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PostSubject: Unbuilt Britain   Wed 21 Aug 2013, 13:57

The first in a documentary series which looks at building projects that never happened, starts with "The Great Victorian Way" and "Motopia"




Motopia as envisioned by its architect Geoffrey Alan Jellicoe;

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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Thu 22 Aug 2013, 13:58

Episode 2 is not yet on youtube; one of the projects which featured was the Mid-Scotland Canal, a proposed waterway linking Loch Lomond with the Forth Estuary, which would allow the Royal Navy to move ships from the west coast to the east coast without going round the Pentland Firth.



the project was dropped when it became clear the expense involved was too great.
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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Sun 13 Jul 2014, 11:16

Alternative designs for London's iconic Tower Bridge before Sir Horace Jones's design we see today emerged victorious. The images are (mostly) from an article in a recent edition of History Today magazine.

There was controversy around Jones, the City Architect, "winning" a competition in which he was one of the judges, especially when such distinguished civil engineers as Sir Joseph Bazalgette had also submitted plans. However when looking at the also-rans (and especially Bazalgette's contributions) one is almost glad in this case that the London City Council wasn't above a little bit of favouritism and corruption in the late 19th century.


The version of Jones's bridge that actually won the competition. The semi-circular bascule support was replaced in the design prior to construction. The rest however is more or less what we have today.


Frederic Barnett's innovative "duplex" system allowing continuous river and road traffic. This was the initial front runner but was rejected by the Thames Authority who vetoed anything that might even temporarily halt shipping.


F.J. Palmer's "double duplex" which was considered too expensive to build and operate.


This entry (architect unknown to me) ditched the bridge idea altogether and proposed a tunnel. This never stood a chance - recent experience of digging a workable tunnel under the Thames had put the city fathers off the notion completely at the time.


Bazalgette's proposal - or at least the one of several he made that he promoted most vigorously. It's height is understated in the drawing on purpose. Part of the design problem was to anticipate the height of ships as yet not built as well as accommodate the Thames' tidal variation. Bazalgette's proposal to raise the structure above the shipping lane meant constructing what would have been then London's tallest building.


Another of Sir Jospeh Bazalgette's, this time cantilevered and also raised above the shipping lane (it would have been the highest point on the London skyline for sixty years had it been built).

And just to show that Bazalgette's lack of aesthetic vision is part of a proud architectural tradition stretching unbroken to the modern era ...


Eminent 1930s architect W.F.C. Holden's proposal to convert Tower Bridge into an art-deco icon by covering it with glass.
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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Sun 13 Jul 2014, 11:50

And this, believe it or not, is what one military engineer called Colonel Trench envisaged for what today is Trafalgar Square. The actual design was by brothers Philip and Matthew Cotes Wyatt and the pyramid, intended to be London's highest point, would have 22 stories each commemorating a victory in the Napoleonic Wars against the French.



If you think this is bad just be thankful that John Goldicutt's proposal for Trafalgar Square never made it past the City Architect's in-tray either. John decided that just what London needed on the spot was an exact replica of Rome's Colosseum amphitheatre, bizarrely not as a war memorial but as home to all of London's academic Royal Societies of the day. Goldicutt obviously had an impression of academia not unlike my own!


.


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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Sun 13 Jul 2014, 12:05

Trench's pyramid wasn't the only one that hit the dust in the planning stage either.

In the 1820s an architect called Thomas Wilson, inspired by Egyptology (all the rage at the time) and in an attempt to solve London's perenniel problem regarding shortage of burial space, proposed a necropolis on Primrose Hill near Chalk Farm. So convinced was he of his idea that he floated a "Pyramid General Cemetery Company" to raise finance for the project, something that would of course have enhanced its appeal to the City who would thus be spared the expense. He estimated its construction cost at £2,500 (and potential profit to be over £10,000,000 in 1830s money!!!). Multiply these amounts by about 200 to translate them into modern figures and you can understand why he had no problem garnering investment, rapidly exceeding his estimated outlay after flotation of the company. In the end it was the pedantry and traditionalism of the local council that stood between Wilson and his goal - a pyramid filled with corpses which, perched high on Primrose Hill, to this day would still have been visible from much of the West End.



