Monday, 29 December 2014

Walsall Life - The Street That Time Forgot



A reflective blog post with a difference. You won't find the best of this year's outfits here because if you're a regular visitor you've already seen them. Instead I'm taking you on a trip back into the much more distant past.


If the council have their way these buildings won't be here for very much longer. Directly opposite the train station in the heart of our town centre, much of the lower part of Station Street has been derelict for over fifteen years. See HERE.


The powers that be say that the Victorian internal layouts "limit the options for future use" and have given permission for them to be demolished.


Described in 1855 as "a long range of neat, uniform buildings, being mainly private houses", 160 years on there is still a hint to Station Street's former glory. 


These boarded-up buildings have been part of our lives for so long that we tend not to give them much consideration but don't they look beautiful in the crisp December sunshine?


Over the years far too much of Walsall's architectural past has been burnt down, bull-dozed or allowed to fall into a state of decrepitude so advanced that demolition is the only option. Our once grand town buildings are gradually being replaced by ugly, grey breeze block outlets offering endless sweatshop-manufactured fashion, fast food and chain stores. 


Every high street in the UK is starting to look identical. New Look, Dorothy Perkins, Marks and Spencer, Poundland, Boots, Greggs, Subway, TK Maxx and McDonalds. No wonder people prefer to stay at home and buy off the internet.


It's not unknown for us to return from our travels to discover another piece of Walsall history gone forever so, with no desire to visit the sales or watch any lame holiday TV, we wrapped up and took a few snaps just in case we got back from India to find the entire street flattened.


Stand with a camera for long enough and it arouses everyone's curiosity. Passers-by stopped and cars slowed down, curious to see what we were so interested in. 


The most mundane of places take on renewed interest when seen through someone-else's eyes. 


My brother wouldn't agree. He worked at this metal-finishing factory when he left school in the early '80s and hated every single grubby minute.


Back in my misspent youth the street was home to the Five Star, a tatty Caribbean social club we'd stumble into after the pub had closed for late-night sessions of reggae, blues and rum.



The poster on the window gives notice for planning permission to change the building into an advice centre. There's evidence of work being started when you peep through the window.



St James Place is part of a Grade II listed terrace which was built in 1856. It was originally used as showrooms and an office for one of Walsall's many leather companies and apparently remains a perfectly preserved example of how the street looked back in its heyday.


The six panel front doors, fanlights and lintels are typical of their period. The house on the left has the original sash windows. According to a local history website the original cornicing, fireplaces, cast iron hob grates and internal doors remain intact.


How blue is today's sky? 


There's still some thriving businesses at the top of the street. Smokey's is an American-style diner offering all-you-can-eat meat platters (not very appealing to a vegetarian like me) and Thimble & Threads is a family run dressmakers and alteration service.


The Carriages are former Victorian mews houses converted into flats.


Hope you enjoyed your trip! See you soon.

Linking to Judith's Hat Attack and also to Patti's Visible Monday 'cos this might not be visible for much longer!

70 comments:

  1. What a stunning blue sky! So lovely to get the chance to have a nosey around your stomping ground :)

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  2. Its so sad when they demolish old houses , but i guess its the same everywhere . Nice walk around your town !
    xxx

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  3. The old (and sometimes forgotten) buildings have beauty. Love this post and your photo essay. Thanks for sharing with Visible Monday, xox.

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  4. after the reading the article link, what is the plan? Tear it all down and then what? Seems like a big waste when the buildings could be redone and people could live in them.

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  5. It is criminal the way our heritage is destroyed and replaced with soulless uninspired ugliness. Local councils are our biggest forces of destruction.

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  6. Do you remember the express and star office at the end ? I remember the midland hotel. Its a pity if the house is intact with all its victoriana , that the black country museum couldnt take it. Its certainly changed a lot since I was young, I remember all the leather factories that the bus went past before going round the ABC cinema. Times change but not always for the best.

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  7. I live in Chichester with very few non chain shops and those are usually very pricey. But, because of the city's heritage old buildings are saved. One has been sorted recently, however it had been left so long until it made the road unsafe!

    It is a crying shame to lose streets like this, they do have architectural and cultural value. I think the 'Victorian Layout' argument is a poor excuse for a demolition order. I watched 'The £100,000 House' recently where they were altering houses - what they did with Victorian layouts for not vast amounts of money was just amazing.

