Farnborough Society Letter on the Tumble Down Dick

Farnborough Society Letter on the Tumble Down DickIt was brought to my attention earlier this week that The Chairman of The Farnborough Society (TFS) had a communication published in the letters page of last week’s Farnborough News & Mail (25th January 2013).

In the letter, TFS Chairman, Brian Fyfe says:

Time to shape the future of our town

HOW great it is that there is such passion surrounding the Tumbledown Dick at the moment.

It clearly demonstrates how strongly the people of Farnborough care about the arts and the desperate need for a music venue.

The Farnborough Society (TFS) has consistently called on Farnborough to seek to have a town centre with a designated Town Square around which art, culture and performance arts could be accommodated, as well as a lively independent retail offering and vibrant evening economy.

Read our Core Strategy paper on www.thefarnboroughsociety.org.uk. This, we say, is central to the strategic vision we should have for a sustainable future that will make Farnborough a place of community which has everything its people need to live, work and play.

I regret to say that It is unlikely to be the Tumbledown Dick that proves to be the lever for this ambition. It is true the Society expressed surprise that the Tumbledown Dick pub dropped off the Hampshire Listing of Buildings of Interest when it was transposed to a Listing of Buildings of Local Importance, but we never in fact requested its inclusion.

To clarify, in the final analysis, we took the view that it seemed the fabric of the building was now, after the alterations during its chequered career, of little merit or of a nature to commend itself and that better examples exist elsewhere. Therefore, we did not press the point.

What is clear is the name of the site is worth retaining and celebrating. The Tumbledown Dick name should live on.

After all, in the new The Tilly Shilling and The Gloster Pub/restaurant, Wetherspoons and Hungry Horse use names which have a local Farnborough association, much to their branding advantage.

What I would welcome now is the energy and enthusiasm harnessed by the Tumbledown Dick campaign to join with TFS to deliver the bigger picture – a town which finally lives up to its undeniable potential.

We are seeking the setting up of a Town Team to focus all the stakeholders on the common vision of a bright future.

Our mission is Preserving the Past. Shaping the Future, and we believe a Town Team will achieve exactly that.

Together, we can ensure that the arts and culture take their rightful place in the bean of Farnborough.

The Farnborough Society

The Friends of the Tumble Down Dick has already reacted, in brief, to this letter on the official Save the Tumbledown Facebook page, saying:

We are pleased to see our campaign is once again in the news.. however disparaged to see that The Farnborough Society feel the need to communicate with us via the local papers rather than directly. We will be responding in the same manner re-affirming our commitment to work with anybody and everybody to ensure the future of the Tumbledown Dick and that we save it for community use.

We don’t believe that only the name of the building should survive but the building should as a whole, as the site has the potential to be a fantastic community hub and is a heritage building in a town where precious little remain.

My personal response, as a member of the Friends of the Tumble Down Dick, is this:

The Friends of the Tumble Down Dick acknowledge and appreciate The Farnborough Society’s (TFS) pleasure at the passion behind the campaign to save the pub. Yes we do care about the arts and yes we do desperately need the return and restoration of our music venue.

I suppose I support TFS’ calls for a “town square” in Farnborough and would welcome the arts, culture and performance arts in such a town square, but also feel that this would complement the restoration of the Tumble Down Dick which has historically hosted events all year round. There was already a vibrant evening economy at “the Tumbly” until its sudden and unexpected closure in 2008 and its rejuvenation will simply allow the town square to add further diversity rather than force new exclusivity. (Don’t want to see the brass band or the mime artist? Good, then head off down the Tumbly for a pint and a punk band)

It is disappointing that, with mention of the “Core Strategy” and talking of sustainability, that TFS seem to have “washed their hands” of the Tumbledown. By failing to support the aims of campaign to save the Tumble Down Dick they appear to have no objection to the threat of the old building being demolished and seem to be implying that they also have no problem with a two-storey McDonald’s drive-thru restaurant being erected in its place. Demolition and new-build are not sustainable practices, restoration of our heritage is.

It is interesting to read that TFS say they were surprised at the removal of The Tumble Down Dick from the “Hampshire Listing of Buildings of Interest” but it is such a shame that they did nothing to help reinstate it.

What seems to explain this stance, but is also very saddening, is TFS’ claim that “better examples exist elsewhere” – Better examples of what? And where do they mean by elsewhere? I cannot think of an older pub in Farnborough which is still standing. Depending on where you go for your figures, some 20,000 pubs have closed in the UK over the last 30 years and it seems The Farnborough Society are willing to let our own town’s most historic pub just vanish to be replaced by one of 1,200 identical fast food restaurants.*

But, to their credit, TFS do “value” the name and they acknowledge that two wealthy national pub chains, who have been granted permission to set up brand new pubs in Farnborough, have chosen names that are synonymous with our town. However, again, it is very disappointing to see that TFS think that if we have a new “Tumble Down Square” or some other such naming consolation, it will more than make up for the fact that we have lost yet another pub, another music venue, our history, our heritage, our past. A little piece of Farnborough that, if we don’t stand up, will be gone forever.

