George Eliot's Coventry home being converted to Arabic school

Pictures, maps, memories and stories

George Eliot's Coventry home being converted to Arabic school

Postby dutchman » Fri Dec 08, 2017 6:22 pm

The world-acclaimed novelist George Eliot’s listed Coventry home is being quietly converted to an Arabic school – despite a highly supported campaign for it to become a global asset for the city

Image

Builders are on site at the Grade II* listed Bird Grove house in George Eliot Road, Foleshill, where a sign explains its planned future use.

There is no evidence that planning or any other permission, if needed, has been sought to change the use of the building, which had been closed and forlorn, guarded by an imposing steel fence.

According to Land Registry documents, Bird Grove’s four named current owners include Labour city councillor Rois Ali. It was latterly used as a Bangladesh Centre and has been advertised as ‘to let’.

Several restaurant and takeaway premises owned by Coun Ali have operated by tenants without planning permission or been served enforcement notices, this newspaper has revealed.

Coun Ali has not declared he owns Bird Grove in the council’s Register of Members’ Interests, which only states he is a director of the Bangladesh Centre Limited at the address.

Since October, we have tried to contact Coun Ali and the centre to learn more about their intentions for the large nineteenth-century detached house.

There is no longer even a plaque at Bird Grove, where the Fellowship used to offer tours inside to international visitors.

Following our further approaches to council figures, Coun Ali responded, saying he was unaware of the building’s listed status and had believed, without checking, that no planning or other consent would be needed, given the building’s previous community and educational use, which had fallen on hard times.

He added the Arabic school had a short-term tenancy rather than a long lease.

Asked about the campaign, he said: “It’s a good idea. It’s clearly a good asset and the directors need to have discussions about the potential uses for the building.”

He said that would have to wait until the return from Bangladesh next month of the Bangladesh Centre chairman Motasem Ali, another of the building’s four registered owners (the others are Azir Uddin and Abdul Hasnat).

We are seeking a response from the council.

Image
User avatar
dutchman
Site Admin
 
Posts: 29222
Joined: Fri Oct 23, 2009 1:24 am
Location: Spon End

Re: George Eliot's Coventry home being converted to Arabic school

Postby dutchman » Thu Dec 21, 2017 7:45 pm

Still opportunities for George Eliot house, say campaigners

Image

GEORGE Eliot’s house in Coventry – listed for its national importance – could still be used for international visitors and other purposes even if it becomes an Arabic school, campaigners suggest.

George Eliot Fellowship chairman John Burton was quick to respond to a suggestion in the national media – amid this newspaper’s Bring George Eliot Home campaign – that its members were ‘outraged’ that the building might become an Arabic school.

Mr Burton said: “Nothing could be further from the truth.

“The Fellowship worked well with the Bangladeshi community when they ran the building, and also with the Pentecostal church when they ran it.

“We would always welcome a chance to work closely with whoever was using the building.

“George Eliot’s themes were universal and she became one of the great European writers of her time.

“It would be nonsense to suggest that the George Eliot Fellowship would be so insular when the woman they admire is so international in her appeal.

“The purpose of the open letter from the Fellowship in September was to raise the possibility of finding a more wide-reaching and inclusive use for such an important building which was then empty and To Let.

“That remains our position but we will work with any users of the building to enable Coventry people to learn more about the great writer who went to school in the city and then lived there for eight years before moving to London where she eventually found fame and fortune.”

Following our questions, it has now been confirmed that the council’s conservation officers are on the case. They now want to monitor changes to the building since its national listing in 1974.

National watchdog Historic England is also now monitoring events.

We say more should be done in the city centre and at Bird Grove house, which does not even hang a plaque to mark its famous former inhabitant.

Image
User avatar
dutchman
Site Admin
 
Posts: 29222
Joined: Fri Oct 23, 2009 1:24 am
Location: Spon End

Re: George Eliot's Coventry home being converted to Arabic school

Postby dutchman » Wed Jan 24, 2018 10:47 pm

EIGHT breaches at Grade II* listed George Eliot home, as leader backs funding call

Image

COVENTRY’S Grade 11* listed former home of the great novelist George Eliot – supposedly protected for its national importance – has seen at least EIGHT breaches of planning and conservation restrictions since the year 2000.

A high-level Coventry council source told this newspaper it was among provisional findings of council conservationists alerted to the problems at Bird Grove house by our Bring George Eliot Home campaign.