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  8. How sad. It's too bad the buildings couldn't be refurbished instead of knocked down. But of course if they knock them down, they can build bigger and higher and make more money. But Walsall will lose more of its character.

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  9. What exquisite photos!
    And now I'm really depressed - I hate hate hate when folks tear down old buildings. I know that 'they' feel it is the right decision, but it still fills me with sadness.

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  10. They call it progress - they want the quick and easy option of demolishing rather than restoring. I too like to photograph perhaps soon to be gone buildings, people are often sorry afterwards. Lets hope they get an 11th hour reprieve.

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  11. Lovely post, darling. It does my head in how buildings and streets are demolished seemingly without consideration. Newport during the Eighties had the shit knocked out of it and we lost hundreds of beautiful buildings.
    What a terrible waste and I'm probably a twat, but why not invest in these buildings and make them usable once more?
    Look at that sky. Hasn't it been gorgeous of late?
    Loves ya.
    xxxxxx

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  12. I'm not a fan of knocking down *useable* buildings to replace them, but the problem is that a lot of older properties which have been abandoned or neglected will cost so much to renovate and repair that councils find it cheaper to just sell the land off (and sadly they don't have much option since the government slashed all the council budgets). Unfortunately, trained architects don't usually get commissioned to do these things, just property developers who want to make a quick profit and build the kind of identikit boxes that have been getting built so much over the last decade. Also, if everyone ends up only shopping on the internet, there'll end up being more industrial estates with ugly giant box warehouses full of the stuff people buy, instead of it being in shops, and high streets will continue to look worse, not better because there won't even be as many chain stores when high street rents are high and a warehouse is cheaper to run.

    Gawd, now I'm depressed. Gorgeous sky though! And my fave cape :)

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  13. Beautiful buildings! I wish they would just do repairs and turn it into a historical district filled with little shops and bizzes!!! Those type places seem to be doing the best lately. Uggghh to think they'll bulldoze them and put horrid modern chain shops boooooo!

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  14. What a shame, it always breaks my heart! The old is always considered bad for some reason. You look fab, by the way! :)

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  15. I get into all sorts of old industrial buildings with my job and it breaks my heart when they just bulldoze them , if your planning department has an ounce of adventure they can make amazing residential buildings

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  16. Oh no, I hate that they will tear them down---if they tear them down and put in some strip mall thingy its just gonna look like any suburban wasteland in America. I was in Great Britain not that long ago and was completely enchanted with the old structures. They give a place character and hint at its storied past. Too bad.

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  17. Such a shame they can't revive the street with small shops without destroying the buildings. What a waste. Everyone things new is better - simply not so.

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  18. It sounds like the council has decided on expediency over imagination. What a shame, since there is some truly beautiful architecture there. St James's Place and the Carriages are the kind of buildings that people go to cities like Bristol and Bath to admire. I find the layout argument a bit flimsy, since it is perfectly practical to change internal layouts. Ideally the street could be filled with little independent stores, but in practice, most people don't choose to shop at them. If the high street is going to be filled with the same shops, at the very least they could be housed in interesting buildings. What people call progress often gives me pangs of regret. Wouldn't it be wonderful to be transported back to Georgian times and see that street bustling, filled with people and noise. I wonder if we would find a beautiful woman wandering the streets in a cape? Xxxxx

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  19. Beautiful photos, Vix! You and Jon are very fine people. I hope your town will find a way to preserve these wonderful historic buildings. It would be a shame to let them disappear! I grew up in a very young town and came to appreciate old architecture in my travels to older cities. There are a bunch of them Tacoma preserved in the last 10 or 20 years - it's so wonderful to see them thriving. I wish the same to your beautiful town!

    You look wonderful and so cozy in this gorgeous cape and furry hat, and Jon is as stylish as always. I wanted to thank you for your very thoughtful and encouraging comment on my Vintage post. I'll do just that - let people decide and make up their minds about the pieces I found. Happy New Year dear Vix! With love xxxxx

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  20. I find it incredibly sad too. And you are so right about the high streets, they are clones of each other.The chazzers are the main attraction for me in the towns!

