The sad state of Eureka Lodge - one of South Derbyshire's most prominent landmarks - can be revealed after the Burton Mail was granted exclusive access to the long-abandoned building.
Reporter Helen Kreft was finally allowed into the Eureka Lodge grounds near Swadlincote just weeks before it is bulldozed to make way for 13 bungalows.
Since it closed in 1996, the home of famed industrialist John Wragg who ran both pottery kilns and pipeworks in the town, has been left to rot to become yet another eyesore in a community which goes to great lengths to preserve its heritage.
The grounds close to Eureka Park have been locked away for many years as the imposing 11-bedroomed home becomes a danger to the public.
Before it is bulldozed Mallard Developments, which will be creating the new bungalows, allowed the Burton Mail access to the grounds.
Even before we enter the grounds, the drive up to the padlocked gate is impressive. While the gate prevents the public from trespassing, we can still marvel at the vast structure over the top which towers above its neighbours in all its stained glass splendour.
But opening the gate reveals a sad sight. The once well-kept main path and driveway to the house has now succumbed to a jungle of weeds. All the doors and many of the windows have been boarded up and permanently attached with screws seemingly making it impossible for vandals to gain access. But, of course, they do.
Eureka Lodge was in the news again recently when Derbyshire Police reported having received calls of young trespassers breaking in and telling each other ghost stories.
This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if the floors weren’t rotting away and the roof not caving in. Its saving grace is that graffiti ‘artists’ haven’t been trigger-happy with the paint and the original brickwork and decorative pieces still remain.
A report previously commissioned on the house stated there had been "significant water ingress to the first floor and ground floor ceilings, weakening the timber roof structure, vandalism and pigeon nesting are evident."
The report said many rooms had been stripped while dry rot within timbers was evident. Cracks and mould were discovered on ceilings and walls. The roof tiling and flashing has been removed and the roof had partially collapsed at the back of the premises.
"Guttering was blocked and had been removed in places causing damage to external walls. Replacement of much of the internal structure to the first floor and roof construction would be necessary and external brickwork would require remedial attention," it adds.
Built in the 1890s Eureka Lodge has all the hallmarks of the Victorian era. After negotiating the path of weeds, broken bottles, and other rubbish, we manage to get up close and personal with the building and notice its glorious grand entrance, a more modern addition, which would have given visitors an idea of what to expect when entering Eureka Lodge.
The once grand residence boasted 11 bedrooms, five chimneys and an 18ft by 10ft stained-glass window and stables.
We managed to circle the home, noticing the stain glass windows on the top floor – many still intact – along with a now rusted railings providing a balcony which would have given spectacular views of its town.
As we reach the rear of Eureka Lodge, a further large extension to the already large footprint remained intact, previously used as the stables, although the horses have long since gone.
It is now at the mercy of pigeons and vandals. Here we noticed a ladder resting against the wall leading up to a first floor roof.
Whoever used it had created a hole in the floor to gain access. Whether they were homeless and hoping for a roof over their heads or they were vandals, they were simply adding to the already extensive structural problems.
Returning to the front of the house, next to a small door on the right is a ceramic sign with the faded name Eureka Lodge Nursery. As well as a home, it had welcomed many young children in the 1980s, using its large rooms to their full potential.
However, the laughter has long since gone and as we stand in front, we can’t help but question why this building cannot be saved.
The home was added to South Derbyshire District Council's list of buildings of historic and architectural interest, safeguarding the 19th century house's future, but, crucially, it did not achieve listed status.
Despite its important part in Swadlincote history, English Heritage claims the building does not have significant architectural merit and is beyond economic repair.
The district council previously said of the property: "The significance of the building is acknowledged to be of local importance; however, it could be argued its significance has been greatly diminished by the introduction of a succession of modern residential developments within its setting. It is an isolated site with no main road frontage and has been derelict and subject to constant vandalism for years.
"The opportunity to designate it as a heritage asset has passed, being considered not worthy of listing in 2002. Its state of repair has precluded any viable use for a long period of time. On balance, therefore, the harm attributed to its loss is considered to be outweighed by the economic and social benefits of a provision of 14 homes in a highly sustainable location."
The latest plan for the site is one of a long list of applications submitted since the home closed for good in 1996.
In 1999, a plan was submitted to turn it into a care home for the elderly and a day nursery. In 2003 plans were granted to build five homes on the site, although the main house was not included in the application.
The next application in 2004 included plans to convert the house into six flats with an extension to two flats and an apartment block of three flats. In the same year, a petition with 1,000 signatures urged property developers not to bulldoze the house.
Then in 2015 an application to convert the lodge into five homes and build 15 new homes was withdrawn.
The newly-approved plans prompted four objections from people asking why the lodge needed to be demolished if it had a new roof and has been boarded up, while another objector said: "It would be a great shame to lose fabulous architecture which has historic value to the town to build new properties with no personality or character."
Now Mallard Developments is on the verge of starting work on the site.
Its managing director Paul Heap said: "There are plans for 13 detached bungalows on the site and unfortunately Eureka Lodge has got to go for that but as you can see it is beyond repair. We will be knocking that down in the New Year and then come on site and do all the groundwork to build the bungalows."
However, the Yorkshire-based developers, after learning of the importance of the house to the town, now want to incorporate it into the name of the new development.
Paul said: "We been thinking about the name because Eureka Lodge is the name of the house, and Eureka Park is a very important part of Swadlincote. We aren’t from Swadlincote and we were thinking is Eureka in the name right as it is an important part of Swadlincote?
"So we have been thinking about it over recent weeks. We think we will probably stick with Eureka in some form or another, I think the residents will like that."
Mallard Developments has now asked Burton Mail readers to suggest a name for the development
Any ideas can be emailed to Helen Kreft at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 01283 245032 by December 22.
Eureka Lodge as a nursery
Burton Mail reporter Helen Kreft has fond memories of Eureka Lodge having attended its nursery school in the late 1980s. She said: "I went there when I was very young but I can still remember its grand entrance leading straight into the main nursery room which was huge.
"Well, to a three-year-old it would have been huge. It was big enough to put a large climbing frame with slide straight in the middle of the room. It was a big open space and had lots of land around the site - perfect for picnics.
"It will be sad to see it go, not because it has held happy memories for me, but because of its incredible history in Swadlincote and I cannot believe it has never been listed."