Wilson wasn't too put off however. His company thrived with him as director and went on to construct more traditional cemeteries around London, including the prestigious and beautiful Kensal Green.
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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Sun 13 Jul 2014, 12:47

Proposed for the Thames Embankment (where Norman Shaw's New Scotland Yard now stands) was this ambitious attempt to out-do the La Scala and build a London Opera House. This one actually got underway but had to be abandoned when the foundations repeatedly flooded and had to be redesigned, eventually using up all the funds before the thing had even made it above ground. The opera manager and principal financier, James Henry Mapleson, continued with his project regardless, but despite a grand brick laying ceremony with opera stars of the day in attendance, the construction of a tube station in its basement, and huge interest and support for his plans from the aristocracy (though little by way of extra money), he was eventually forced to abandon the project. This didn't go down too well with investors (which included public funds allocated by the House of Commons) and Colonel Mapleson was declared bankrupt in 1880.



One thing we have to be grateful for however from the whole sorry mess was the abundance of archaeological material found during the foundation excavation. It was one of the first times such work was carried out using a system approved by the British Museum and the results can still be seen in that establishment, ranging from the prehistoric to the Victorian era.
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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Mon 14 Jul 2014, 00:09

Great pictures, thank you for the research. Of course they again beg the question of what is good and what is not  in artistic style. I am greatly taken by the Art Deco cover for the Tower Bridge which has always seemed to me to be a pile of Victorian over-reach  design. We really ought have sets of overlays for it according to circumstances - currently it should be goal posts - mit German flags.
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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Mon 14 Jul 2014, 08:23

The thing about Holden's plan to cover Tower Bridge with glass is that that would have meant covering a structure which was already double-clad. The basic steel skeleton of the bridge was designed by John Wolfe-Barry. This in itself would have sufficed as a functioning structure. Horace Jones' plan was then to clad the steel with a simple brick skin for weather protection. When Jones' died halfway through the project, however, George Stevenson took over and chose to go for a stone cladding instead and the Neo-Gothic look of the bridge with which we are now familiar.

Holden's Art Deco plan can be seen as a delayed reaction to Stevenson's decision to go for an antiquarian look. When one considers that New York's Brooklyn Bridge and Paris' Eiffel Tower are both older than London's Tower Bridge then it's understandable that many civil engineers and architects consider Stevenson's cladding to be somewhat tuille.
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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Mon 14 Jul 2014, 08:52

Amazingly Holden produced his plan in 1943, right between the Blitz and the V1/V2 bombardment of the city. What a plonker!
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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Mon 14 Jul 2014, 10:13

There was a suggestion to build a tower in London to rival the Eiffel Tower in Paris:




http://www.brixtonbuzz.com/2013/06/gasp-at-the-south-london-entries-for-the-1890-great-tower-of-london-competition/
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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Mon 14 Jul 2014, 12:55

On the site later to become Wembley Stadium no less!

But if they'd built that then where would England play their football ????

Oh, wait a minute ...
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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Mon 14 Jul 2014, 13:12

The actual location for Étienne-Louis Boullée's 1790s Isaac Newton Cenotaph was never decided - it might well have been built in France had it ever materialised. However even today Boullée's design is not only futuristic in appearance but also its intended functionality is as innovative, if not more so, than many ground-breaking modern concepts. The globe structure would not only mimic the earth's progression through night and day but the thousands of small holes in its external surface would emulate the night sky when viewed from within as natural daylight shone from outside. His design was in the process of being considered by Science academies in London and Paris when the French Revolution intervened to scupper the project (and almost Boullée himself)

A Digital Design student in Columbia University, Tim Boyle, has rendered this brief "tour" of the structure that never was (I'm assuming "Taffy" is his contribution and not Boullée's);

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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Sun 02 Nov 2014, 10:33

Of course any mention of "unbuilt London" must also include Sir Christopher Wren's vision of a city of wide boulevards, piazzas and riverfront promenades to replace the city destroyed during the Great Fire of 1666. This plan received very serious consideration in its day, its rejection in the end hinging on the fact that much of the city not already destroyed (the darker shade on the map) would have had to be razed to the ground as well. There just wasn't anywhere feasible to put everyone while all the construction was underway.