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  21. I think it's awful when they knock these stunning buildings down, especially when they constantly bemoan a housing shortage, they could renovate those as affordable housing. Back in Cov there was a row of houses like that, Victorian and decrepit. One year the council did them all up to ease housing pressures and they looked lovely xx

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  22. I love those buildings in that street Why do these councils get away with it it such a shame , I'me with louise on this one , In willenhall there is a beautiful big building all boarded up it would make great flats , its been like it for years and there are lots more like it around the country , why know them down and get rid of all the character, have a lovely holiday xx

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  23. Thats a street we know very well as Andy used to park there for work. So sad that such lovely buildings are being left unloved.

    The sky looks amazing!

    X x

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  24. Really lovely post. I'd be really tempted to break in. Firstly to see what it's like inside a place that's been derelict for 15 years and secondly to salvage every good thing before they get destroyed by demolition.
    Silly town planners. Victorian layouts are what millions of people live with. I hope they have a change of heart. xxx

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  25. I have missed a couple of posts!
    First happy to you are going back to fabulous India- When the house is sold we will be going somewhere warm for a while too! I can't wait!

    Your X-mas dress is divine and love what you did to your house as far as X-mas deco!

    Tks for showing us around your town
    Same thing is happening here, they are destroying history and building condos all over Montreal, it's a shame i kid you not

    Have a great New Year

    Love

    Arianexo

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  26. Such a shame not to preserve and make the most of our old buildings to keep some character in our towns and left for so long without doing anything too, fab photos though with such a blue sky.

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  27. gosh how sad. the architecture on those buildings can never be duplicated. i wish they could be saved. i promise you i will lose sleep worrying about this. i'm so so grateful that our little town has such a great historical preservation society. i hope nothing is destroyed while you are away. take care. x

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  28. God you should see some of the concrete monstrosities in Oxford I honestly do not know how they get away with, actually I do, money passes hands and hey presto!

    Ian and I were in Reading today and spotted this gorgeous little boarded up shop, it had all it's original Victorian fixtures and fittings which no doubt will be torn down when it reopens as a takeaway, it fair breaks your heart.

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  29. Hi although the buildings are part of our heritage and very attractive, they may not be very sound. Poor construction and issues with damp can mean that they are just not viable to 'do up' and if they are done up become a money pit to keep warm but properly ventilated and damp free.
    I agree modern grey boxes and the cloning of high streets is not the answer either.

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  30. Those old buildings do have a very pleasing look to them, and I couldn't help but wonder what they look like inside. If there's work on the inside of one building commencing does that mean some buildings stay but many are gutted? I wonder how much demolition there will be? Me being sarcastic: Do the interiors perhaps have those (gasp) nasty high ceilings?
    I pondered the peculiar reasoning of the council that the Victorian internal layouts "limit the options for future use", particularly in light of planning permission for an advice centre. I wondered whether a victorian layout for an advice centre would hinder the giving of advice for the avoidance of the preservation of historic buildings. Then I realised that the councils in the U.K. are probably similar to the governments in commercial towns in the U.S., where what they say is merely to justify doing whatever will indirectly benefit the council members. It happens on my side of the pond all the time. Ridiculous arguments and findings are made and then they do whatever they want.
    I can understand how your brother feels given the associations with where he worked, and I'm sure the insides need serious scouring and repair, but it would be nice if some of the historic ambiance could be retained. The six panel doors, lintels, bays, and large double-hung windows look nice.

    http://www.full-brief-panties.blogspot.com/

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  31. Such a shame that these beautiful buildings with history and memories and being pulled down.

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  32. This street closely resembles the railroad station area of Richmond, Indiana USA circa 1964.
    If there's a snowball's chance in Hades anyone might care for inspiration -- refer them to the city's website and see what urban rehabilitation can offer Walsall!

    You're absolutely correct, dear Vix, in realizing that destroying the fabric of a city's history unravels the sense of community, of civic pride and responsibility that is the real foundation of economic stabilization and growth.
    (Sorry about the soapbox, ladies, but I do write copy, gratis, for causes I support.)

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  33. Sigh...we can barely keep buildings standing from the sixties, as in 1960, in our community. It's all about big, bigger, biggest lot fillers, and glass, and beams and lookie how much money we have. It's routine that buildings are knocked down just as I look in another direction!

    You and Curtise are on my blogger meet-up one day list and I do hope England manages to retain at least a few of it's older, but necessarily heritage, buildings!

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  34. I'll echo everyone and say that it's so awful to see historic buildings such as these torn down. If they were to be refurbished it would make such a lovely area in which to spent time. They might even make their money back, based on an increase in visitors wanting to see the old buildings brought back to their former glory.

