Land within the Character Area is mainly flat, with slight variations in height towards the east, where landscaping following the decommissioning of the Midland Railway Line has been less thorough. Much of the area is public car parking, the largest of which is Tentercroft Street Car Park, and private car parking in the south of the area around the Health Centre and Magistrates’ Court. The generally level landscape with extensive car parks and undeveloped areas in the east, including light industrial units and a large rail works yard, creates an overall sense of openness within a surrounding urban area. The sense of enclosure becomes more confined along Tentercroft Street and to the rear of the Magistrates’ Court, where remaining Victorian buildings and late 20th-century buildings exist along road infrastructure. However, the sense of enclosure is often intermittent, being diluted by varying set backs and open space around associated car parks.
Figure 3 Tentercroft Street car park looking east
In contrast to the predominantly open interior, the borders of the Character Area are more enclosed, being demarked by impermeable boundaries and continuous building lines, such as the rear of numbers 335 – 341a High Street, that turn their backs on the interior space. The Character Area is bounded by the railway line in the north, Pelham Bridge and the former Coal Yard to the east, and by the rear of the Magistrates’ Court in the south.
Vehicular access to the entire area is restricted to Tentercroft Street, a two-lane tarmac road running from High Street to a bridge over Sincil Bank that provides access to light industrial units in the east of the area. Remaining road infrastructure is composed of short public and private access roads off Tentercroft Street, the largest of which is a modern unnamed road leading to buildings and car parking in the south of the area, including the Magistrates’ Court and City Health Centre.
The area’s car parks and services attract a high volume of traffic, which frequently leads to congestion along Tentercroft Street. Elsewhere, traffic is minimal due to the area’s lack of connectivity with the surrounding townscape.
Figure 4 Traffic on Tentercroft Street
Despite the restricted permeability and poor condition of parts of the Character Area, it functions as an strategic and busy thoroughfare for pedestrian traffic between High Street via Akrill’s Passage and Tentercroft Street, the railway footbridge to the east of the station, and residential estates to the south east via a footway leading to Kesteven Street.
The open nature of the Character Area, notably in the north and east, coupled with fragmented building lines along, and to the south of, Tentercroft Street, results in a mixture of small and large urban blocks throughout. Plot sizes are mixed, being generally medium to large, frequently comprising single detached buildings, the more modern of which are often set back 5 metres or more from the carriageway, with the exception of the Co-operative building at numbers 17-23. Properties from all periods occupy mainly rectangular footprints of varying proportions, and are predominantly two to three storeys in height. Late Victorian buildings are located within smaller more linear plots running perpendicular to Tentercroft Street, and consist of detached (numbers 27, 46, 47) and semi-detached (numbers 33, 35) houses set at the back of the footway. The few surviving buildings from the Late-Victorian Period retain the original building line, which corresponds to the long corner façade (1-9 Tentercroft Street) running off number 347 High Street to the west of the Character Area.
Building style and form varies considerably throughout the Character Area, illustrating the different periods of development from initial growth after the arrival of the railways from 1846, and subsequent stages of re-structuring and development through to the Modern Period.
Victorian properties, which appear to have been built individually from 1870 onwards, are two storeys in height and two to three bays in width. Building frontages are constructed with red Albion brick in Flemish bond, with side elevations of stock bricks mainly laid in English bond. Roofs are covered in slate, and are shallow in pitch, with a small number featuring decorative bracketed eaves, such as at 27 and 33 Tentercroft Street. Properties of this period frequently show evidence of later modification, reflecting changes in occupation and use of the Character Area, such as number 46, which was originally built as the railway stationmaster’s house, later functioning as an electrical wholesalers, and currently serves as the Regency Club.
Buildings from the Modern Period are squat in proportion being two to three storeys in height with large footprints and shallow hipped and gabled roofs. Roofing materials are variable and include concrete tiles, slate, and sheet steel. Properties are mainly constructed in modern brick laid in stretcher bond, and are occasionally rendered or clad such as the Magistrates’ Courts and the Co-operative office building. The majority of modern buildings are purpose built for their current function; however, the Mencap Centre on Tentercroft Street is housed in converted squash courts built in 1978.
Figure 5 Health centre and adjacent parking
Street frontages vary throughout the Character Area, mainly according to their period of construction. Victorian properties along the south side of Tentercroft Street face onto the road, but more modern properties, notably on the north side of the street, tend to face away from the road, serving to segregate their functions from the wider townscape. Elsewhere, within the car park and around the back of the Magistrate’s Court, the area is dominated by the rear of buildings fronting High Street and/or accessed off Portland Street (e.g. Health Centre), promoting a sense of insecurity and remoteness.
Figure 6 Rear of High Street properties from Tentercroft Street car park
Public/private boundaries within the Character Area are defined by a great variety of form and materials, although many are indistinct. Security fencing in various forms is prevalent in the east of the area around the railway yard, light industrial units and along Sincil Dyke. Brick walling of varying heights and construction is used in the remainder of the area, particularly around modern plots along and to the south of Tentercroft Street, and most noticeably in the high wall separating the north of the Character Area from the railway line. Hedged and grassed borders and verges are also found in the south of the area, and in small unkempt areas of scrub in the east. Pavements are mostly 2m wide, widening to 3m in front of the Co-operative building, which is set back approximately 1m south of the original Victorian building line. Footways along the south of Tentercroft Street are sporadically interrupted by concrete crossings leading to yards and car parking to the rear of buildings. Street furniture is minimal, and modern where apparent.
Trees and vegetation in the Character Area are limited, but increase towards the east and south, where land usage is less intensive. The route of the former Midland railway line is demarked by overgrown shrubs and mature trees. Sincil Dyke is a muted and sterile water feature in the Character Area sunk beneath street level in a concrete-sided channel and is crossed at two points by makeshift concrete bridges.
The open and fragmented urban structure, poor permeability, and varied architectural character combine to illustrate the Character Area’s reciprocal relationship with the rise and fall of the Midland Railway Line. Re-use and regeneration, seen in both historic and modern built form, exemplify successive periods of dramatic change within the townscape. Varied land use, frequently of a type more associated with peri-urban areas, the lack of connective road infrastructure, and a prevalence of security fencing, seem at odds with the Character Area’s city centre location, and serve to segregate the area from the High Street, rather than unite it.