Cumberland Trading Estate

The Cumberland Trading Estate, the former Midlands Horticultural Works of Messenger & Co., Ltd.

In early December 1979[1] estate agents, auctioneers and valuers Bonfield Hirst Turnor[2] wrote informing the Estates Surveyor at Leicestershire County Council, that the Receiver had instructed them to place the whole site on the market in the New Year. Whilst not specifically mentioned in the letter, it is apparent from the tone that it was hoped the County Council would purchase the whole site.

The Receiver was seeking to obtain a purchase price of £250,000 for the freehold 4.4-acre (1.8 hectares) site; at the time the existing buildings had a gross internal floor space of about 56,000 sq. ft. The site attracted a rateable value of £10,050, whilst actual charges amounted to £17,989.48, payable in half-yearly instalments.

At the time, Field Cottage, No. 82 Cumberland Road, comprising of hall, 2 reception rooms, kitchen, 4 bedrooms, bathroom, separate W.C. and garage space was being let on service tenancy at £6.60 per week. No. 84 Cumberland Road, comprising of hall, 2 reception rooms, kitchen, 2 bedrooms, and bathroom was vacant.

On the main site, there were 5 or 6 tenancies already in place producing a total annual rent of more than £11,000:

  1. Loughborough Roofing Services, with storage space. had an informal tenancy agreement with one month’s notice at £1,150 per annum.
  2. Askew who were using the old boiler shop for motor body repairs, held a three-year contract ending on 1st January 1981, at £720 per annum.
  3. Davey Enterprises with a joinery shop opposite the old boiler shop had a monthly tenancy at £208 per annum.
  4. May Products, vehicle body builder, held a 5-year tenancy agreement at £4,400 per annum, which terminated on 17th November 1979.
  5. Bennett Brothers (Loughborough) Ltd., joinery manufacturers and builders, with registered offices at No. 32 Herbert Street, Loughborough[3], held two tenancies. The first, a 5-year tenancy, terminating on 1st March 1981 at £4,192 per annum. The second, concerning several sheds used for storage, at £400 per annum.
  6. There is also reference to Martens Mobiles possibly having a tenancy at £3,800 per annum.

The tenancy agreements included clauses whereby all rates and water charges were payable directly by the tenants, with electricity and oil being supplied by the firm, who then recharged the tenants each month.

At the time, the site had an established use for both general industrial purposes and as a foundry in accordance with Classes IV (general light industrial use) and VI (special industrial use) of the Town and Country Planning Order 1972. However, the District Planning Officer was prepared to consider the redevelopment of the site for either residential or light industrial use. Whilst no planning permission had been submitted, it was understood that the Receiver was planning to apply for partial redevelopment of the site for light engineering use[4].

A subsequent letter, dated 7th January, informed the County Council that formal instructions had been received from the Receiver to put the site on the market. It also detailed that following a meeting with the local Planning Officer, it was thought highly likely that planning permission would be granted for light industrial use on part of the site and that the architect, Francis Keyworth, was already preparing a scheme. Presumably this refers to the western end of the site, which the planning authorities had previously rejected in several occasions. This was also the site that the County Council was interested in to use in relation to the transfer of Limehurst School.

In mid-February[5], following several meetings between the two parties, the County Council’s Estates Surveyor confirmed that he would be making a recommendation to the County Council to purchase the site. The Council were prepared to offer £210,000 for the whole 4.4-acre site, subject to the County Council receiving outline planning permission for the development of industrial nursery units on the Cumberland Road end of the site (i.e. the eastern side of the site that included the firm’s offices and foundry)[6].

The County Council were not the only party interested in purchasing the site; Bennett Brothers (Loughborough) Ltd., who were tenants on the site were also considering making an offer.

Both interested parties were informed through the client’s solicitors that the Receiver was prepared to sell the site for £210,000, with vacant possession with the exception the existing tenancies, subject to a completion date before 31st March 1980. The price included the whole site 4.4-acre site, the buildings, heating and electrical installations. However, all the plant and machinery including the cranes would be sold separately by auction, on 27th and 28th February.