    While I hate the idea that they'll soon be torn down, I love your post about them. Such great photos. And that sky! And that cape! xo

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  35. So sad to see these buildings disappear. They have so much more character than many of the new buildings that are built. We had a lovely old cinema where I live, it was turned into a nightclub for years which has lots of memories for many in the the town and beyond. The plans to turn it into an arcade of boutique shops was refused and it was knocked down and retirement flats built instead, so sad for our town. No wonder no one much goes into town any more, it has been taken over by Costa Coffee and poundland.

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  36. I loved the trip and the accompanying talk. I love old buildings and find it sad when they get torn down for some crappy unappealing thing instead of making good use of what is already standing. We have that happening here to, but our buildings are not as old as yours, but still worth saving I say. By the way, the sky was very blue over here too!!!

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  37. I find it maddening that councils will gladly let buildings slide into disrepair just so they can justify knocking them down. It's so sad.
    Like you said, it's not unknown for buildings to vanish if you go away, I find that with my home city of Portsmouth, when I go back, something else has gone.

    Our high street is a wee bit different, though we do have some of the mainstays of your average high street, mixed in are a fair few independent shops and an independent optician.

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  38. I find it hard to believe that someone cannot make money from letting these buildings remain. I am so sad when these old beauties are demolished. Thanks for the tour.

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  39. Would be great to do it up in the style of the North Lanes in Brighton - sort of arsty crafsty - not big chain stores. A few vintage shops too - obviously!

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  40. ooh its all so lovely! i can see the faded charm behind those shops. pitty they dont want to just spend the money doing them up as apartments. id happily move in quick smart!

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  41. love the pale blue woodwork against the bricks!
    lately in the town next to us they knocked down a beautiful 17.century building to make a driveway for a supermarked!!!!!!!! arrgh.
    hugs&kisses!

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  42. Gosh! You have the start of something here.
    All these ladies talking a whole load of sense.

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  43. Thanks for sharing these photos Vix! My town is going exactly the same way. Right in the centre there are the most beautiful red brick small houses and what must have been a school or mansions for the well to do of the past and they are all without exception either turned into souless flats or so called advice or rehabilitation centres.
    Look forward reading more posts before you finally jet off! xxx

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  44. Those old buildings are part of England's charm & unique heritage that need to be preserved(hands off).

    So glad to see a unique high st. (On our way to a Xmas service at the Cathedral:) in Wells last week. X

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  45. I am a believer in historic preservation and hope that these beautiful buildings remain available for generations to come. Thanks for taking us on this trip and hope that the landscape remains unchanged for years to come

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  46. Thanks for the tour! You look stunning as always. Lurve that hat!

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  47. It is so sad when they cannot see the possibilities in the old frameworks and details of buildings with history and character. I know that Europe in general has so much more of this to offer than a young country like Canada but it still makes me sad to see old being destroyed for new. I guess it hits too close to home the older I get.

    All the very best to you and Jon in 2015! Health, love, joy, happiness and a never ending supply of great vintage to fill your shop with the customers, cash in their hands, lined up to purchase it all.

    bisous
    Suzanne

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  48. Thanks for the tour of such a beautiful street. One of the things I love about your country is how old and beautiful the architecture is - the town I love in was barely born when those buildings were built.

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  49. I haven't been to Walsall since the 80s when I used to go out with Nick Morrison. Will have to get up to 'the Midlands' again soon!

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  50. I hate the way all our high streets are starting to look the same. I hope this lovely street is still there on your return from India! x

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  51. Glad for the tour, sorry for the future projected for these historic buildings. We have a row of turn of the 20th century buildings next to the restaurant. They've been neglected for years, and will just fall down one day. One owner has them, and won't rent or renovate. So sad, wasteful, and certainly not good for us!
    Hope something happens this year to make a positive difference for your lovely row of buildings. I hate it that money makes all the difference.
    But Happy New Year, lovely Vix, to you and Jon. Hope you travel safe and return to health, happiness, prosperity, and a continuation of your own inimitable style!

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  52. I love little tours like this from the comfort of my armchair! You certainly had amazing sunshine for the photos, and what a hat!

    Hope you have a lovely time for NYE, I'm guessing it will involve rum?!

    x

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  53. My London has lost most of the old buildings from our downtown, and in comparison to the buildings in this post, they weren't even that old. Inevitably, it is always about money - a developer wants to put up another shopping mall, or in our case, we lost a whole block of beloved buildings to an arena.

