Crumbling Newstead Abbey on world’s most vulnerable list

NEWSTEAD ABBEY -- the Dispatch district's top tourist attraction badly needs help to survive, says the WMF
NEWSTEAD ABBEY -- the Dispatch district's top tourist attraction badly needs help to survive, says the WMF

THE internationally-renowned tourist attraction, Newstead Abbey, has been named as one of 67 endangered heritage sites around the world.

The warning comes from the World Monuments Fund (WMF) who have announced that the crumbling abbey, which is the ancestral home of Romantic poet Lord Byron, is on their 2012 watch list, meaning it is in urgent need of restoration.

Experts at the WMF say the building has suffered significant deterioration and needs a long-term strategy for maintenance and conservation.

They also say the Dispatch district would benefit from a “renewed interpretation” of its historic links to Byron.

Earlier this year, Nottingham City Council, which owns the abbey, approved plans to close it to the public, except on certain days.

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

He added: “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 said he would like to see the abbey run by a consortium of authorities, such as Notts County Council and Gedling Borough Council, rather than just the 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,” said Mr Purslow.

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

She said: “The abbey is suffering because of the economy, and the city council is in a difficult position because they don’t just have one Grade One 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.”

She added that fresh ideas and an emphasis on the abbey’s connections with Byron could be key to securing its future.

Meanwhile, Coun Dave Trimble (Lab), portfolio holder for leisure, culture and tourism at the city council, said: “We recognise the importance of Newstead Abbey and welcome the site’s inclusion on the watch list.

“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.

“Like all councils, we have been faced with severe government cuts, which have 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.”