World's first amusement park among Victorian era buildings placed on 'endangered' list

From a 19th century school building in London to an iconic amusement park in Southend-on-Sea, the Victorian Society reveal 'endangered' buildings

The world's first purpose-built amusement park is among other Victorian era buildings that have been placed on a most "endangered" list due to the "terrifying" state they have been left in.

Making Victorian Society's annual top ten list of buildings and structures in need of rescue, are a 19th-century banqueting hall for industrial labourers and the Kursaal in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, which is believed to be the world’s first purpose-built amusement park with a circus, ballroom, arcade, dining hall, billiard room, zoo and ice rink.

Opened in 1901 and designed by architect George Sherrin, the Grade-II listed site today is now occupied by a Tesco Express.

The location was forced to close in 1986 following an unsuccessful campaign to save the attraction.

The Jesmond Dene Banqueting Hall is now 'in a state of increasing decay'. Credit: PA

The Jesmond Dene Banqueting Hall in Newcastle also features on the list. Built by John Dobson in 1860, it was expanded with a gatehouse, reception hall and display room by Norman Shaw in the following decade.

The charity said it is now “in a state of increasing decay” and may soon be unable to support the artists who continue to use it as a studio.

Other buildings on the list include one of the first tennis pavilions in the world, a requisitioned school where author Vera Brittain nursed during the First World War and a Gothic coastal villa in Devon which served as a school for girls from 1885.

Bramcote Tennis Pavilion in North Yorkshire has been ranked among the most 'endangered' Victorian buildings. Credit: PA

St Martins in Ilfracombe, formerly known as Roslyn Hoe, had become a small hotel by the 1930s and was described by a local architect as an “exercise in symmetry”.

Each of the sites listed in need of rescue and repair are Grade II-listed or above.

This means they are subject to regulations protecting their historical and architectural significance, but the charity said it feared this was not enough.

Society president and comedian Griff Rhys Jones said the list was “a testament to the excitement, variety and invention of the Victorian Age”.

“How terrifying to see buildings I have known, loved or used all my life in Southend and Cardiff in need of rescue,” he added.

“Their restoration and reuse make huge commercial sense. They are attractions in themselves. They are already destinations. They should be part of local pride.

“What do we want? A parking lot? A faceless block in their place? A slew of new carbon pollution? When they have so much colour, continuity and history on their side already?”

Which buildings and structures made the top 10 list for 2024?

  • Kennington Boys’ School, London

  • The Kursaal, Essex

  • Jesmond Dene Banqueting Hall, Newcastle

  • Former Bramcote Tennis Pavilion, North Yorkshire

  • St Luke’s Chapel of Nottingham City Hospital, Nottinghamshire

  • St Martins (formerly Roslyn Hoe), Devon

  • Chances Glassworks, West Midlands

  • St Agnes’ Vicarage and Hall, Liverpool

  • Former Education Department Offices, Derbyshire

  • Cardiff Coal Exchange, Cardiff

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