An Esher monument so “grubby” that people want to clean with toothbrushes is an “enigma” as to who owns and is responsible for it.
The White Lady Milestone road marker, outside the former Cafe Rouge building on the approach to Esher, has been there since 1767. But the Grade II listed milestone is now looking “very grubby” according to one Elmbridge cabinet member, leading to “regular” emails from people who want to clean it up.
Elmbridge Councillor Alex Batchelor told a cabinet meeting on Wednesday (July 5) “it would be great” if anyone could help work out who was supposed to be responsible for the monument. Having had conversations with conservation officers at both Elmbridge Borough Council and Surrey County Council, Cllr Batchelor said as far as he could tell, no one was claiming responsibility for the Portsmouth Road landmark.
The borough council’s leader, Cllr Bruce McDonald (Liberal Democrat, Claygate) described it as an “enigma” for the council to ponder. Cllr Batchelor told the meeting: “It is a listed, National Heritage monument and it’s looking very, very grubby indeed. I constantly get [emails from] regular people who would like to show up with their toothbrushes, give it a good go. The only thing I have to promise them is that’s certainly likely to get them arrested.”
The cabinet were discussing the monument as they made the decision to add the former Cafe Rouge building, previously known as the Orleans Arms, to the council’s list of local heritage assets.
The former public house, dating back to 1856, was originally named after the Duke of Orleans, King Louis Philippe of France, who lived at nearby Claremont House.
Council documents show it provides evidence for development of Victorian Esher, and point to its prominent location on the historic route between London and Portsmouth.
As a “good example of Regency style building with continental influences” the building was added to the local list, which can be taken into account during planning applications.
Council documents describe assets on the local list as reinforcing “a sense of place and local distinctiveness” and providing a “tangible connection with our past lives, events, and industries”.
A previous planning application for 28 flats on the site was described by residents as “more suitable for the centre of Basingstoke” and “the ugliest residential housing scheme” that one had ever seen.