    A Very Happy New Year to you and Jon, and I hope you have a wonderful time in Goa!

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  54. This is a story that is replicated in so many towns and cities. But I reckon it's probably a more familiar story in places which aren't wealthy, which have more urban/social deprivation. In well-to-do towns, I bet there is a bit more of a drive to keep at least some of the history and regenerate, to maintain a picturesque and touristy vibe. Working class towns suffer the most because nobody bothers to fight for them, I think. I'm on my soap box this morning!
    Those terraces and their history are really interesting, and there are all sorts of fascinating features to look at (if you stop to look, that it!) I understand that time can't stand still, that the new has to sometimes replace the old, or better still, be built and co-exist with it sympathetically. But like you, I mourn the individuality and history which is lost when all our towns and cities look the same, and what makes them special isn't valued.
    On a positive note - glorious blue skies, fabulous hats (both of you!) and a fantastic cape. You're Walsall's Superhero! And that's just another reason why I love ya! xxxx

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  55. I don't get it all, it just doesn't make sense to knock old buildings down, it would be way cheaper to do them up and preserve the beauty- some parts of Liverpool have been hacked in favour of new build, it was quite sad to see half demolished and noble terraced houses with the internal walls still wall papered -
    I'm not going to rant though! even though I wanna!! Have a great New Years Eve and New Year Vix x x x

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  56. great you took us for a walk around your town!, and it's also great that you take care of what's happening!!, not everybody feels concerned about that kind of things!! there're too many people which greet with happyness any new building, even when it means destroying our heritage.
    Lovely to see you going for a walk on a sunny day, looking so fabulous and elegant!
    besos

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  57. Old buildings look so beautiful! I hate to see them run down though and eventually getting knocked down.

    Such beautiful photographs, you two are such a gorgeous couple, and that sky... perfect!

    Happy New Year to you both! xx

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  58. This is all too familiar for most of us isn't it? Have to agree with Curtise, that affluent areas seem to regenerate more sympathetically ? Such a terrible shame to lose the history and architectural detailing which modern builds just don't have. We are fighting for our village pub, (once the old railway station closed by Beeching cuts) it has been purchased by a developer and is rumoured to become either housing or a bloody Tesco Express.
    Happy New Year love, hope it's a good 'un. x

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  59. It's unfortunate when they tear down such pieces of history. Thanks for this post, sadly this happens to so many places. :) Wishing a Happy New Year! x

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  60. Thank you for sharing these beautiful historical buildings. You are preaching to the choir, because here in California they are doing. the same thing. Demolishing old beautiful buildings and rather replacing with something that adds character, we get identical mini strip malls, hate it. Happy New Year Vix! I wish you both the best!

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  61. ugh I love old buildings I hate hearing about them being torn down. Here in the U.S. we have so many homeless I wonder why they don't renovate them and turn them into housing rather than let them sit vacant and ruined. It just doesn't make sense to me ~Happy New Year thanks for the neighborhood tour ~love Heather

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  62. The curse of the town planners strikes again. So many cities have had the soul ripped out of them by lazy councilors who think only of cost and expediency. I totally agree these treasures from the past should be preserved. What a fantastic way to spend a free day x

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  63. If only preservation orders could be obtained more easily and not just for 'old' architecture but for the unusual, iconic and familiar places that have given a town it's stamp.

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  64. It's such a shame those buildings are being torn down. My mother-in-law often grumbles about the amount of Victoriana that's getting demolished in Bolton, and it amazes me that things like that are still going on. Round our way, new development tends to be done around or into the back of existing structures, which is much better.

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  65. Why have we all become so darned hasty and blind to beauty? Its all about the almighty buck and no thought given or time spent. Whatever happened to taking pride in your work? Grrr. Bah, humbug! I jolly well hope they can see past the delapidation and see the architectural history they will be wasting. Because we have no history in our buildings over here, we can see these gems. Probably they can't see the wood for the trees. Crossing my fingers they won't be gone when you return. Happy New Year to you two too...and that isn't meant sarcastically :-)

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  66. You gotta love the view. amazing! nice post Vix:)

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  67. These buildings are tired for sure, but they are also quite stunning. I'm so sorry that the local council is allowing them to be torn down. Sometimes I feel like the whole world will end up looking the same - full of McDonalds and other horrible chains!

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Love from Vix
xxx