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A 400 year old ceiling has been destroyed

Historians have hit the roof after a 400-year-old Jacobean ceiling was destroyed by builders – a day before inspectors were due to List it.

The elaborate 17th century fresco has been described as one of the best examples in the country and had adorned a building in Bristol since the 1620s.

The house, in a conservation area Small Street, is being turned into student flats after previously being a hotel and a bar.

The 17th century fresco has been described as one of the best in the country

Officials at Historic England said they received an urgent listing request last week and arranged to visit to try and protect it.

They were due to arrive on Thursday – but the ceiling was apparently torn down on Wednesday.

Conversation group Save Britain’s Heritage say the ceiling was ‘deliberately removed’ the day before it could be assessed.

Pictures have emerged of the ceiling in pieces, loaded into bags and exposing the wooden beams.

Historic England has confirmed they were about to inspect it with a view to granting the building listed status.

Workmen had ripped down much of the ornate plaster ceiling instead – but have acted legally because the building is not yet listed.

Simon Birch, chair of Bristol Civic Society, said: ‘Developers have done nothing illegal here. But it’s deplorable that such a historic building has had its interior ripped out.

Pictures have emerged of the ceiling in pieces and exposing the beams

Pictures have emerged of the ceiling in pieces and exposing the beams

‘It’s very sad that the protection wasn’t in place. I find it amazing that developers do this, because you’d think it would enhance the value of the building itself.’

Mike Fox, from Save Britain’s Heritage, said it was ‘appalled at the mutilation’ and is calling for ‘interim protection’ for buildings being assessed.

He said: ‘We strongly encourage Bristol City Council and Historic England to pursue all available means to have it reconstructed and to reprimanded those responsible,’

The building has been the subject of a planning application to be converted into five student flats.

An application was received by the planning department in June but Bristol City Council have not yet decided on its future.

The building is in a Conservation area meaning changes cannot be made to the outside.

But unless it is Listed modifications can be made inside without any planning approval.

A spokesman for Historic England confirmed the building’s developers were within their rights – even if it was under assessment for listing.

She said: ‘Historic England received an urgent listing application for 15 Small Street, Bristol, last week.

‘We understand a significant amount of the elaborate Jacobean ceiling was deliberately removed and destroyed on Wednesday before we were able to see inside the building.

‘We are continuing with the listing assessment but are saddened that this important 400-year-old feature has been lost for future generations.’

The house, in a conservation area Small Street, Bristol is being turned into flats

The house, in a conservation area Small Street, Bristol is being turned into flats

A spokesman for Bristol City Council confirmed that both their listed buildings officers and Heritage England had arranged to visit the building today Thursday.

But earlier this week the owner of the building is said to have postponed that inspection until next week.

Inspections to assess whether or not a building should be listed can only take place with the consent of the owner, so there was nothing council officers could do.

‘We are disappointed to hear reports that damage has been caused to 15 Small Street,’ said a council spokesman.

‘Unfortunately under national planning legislation if the building is not listed the council has no powers to stop this kind of damage.

‘We are continuing to process the owner’s planning application alongside Historic England who are reassessing the building’s status.’

The house was mentioned in a book about Britain’s histoirc homes.

It described a ‘ribbed plaster ceiling of geometric design, with pendants, a moulded cornice and decorative frieze, of the early 17 century’.

The owner of the building has yet to respond to requests for comment. Midas Property Services who are developing the site have not yet responded.

Listed buildings are deemed to have special historic or architectural interest and are protected as a result.

Once listed status is given, owners must apply to make any changes which may affect a property’s special interest.