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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Sun 02 Nov 2014, 12:45

John Evelyn is best remembered now as the "other" diarist of the late 17th century operating at the same time and place as Samuel Pepys. In fact Evelyn's diaries, which also covered the events of the Great Fire, contain probably more accurate and historically useful information than Pepys' even if their dry, impersonal factual style has rendered them inferior to his compatriot's in many people's view. Evelyn however was something of a polymath - his wide interests evidenced by the translations and original books published in his name over his lifetime. He was also a trained draughtsman, and produced his own version of how London might be redesigned in the fire's aftermath:

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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Sun 02 Nov 2014, 13:12

And of course John Evelyn's vision was probably what London actually needed... wide avenues intersecting in public squares and gardens, public thoroughfares to be separated from service roads etc  .... rather than Wren's more conservative plan, which still to a large extent retained the old medieval street plan. Under Evelyn, the multiple (essentially medieval) parallel lanes running down to the river, as retained in Wren's plan, could have been finally removed. Indeed in the 21st century they are still only slowly being removed or widened.

I think Wren should be viewed as a pragmatist. When dealing with the complexities of the freeholds, leeseholds, crown lands, and other land ownership issues, he had to compromise if he was to get anything done in a reasonably short period of time (and I think these land ownership issues were as much a constraint in redeveloping the city as was the problem of coping with the disposessed). By contrast one could well argue that Evelyn was the true visionary, trying to seize a once in a millenium opportunity to reform a city to be fit for the future. Evelyn's far-sighted vision lost out to Wren's pragmatism, but in the end Wren, given all the constraints, didn't actually do too bad a job.


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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Sun 02 Nov 2014, 13:38

Unlike Wren, Evelyn was not simply reacting in an opportunistic manner to the prospects of rebuilding the ravaged city. His plan was admittedly submitted to the king on September 13th, a mere eleven days after the fire's outbreak, but while the finished design might have been hurriedly drawn up in the circumstances, the concepts it contained were ones he had long ago suggested anyway. Five years before the Great Fire he had published the marvellously titled pamphlet "Fumifugium", an intended submission to parliament with the subtitle "The inconveniencie of the aer and smoak of London dissipated together with some remedies humbly proposed by J.E. esq. to His Sacred Majestie, and to the Parliament now assembled."

In this submission he had already not only prophesied a disaster such as was to unfold in 1666 but also (citing poisonous smoke and conditions encouraging plague as principal motives for reform) had set out a criteria of minimum standards for all future construction in the city. These included brick-built buildings as mandatory, the widening of streets, consideration for "fire breaks" integrated into the fabric of the city, its expansion to lessen population density and the opening of general access to the quays and the water of the Thames with fire-fighting in mind. This would naturally result, he argued, in a city along the lines of that which he proposed in his later map. After the fire almost all of his recommendations, which in 1661 never even made it to parliamentary consideration, were put immediately into law. Evelyn was even invited to help draught the legislation.

I don't think he "lost out" to Wren in the end, Both men's grand proposals were discounted as unfeasible. In fact one could argue that many of the legal constraints under which Wren and others were obliged to work afterwards regarding materials and design and which fashioned the new streetscapes within the city had in fact originated with Evelyn. Neither got their grand boulevards and piazzas but Londoners definitely benefited as much from Evelyn's foresight as Wren's undoubted aesthetics in the decades following the fire.
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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Mon 03 Nov 2014, 09:28

Another British city where town planners received a rather sudden blank page on which to project their modern plans was Coventry, its centre so notoriously devastated by German aerial bombing and in particular on November 14th 1940 when blast and follow-up incendiary bombs created a firestorm that erased almost the entire fabric of Coventry's medieval heart.

By 1945 and the war's end the plans for the new centre were already pretty much in place and, with exceptions for where funding and changes of priority altered the initial intentions, the outcome was still quite close to the original idealised images the planners produced at the time. As a result Coventry can be seen as representative of two quite extreme views, both as a monument to resilience and faith in regeneration, and at this remove seventy years on as quite damning proof that "modernity" by 1945 standards would create many more practical and aesthetic dilemmas than it pretended to solve.

The Upper precinct, with an intentional vista incorporated of the remains of the old cathedral, was in 1948 envisaged thus:



The reality in 2014 looks like this:



Opinion even today is very divided over the abandonment by the planners of Coventry's ancient streetscape in the vicinity of the modern "precinct" (even the use of that term has engendered bitter debate). West Orchard Street for example, its line and memory now rather completely expunged by the modern Precinct development, could well have been recreated in the same manner that many European cities opted to do after the war's desolation.



