At the weekend my parents drove me back up to Leicester. On the way up, we visited these old armaments warehouses at Weedon Bec.
These were built in 1802 to service the Napoleonic wars. The complex was in continued use as an arms depot until the 1960s, when it fell into disuse and was abandoned. The buildings were connected first by a canal, then two rail lines. While we were there, this group of magnet fishers were trawling the canal for rusty old weapons.
The complex now hosts a few garages, small workshops and studios. The canal is stagnant and the rail lines have long since been dug up or paved over. Piles of domestic waste and industrial debris litter the slope to the south. There is a little museum at the entrance, and yet it doesn’t look like an attractive destination for the kind of tourists who hold memberships of the National Trust or English Heritage. It is an industrial estate, albeit a very old one.
I don’t know any history of the site, you can see it’s a well-connected area, near a series of canal junctions and railways. I imagine it made a convenient location for holding material between Birmingham and London. There’s a modern Eddie Stobart distribution centre on the other side of the M1.
The mystery about this place is that it hasn’t been redeveloped into housing. Old 19th Century warehouses typically make good apartment conversions: cheap to buy, thick walls, big windows, spacious interiors. There’s plenty of parking space too. In any other area this would be a prime target for gentrified development.
There is what appears to be a recent housing development to the west of the complex. The new apartments have motifs of Georgian manorial style, with pediments and columns around the doors; they obviously resemble the nearby historical buildings.
It’s easy enough to point out areas which have been gentrified, I’m curious about these cases where gentrification has been unexpectedly delayed or suspended. What is it about Weedon Bec which kept these warehouses in industrial use?