Catholic Writer G.K. Chesterton’s Home Saved from Demolition

English writer G. K. Chesterton (1874 - 1936) at his home in Beaconsfield, UK, February 1926. (Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A worldwide campaign to block the demolition of the London-area home of English Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton has succeeded.

Chesterton devotees are celebrating the world over that “Overroads,” the Beaconsfield home of the acclaimed author and philosopher, has escaped the chopping block of developers seeking to erect an apartment block at the site.

Overroads saved(for now). But we can rejoice heartily!!

Posted by Society of GK Chesterton on Tuesday, February 4, 2020

As K.V. Turley of National Catholic Register reported, Chesterton admirers sounded the alarm in December over the developers’ decision to file applications with the local council of Beaconsfield, a town in the South Bucks district of Buckinghamshire, England, nearly 25 miles northwest of London.

On Friday, however, the plan to demolish Overroads and develop an apartment block was rejected by the council, which stated the proposed development “would not be compatible with the character of the area and would be inappropriate in its context,” reported the Register. The planning authorities said the proposal “does not have regard or respect for the character of the area.”

Additionally, according to the report, the town planners noted:

[T]he proposed building would also adversely impact upon the setting of the Grade II (of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve it) listed property Top Meadow, which lies opposite. The proposal would also result in the total loss of the existing dwelling, which is considered a non-designated heritage asset.

Ken Sladen, the owner of Top Meadow, Chesterton’s final home, located next door to Overroads, explained to the Register in January the developers were required to show the demolition of Overroads would not have a substantial negative effect on Top Meadow.

“Additionally, we would lose forever through demolition a true heritage asset of one of our greatest literary giants,” he said, stating:

We believe they [the developers] have deliberately played down the part Overroads played in Chesterton’s passion for selecting Beaconsfield as a place to live and work for the remainder of his life. In fact, Overroads, in its own right, has such a historical connection with Chesterton it merits retention in its own right as part of Beaconsfield’s heritage.

As Turley reported, many Chestertonians are rejoicing at the news of the saving of Overroads.

Dale Ahlquist, president of the Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton in the United States and The Chesterton Schools Network, stressed Chesterton devotees must now work to make Overroads an official historic site.

“Now begins the work to make the property a protected and listed historical and cultural site,” he said. “We still have a great task before us, but I think we made our point.”

Stuart McCullough, president of the London-based Catholic G.K. Chesterton Society, also told the Register the fact that Overroads was saved “shows the level of support that G.K. Chesterton still has all over the world.”

“It also shows that saying the ‘GKC Prayer Card’ gets results, as many of us have been saying the prayer for the intention of saving Overroads,” he added. “It is important that this great historic building is now listed in some way to save this landmark for future generations.”

Msgr. Sean Healey is a parish priest at St. Teresa’s Church in Beaconsfield, the parish of G.K. Chesterton and his wife.

“I am delighted to hear that the planning application has been turned down,” Healey told the Register. “I hope that this will now signal an acceptance by local government and by the people of Beaconsfield that Overroads is an integral part in the story of Gilbert and Frances Chesterton living in the town.”

Chesterton is the author of many titles, including Orthodoxy, the Father Brown stories, and The Man Who Was Thursday.


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