Wolverhampton's Locally Listed Buildings

Baron's Court Hotel

142 Goldthorn Hill

Listing:  This building was locally listed in March 2003 as a spot listing.

Comment:  The house was built for Walter Careless in 1909.  The architect was the Wolverhampton architect William Johnson Harrison Weller, who also designed The Spinney and Longfield both of which are nationally listed - as is another of his houses in Burnhill Green, South Staffordshire.

In August 2002 developers indicated that they wished to redevelop this site and to demolish the building entirely.  The city council indicated that they wanted the house preserved and asked the Department for Culture Media and Sport for statutory listing.  The council pointed out, inter alia, that the exterior had only had minor alterations, other than a two storey, flat roofed extension.  [That extension is to the right in the photo above, which shows that the extension does not affect the original appearance of the main facade]. The council also pointed out that the interior contains many original features such as fireplaces, panelled and leaded light doors, window seating, plate rails, stained glass and pierced staircase balusters.  

The Inspector's report to the DCMS said, inter alia, that "Weller is not a well-known name: he typifies the highly competent local Edwardian practitioner who was able to design in a convincingly fashionable manner by drawing on the many publications and journals then disseminating the new architecture."  It refers to the interesting features both internal and external but concludes:  "The impact of the large eastern extension is unfortunate, as it seriously compromises the building's integrity.  The house is more successful in terms of individual elements, rather than as an overall design: it is the motifs and features which please, rather than the cumulative effect".  It then goes on to point out that by 1909 "many leading architects were moving away from the Arts and Crafts towards the Baroque Revival and the rising Neo-Georgian manner.  Weller was essentially a reactive designer, following established styles rather than pursuing his own".

Perhaps it is somewhat more than nit picking to point out that if Weller got his ideas from journals which were "disseminating the new architecture" it is surprising that his style was passé when compared with Baroque Revival and Neo-Georgian.  But it seems to be part of the DCMS policy that you only list early examples or the way out.  Locally of course we can take an approach which is based more in history than in neophilia.  The local listing recognises that Weller was a good architect doing a good job, influenced by others as every architect is.  It recognises that this building is historically important as evidence of the wealth, status and tastes of local magnates.  And that it has "motifs and features which please".  And that a building does not become less worthy of preservation because of what was built next door.  Baron's Court has made a pleasing contribution to the local scene for nearly a century now and could do so far into the future.

The position now is that planning permission has been refused for a scheme which demolished the building and over-developed and inappropriately developed the site.  The developers are now thinking again, with a clear indication that a proposal which involved preserving the building has a much better chance of success.  One of Weller's other buildings, the Spinney, has been the subject of a successful scheme of that sort.  We live in hope.