Saturday, 18 July 2015

Campaigners To Present Petition To Rebuild Norman King


alanwinter.lu5@gmail.com

Campaigners are still hoping that the burnt down Norman King, opposite Dunstable Priory Church, can be restored. On Monday 20th July from 8pm to 9pm they intend to meet up on the corner of Church Street and Kingsway "to stand with The Norman King", and then present a petition to the current owner at The Old Palace Lodge.

The date will be the first Anniversary of the Campaign to Save The Norman King. The group's organiser, Andrea Tompkins, who campaigns as "Norman King" on Facebook, says the petition now has over 4,000 signatures [ref].

An online petition at petitonbuzz has almost 2,700 signatures*. The petitioners "would prefer to see the building rebuilt in its former timber and thatched style so that our future generations can understand and enjoy its historical significance."

Another petition at 38degrees with less than 300 signatures* calls for " MGM Hotels Ltd to conserve and restore this historic thatched/timber building back to it's original glory."



"Norman King" - once stables thought to have been part of Kingsbury - site of a lodge visited by King Henry I. 
The site of the Norman King was thought to have once been a part of the extensive Kingsbury, a royal residence for Henry I completed in 1109, with stone from the Royal quarry of Totternhoe (excavation works in 2012 support this [ref - p16]). Later, Kingsbury was used by wool merchants. By 1297, Kingsbury had fallen into disrepair, and in 1329 was repaired for King Edward III, to host a great tournament. By 1542, George Cavendish had bought Kingsbury, and by 1600, Kingsbury was owned by William Marshe [ref.]. It was a commercial farm, Kingsbury Farm, and the thatched building was later known as Kingsbury Stables. In 1925, local businessman William Bagshawe, turned it into a gentleman's residence. In 1927 it was converted, again, for use as a town museum and library [ref. p31].

The thatched building in the 1950s, prior to conversion to a pub.
The building was bought in the late nineteen fifties and converted by Flowers Brewery, opening as a pub in 1961. In the construction of the inn, stone was anecdotally brought from a Norman castle and a cottage near Cambridge, with panelling from a medieval inn at Caxton in Cambridgeshire [ref.].



The pub was destroyed in an arson attack in the early hours of 10 August 2011. The building was in the process of being refurbished and was closed at the time. Church Street, Dunstable, was closed for about 5 hours during the incident. Some 50 people, guests at the neighbouring Old Palace Lodge hotel and residents of the Alms houses opposite, were relocated while the fire was brought under control. No injuries were reported.

Richard Waters, 43, pleaded not guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered, but was convicted by a jury, in June 2012. He had been drinking heavily and had taken cocaine. He was subsequently  jailed, on 29 August 2012, for seven and a half years [details].

In September 2012, English Heritage recommended delisting the Grade II building because most of the pub was destroyed in the fire. English Heritage commented that any replacement building would need to respect the setting of the nearby listed buildings, and preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the conservation area. [ref.]

Source

The proposed replacement buildings would include a "two storey building for 12 aparthotel rooms, and a thatched covered parking structure". And the new building would include "stone retained in situ". When plans to demolish and replace the building were revealed, English Heritage did not object to the proposals, and were supportive of the new construction proposals.

In August 2014, planning permission was granted by Central Bedfordshire Council in respect of relevant demolition of an unlisted building in the Conservation Area, subject to an archaeological investigation [ref.]


In March 2015 the Save the Norman King campaign group submitted an application to have the Kingsway pub’s remains listed as an asset of community value which would have prevented its sale before the community had a chance to prepare a bid to buy it. This was rejected by Central Bedfordshire Council. [ref]

Dunstable has lost a lot of it's heritage past. This was Church Street in the 1920s, before road widening.

  • The "Save The Norman King" campaign group are on Facebook.
  • *at the time of this report.