I didn't watch Reggie Perrin Friday night (I watched the repeat Saturday night) instead I watched the new series on BBC2 about English Heritage and its chief exective Simon Thursley.
The first episode centred on Apethorpe Hall. Apethorpe was oringally built in the 15th century and was the principal seat of the Mildmay's and Fanes, Earls of Westmorland (there is a wonderful Mildmay tomb in the parish church). The house was greatly extended in the 1620's at the order of James I for his ‘more commodious entertainment.... and princely recreation there’.
The House and Estate was bought in 1904 by Leonard Brassey who sold the House and Garden's in 1949 (though not the estate) and it became an approved school. It was then bought in 1982 by an Libyan who then left it to rack and ruin, apparently it is became one of the leading buildings at risk in the country.
Following a compulsory purchase order (£3 million was paid) English Heritage took over the house and have spent £4 million (of taxpayers money) restoring the house but in this case, at Thursley's direction, the house was to be sold. Even after £4 million of restoration the house will still require millions more so any buyer will need to be very rich and alas for Thursley just as the house went on to the market we had a credit crunch.
It didn't help Thursley that the property has only 50 acres of land, poor access and that Lord Brassey has put up a Leylandi hedge to obscure his view of the house and thus cut the houses view of the park.
The programme was interesting, I'm not sure Thursley comes over that well (was it me or was he a tadge pompous?), the house is undeniably important and the obvious love for the house of its longterm (38+ years) caretaker George Kelley shone out (he was unpaid for 10 years). EH did at least get Kelley a well earned MBE.
If you click here you can see a tour of the house with EH's Nick Hill and an interview with Kelley.
Where now? There are summer tours (I may have to see about going). I suppose EH have no choice but to try and sell it, with out the park there isn't enough access for a tourist attraction and is there the money in these credit crunch times? Still it is sad to see such a fine building in such dire need.
Is the money spent so far a waste? To me no, can you put a price on a nations heritage?