One council source told us the breaches at the building – listed by the government and national heritage watchdogs since 1974 – included inserting UPVC windows, a porch and the unsightly steel fence surrounding it. An unofficial plaque marking its famous former inhabitant has also been removed.

Asked to confirm the allegations and state what the council intended to do about it, the council responded with the following statement:

“A spokesperson for the council said: “Bird Grove is a privately owned Grade II* listed building and as such works to the building may require listed building consent.

“Our enforcement team is investigating what works have been undertaken that require consent, and will work with the owners to ensure that any unauthorised work is brought in line with any requirements.”

We had also asked if a report will be brought to planning committee in public or private.

Image
User avatar
dutchman
Site Admin
 
Posts: 29222
Joined: Fri Oct 23, 2009 1:24 am
Location: Spon End

Re: George Eliot's Coventry home being converted to Arabic school

Postby dutchman » Sun Jun 10, 2018 3:50 am

Fans in fight to restore George Eliot’s Coventry home

Image

Heritage campaigners are battling to restore the Coventry home of one of Britain’s greatest authors to its former glory, as the city prepares to become UK city of culture in 2021.

In its Victorian heyday, Bird Grove in Coventry was a two-storey town house with whitewashed walls and grand staircases, and was considered a classic of its genre. It was also home to a young Mary Ann Evans, better known by her pen name, George Eliot.

Today, despite enjoying Grade II-listed status, the property is all but abandoned. The paintwork is cracked, its wooden window frames have been replaced with plastic, and graffiti is scrawled across the walls. An unsightly steel fence runs along one side of the litter-strewn lawn, and a large To Let sign hangs outside. Until recently, the only clue to its historical importance was a small bronze plaque above the entrance.

“It’s such an important thing for Coventry. This is an author some call the greatest in England,” said John Burton, chairman of the George Eliot Fellowship. “There is little doubt in the minds of academics and biographers that those years in Coventry were crucial to [her] intellectual development.”

Bird Grove became a Bangladeshi Community Centre in the mid-1970s, and it allowed free access for Eliot enthusiasts. Visitors came from as far away as Japan. But funding dried up and the centre closed.

Open letters bemoaning the building’s disrepair, coordinated by Burton, have attracted some high-profile signatories. George Eliot’s biographer, Rosemary Ashton, the Bafta-winning director Giles Foster, and the screenwriter Andrew Davies, who adapted Middlemarch for the BBC in 1994, all lent their support. “But nothing much came of it,” Burton said.

There is now hope that the bicentennial of Eliot’s birth next year, combined with Coventry’s future city of culture status, will kickstart a restoration project aimed at raising awareness of Eliot’s connection to the city.

“We want 2021 to have some sort of legacy, even if it’s just another plaque,” Burton said, “and to raise awareness of what George Eliot means to Coventry. We do our best, but sometimes you’re banging your head against a lot of indifference.”

Concerns about the plight of the house will this month see it added to a 1,500-strong database of at-risk properties drawn up by campaign group SAVE Britain’s Heritage.

“Obviously, if a building doesn’t have a use, it is very vulnerable,” said Liz Fuller, SAVE’s buildings at risk officer. “It could fall down. It could be burned down. Vandals could get in. In order to survive, these buildings need a new use.”

Fuller shares Burton’s belief in the historic importance of Bird Grove when it comes to understanding Eliot.

“She moved in quite intellectual circles while she was there, and it was obviously a formative time of her life, though she wasn’t writing her novels at that stage.”

She remains hopeful that the property could be restored and reconnected to its literary past.

“If you compare it to the old photos, you can see that the character could be brought out. It could be a writers’ retreat or an education centre or a museum dedicated to George Eliot.”

Bird Grove is typical of many of the properties on SAVE’s database in that it has a complicated ownership history, which has contributed to its neglect. “Maybe a property has been owned by a particular family for a long time and there’s not a lot of agreement on what people want to do with it,” Fuller said. “Or there isn’t an understanding of how to maintain it. There might be some complicated access problems. If it’s an industrial building, the economy and the demographic of the area might have changed vastly so the original use is no longer practical.”

Image
User avatar
dutchman
Site Admin
 
Posts: 29222
Joined: Fri Oct 23, 2009 1:24 am
Location: Spon End


Return to Local History

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

  • Ads