Sparrow Hill

 

At the time of Thomas’ death, he owned seven properties in Sparrow Hill, although interestingly there is no specific mention of the old wood store that he owned a few years earlier.

 

Annotated 1884 Town Plan showing Thomas Messenger’s Properties

Four of his seven properties fronted Sparrow Hill on its western side facing All Saints Parish Church. These were Nos. 7, 8, 9 and 10. He also owned three properties to the rear of these, known as Nos. 1, 2, and 3, Messenger’s Yard. These were accessed via a gateway between Nos. 9 and 10, which still exists, although no longer provides access to any other properties to the rear. This gateway originally gave access to Thomas Messenger’s wood store and it is likely that he owned at least some of these properties from this time.

 

Sparrow HIll, Loughborough

Thomas Messenger purchased these properties in two portions; the first in January 1875, from William Smith and William Watson Oldershaw, presumably as a result of selling off of his horticultural business; the second, three years earlier in December 1872, from William Ambrose Cartwright.

In 1873[1], Thomas Messenger for planning permission to alter the premises in Sparrow Hill. Whether this was to one of the properties he owned at the time of his death, or part of his Sparrow Hill wood store is uncertain. Eleven years later, in 1884, he obtained planning permission for a stable and shed[2] in Sparrow Hill.

At the time of the 1920 dispersal sale[3], all seven properties with sitting tenants were offered for sale as single lot. They were described as having a combined frontage onto Sparrow Hill of 80ft. 6in, including the gateway and a total gross rental income of £68 5s. At the auction, a Mr. Curtis bought the properties for £860[4].

Nos. 7, 8, and 9 Sparrow Hill were terraced cottages and have subsequently been replaced by a modern development of flats or apartments, known as ‘City Heights’, that also extends over part of Messenger’s old timber yard.

 

Sparrow HIll, Loughborough

 

No. 10 Sparrow Hill, which at the time of Thomas’ death was described as a “messuage and shop” still exists as a shop and residence today, although the shop and residence are currently separated. In the 1920 sale, it was described as being occupied by Mr. William Holmes on a quarterly tenancy attracting an annual rental of £22. For many years the shop was occupied by a florist, although in late 2012 it was boarded up and being offered for sale for £65,000 as a 484 square ft. ground floor lock-up shop, with no services. The remainder of the building was being retained for residential use. The double fronted property, together with the three cottages (originally Nos. 1, 2, and 3, Messenger’s Yard) behind is Grade II listed. The former being described as early-mid 18th century, with two late 18th century cottages and one early-mid 19th century cottage in the yard to the rear[5]. The listing which was updated in 2007 describes the importance of the property as:

10 Sparrow Hill is an early-mid C18 brick house in a prominent position opposite the medieval parish church, with two late C18 cottages and an early-mid C19 cottage attached to the rear. It is of special historic and architectural interest due to the extent of survival of C18 fabric, particularly in the first- floor interior. Features of interest include heavy chamfered beams with bar stops, two-panelled doors, window frames, stair treads, roof purlins and granite foundations in the cellar. Interest is added by early C19 features such as bottle-glass door, window sashes and plank doors. Features of interest in the cottages are late C18 and early-mid C19 fireplaces. There is some minor interest in the meat preparation block at the rear of the site.

 

 

No. 10, Sparrow HIll, Loughborough
No. 10, Sparrow Hill, Loughborough

 

Sparrow Hill Planning Saga

In 1894, Thomas Messenger began a long drawn out planning application process to build a number of new properties on his land between Sparrow Hill and Conery Passage[6] that was to prove ultimately unsuccessful. This land was the site that he originally used as a wood store, which he subsequently leased to the new owners when he sold off the horticultural business. He obviously wanted to take advantage of the space, at what might have coincided with the approach of the end of the original 21-year lease he signed with Walter Burder. The lease may have been terminated in 1893, as Messenger and Co. had obtained planning permission to erect new timber sheds (which still exist) at their new Cumberland Road site, thus no longer requiring the Sparrow Hill site.

