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

July 2018


July 2018
HISTORIC ENGLAND IN A SCANDAL
SURROUNDING A SANDOWN GRADE II LISTING
Historic England have conceded the engines in the pavilion at Browns Golf Course could not have been installed to power the WWII PLUTO pumps, which is contrary to the basis of their Grade II listing. It has also been shown they concealed this evidence in their report rejecting a de-list application. Further accusations of a planned deception have emerged during an ongoing review of the listing being conducted by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), to whom HE report.
   The original Grade II listing claimed the pavilion plant was a wartime installation to provide a backup for the mains powered PLUTO pumps. This assumption arose through failure to understand PLUTO pump technology. It was technically impossible for the modest pavilion plant to match the huge power demand of the motors driving the pumps, supplied by a dedicated power line running directly from the Island's power station at East Cowes. HE's interpretation of the PLUTO project was ill informed and suffered from a lack of research. The original idea of a connection between the pavilion and the PLUTO pumps seems to have arisen merely because they were in the same vicinity. No documented evidence was ever provided to support the claim.
  It is a mystery why HE never considered the obvious probability that the plant was installed by Browns to power their various catering facilities, particularly as the facilities are indicated on the pavilion's switchboard. It was self-evident the owners originally had no option but to generate their own power supply at such an isolated spot. It seems there was no research at all into the development of Browns' operations. It would have probably only taken a few local enquiries to reveal the pavilion plant was still powering these facilities within living memory.
  The Grade II listing was established in 2006. A challenge to the listing arose in 2017 when a local researcher accessed PLUTO records at The National Archive and realised official accounts disproved the claims. While the case for the listing was purely speculative, evidence to the contrary came from primary sourced documents, and it was these that formed the basis for a de-list application.
  The de-list application presented HE with a problem. Local enthusiasts had naturally taken the Grade II listing at face value and spent years successfully promoting the site. A renovation of the pavilion had attracting a lottery grant, council support, crowd funding and extensive media coverage. Some local historians had supported the listing with their own imaginative suppositions. HE realised that admitting the listing was groundless would cause considerable embarrassment to themselves and everybody involved. Reputations were at stake.
  Their solution to the problem was to reject the de-list application, but they could only do so by concealing its evidence. Accordingly, they issued a consultation document that made no reference whatsoever to de-list evidence and merely reiterated the original case for listing. In their final report, they referred to just one piece of de-list evidence but edited it to distort its meaning. It is difficult to see the process as anything other than a planned deception, apparently in collaboration with some local supporters.
  The DCMS review has forced HE to finally address the de-list evidence. They are attempting to save face and retain the listing by trying to arrive at a pavilion PLUTO connection they can use as an alternative to powering the pumps, while now having to accept the pavilion was already powering Browns club house cafe and ice cream factory. Their solution is to claim the plant was updated rather than installed and was powering PLUTO machinery of which there is no record.
  The review data was collated by DCMS weeks ago but the delay in completion suggests they are in some difficultly in deciding how to deal with the matter, although DCMS deny this. Reviewing the listing is one thing but accusing a partner body of an organised deception might be something they would not want to dwell on, particularly as it could lead to an inquiry as to who was responsible and at what level it was sanctioned. DCMS appear to have avoided accessing the correspondence which identifies who knew what, so it may be they are looking to confine themselves to generalities.
  An unfortunate effect of these events is that local supporters have treated evidence of Browns development of the pavilion as something to be avoided, rather than seeing it as an interesting piece of Sandown history in its own right. The plant powered Browns club house cafe, ice cream factory and canoe lake cafe from the early 1930s right through to the late 1960s. It remains a unique piece of local electrical and mechanical engineering. It doesn't need wartime mythology to justify its preservation.