Urgent repairs needed as Preston fight goes on for future of Freddie Flintoff’s original ‘field of dreams’

The owners of historic Harris Park in Preston have been given the go-ahead to carry out urgent repairs on all its listed buildings to prevent them falling into further disrepair.

By Brian Ellis
Wednesday, 20th July 2022, 12:30 pm

As the debate rages on over controversial plans to turn the former orphanage site – where Freddie Flintoff learned to play cricket – into a private housing estate, the city council has approved a scheme to rid the historic buildings of dry rot and rising damp.

The authority has given listed building consent for the work on six Victorian villas, plus the gate lodge, the chapel, school and master's house.

What work is needed?

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All the Victorian buildings in Harris Park are in urgent need of repair.

Experts say old timber floors, door frames and skirting boards are deteriorating and need either replacing or repairing.

Staircases in some of the buildings are in a poor state and plaster walls, rendering, brickwork, roofs and chimney stacks are all in need of attention to make sure the old children's home remains a prized asset for the city.

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A report prepared by council officers says that six villas all have significant dry rot in timbers. So too do the gate lodge, chapel, school and master's house.

Contractors will try to keep as much of the original fabric of the buildings as possible as they tackle dry rot.

All are in need of specialist treatment to remove the dry rot and fungus.

Leaking roofs have to be addressed, as do cracked and leaking gutters and drainpipes to prevent further water ingress into the buildings.

What does the council report recommend?

"Dry rot is present in all the buildings and is affecting important historic timber fabric including floor timbers, skirting boards and wall plaster, as well as the staircases of Holly House, Oak House, the chapel, school and master's house," says the report.

The field at the back of the old orphanage where Flintoff first played cricket.

It adds that three villas have "significant" dry rot and their timber floors need to be replaced.

But specialists will attempt to save as much of the original fabric of all the buildings as they can due to the historic significance of the Harris Park site.

What is the controversy over development plans for the site?

Six planning applications affecting Harris Park dating back to October 2009 have been refused by the council.

The last one thrown out was for changes to the prized Victorian development which would have included turning the main building into nine apartments and three townhouses and the construction of a number of new homes close to the orphanage buildings and on an area of land where Flintoff first played cricket.

That was rejected in December after a campaign by conservationists, spearheaded by the late Prema Taylor from Fulwood.

A fresh application to turn the main building into three dwellings is still going through the planning process.

That scheme also involves building a mezzanine floor in the chapel, converting six villas and the lodge into homes, extending the lodge and Glen Rosa and moving the war memorial from in front of the main building to the side of Garstang Road.

What is the history of the Harris Orphanage?

Wealthy Preston lawyer Edmund Robert Harris left £300,000 to the city to set up a philanthropic trust in memory of his family.

The Harris Orphanage was opened in 1888. It closed in 1982 having been home to 2,215 youngsters during its lifetime.

LCC ran it as a children's home from 1940 and sold it to Preston Polytechnic in 1982. The wealthy Bhailok family bought the site in 2006.