 

Sparrow HIll, Loughborough

 

Conery Passage Improvement Proposal

His 1894 application to build twenty cottages was rejected by the Building Plans Sub-Committee, on 28th December[7]. Whether this was a pre-emptive strike by Thomas, to obtain planning permission before the Council had a chance to redevelop the area is uncertain. Because in early 1895, the Loughborough Town Council were investigating a scheme to widen Conery Passage, as a way of connecting Baxter Gate with Nottingham Road, for vehicular traffic. The overall objective was to provide improved access to the Market Place from the Nottingham Road area, this not only involved widening Conery Passage but widening the entrance to Market Place and High Street.

In order to widen Conery Passage it required the Council to purchase land from the various owners including John Davys Cradock[8] of Quorn Court and Thomas Messenger. Several proposals were eventually forthcoming, two put forward by the Highway Committee, the first involved widening Conery Passage on its western side, creating a dog leg approach from Baxter Gate and the second forming a more direct route from Baxter Gate but involved removing properties owned by Mr. Cradock, on the eastern side of the passage. Both these schemes required land owned by Thomas Messenger. He was approached by the Council regarding his willingness to sell[9] with discussions or negotiations lasting several months[10]. A third and completely different approach was also proposed which was to drive a completely new 40ft. wide road[11] directly from the Market Place to Nottingham Road, cutting between Church Gate and Baxter Gate. This involved leaving Conery Passage essentially untouched (except at its northern end) but would have resulted losing a chunk of land and splitting Thomas Messenger’s holding into two, on either side of the new road. This last approach appears to have been rejected, with the preferred option being the route that provided a more direct route from Baxter Gate.

 

Site of Thomas Messenger’s Wood Store, Sparrow HIll, Loughborough – taken from The Coneries

 

At the December 1895 Council Meeting[12] they held a discussion on the proposed Conery-Passage scheme. After more than two-hours of debate, they appeared to be no closer to agreeing whether the scheme would go ahead or not. Indeed, there was such considerable agreement in favour of not proceeding, that the whole scheme was put into jeopardy. During the discussion, other potential schemes were raised as possibly being more important to the town, including Hibbins’ Corner and Biggin Street improvements. The major obstacle was their total lack of any detailed costing for the scheme. The only cost they understood was that of purchasing the unoccupied portion of Conery Passage from the then owners, Messrs Peach, Messenger and Faulks, who had agreed to sell at 12s. per yard. As about 930 yards was required, this gave a price of between £550 and £560 for the land alone. This excluded the cost of either making the road or widening the entrance to Market Place and High Street. During the discussion, a total estimate of £3,500 was mentioned, although most councillors, from previous experience, were sceptical of such a relatively low figure. The outcome of the meeting was that the General Purposes Committee was asked to produce costing for the whole scheme and any further discussion was adjourned until the figures were available. Such was the situation that the Council set-up a special sub-committee to look into the Conery Passage widening scheme.

In March 1896 it was revealed[13] that Mr. Cradock was unwilling to put a price on his property and thus not prepared to enter any discussions with the Council. This was discussed at the full Council Meeting where it was narrowly agreed not to proceed with investigating the alternative scheme which ran along Conery Passage closer to the Parish Church, thus avoiding Mr. Cradock’s property.

 

G. Hudson’s Proposal

 

Despite or in spite of the Conery Passage widening hiatus, Thomas continued to submit his housing proposals to the planning committee, but was rejected every time. Having tried on a number of occasions to have the planning rejections reversed, he eventually submitted a different plan in April 1896[14]; this time his proposal was to build 13 cottages on his land in two blocks facing one another, with a 4ft., open space between. This effectively was creating a new street, which would connect via a thoroughfare or passage from Conery Passage to Sparrow Hill, which he would allow the public to use. He further argued that this would have the advantage of providing a new and convenient route from Cradock Street to Church Gate. Before officially submitting his plans, he wanted a positive response from the Building Plans sub-committee; however, they deferred the decision to the Highway and Estate Committee. Thomas Messenger apparently appeared confident of obtaining a positive response because he had previously written to the Council on numerous occasions seeking clarification of the relevant building byelaws. However, despite this apparent confidence the Highway and Estate Committee rejected his sketch plans as they did not meet the relevant building bye-law which stated that ‘any person who constructs a new street to provide one end, at least, of such street, an entrance of a width equal to the width of such street, and open from the ground upwards’. The sketches provided by Thomas Messenger apparently showed that the only entrance to the street would be a narrow passage four feet wide and that the proposed buildings would form a Court. Despite this, the proposal was only rejected after a long discussion[15].

