My last post laid out why I thought the renovation of the building that is supposed to become Plymouth Ideal Org was finally underway, after 15 years of fundraising.
The Church of Scientology had acquired planning permission (the detailed plans can be viewed online) and a closure order on a nearby road until September. They had also paid a contractor to remove asbestos-containing material from the building, which project was completed. You can scroll back though posts here to see detailed accounts of events which promised that it really was ‘game on’ this time.
I thought it was no coincidence that, on the 6th of September 1620, the Mayflower had departed Plymouth on its 66-day voyage to the New World. It’s an iconic event in US history and, 400 years later, this event was going to be commemorated here with a tourist-fest.
What an opportunity for a “Religious Freedom” speech from the glorious leader during a ‘Grand Opening’.
Then, a pandemic intervened. The Mayflower commemoration events were called off, and all non-essential building work ceased. The UK lockdown was only recently significantly relaxed and the local org (which occupies a small shop) was allowed a limited reopening on the 4th of July (that’s a story for later).
Non-essential building work resumed some weeks aga, but nothing has happened at the Ideal Org. The building is going rapidly downhill again. It seems that management is no longer interested in renovation, even though they had a contractor lined up.
I think it’s game over for reasons I’ll give below. I’ll still keep an eye on the place, but turn to other stories unless something actually happens there.
After the break, there’s also an extensive image gallery showing the present state of the place on this date, and a video overview from July 2019. Brace youself if you are fond of historic buildings – it’s not pleasant viewing.
To open a larger version of these image in a slideshow, just click on them. The panoramic pictures are actually much higher-res than the others – but they have to be squeezed into the width of a standard page. Hold your mouse over the bottom of each image to see the pop-up caption.
Winter is coming on. Another year of cold, rain and high winds (the building is close by the river Tamar) will likely do the place no good.
An Historical Note
The building used to be owned by the Royal Navy. Named The Royal Fleet Club it was used to house Sailors and Royal Marines whose ships were in Devonport Dockyard (the largest military dockyard in Western Europe) ‘saving’ them from disreputable areas like the nearby Union Street.
Modern transport enabled personnel to travel home, so the Royal Navy no longer needed this facility. It was sold to an aspiring hotelier and became The Royal Fleet Hotel. This business struggled from the get-go. Reviews of the accomodation complained of damp – even then, more than 15 years ago, the basic fabric of the building needed a lot of remedial work.
The hotel business folded, and the building was empty for years before being bought by Scientology on 2010. It could legally accomodate 300 people, and was supposed to replace a small org with less than 30 members (28, according to the last UK census). It had taken them 5 years to raise the money to buy this wreck. It has taken an additional 10 years (and counting) to raise money for the building’s renovation.
Before the pandemic struck all the signs indicated that renovation work would continue after the asbestos removal, and this building would be opened in September 2020 – the first new Ideal Org in the UK since Birmingham in October 2017.
These things happen because David Miscavige’s whim of iron brings them about. In this case, I doubt he could have resisted the association with the Mayflower. However, that opportunity has now been lost, and the project seems to have been abandoned. Again.
Miscavige is unpredictable. Plymouth might be revived for another, random, reason – but there will at least six months lead time and official permissions will have to be revisited first (especially the road closure order, which only lasts until September 2020).
I will be watching, just in case, but I think this was Plymouth’s last chance.
It seems I will be left to document the continuing sad decay of what was once a building of genuine local historical interest which is tragic waste of a Naval heritage.
I was likely not the only one who expected renovation to begin. The hopes of local Scientologists hopes have also been dashed. This must be a blow to their morale, especially as they are just getting over the strict pandemic lockdown. I suspect that a number of members have not returned to the org, as well. It’s a discouraging time to be a Scientologist in Plymouth.
Finally, for context , here’s a video overview of the place in in July 2019.