Focus on Penzance

Penzance is one of the most significant and beautiful places in Cornwall. Yet, two prominent listed buildings in the historic town centre continue to blight its captivating charm. These buildings have long been empty and show no apparent improvement despite announcements of firm plans to improve their future.

The former Ganges restaurant, a former 18th century townhouse of some status. Situated in Chapel Street, said in Pevsner to be ‘architecturally the outstanding street in Penzance.

The first of these is 18 Chapel Street, formerly the Ganges Restaurant until its closure in c.2006. In 2017 a ‘Save the Ganges’ campaign group was launched SAVE THE GANGES, PENZANCE ! in which one shopkeeper stated ‘…people are very surprised a building could be left in its current state on such a beautiful street’, pointing out how hard other residents and business owners were working to preserve and enhance the built environment.

Action seemed to be imminent:  Cornwall Live rightly described the building as an ‘eyesore’ that was ‘falling apart’ and added the hopeful news that plans were afoot for Cornwall Council to ‘acquire and renovate’ it, using powers of compulsory purchase if necessary. But since then, there has been no apparent change beyond a quick coat of exterior paint (now becoming eroded). Dangerous roof tiles, removed after they started to fall into the street, have not been replaced, and the interior appears to be protected from the elements only by felt and battens.

Little work has been done on the roof where slates are missing. In terms of historic character, the building still retains much of its 18th and 19th century character as a town house and contributes greatly to the grand 18th century historic character of Chapel Street within the Conservation Area. 

The plight of the building has received good media attention.

Ganges building to be saved after campaign for several years | Falmouth Packet

Crumbling, eyesore former Ganges restaurant in Penzance could be saved by council – Cornwall Live

Decision that could breathe new life into crumbling eyesore building in the middle of town – Cornwall Live

Market House and Old Town Hall, 1836-8. William Harris, Bristol, architect. The front was remodelled in 1925.

The second is the iconic Market House. The western end is leased by Lloyds Bank, but at the eastern end decades of disuse, and damage to the interior caused by damp and neglect, make for a sorry sight. After a detailed study of the situation in 2014, emergency repairs took place – but plans to return the eastern end of the building  to civic use quickly stalled. Scaffolding has been put up and taken down from time to time, but the former offices and shops remain as if abandoned.

Recent comments suggest that it may yet be possible to revive the hopes raised seven years ago.  The complicated relationship between Lloyds Bank and Penzance Town Council with regard to the building was first consummated in 1921 (Lloyd’s buying the freehold in 1965): surely the centenary presents a perfect opportunity to enhance the reputations of both parties, and the civic pride of the town.

It is important to note that this is a Grade 1 listed building as defined by Historic England MARKET BUILDING, Penzance – 1221062 | Historic England which means it is of exceptional interest, only 2.5% of listed buildings are Grade I.

The eastern half of Penzance Market Building remains vacant, with internal scaffolding supporting the ceiling of the guildhall room remaining since the roof works in 2014. Large chunks of the plasterwork and ceiling appear to have been cut away. A technical inspection of the premises means that is now designated as ‘Heritage at Risk’.

Links for more information  

Published by buildingsatrisk

Since 1969 the aims of the Cornish Buildings Group have been to stimulate interest, appreciation and knowledge of good building in Cornwall, and to encourage the erection, protection, repair and recording of such buildings. Like any amenities group, we depend on numbers, strength and support of our membership, who provide the force and knowledge that have made us effective for over fifty years. We encourage the protection and repair of historic buildings whether these are listed buildings or simply good examples of traditional building. We aim to encourage good architecture and to raise the general standard of building throughout the county. We hope that our generation may leave behind it buildings which will be looked back on with that same pleasure and enjoyment that we experience when we look at the architecture of past ages.

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