Written by Staff Writer
In 2016, an article appeared in The Times Magazine accusing property tycoon Bill Pullman of “betraying Britain’s railway heritage.”
The article argued that Pullman, best known for his starring role in “Independence Day” and “The Patriot,” would like to demolish more than a dozen Victorian houses in Hull, in the northeast of England, if elected mayor in May.
But it wasn’t the property tycoon’s own intentions that were at the center of the article. Instead, “Betrayal of Britain’s Railway Heritage” was a searing response to the “vulture culture” that was spreading in Hull.
The article alleged that Pullman’s company — which owns Elwin House — was “proposing to knock down a cherished Victorian home with great historical value in order to set up a luxury five-star hotel in its place.”
Save Our Houses was established shortly after the publication of the article, and according to the Hull Daily Mail , protesters have since been sent letters telling them that the homes they live in could soon be demolished.
City of light
Pullman owns homes such as Elwin House in Hull. He describes the building as “one of the most romantic and best-preserved houses built in the Hull area.” Christophe, The Guardian
In the coming months, the organization Save Our Houses has announced that they will launch a legal challenge in the High Court on the basis that the homes in question are “dedicated to the building of railways.”
A spokesperson for the group told the Hull Daily Mail that the three houses in question, named Elwin, White and Duthie and in addition to the Hampton Court Palace Hotel, are all listed and should not be demolished to make way for Pullman’s hotel project.
Christophe, the Guardian
The organization will argue that bulldozing the three houses, at a cost of 50,000 pounds ($69,500), “would be an illegal act under the 1961 Tenant Tenancy Act.”
A campaign has been launched on the Just Giving website to raise a million pounds ($1.4 million) to help sponsor the legal case.
Despite recent events, a move to demolish Pullman’s Elwin House is not being considered as a priority at the moment. However, building codes issued by Hull Council may require work to be carried out on the property.
Hull has been recognised as a “City of Light” in Britain. But the Times Magazine article didn’t paint a picture of an extremely congested city full of shiny new glass office blocks.
The article highlighted a more dark side of Hull’s recent development, highlighting how many old housing estates were converted into five-star hotels by “wealthy overseas buyers,” who were “terrified of having their homes shot at by locals.”
John Slinger, Hull’s cabinet member for growth and regeneration, said that the target was to provide “a maximum of four new affordable homes in each development, when potential private tenants can take up only one.”
“We want to build thousands of new homes so we are concentrating our efforts on areas where there’s a demand.”
Such forces “lobotomize existing communities,” said Editaye Tims, project manager at Save Our Houses, and turn developments into “empty and empty houses.”
Plan or cause?
Christophe, the Guardian
But there is a more fundamental issue here. Do buildings of any sort of historical and architectural significance lose their value when erected as many times as they have been in England?
As Julian Dinning, professor at Kingston University’s History Department, put it to the Guardian, the answer depends on what society values. “Some things are just aesthetically dull,” he said.
But what about the traces of the history which are visible in the homes?
“The memories left behind by people like Miss Elwin still matter today,” said Tims. “If we tear down buildings we erase their presence forever.”