The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Seaside scandal: Rethink urged on demolition of Welsh art deco house

57 Marine Drive, Rhos-on-Sea. The art deco design referencing the proud maritime traditions of the area.

Image Ⓒ Moxette, Flickr

It was sad news from the seaside last week, when Conwy planning committee voted 9-3 in favour of demolishing 57 Marine Drive – the pocket-sized Art Deco gem in Rhos-on-Sea.

Built in 1939 and long thought to be designed by, or associated with, notable Welsh architect Sidney Colwyn Foulkes (1884-1971), its flat roof, white rendered elevations and striking ‘prow’ make full use of the corner plot and seafront location, while marking no.57 as distinctly different from its mostly Edwardian and post-war neighbours.

A non-designated heritage asset (NDHA), the house is reminiscent of the contemporary Moderne style Sunspan House design, created by Wells Coates and David Pleydell-Bouverie in 1934, most surviving examples of which are grade II listed.

For a small house, it also has a big fanbase – perhaps unsurprisingly given that Rhos-on-Sea recorded the biggest rise in property searches in the UK on Rightmove last year.

Period postcard of Rhos-on-Sea and 57 Marine Drive in the 1940’s

C20 Society objected to the proposals and backed the vigorous grassroots campaign to save the house, which attracted the support of Cadw, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, local MP’s and celebrities from Griff Rhys Jones to Joan Bakewell.

Despite a period of vacancy which has left the building in need of maintenance work, we firmly believe the house could be sympathetically restored and modernised where necessary, with indications that refurbishment costs were initially factored into the selling price of the property. This would be by far the best outcome on environmental grounds and in enhancing the distinctive built heritage of the Conwy Coast.

No evidence was presented at the planning meeting to support the claims it was unrepairable, meanwhile the bland proposed replacement (a single block with 5 self contained apartments) contributes nothing to the character of the area.
This small but distinctive landmark – designed to reference the proud local maritime traditions, with its striking prow looking out over Penrhyn Bay – deserves so much better than the bulldozer.
We urge the council and applicants to think again

The ‘prow’ of 57 Marine Drive, looking out over Penrhyn Bay and the Conwy Coast.

Image Ⓒ Moxette, Flickr