A name in place of something that is no longer there is a memorial; it signifies loss and to accept this is just not good enough, especially for an established local society that says, as one of its core objectives, it aims to “encourage the conservation, protection, development and improvement of features of historic or public interest in the area of benefit.”

As a member of The Friends of the Tumble Down Dick and as a member of The Farnborough Society I too would really like to see the two parties work together. However, what Brian Fyfe has stated on behalf of TFS does not represent my views as a member of The Farnborough Society. By stating the TFS’ mission values of “Preserving the Past” and yet by not seeing The Tumbly in the future is both hypocritical and lacks backbone.

If TFS and FotTDD are to work together then they must, er… work together.

I challenge Brian Fyfe and the other members of TFS to not be so defeatist, to stand up and support The Friends of Tumble Down Dick and to preserve our past in deeds not just words so that we can together shape our future otherwise McDonald’s will be shaping our waistlines.

* By identical I mean that the menu at the McDonald's, the service, the staff, will be the same homogeneous bland branding that you see at all their other 1,200 restaurants in the UK. It's the same with big pub chains who have the same menu, the same beers, although The Tilly Shilling has had some nice touches. Still not my cup of tea, that pub, and I still need the Tumble Down Dick restored.


13 thoughts on “Farnborough Society Letter on the Tumble Down Dick

  1. Louise P.

    Hear hear to The Friends of the Tumbledown Dick! I’m truely aghast at the stance taken by TFS. The Farnborough Society act as unofficial custodians of our town, yet this letter from Brian Fyfe has completely missed the point. Thousands of local people support the campaign to save the important historical fabric of the building. Destroying this lovely building and placing a plaque on another unwanted ugly pre-fab fast food palace in its place is not in the interests of the town or its residents!

    1. Keith

      I could not agree more Louise!

      The Farnborough Society has the gall to criticise those campaigning to save The Tumbledown Dick, this from an organisation that has done nothing to protect what little is left of our heritage, that is is little more than a talking shop with cosy little meetings in the council offices.

      I always had my doubts about them. Now they have shown their true colours, those doubts have been more than justified.

      They have made themselves a laughing stock: Demolish a building, sticky up a sign on tacky new build and that has safeguarded our heritage!

      Does anyone know their committee structure and membership? Rushmoor planners, developers, local Masonic Lodge?

      They lack any credibility.

  2. Susan Small

    I found this communique from The Farnborough Society to be extremely patronising and self-important. A friend invited me to join this organisation several months ago; I am now thankful that my decision was delayed by the holidays.

    Farnborough is a town that has lost the ability to draw its own residents into its centre. TFS should be helping to rectify that by engaging with the local population in the fight to save our heritage, not write it off for a twee square which will mean nothing to the majority.

    1. Rossi Post author

      Hi Susan,

      I thought the same, especially since they boast about saving our heritage for the future and yet are completely shameless about turning their backs on The Tumbledown. Maybe if you joined TFS you could help tip the balance in a more positive direction? It’s totally understand if you still wanted to stay away :)

      As for the town centre, it’s pretty sad that Farnborough residents have to be embarrassed by their own town. I’ve lived here for about 13 years and there’s nothing much to be proud of or boast about. The whole “vision” for this place is being taken over by those who wish to serve their own narrow interests and it’s encouraging that everyone involved with the saving of the Tumbly has a much more open and broader mindset :)

    2. Keith

      Well said Susan, I could not agree more.

      Were I a member of the Farnborough Society, I would be demanding an emergency meeting to table a motion calling for the resignation of the chairman.

      You are correct: Of what value a twee town square, owned no doubt by Kuwaiti-financed KPI (who have trashed the town with the blessing of our worthless councillors), a private not public space, policed by private security guards.

      Were we to follow the perverse distorted logic of the mouthpiece of the Farnborough Society, it would be OK to demolish The Tumbledown Dick and build a Drive-Thru McDonald’s, as we could stick up a sign and that would protect our heritage.

      The Farnborough Society now lacks any credibility, it never had much to start with.

  3. Keith

    letter to the Farnborough News …

    In his recent letter to the Farnborough News, Brian Fyfe has made himself and the Farnborough Society a laughing stock.

    He has shown a complete lack of understanding of how town centres evolve. A town centre evolves organically, a river crossing (Guildford), a fortified hilltop (Lincoln), a crossroads.

    Farnborough lacks a town centre. Travel along the Farnborough Road and you pass straight through, you do not see a town centre. What you do see is The Tumbledown Dick.

    What Farnborough has is a parade of shops, akin to a parade of shops on a rough housing estate, plus two of the ugliest shopping centres in the country.

    The closest Farnborough ever came to a town centre was North Camp. Look at pictures from around 1900 and see how busy it was, which is more than can be said for what we have now.