Undeterred, Thomas submitted a modified application the following month[16] whereby he widened the width of the passage between the properties from 4ft., to 8 or 9ft. Again, it was rejected because it did not comply with the relevant byelaws. During the Council Meeting Alderman Godwin asked the chairman of the Highway and Estates Committee to explain to the Council “the exact reason why Mr. Messenger’s plans were so constantly refused?” Council Faulks, the chairman replied “that Mr. Messenger had several times laid block plans before the committee, not plans in the proper form for the Building plans Sub-Committee, but block plans, feelers as to whether the Council would allow this, or that. None of them had conformed to the bye-laws, and the Council did not see their way to wink at the bye-laws to allow any more courts and alleys in Loughborough. Mr. Messenger night have some ground of complaint, but only because the Council had kept him back so long in connection with his wish to develop his land in Conery-passage. The Council would not be justified in allowing 17 or 18 houses to be put up in a yard with only eight or nine feet entrance”[17]

Thomas was nothing if not persistent for in June he submitted a plan for converting a factory building in Sparrow Hill into five cottages, which was initially approved by the Building Plan Sub-Committee, subject to amendments to comply with the byelaws. However, this was not sufficient, as he not only attended the meeting but made representation with reference to the Council making changes to the relevant byelaws, as to the width of a street that was not intended to be used as a carriageway. The sub-committee not only decided to refer this to the Council, as it was outside of their jurisdiction, but the Highway and Estate Committee then rejected the plan for the five cottages, which the Sub-Committee had previously conditionally approved. Their reason given was that it was the Council’s “objective to prevent the formation of narrow Streets, Courts and Alleys in the Borough and that the Authority will, in the interests of the Borough generally, require the Bye-Laws to be strictly complied with[18].

 

Highway Committee’s Conery Pasaaage Improvement Proposal

 

Yet again, Thomas Messenger revised his plan, re-submitting it in time for the following month’s Building Plan Sub-Committee meeting. This time the plan, with accompanying letter, was for six houses and workshops, etc., on the site of the old factory and for nine new cottages in four blocks on vacant ground between Conery Passage and Sparrow Hill. This was again referred to the Highways and Estates Committee without a decision having being attempted. Unsurprisingly, the committee rejected the plans, albeit an amendment was raised in the committee and seconded that would to allow the plans to be accepted. However, in the subsequent vote only two of the nine members voted for the amendment, therefore the original proposal to reject the plans was carried[19].

The subject of Mr. Messenger’s rejected plans was raised at the full Town Council Meeting held on 10th August[20] when Councillor Faulks, moving the adoption of the Highways and Estates Committee meeting minutes held on 27th July reported that: –

