Monday, 22 August 2011

The sad decay of an old Lichfield hotel

The rusting gate and broken windows of the Angel Croft Hotel in Beacon Street, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Patrick Comerford

I have been writing in the past two weeks about the charms of the Beacon Street area of Lichfield, which runs from the entrance to the Cathedral Close to the Pinfold at the beginning of Stafford Road.

However, one of the saddest architectural sights in Lichfield is the decaying and neglected Angel Croft Hotel, at the bottom of Beacon Street, opposite the entrance to the Cathedral Street. The railings are rusting, the glass in fanlight over the main door is broken and shattered, and the garden at the front is broken.

No 3 Beacon Street was first built in the mid-18th century by George Addams, a Lichfield wine merchant, who also built Maple Hayes House. No 3 was a fine Georgian house and may have been built on the site of the Angel Inn on Beacon Street, and that in turn may have stood on the site of the Lamb Inn.

The house built by George Addams was turned into the Angel Croft Hotel around 1930, and for some decades it was an elegant hotel. By the 1980s its reputation was slipping, and one reviewer has described it as Lichfield’s “very own Fawlty Towers.” But it was still being advertised as recently as 2008, although by then its AA rating had slipped to one star.

The Angel Croft Hotel closed in recent years, although reports say the place was bought by the Best Western chain, which also owns the George Hotel, an historic coaching inn in Bird Street where the playwright George Farquhar was supposed to have stayed.

Renovation work resumed a few years ago, but nothing has been done to repair the building since then. Although there is no sign outside to say the hotel is closed, it lies empty once again. This is Grade 2* listed building, and its front railings and gates, which date from ca. 1750, are now regarded as “at risk” by English Heritage.

As a Grade II* listed building, the property is exempt from non-domestic rates. Around 2008, new owners began refurbishing the hotel, but the property was broken into soon after, the pipes were stolen and the building was flooded.

Since then, some of the window panes – over the main front door and at the rear – are broken and the rear gate is open. Compared to its former days, the Angel Croft Hotel is now a sad sight. Although a conservation team from Lichfield District Council is said to be monitoring the situation and in regular contact with the owners, it appears no work has been carried out for some years, .

There are reports that an enforcement action is pending, but it looks unlikely that the property is going to be brought into use as residential accommodation. It is a shame that at a time when the number of homeless people in Lichfield is rising and tourist numbers are said to be increasing this property cannot be put to good use.

The car park beside the hotel is an eyesore, yet is obviously generating some income. But, unless the current owners and the local authority pay greater attention soon, this historic Georgian building and its elegant gates are not going to be here for much longer.