What is apparent to me however is that the potential options for "what might have been" nearly all appear more attractive in prospect than that which emerged.
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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Tue 14 Apr 2015, 08:10

An article in today's Guardian concerns plans for London which (thankfully in almost all cases) never materialised. Some of them have already been mentioned in the thread but others were new to me. Particularly frightening is "Hook New Town" in Hampshire.


Soho.


King's Cross Airport


Maplin Sands Airport


Hook New Town
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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Tue 14 Apr 2015, 16:13

You have to admit there was some forward thinking going on ... although there was a tendancy to over-estimate predictions for social change and under-estimate those for technological advances. The King's Cross airport (proposed in 1931) envisioned a greatly increased private ownership of small, fly-yourself commuter biplanes ... and no high-rise buildings! Yet even today very few senior 'execs' actually fly directly into Docklands City airport or the Battersea heliport ...  most still (as in the 1930s) go to work by chauffeur-driven car.

In the light of post war development the Kings Cross project was resurrected by the same architect, Charles Glover, as a site for the relocation of Covent Garden market ... but this time he proposed a heliport on the top rather than aircraft runways. There was also a very similar project proposed for Charing Cross station in about 1950, of commercial premises connecting to the railway station and Underground lines below, and again with a wheel-like arrangement of several runways for a heliport. This was based on the premise that very soon there would be helicopter shuttles flying commuters in from the suburbs. That still hasn't come about but the artist who drew the mock-up did depict some very modern-looking Chinook-type helicopters ... which look a bit odd against the old-fashioned steam locomotives on the railway lines below!


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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Tue 14 Apr 2015, 17:06

Was Hook designed by the same architects as Cumbernauld town centre by any chance?

As planned:      


Unfortunately, it was  built.
                         

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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Tue 14 Apr 2015, 17:19

Weren't Swansea and Plymouth basically rebuilt to the same plan after WWII?
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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Wed 15 Apr 2015, 10:07

I hadn't heard that before, but it actually makes sense in so far as that both Plymouth and Swansea were first off the mark petitioning government for extended compulsory purchase powers and a redraft of the Town Planning Act, both demands tabled by their respective councils by the summer of 1941, a matter of only a few weeks after the concerted air raids that had destroyed both cities' centres. Abercrombie in Plymouth would have therefore liaised closely with his counterpart in Swansea and each would have tailored their designs having consulted each other in order to present one with the most optimal chance of securing the required law changes and - crucially - funding from central government.

Here is Abercrombie's outline plan for Plymouth:

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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Wed 15 Apr 2015, 15:48

About 2 centuries too late - despite Boris' enthusiasm.
http://www.waterwaysworld.com/latestpost.cgi?post=2602
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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Fri 29 May 2015, 17:09

Here's a 1952 proposal for a Central London Heliport to be built directly over Charing Cross railway station and Embankment Tube and, supported on pillars, out over the Thames halfway to the South Bank:

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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Thu 10 Sep 2015, 17:27

It seems that one of the inevitable consequences of having an Empire is that sooner or later one accumulates a surfeit of very eminent and very dead writers, artists, scientists, explorers, generals, admirals, statesmen, colonial governors, and others … all of whom need to be commemorated in some way with urns, plaques, plinths, busts, statues and other monuments. In 1904 the clergy of Westminster Abbey publicly voiced their concern at the growing clutter of memorials that they were having to accommodate.

Architects JP Seddon and EB Lamb proposed a gargantuan solution: The Imperial Monumental Halls and Tower.

This was to be located between Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, and constructed in the neo-gothic style "so as to blend harmoniously with the surrounding buildings". But at 168m tall the proposed tower would have dwarfed the central tower of the abbey as well as the tower of Big Ben. Indeed it would have been the tallest building in Britain at that time. But true to its purpose, on the lower floors there were to be an extensive series of public galleries housing, "the monuments of high art to eminent men and women of all parts of the British Empire … a worthy centre in the metropolis of the Empire, 'upon which the sun never sets'."

It was of course wildly impractical and impossible to fund … and nor did the project receive much critical acclaim. ‘The Builder’ magazine commented at the time that it had, "a little too much of megalomania about it."

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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Thu 10 Sep 2015, 22:46

Do you think the National Portrait Gallery has vaults stuffed with pics of people no one can recall? I went on a BBC tour recently and was amused by the wall photo galleyr. I longed to ask about what point it was decided that a mug shot was passe - add your own accent - and if the Top Gear guys were all tossed away or archivd. Ah such is fame - blown away as desert sands in no time at all.
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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Fri 11 Sep 2015, 08:47

Abercrombies's London ring roads that never happened.