He was probably expected to say something on the paragraphs referring to Mr. Messenger’s plans. The committee had these plans before them for some time. They had been sent back from time to time, and as often brought before them again in an altered form. He was sorry it fell to him to make any statement on the matter because one felt that one had already been accused of making public duty subservient to private interest. But the committee, and the Council, had a duty to perform, and must perform it at all costs. The bye-laws were not made for the protection of any particular individual, but for the protection of the public, and the Council, as representing the burgesses, had to be as far as they possibly could that they were properly carried out. It was quite evident to some of them that they had not complied with these plans. Some time ago Mr. Messenger wrote to the “Local Government Board Chronicle” stating that his case very fairly, and the reply was that it was very evident he intended to make a new street, and it was a question whether he was complying with the bye-laws. The plans had been altered since then, but he (the speaker) did not think they had been improved. Certainly, if there was evident intention of making one street before, there was now evident intention of making two or three streets. The two houses facing Conery-passage, that were to be set back about 40 feet from the other side, was evidence of an intended street, the five houses facing the end of the other two, and were to be set back 40 feet, would constitute another street, whilst a third would be made by building of houses where the factory now stood. Mr. Messenger complained that he was not receiving equal treatment with some of the other burgesses in respect to these plans. But the Council had had nothing like it before. He (Councillor Faulks) only knew of one other case that could be in any way compared with it, and that was the case of a house in Derby-square. If they strained the bye-laws in favour of that, he did not see that they could be called upon to strain them to allow 14 or 15 houses to be put up in the fashion suggested by the plans on a plot of land like that. If they did so they would never know where they were. As soon as they did they would have the next door neighbour adopting similar plans, and there would soon be a maze of houses something like that maze they tried to make of shrubs and trees in New-walks, and which had to be done away with after all. There was nothing in the plans to sufficiently commend them so that the Council should strain any point to allow houses to be put up as proposed. They might be to the advantage of the individual, but not to the advantage of the public to have the houses so crowded as these would be. It might be maintained that the plans were in accordance with the bye-laws, but, taking that for granted, there was the minimum in every case, and not a foot to spare anywhere. The houses were packed as closely as possible in compliance with the bye-laws if they were in a front street. He did not think that the Council should encourage the building of any more courts and alleys in the borough. They had for a long time been trying to improve those that they had, and if they could improve some of them out of existence some years ago both they and the ratepayers would, he believed, have only been too pleased. He did not think the burgesses would consider they had discharged their duties well if they allowed similar courts and alleys to be formed now, and he hopes the Council would emphatically declare their intention not to allow them.”

Site of Thomas Messenger’s Wood Store, Sparrow HIll, Loughborough – taken from The Coneries

Despite this most public of rebuffs, Thomas Messenger continued his campaign to win approval for his development. He modified his plans yet again and resubmitted them to the August planning meeting. This time the modified plan was for fifteen cottages and in an attempt to overcome the planning sub-committee’s objections he would abandon one of the five cottages in the to-be converted factory, to counteract the issue of lack of air space. Instead of a cottage, the space would be used as an addition to the planned workshops. He also made other minor alterations in an attempt to comply with the byelaws[21]. The enclosed letter appears to have done him no favours as it only inflamed the situation. In addition to claiming that he was not making a court at Sparrow Hill he made personal remarks against the Chairman, Councillor Faulks, Unsurprisingly the Council deemed these remarks as “entirely uncalled for[22]. The result was that the Committee rejected the plans because they still believed that Thomas Messenger was planning to make a new road despite his continued protestations to the contrary.

The next planning meeting was at the end of September[23] and Thomas Messenger had still not given up. He submitted an alternative scheme, with yet another enclosed letter. The amended plan offered to substitute one row of houses with an average open space in front of 30 feet, in lieu of arranging the houses in blocks, as in the previous plan. Again, this was rejected, this time for being in breach of byelaw 49, with reference to “the sufficiency of space about buildings”.

 

Sparrow Hill – 1837

 

Most people would probably have admitted defeat long before this; however, Thomas Messenger was not at this juncture willing to yield for in December he submitted yet another set of plans, this time for 10 houses on the land between Sparrow Hill and Conery Passage and an alternative block plan on the line of that previously presented. Inevitably, it was accompanied by another explanatory letter. This time the planning sub-committee didn’t even get as far as considering the revised plan and it was unceremoniously dismissed. However, this outcome was not accepted by the Highway and Estates Committee who deferred the plan to the Borough Surveyor[24].