    You cannot artificially create a town square. A town square is public open space, a place of markets, public gatherings, protest.

    Farnborough has seen privatisation of public open space, private greed versus public need. The alley past Sainsbury’s is private, not public. I did not see Brian Fyfe or the Farnborough Society at the Public Inquiry challenging the loss of public space. Nor did I see any objection to the trashing of the town centre, loss of many small businesses, to enable a developer to make a quick buck.

    According to Brian Fyfe loss of heritage does not matter as we can simply hang a sign above a chain pub. If we follow his perverse logic we can demolish The Tumbledown Dick (which he claims lacks merit as local heritage), replace with a Drive-Thru McDonald’s, The Tumbledown Dick will have been saved if we stick a sign up.

    He claims The Tumbledown Dick is not listed as a Hampshire Treasure. Not true.

    The Tumbledown Dick meets the criteria for inclusion on the list of local buildings of historic importance. Why is it not on the list? Is it deliberately excluded to facilitate demolition? Why is the Farnborough Society not pressing for its inclusion?

    Another notable omission is the Ship Inn.

    The Tumbledown Dick campaign has shown people do care about their local heritage (which is more can be said for the Farnborough Society). They have said enough is enough, a line has been drawn in the sand, this far and no further, there is to be no more loss of local heritage.

    The strength of local feeling has clearly caught the local council by surprise.

    It can no longer be businesses as usual, where developers can do as they please.

  4. Pingback: Farnborough Road « Keithpp's Blog

  5. Angry Resident

    Completely agree that the planning department are allowing private developers to determine the shape of our town whilst stripping out character and historical buildings. Another example of this is the large currently derelict building on the redrow homes site. Redrow originally intended to renovate this building, keep the fabric and style but modernising it into flats. This seemed like a great idea, but recently there’s been another development – they actually want to demolish the building instead of doing what they promised. Of course the council are more than happy with this, they see absolutely no problem with it at all.

    Conversely I am really angered that the buildings on the site which have been saved are essentially left as ornaments. Never to be touched or seen by anybody (unless you’re “important”) – the wind tunnels are a piece of our history but they are just left to sit there and remain unused. Why not turn this into a visitor attraction? We have a great flying heritage and the site holds so much potential for something like a FAST style museum – instead the land is sold off to private developers so they can sit on it and refuse local people the right to even be near them.

    Shame on all of those involved, heartless, greedy, money snatching scum as far as I am concerned. I wish I’d known more about the blatant corruption in this town before I’d decided to settle here – every new twist in this story makes me want to move away as quickly as possible.

    1. Rossi Post author

      It’s a shame to hear that Redrow will not be renovating the building on the site of the old RAE – It makes you wonder if that was the intention all along and was just submitted to get the planning department on board. If you start a campaign to save that building, let me know and I’ll help where I can.

      As for some of the buildings being left as ornaments, some of them are best left that way – the little hut with the pool where they tested flying boat models is perfect. But the control tower and the wind tunnel should be open to the public, in my opinion too; it’s our town and our heritage, so it should be us who get to enjoy these things.

      I keep reading stories where the developers have borrowed SO much money and now they’re struggling to pay it back – So it’s the banks and the developers who are at fault here and they try and squeeze money from the public or tenants instead – that’s why the Tumbledown has become so run down – Why, with a rateable value of £45k was the rent £160k?! That smacks of something unsavoury.

  6. Farnborough Central Resident

    Ah yes, the old building on the Farnborough Central site! I too am guessing that Redrow thought it would be too much effort to refurbish the building, and thought they could get more units in if they started from scratch!! Now they have knocked it down. Despite assurances that a risk assessment had been completed, residents in nearby blocks have been reporting cracks appearing in their flats from work being done!
    They have made a right bollox of the site. Too many flats were allowed to be built, with far too few parking spaces. Over 500 residences, the majority with only one parking space each, and around 20 visitor spaces which are invariably full. Street parking is the only option – the roads are more than wide enough, certainly wider than nearby streets – but someone has decided that we should now have 24 hour parking patrols issuing tickets at £100 a pop. The effect is people having to park half a mile from their own homes and having visitors is a nightmare. The latest we hear is that it is the new owners of the business park who don’t want their pristine roads messed up by parked cars. Understandably everybody is furious.
    Developers think they can walk all over us in Farnborough. We were only informed of the draconian parking measures ONE WEEKEND before they came into effect. In fact, the letters were dated two weeks previously, and were hand delivered the day Redrow shut their sales office (so they could run away and hide, presumably). The cynic in me thinks they knew what they were going to do months ago, but held fire until they had got planning permission for the new building and for the Hungry Horse. Certainly the Hungry Horse site could have been used for parking, and if we had known what was to come they would have had hundreds of complaints and could maybe have stopped permission.
    As it is, developer’s attitude toward us was summed up by a builder at the end of his shift urinating in broad daylight on the historic wind tunnel building, in full view of the flats overlooking!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>