Society goes on TV to challenge Historic England’s
‘mistaken’ decision on 2 Polstead Road
31 January 2017: T. E. Lawrence Society vice-chairman Alan Payne and Oxfordshire City Councillor Liz Wade have appeared on That’s Oxfordshire TV to explain why Historic England has been mistaken in its decision not to list 2 Polstead Road as a Building of Special
Architectural or Historic Interest.
The Society will be asking the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to review the decision. Oxford City Council, eminent historians and many residents of Oxford had supported this opportunity to officially recognise Lawrence’s family home as a cultural and historic asset to the City of Oxford.
Yet Historic England rejected our application for Listed status, claiming that the “national historic interest of Lawrence is not
directly manifest in the house”.
In the 13-minute interview, Alan and Liz explain why the house and Lawrence’s garden bungalow are worthy of the special protections that Listed status would bring.
Society ‘deeply disappointed’ as Secretary of State rejects Listing of 2 Polstead Road
Bemusement at Historic England’s claim that the historic association with Lawrence has been ‘denuded’
13 January 2017: The T. E. Lawrence Society is deeply disappointed by the decision of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to reject our application to List Lawrence’s family home at
2 Polstead Road, Oxford, as a Building of Special Architectural or Historic Interest.
The Society applied for listing in 2015 after the occupier’s death led to concerns that the house and garden bungalow – as well as a number of original artefacts, including a cupboard door marked with the heights of the five Lawrence boys as they grew to manhood – should be protected.
The Lawrence family moved to 2 Polstead Road in 1896 when Ned, as he was known to his family, was eight years old. It remained the family home until 1921. Living amid the historic surroundings of
Oxford was hugely influential in developing Lawrence’s interests in archaeology and medieval history, and in 1908 his father built a
bungalow in the back garden where he could carry on his studies.
It was as an undergraduate at Jesus College, Oxford, that Lawrence undertook his studies of Crusader castles that brought him First Class Honours. At the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, he became friends with the archaeologist David Hogarth who was his mentor in his subsequent careers in archaeology and British Intelligence, where his role as adviser to Emir Feisal in the Arab Revolt of 1916-18 led to him becoming known to the world as Lawrence of Arabia. After the First World War he was made a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, to give him time to write his book about the Arab Revolt, Seven Pillars of Wisdom.
In the Society’s application to Historic England – which drew
together submissions from historians and architects in the UK and US, reflecting the international interest in Lawrence – we emphasised how 2 Polstead Road is steeped in historical associations with Lawrence. Indeed, visitors from around the world still come to see the house where Lawrence grew up and was photographed in the garden playing with his brothers.
In 1994, Thomas Ware Griffin, an American who stayed briefly in the house, wrote that it was largely unchanged since the Lawrences’ time, as Mrs Lawrence had left many of the furnishings behind when she sold the house in 1921. “I often sat in the bay window of the bungalow at all hours of the day and night, with the windows propped open. I wondered about Lawrence, and all he stood for, and how much this room meant to him. The glory of his youthful past could still be felt in the hollowness of his room during the empty hours on a moonlit night.” *
We are therefore disappointed – and bemused – to read Historic England’s opinion that “although doubtless of some influence on the young TE Lawrence, the national historic interest of Lawrence is not directly manifest in this house” and that alterations to Lawrence’s bungalow have “denuded” the historic association with him.
We are also concerned by claims in its report that the house contains no fixtures or fittings relating to the Lawrences, despite the
Society having provided photographs of the cupboard door showing the boys’ heights and other artefacts.
We are saddened that Historic England and the Secretary of State have missed an important opportunity to protect the house and bungalow as an asset to the City of Oxford.
We would point out that Lawrence’s birthplace at Tremadog in North Wales, where he lived for one year as a baby, is Grade II listed despite fundamental alterations to convert it into a hostel. Lawrence’s cottage at Clouds Hill, Dorset, had its listing upgraded to Grade II* in December 2015. Lawrence’s grave in the cemetery at Moreton, Dorset, is Grade II listed.
The Society would like to thank Elizabeth Wade, the local City councillor in Oxford, Robert Franklin, a Quondam Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and Society members Alan Payne, Joe Berton, Charles Eilers and Nick Lynch, who all contributed to the submission, as well as all the people of Oxford who supported us.
To read the Secretary of State’s decision in full, click HERE.
The Society now has 28 days from 13 January 2017 to request that the Secretary of State reviews the decision.
We would suggest that anyone who wishes to make a representation should write, giving reference 1434858, to:
The Listing Review Officer
Heritage Protection Branch
Department for Culture Media and Sport
100 Parliament Street
* “An American Visitor in Polstead Road” by Thomas Ware Griffin, T. E. Lawrence Society Newsletter 42, Summer 1997
Photo of 2 Polstead Road © Joe Berton