Following another letter on 19th February the Highway and Estates Committee arranged for the Borough Surveyor to meet with Thomas Messenger to discuss the plans[25]. Following the meeting Thomas Messenger indicated that he could not adopt the decisions of the Highway and Estates Committee, regarding Block Plan 1 (of 22nd December, 1896), unless he was allowed to erect four cottages on the site of the old Factory. The Committee agreed not to entertain such a proposal as it contravened byelaw 49[26]. At the following months meeting[27], the subject was discussed yet again, with the Clerk reading another letter from Thomas Messenger, dated 20th April. This time he enclosed another block plan of his December submission and again the Highway and Estates Committee reiteration its rejection of No. 2 and 3 schemes, as they did not comply with the relevant byelaws. However, they were willing to consider the first scheme, but it must comply with the byelaws.

 

Site of Thomas Messenger’s Wood Store, Sparrow HIll, Loughborough – taken from The Coneries

 

The matter was raised yet again at the quarterly meeting of the Town Council, held on 3rd May 1897[28]. During the Highway and Estates Committee report, the Town Clerk read a letter from Mr. Messenger in which he referred to the three alternative schemes and expressed his surprise as to the Committees decisions regarding Scheme 1, which he believed adhered to the byelaws. He urged the Town Clerk to bring the matter of the second and third schemes to the attention of the full Council, as he felt sure that that two “would commend themselves for adoption, even if they were not quite in compliance with the Loughborough bye-laws for they were manifestly in the interests of the borough, several instances could be given where the Loughborough bye-laws had been contravened without any advantage to the borough”. There was no interest shown in the full Council in taking this mater any further and the subject was dropped. Inevitably, the Highway and Estate Committee had already resolved to inform Mr. Messenger that schemes 2 and 3 could not be entertained because they did not conform to the byelaws. The Committee reiterated their decision that they were prepared to consider Scheme No. 1, so long as it strictly adhered to the relevant byelaws[29].

This appears to be approaching the closing chapters of the long drawn out saga. Thomas Messenger wrote to the Council yet again expressing his disappointment at the outcome but no more planning applications appear forthcoming. It seems that the matter was quietly forgotten.

In April 1898, having finally abandoned any hope of building on Sparrow Hill, he made a successful application to extend Nos. 7 and 8, Sparrow Hill[30].

 

 

References:

