Dr Kevin Bishop
Dartmoor National Park Authority
20 August 2016
Proposed Distillery in Princetown threatens historic 1920s Electricity Generating Station Building designed by Richardson & Gill
I understand that there has recently been some public consultation about the creation of a proposed whisky distillery in Princetown. I was not able to attend this, but understand that the proposed distillery would require the demolition of the Electricity Generating Station at SX 58877348, immediately adjoining the west side of the carpark. This building has recently been used as the Princetown Smithy/Forge.
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the Electricity Generating Station is an important part of Princetown’s historic fabric, and that everything should be done to prevent its loss. Not only was it the first provider of electricity for Princetown, but was designed in 1923 by Richardson & Gill, the Duchy architects who were nationally among the best-known architectural firms of the inter-war period. On its north side, there is a fascinating coloured plaque specially designed in London for the building. A good summary history of the building, based mainly on Duchy records, by Ted Luscombe, was published by the South Western Electricity Historical Society in 2002, titled ‘Princetown Electricity Supply’ (Supplement 1 to Histelec News No.21).
Princetown has lost many important historic buildings (the Railway Station, the Town Hall which was also designed by Richardson & Gill, the Imperial Hotel, Bolt’s Stores, Morwenna House and others) and it would be tragic if this building was also demolished. For a discussion of these losses and of the importance of Princetown’s built fabric see my Presidential Address: ‘Dartmoor & the Displacement of Culture: Analysis & Remedy’ in Transactions of the Devonshire Association, 147 (2015), pp20-24.
So far as I am aware the building is not listed and falls just outside the Conservation Area, but this reflects lack of information and understanding at the time of designations, and should not diminish a sense of its importance.
I have also written to Tom Stratton of the Duchy of Cornwall. The Dartmoor Society would be most grateful if you could use your good offices 1) to draw the attention of your Historic Buildings Officer to the importance of the building 2) to advise the promoters of the distillery to amend their plans in order to preserve the building, and 3) to take steps to ensure the long-term safeguarding of the building by finding an appropriate use for it.
Tom Greeves, Chairman, The Dartmoor Society