Inferno defences to shield abbey

VITAL work is being carried out to make sure Newstead Abbey, the Dispatch district’s premier tourist attraction, does not go up in flames.

Nottingham City Council has embarked this month on the second phase of a fire-prevention project. This entails separating parts of the building to prevent fire spreading and to minimise any loss caused by an inferno. The aim is for the work to be completed before the summer.

The council was quoted £47,400 by contractors to carry out the work. But it only had £39,000 set aside and it has met the shortfall by finding savings in its museum service budget.

Coun David Trimble (Lab), the council’s lead member for leisure, said the work was required by its insurer to prevent the risk of ‘total destruction’. There was a need to deal with the risk of fire spreading through the historic building, which was the ancestral home of the illustrious poet Lord Byron.

Separation of the south wing, which was considered to be at the greatest risk, was carried out in the first phase of the project. This work, which was completed two years ago, also comprised some roof and loft separation.

Coun Trimble stressed in a report that the second phase needed to be dealt with promptly so that it protected bats in the roof space and would not affect tourist activity during the summer.

The chairman of Newstead Abbey Byron Society (NABS), Ken Purslow, said he welcomed the fire precautions, which his organisation had pressed for over a number of years.

“But I think the council is only doing this work because it needs to comply with new fire regulations,” said Mr Purslow. “I would like to see the council become much more proactive, not only in maintaining the abbey but also putting on more attractions there.

“There are big placards to say ‘No Ball Games’ and ‘No Swimming in the Lake’. The focus seems to be on what people are not allowed to do at the abbey instead of trying to encourage visitors.

Mr Purslow said he would like the council to have close consultations with NABS and a group called MONKS (Members Of Newstead Kindred Spirits), consisting of former abbey guides.