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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Wed 04 Nov 2015, 07:52

Yesterday's Guardian Online featured some nice pictures of abandoned projects in London over the last two hundred years or so. I especially like the suggestion for a bridge by Somerset House over the Thames. Some of the Victorian skyscrapers however look particularly incongruous.


The "Bridge of Magnificence" idea (never submitted for approval but more a pipe dream of one Thomas Sandby in the late 1700s)


Whitehall as a "Grand Avenue" connecting Westminster with Trafalgar Square from an 1873 plan


A 1904 "skyscraper" museum behind Westminster Abbey to house all the memorabilia etc that had begun to clutter up the building


This 1904 plan for new Courts of Justice on The Strand was very nearly successfully approved at the time
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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Wed 04 Nov 2015, 09:16

The 1933 design for Grosvenor House, Park Lane looks like it's straight out of 'Metropolis' or 'Things to Come':

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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Wed 04 Nov 2015, 13:31

Horrible, isn't it? Nearly as bad as the "Nelson's Globe" which in an alternative timeline might well have won out over "Nelson's Column".

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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Wed 04 Nov 2015, 14:22

@nordmann wrote:
On the site later to become Wembley Stadium no less!

But if they'd built that then where would England play their football ????

Oh, wait a minute ...

The first stage of the Wembley Tower was actually built. Here photographed in 1900;

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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Wed 04 Nov 2015, 14:35

Model of Lutyen's design for a new Roman Catholic Cathedral in Liverpool. Only the crypt was ever completed as rising costs and World War Two brought the project to an end;



How it would have looked in the city;

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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Thu 05 Nov 2015, 14:36

A bit grandiose and somewhat conservative with echos of St Peter's in Rome (quel surprise), but not a bad design IMHO. However it was probaly just as well it was never actually built as it would have simply been flattened by bombing in 1940.
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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Wed 24 Aug 2016, 09:33

The Guardian periodically has articles about building projects that never got off the ground. This appeared yesterday,

The Guardian - How London might have looked: from Regent St monorail to a straight Thames

Prompted by the congestion of London's streets with increased numbers of private cars, a plan in the 1950s was to reduce the number of buses and replace them with a monorail system to be built above the city's streets, like this along Regent Street:



... then there's the 1790 plan to straighten the Thames and turn to the resulting cut off river loops into huge docks:



... and after the 1851 Great Exhibition there was the plan, not to simply reconstruct the Crystal Palace building at Sydenham, but to use all the prefabricated glass and ironwork sections to build a massive tower ... which, being on a hill would have been taller than the current Shard, except that it's been calculated that had it been attempted it would probably have probably collapsed under its own weight.

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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Thu 25 Aug 2016, 11:06

Such fascinating stuff is found and presented here. Thanks be to those that do. How sad it is that too many awful notions are actually built. I went to stay for a week on a modern estate of expensive, well appointed houses and lasted 2 days.
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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Sat 27 Aug 2016, 14:50

Dorset deserves a mention here too. Wisconsin born H. Gordon "Mr" Selfridge, of department store fame, had grandiose plans indeed when he purchased Highcliffe Castle during WWI at a knockdown lease price. Not content with this rather large chunk of English heritage this ambitious American immediately purchased nearby Hengistbury Head and commissioned architect Philip Tilden to create what would have been, if completed, the "largest castle in the world".

Four miles of ramparts, not one but three separate castles enclosed within them, a hybrid of medieval, classical and modern styles throughout (including an exact replica of Versailles' Hall of Mirrors) - the plan was nothing if not audacious, though kitschy definitely would have run a close second place in the adjectives stakes.



As it happened, Tilsden's design never got much further than the drawing board. After Selfridge's wife died during the 1918 global influenza epidemic his finances, along with his mental stability, went into terminal decline. His fortune, already depleted through reckless spending and investments, was all but wiped out in the Wall Street Crash. Though he lived a long life he was to die alone and destitute in a small flat in Putney in 1947, a long way in every respect from his earlier Dorset dream.
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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Sat 27 Aug 2016, 20:13

That's life, Nordmann.

Whit esteem for all the posts on this board, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Unbuilt Britain   Mon 31 Oct 2016, 11:59

The George Bennie Railplane. Film of the proof of concept trials at Milngavie:

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Unbuilt Britain

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