and by then it is frequently too late.
If we want to preserve buildings we should have those conversations well in advance so everyone is aware of their importance. We can also protect them by locally listing them and restricting permitted development.
In 2018, an 18th-century barn was dismantled or demolished in Grange Road. This again was a unique survivor from the days before there were any houses. But its fate was sealed many years earlier when houses were built right up to it.
By 2017 it was dilapidated. Someone writing in the Dragon said it was moved by the owner. It would be good to know if it ever had a life elsewhere.
See previous articles on the barn here.
But there have been success stories. In Burpham, one of the last remaining homes from the days before this was a suburb is Marlyn’s House (see Ordnance Survey Map 1895). A planning application to demolish it in 2019 was overturned by 54 objections and it was then locally listed.
When the application went to appeal earlier this year, the council’s decision was upheld by the planning inspector largely because the work done in getting the local listing had demonstrated its value. But had it been locally listed well in advance would have been better.
At a recent council meeting, several councillors identified the need for a list of historic and community facilities so we can look out for them. There cannot be too many unique survivors such as the schoolhouse but where they exist we should look after them.
What we need are people with local knowledge who are willing to do the work to define the importance of such buildings. We can then identify those for local listing.
We are all busy but I am sure that with the experience of groups including the Guildford Society, and willing individuals who have already been through the local listing process we can do a better job.
The Guildford Heritage Forum website could hold lists while we look for a better home for such information. If anyone has information on buildings they are concerned about they can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Such buildings are markers recalling the origins of the suburbs around the town and make our localities more interesting. We need to improve the town and provide for more housing but hopefully we can weave a path that retains significant examples from our past.
The National Library of Scotland has an excellent website where you can view old Ordnance Survey maps from across the country. https://maps.nls.uk/) Google Earth street view also helps.