to Isle of Wight History Centre Archive of Monthly News Items
As previously featured in the History Centre

April 2019

April 2019
Our news item of July 2018 covered a challenge to the Grade II listing claim that the engines in the pavilion at Brown golf course were installed for the WWII PLUTO operation. A recent Freedom of Information request has confirmed that Historic England cannot provide a single piece of documented evidence to support their listing, other than a pair of aerial photographs.
   This just leaves supporters of the listing with their claim the evidence lies within the pavilion's extension. The pavilion was established in the 1930s and the extension was necessary to house the two Ruston engines. Local enthusiasts suggest features of the extension show it must have been a military operation, built in 1944 to house the engines which they say served as a back-up power for the PLUTO pumps.
  Historic England claim their theory is substantiated by two aerial photos, one dated 1941 which shows the pavilion without the extension and one dated 1946 which shows it with the extension. These photos have now been released via an FOI application. It was immediately apparent this claim is based on a misreading of the 1941 image.
Browns Pavilion
  Above is the 1941 aerial photo. From a distance, a cursory viewing might conclude it shows the pavilion before the extension was added. However, when enlarged, it is perfectly clear the pavilion already includes the extension (outlined). The photos on both dates show exactly the same structure, which is as it remains today. There can be no doubt the pavilion's extension and its existing engine installations were in place before the war and had nothing to do with the PLUTO operation.
  It is the final nail in the coffin of a listing that relied entirely on contrived speculation. A delist application had already demonstrated that Browns installed the Ruston engines as part of their own development. A published history of the Kennedy family and their development of Browns states "Also in 1936 an Engine House was built from which to generate d/c electricity, alternating current had not yet reached this Culver Road outpost at this time."
  Historic England rejected the delist application in order to protect reputations. They could only make their case by distorting evidence that showed the pavilion powered Browns' own facilities before the war and well into living memory. They also found it necessary to ignore a raft of official PLUTO records from The National Archives.
  The heritage section of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport decided to close ranks and defend Historic England from any suggestion of a planned misrepresentation. To that end, they compiled a review which relied on the same deceptions, at one point advising their minister the technically impossible was possible. A full report will soon be published detailing how the DCMS review comprised a range of comments designed to evade primary source evidence.
  It seems there is no longer any process that can reverse the listing now the Secretary of State, Jeremy Wright, has unwittingly signed it off. Nevertheless it might achieve some fame as the nation's only Grade II listing without a single piece of supporting evidence, perhaps becoming known as 'Jeremy's Folly'.