Thursday, 13 October 2011

News - Historic Newstead abbey is on the critical list

WORLD famous Newstead Abbey has been named as one of 67 endangered heritage sites around the world.

The World Monuments Fund says the abbey, the ancestral home of Romantic poet Lord Byron, is on its 2012 World Monuments Watch List and needs restoration.

Experts from the organisation say the historic building has suffered significant deterioration and a long-term strategy is needed for its maintenance and conservation.

They also believe the community would benefit from a ‘renewed interpretation’ of its historic links to Byron.

Earlier this year, Nottingham City Council approved plans to close it except on certain days.

And Newstead Abbey Byron Society (NABS) chairman Ken Purslow said that while the abbey’s inclusion on the list should be welcomed, it ‘isn’t helping Newstead a scrap’.

He said: “Although it’s going to highlight the problems that are there, I can’t see where the city council is going to get the money from - that’s the tragedy of it all.”

He also wants the abbey run by a consortium of authorities, such as Nottinghamshire County Council and Gedling Borough Council, rather than just Nottingham City Council to boost investment.

“It’s time we had a consortium of councils to put some resources into it to make it what it should be - a jewel in the crown of Nottingham,” he said.

Cathie Clarke, who is project manager at East Midlands Centre for Constructing the Built Environment, nominated Newstead Abbey for the list and is optimistic it will lead to further investment - particularly because Byron is so iconic.

She said: “It is suffering because of the economy and the city council is in a difficult position because they don’t just have one Grade I* listed building and they have limited resources.

“They have to put their funding where it is most needed, so the building has not been maintained to the level which would be best.”

But she stressed fresh ideas and an emphasis on the abbey’s connections with Byron could be key to securing its future.

Coun Dave Trimble, portfolio holder for leisure, culture and tourism, said he welcomed the news.

“I hope its inclusion will elevate the importance and profile of the site to new bodies and benefactors who may be able to help with the development of Newstead Abbey,” he said.

“Like all councils, we have been faced with severe Government cuts and this has meant that difficult decisions on resources have had to be taken.

“Last year we adopted a new business model to run Newstead which strikes a good balance of continuing to make the house and grounds accessible to the public, within the constraints of smaller budgets, while meeting our obligations to maintain this important heritage site.

“We would welcome any opportunity for external funding which could help to develop the site and secure its future for generations to come.”

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