The County Council, through the County Estates Surveyor’s office has already entered into discussions with Mr. K. A. Bennett, of solicitor’s Arnold & Sons, of No. 22, High Street, Coalville who were representing Bennett Brothers Ltd. On 21st February[7], the County Estates Surveyor outlined a report which would recommend that County Council purchase the whole site (although he could not envisage the Council being able to meet the end of March deadline). The Council would then immediately re-sell the 1.6-acre (0.65 hectares) part of the site (the area subject to the Council’s planning application i.e. the eastern side of the site, closest to Cumberland Road), to Bennett Brothers Ltd. The Estates Surveyor also suggested that the two parties enter exclusive discussions and if satisfactory terms could be agreed, it would not be offered on the open market. The proposal was that Bennett Brothers Ltd., pay a straight apportionment on an area basis; although this was negotiable, as it was recognised that the value of the buildings on that part of the site was less than on the rest of the site. The Estates Surveyor also assumed that Bennett Brothers Ltd. would redevelop the site, with the construction of a new access road and demolish the two houses, Nos. 82 and 84 Cumberland Road. It was recognised that essentially sharing the site would cause potential problems e.g. rights over joint services and rights of access, etc., which would necessitate detailed discussions. The letter made it clear that the County Council wanted to acquire the site to allow future development and relocation of Limehurst School. In that regard the Council planned to flatten the site under its ownership, divert the public footpath and merge it site with its existing holding. Once that had been completed the Council would be willing to “relinquish all rights and easements over the site” conveyed to Bennett Brothers Ltd.

Three days later, on 21st February[8], the County Estates Surveyor wrote to Bonfield Hirst Turnor re-articulating the County’s wish to purchase the site, pointing out that it would not be possible to meet the end of March proposed deadline. At the same time the Estates Surveyor wrote to the County Secretary, asking him to make every effort to complete the purchased within the timeframe, even though it was not planned to be presented to the Land, Buildings and Supplies Sub-Committee meeting on 17th March. The Surveyor also hinted that he thought Bennett Brothers Ltd. had withdrawn from bidding to purchase the whole site. However, he was wrong and it appears that Bennett Brothers Ltd., had continued to negotiate with the vendors whilst, in parallel, holding talks with the County Council. Because on 26th February the County Council was informed, as a matter of courtesy, by Bonfield Hirst Turnor, that contracts had already been exchanged.

Bennett Brothers Ltd., immediately set about converting the whole site into small industrial workshops, collectively known as the “Cumberland Trading Estate”. They initially sub-dividend the existing buildings, transforming them into thirty units; the offices and showroom was divided into three units (A1-3); the canteen into one (B1); the old car garage area into two (C1-2); the foundry and fettling shed into seven (D1-7); the engineering and woodworking sheds into fourteen (E1-14) and the buildings opposite the foundry, adjacent to the timber drying sheds into three (F1-3). Allowance was also made to sub-divide the remaining timber drying sheds into almost another 25 units.

 

Cumberland Trading Estate – planned conversion of site into industrial units

In October 1980, they successfully submitted a planning application to rebuild the range of dilapidated timber sheds to form an additional 11 individual units, suitable for small businesses, together with the requisite 2 parking spaces per unit[9]. Again, they faced the prospect of rejection due to problem of vehicular access, this time arguing that the units would be mainly occupied by “self-employed artisans, one man business concerns”. However, that made a total of 41 units, given 2 cars per unit, it amounted to at least 160 vehicle movements per day, out onto Cumberland Road.

In December, the following year, they again successfully submitted a planning application, this time to build a new toilet block, adjacent to the newly rebuilt units[10].

Sometime prior to late 1984, Bennett Bros (Loughborough) Ltd., changed their name to Cumberland Trading Estate (Loughborough) Ltd. However, in mid-December of that year, unable to service their debts, they too were voluntarily wound-up, with Guy Christopher Scott Baker of Provincial House, No. 37, New Walk, Leicester, appointed as the liquidator[11].

