It’s a simple story of competing interests. The owners of a former hotel at 15 Small Street in Bristol, UK, wanted to subdivide the building into student flats. Local architecture preservationists wanted to stop the part of the renovation plan that would destroy a 400-year-old Jacobean pendant ceiling. Last week, Bristol's Conservation Advisory Panel applied for an emergency spot-listing to Historic England to protect the site. But the owners had other plans.
After learning of the designation application, developer-owner Midas Properties/G&E Baio Ltd tore down the elaborate plaster ceiling with its pendants, molded cornice, and frieze—elements that had survived since the time of Shakespeare. Because the ceiling was the building’s main significant feature, it is now unlikely to be approved for historic designation.
“Developers have done nothing illegal here—but it’s deplorable that such a historic building has had its interior ripped out,” said Simon Birch, the chair of Bristol Civic Society. “It’s very sad that the protection wasn’t in place. I find it amazing that developers do this, because you’d think it would enhance the value of the building itself.”
Unlike other areas of the UK, Bristol offers no interim protection for historic buildings under review for designation.