Friday, 21 April 2017

Grand Designs

There was an article in the Guardian a couple of weekends ago, which really caught my eye. "This listed water tower in Norfolk needs a brave buyer...."
Not the mushroom shaped tower, still in use, which is around 50 year sold - but the Grade 2 listed Victorian tower in front of it.
This building is in Dereham, where I grew up - and about 10 minutes from my childhood home.
It is amazing inside - look at these pictures.
Huge spaces and oak beams
Massive beams to support the water tanks on the top floor 
And ladders going up and up...
This is one of only two towers of this type remaining in Norfolk. There is planning permission to convert it into a four bedroom, four story dwelling [with a lift]

The asking price is just 190,000 quid. That doesn't seem a lot to me, for this amazing edifice. 
Talking to a friend in Dereham this week, she thought it had been in the market a little while, and the price had been reduced.

Bob said if he had time and money, this is the sort of renovation project he would like to undertake. But he doesn't!
Personally, I think that the locals are missing a real opportunity here. Currently the Town Museum is housed in Bishop Bonner's Cottages down by the Parish Church. It is tiny. There is not enough room to display everything properly, access is seriously limited - and it is a good job they are not overwhelmed with visitors, because the ancient cottages could not cope with footfall.
BUT I think that somebody ought to buy up the Water Tower, and renovate it and equip it to be the new Town Museum. So much fabulous industrial architecture which would make a brilliant backdrop to displays about the people and events which have made Dereham what it is now. There is all the ironwork inside, and fantastic ornate brickwork outside. 
Room for displays, special exhibitions, coffee shop, gift shop - and facilities for school parties.
And Dereham has loads of history which deserves to be properly commemorated-
St Withburga - King's daughter and all round good girl, for the poor, against the selfish. 654AD
William Cowper - poet and hymnwriter [died in the town, 1800]
George Borrow - traveller and writer [born in the town 1803]
James Woodforde - wrote Diary of a Country Parson whilst living nearby [died 1803]
Samuel Rash - wealthy businessman and brewer, obsessed with General Woolf, built nearby Quebec Hall in 1759 in honour of his hero.
William Hyde Wollaston - scientist, discovered palladium and rhodium, extracted platinum and did loads more [1766-1828] born in Dereham Rectory. Gives his name to a medal in geology and a crater on the moon.
Bishop Bonner - Tudor Bishop, not a nice guy, but his name is now the nickname for ladybirds locally [BishyBarnabees] and his cottages are the current minuscule museum
The Parish Church - with separate tower where French Soldiers were imprisoned during the Napoleonic Wars
The iconic 1960s Water Tower [see above]
The Railway Station - closed by Dr Beeching, but currently being restored by volunteer enthusiasts. 
Hobbies Of Dereham - So many boys grew up reading Hobbies Magazine - and bought fretsaws and kits from the wonderful craft firm which was founded in 1895
Jentique Furniture, Metamec Clocks, Fruehauf Trailers...and other firms which provided local employment. 
In WW1 - The Zeppelin Raid of 1915. And the Vicarage became a Red Cross Hospital

In WW2 - Dereham declared a Nodal Point, with special fortifications to slow down any possible German invasion. There's still a pillbox in the Station Yard!
The War Memorial is based on Lutyens Cenotaph in Whitehall and is Grade 2 listed.
I have compiled this list in less than an hour, just from my own knowledge of local history. I know there are loads of things I have forgotten. I am convinced my home town needs a better museum. And I think this Water Tower would be a superb location. If I were already retired and living in Cornerstones, I would get a campaign under way. Sadly I am too far away, lacking in funds, and rather busy
Surely somebody out there could develop my crazy Grand Design??


  1. That's an excellent idea! What an amazing structure to gain for £190,000!!!

  2. It sounds like a job for Kevin (Grand Designs).

  3. Any chance of some locals getting together with the aim of obtaining Lottery Heritage funding?

  4. I love that Dereham sign. Friends of my parents used to own the newsagents and lived in the flat above it, to which one end of this sign is attached. You brought back memories for me.

  5. I was at school with Pat Chambers, whose parents were there in the 60s.

  6. Small world! My Mum used to nurse with (I called her Trisha's) Mum Ann.


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