The site was subsequently purchased and the new owners continued to run the site as small business/industrial units.

In November 1985, the new owners submitted a planning application to build five new industrial units (to be known as H1-5) on the same unused part of the site that Messenger & Co., Ltd., tried seven years previously. This time the units were each 12 metres long, in a single block with a small substation between the third and fourth units. The application was refused, both on unacceptable additional commercial traffic movements along Cumberland Road and insufficient allowance having been made for additional parking in line with existing parking commitments, imposed on the previous planning approvals[12].

Today (2017), the old factory site is now part of the Ashby Road Conservation Area, adopted in 2005; with the foundry building and chimney, front office range and workshops being individually noted in the “Ashby Road Conservation Area Character Statement”[13] which states:

….The Messenger chimney is a landmark but the edge of the factory complex bounding the Cumberland Road Playing Field gives an impression of neglect and lack of concern. The Messenger site itself has degraded into a series of individual workshops with little overall control. The roadway is rough and potholed and a fine canopy was badly damaged by fire leaving only the skeleton of its steel frame……

On the evening of 29th October 2008, a fierce fire ripped through several of the units[14]. The fire started a little before 11pm., with around thirty fire-fighters from Loughborough, Shepshed, Coalville, Syston and Leicester attending[15]. Some were still there the following morning damping down. According to reports the bouncy castle manufacturer Super Sumo Ltd.’s unit[16] was destroyed, whilst the neighbouring unit occupied by Central Seating, was severely damaged[17]. West End Motors also suffered some damage but was able to open soon afterwards by screening off the damaged area. The near-by hospital was told to keep their windows closed to avoid the effects of the smoke.

In 2009 businesses occupying units on the site included:

  • Albrook Engineering
  • Beaver Engineering
  • Central Seating
  • Charnwood Signs
  • Crisp Mark Auto Service
  • Cumberland Aquatics
  • Dovecote Ltd
  • Econoglaze
  • Farm Supplies
  • Fleet Fit
  • Hubbard Upholstery
  • Kirk Enterprises
  • Lee Auto Services
  • Loughborough Taxis
  • Millennia Signs
  • R.S. Cars
  • Rawlins Electrical Contractors.

With the building of the new Loughborough Hospital, off Epinal Way, came the opportunity to provide access to the rear of the site. If this had happened in the late 1970s, it might have saved Messenger & Co., Ltd.

Today, with little or no investment, the site has deteriorated, which combined with a certain amount of vandalism, is a depressing sight from whichever angle it is viewed. The site is obviously being allowed to slowly disintegrate into even more of an eye sore.

 

References:

  1. Leicestershire County Council Freedom of Information Request No: 5039.
  2. Who at the time had offices in both Leicester (No. 27 Belvoir Street and No. 12 De Montfort Street) and Loughborough (No. 9 Market Place).
  3. Possibly the site currently (2014) occupied by P. & R. Hunt joinery manufacturers.
  4. Leicestershire County Council Freedom of Information Request No: 5039.
  5. Leicestershire County Council Freedom of Information Request No: 5039.
  6. The County Council having already submitted the planning application to Charnwood Borough Council.
  7. Leicestershire County Council Freedom of Information Request No: 5039.
  8. Leicestershire County Council Freedom of Information Request No: 5039.
  9. Charnwood Borough Council Planning Application No: 80/3166/2.
  10. Charnwood Borough Council Planning Application No: 81/3700/2.
  11. The London Gazette, 21st December 1984. The London Gazette, 11th January 1985.
  12. Charnwood Borough Council Planning Application No: 85/2292/2.
  13. Prepared in partnership by the Storer and Ashby Area Residents’ Group and the Conservation & Design Team, Charnwood Borough Council.
  14. The Leicester Mercury, 30th October 2008.
  15. The Loughborough Echo, 30th October 2008.
  16. They are now (2014) located in Unit D, Little Moor Lane Industrial Estate, Loughborough.
  17. The Leicester Mercury, 8th November 2008.