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Village History

A village full of character

Posted on February 28 2015 at 10:58:23 0 comments

Marina

strong>Alvechurch’s ancient and modern assets have been recorded in a detailed survey.

The natural and man-made landscape of Alvechurch and its environs has been recorded for posterity thanks to a comprehensive survey by the Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service.

And the data collected can be used to make sure the village’s distinctive character is appreciated and conserved through sympathetic development in the future.

The Alvechurch Historic Environment Resource Assessment is a pilot project funded by English Heritage, with the village having been selected as a case study.

It takes the form of a detailed appraisal of the local historic environment and character, with more than 100 historic buildings and archaeological monuments identified and recorded – and a substantial photographic record of Alvechurch and the surrounding landscape was obtained during the project.

The primary aim was to ensure that the character and quality of Alvechurch’s historic environment is fully appreciated in terms of its townscapes, landscapes, historic buildings, urban form, and archaeology, and that these are recognised as among its most significant assets. 

The exercise was also designed to develop a method of “historic townscape characterisation” for Worcestershire’s urban areas, so other regions can later be assessed using the Alvechurch model.

Evidence generated by the project will prove useful in neighbourhood planning and planning applications, as well as reappraisal of the Conservation Area – and will also help to identify locally significant historic structures and archaeology monuments for possible listing.

The study recognises that the environment is not purely “natural” – it has been formed through millennia of human occupation, activity, and modification, which have resulted in a diverse array of features, landscapes, and characteristics.

The appraisal features 37 distinctive ‘Character Areas’, identified and outlined within bespoke character statements describing their Urban Morphology, Landscape Context and Built Form. Each area is also rated according to Historic Environment Resource, Inherited Character and Sensitivity.

The character statements point out the value of every segment of Alvechurch from the “multi-phase ecclesiastical architecture” of St Laurence Church to the brand-new Hollington estate, showing that each and every area is an important part of the village as a whole.

Interestingly, the study recognises that it’s not only the village’s ancient buildings that are worthy of attention and preservation – for instance, it points out that the more modern housing developments form integral components of Alvechurch and encompass a vast collection of architectural forms and designs.

While these areas are significant elements of a settlement’s historic and inherited character, they do not qualify for representation with national listings and are rarely identified within Historic Environment Records; they are therefore often overlooked when considering local historic environment and setting.

Mill Court

Of particular significance is the mid-20th century housing of the northern and eastern extents of Latimer Road and George Road, and the Withybed Close area which is “formed of a highly distinctive curvilinear arrangement of 1930s/40s housing”.

Then there are the 1950s houses north of Callow Hill Road, constructed as part of a ‘homebuild’ programme instigated, undertaken and completed by local residents, a number of whom continue to occupy the properties.

Bear Hill Drive is described as having “distinctive 1960s/70 architecture”, as well as high archaeological potential for medieval and post-medieval deposits, and remnants of a historic watercourse.

The western Alvechurch landscape was identified as an area of particular historic landscape distinctiveness, deemed ‘at risk’ due to its low representation within historic environment listings and records and its consequent potential for degradation through inappropriate consideration within local and regional planning.

This area incorporates the historic settlements and farmsteads of Scarfield, Withybed Green and Cooper’s Hill, plus well-preserved enclosures adjacent to the industrial waterways, marina and brickworks of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal and the 19th-century railway.

The assessment says that although several components of the historic railway infrastructure remain, including the 19th-century Station House and waiting room, their current vacancy places them at risk of dereliction.

Project leaders say the intention is not to fossilise the existing village, landscape, or environment, but to “inform the management of change – ensuring future development is locally responsive through engagement with the inherited character of the area.”

Mill Court is given as an example of how sympathetic development can actually enhance a settlement: “The 21st-century redevelopment at the rear of the historic mill complex has been undertaken in an exceptionally sensitive manner. . .

“. . .The newly built housing has successfully maintained the historic coherence and aesthetic of the area through due reverence to the architectural design and urban form of the extant 19th century assets . . .

“. . .A highly distinctive streetscape of considerable historic integrity, which not only maintains but considerably enhances the historic character and value of the locality.

“. . .Mill Court therefore represents a prime example of how a relatively high density of housing development . . . [is] of benefit to local character and distinctiveness through appropriate reverence to both the settlement’s historic assets and streetscapes.”

The completed historic environment characterisation for Alvechurch is now available for download from a dedicated page on the county council website: http://www.worcestershire.gov.uk/archaeology/villages


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