  1. The Loughborough Advertiser, 10th April 1873.

  2. The Loughborough Echo & North Leicestershire Gazette, 8th May 1884.

  3. The Loughborough Echo, 16th January, 1920.

  4. The Loughborough Echo, 30th January, 1920.

  5. Full listing from Charnwood Council web site:

    House, early-mid C18. Two late C18 cottages and one early-mid C19 cottage attached to the rear. MATERIALS: Brick, render, pantile roof. PLAN: Ground floor converted into one shop, two principal rooms on the first floor, staircase tower and later infill at the back, three cottages attached to the rear. EXTERIOR: A two-storey four-window brick house of early-mid C18 date. The front has been rendered and C20 shop windows inserted on the ground floor. The first-floor window frames are C18 with early C19 sashes, and above them are moulded brick eaves. The original steep-pitched roof has been re-covered in pantiles at the front and corrugated sheeting at the rear, with two dormer windows inserted. Attached to the back of the house are two late C18 brick cottages and a projecting early-mid C19 brick cottage, with C20 replacement windows. The area between the house and the first cottage was in filled at a later date. INTERIOR: On the ground floor there is a heavy chamfered beam with bar stops, and the panelled door to the stairs has early C19 bottle glass. The main cellar has foundations of local granite and may predate the house. The staircase from ground to first floor has its original C18 treads (visible from the small cellar underneath), with a C19 replacement balustrade. The house retains its plan form on the first floor with two large principal rooms, both of which contain heavy chamfered bridging beams with bar stops. The doors to these rooms are the original C18 two-panelled doors and the windows have C18 frames with early C19 sashes. In the left-hand room the fireplace has been moved to a position nearer the window. In the right-hand room part of a cupboard with fielded panels survives to the left of the fireplace. The plank doors to the attic storey are early C19, with their original heavy hinges. The roof appears to be the C18 original and some of the purlins are visible through the plasterwork. The second cottage dating from the late C18 has a large open fireplace on the ground floor, with the original steep chamfered beam inside to improve the draught, and possible remnants of the original fire surround. In the early-mid C19 cottage there are two identical round-arched fireplaces surviving on the first floor with cable moulding. SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: At the rear of the site is a block used for meat preparation, possibly tripe processing, which probably dates from the 1920s. The interior is of white glazed bricks and has a raised work surface containing two basins with taps underneath and a storage area to the left HISTORY: 10 Sparrow Hill faces the churchyard of the medieval parish church of All Saints, and may originally have formed part of the Manor House complex. The house at the front of the site dates from the early-mid C18, with two cottages of the late C18 and one of the early-mid C19 attached to the rear. According to the local authority, the building was at some time two public houses, the Shakespearian and the Crown and Thistle. Shop windows were inserted into the ground floor of the house in the C20. The 1920s block at the rear of the site connected with meat preparation may indicate use of the premises as a butcher’s shop at that time. SOURCES: Ordnance Survey Maps 1886, 1903, 1919.; Kathryn A. Morrison, English Shops and Shopping: An Architectural History (Yale, 2003), 86-89. SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE: 10 Sparrow Hill is an early-mid C18 brick house in a prominent position opposite the medieval parish church, with two late C18 cottages and an early-mid C19 cottage attached to the rear. It is of special historic and architectural interest due to the extent of survival of C18 fabric, particularly in the first- floor interior. Features of interest include heavy chamfered beams with bar stops, two-panelled doors, window frames, stair treads, roof purlins and granite foundations in the cellar. Interest is added by early C19 features such as bottle-glass door, window sashes and plank doors. Features of interest in the cottages are late C18 and early-mid C19 fireplaces. There is some minor interest in the meat preparation block at the rear of the site.

  6. This passage was eventually widened to become what is now known as The Coneries.

  7. Minutes of Loughborough Town Council, Highway and Sanitary Committee, 31st December 1894.

  8. J.D. Cradock, owned the parcel of land between Conery Passage and Cradock Street fronting onto Sparrow Hill. The site was subsequently used for the new Post Office and telephone exchange.

  9. Minutes of Loughborough Town Council, Highway and Sanitary Committee, 25th February 1895.

  10. Minutes of Loughborough Town Council, Highway and Sanitary Committee, April 1895.

  11. In accordance with the planning bye-laws, that all new roads must be 40ft. wide.

  12. The Loughborough Herald & North Leicestershire Gazette, 5th December 1895.

  13. The Loughborough Herald & North Leicestershire Gazette, 5th March 1896.

  14. Minutes of Loughborough Town Council, Highway and Sanitary Committee, 29th July 1895.

  15. Minutes of Loughborough Town Council, Highway and Estate Committee, 27th April 1896

  16. Minutes of Loughborough Town Council, Highway and Estate Committee, 22nd May 1896.

  17. The Loughborough Herald & North Leicestershire Gazette, 4th June 1896.

  18. Minutes of Loughborough Town Council, Highway and Estate Committee, 29th June 1896.

  19. Minutes of Loughborough Town Council, Highway and Estate Committee, 27th July 1896.

  20. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 15th August 1896.

  21. Minutes of Loughborough Town Council, Highway and Estate Committee, 31st August 1896.

  22. The Leicester Chronicle and Leicestershire Mercury, 12th September 1896.

  23. Minutes of Loughborough Town Council, Highway and Estate Committee, 28th September 1896.

  24. Minutes of Loughborough Town Council, Highway and Estate Committee, 28th December 1896.

  25. Minutes of Loughborough Town Council, Highway and Estate Committee, 22nd February 1897.

  26. Minutes of Loughborough Town Council, Highway and Estate Committee, 22nd March 1897.

  27. Minutes of Loughborough Town Council, Highway and Estate Committee, 26th April 1897.

  28. The Leicester Chronicle and Leicestershire Mercury, 8th May 1897.

  29. Ibid.

  30. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 9th April 1898.