Oxford college attacked for neglect of rare barns

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The Independent Online
CONSERVATIONISTS have told Wadham College, Oxford, that it should be ashamed of itself for neglecting its rare medieval barns in Kent, which were named yesterday as among the 100 most endangered architectural sites in the world.

Abbey Farmstead in Faversham was singled out by the World Monuments Fund as one of two neglected architectural treasures in Britain which could be lost forever.

Colin Amery, special advisor to the fund in Europe, criticised the College for neglecting the buildings, which date back to 1147. "They should be ashamed of themselves," he said. "They don't want them so they have just let them deteriorate. We feel that a lot of these colleges and large old institutions don't realise the value of the property they own."

John Flemming, warden of Wadham College, said that it would be happy to give the buildings to any charitable body which came up with a scheme for their preservation and use. " It's true that they are in a sad state. There was another arson attempt the other day and a further theft of tiles. As long as the property is open to these kind of problems rebuilding them is not a solution."

The other British site on the fund's list was the Church and Monastery of St Francis and Gorton in Manchester, which, since its closure in 1989, has been vandalised, looted and left to deteriorate. Mr Amery described the site as "a classic white elephant building in an inner city area which nobody wants".

The two British sites were "forgotten buildings," he said. "They are not obvious candidates for the National Trust or English Heritage, but are as important as any of the buildings that would be preserved by national organisations."

The New York-based, private, non-profit fund was founded in 1965 to save the world's most famously flawed building, the leaning tower of Pisa. Since then it has helped rescue 71 sites in 43 countries by raising money from governments, businesses, individuals and institutions such as the World Bank.

Yesterday's list was the organisation's third, and included Egypt's Valley of the Kings, Teotihuacan in Mexico, and Machu Picchu in Peru.

Another British monument, St Vincent Street Church in Glasgow, was on last year's list. Described as one of the finest Romantic Classical churches in the world, it is among Scotland's most important 19th-century monuments. It is now being restored.

The fund is also involved in raising money for the restoration of Liverpool's St George's Hall, a small concert hall which symbolises the city's 19th- century prosperity.

This year's list consisted of nine sites in Africa, 21 in Asia and the Pacific, eight in the Middle East, 13 in Western Europe, 24 in Eastern Europe, 10 in North America, and 15 in South America and the Caribbean. The sites are chosen by a nine-member panel of experts from around the world.

An unlikely addition was the Seventh Regiment Armory, which occupies a square block at New York's Park Avenue and 67th Street, in the richest neighbourhood in the world. Other notable sites were Mostar Historic Centre, in Bosnia and Herzegovinia, which has been ravaged by war, Teotihuacan in Mexico, the Aztec city where unique mural paintings are at risk, and Jaisalmer Fort in Rajasthan, India, which partly collapsed in early August after unusually heavy rainfall.

The Valley of the Kings, where pharaohs including Tutankhamen and Rameses II are buried, is threatened by growing numbers of tourists who damage the decorated tomb walls.


Abbey Farmstead, Faversham, Kent

WHEN FAVERSHAM Abbey was established in 1147, Abbey Farm was built as its grange. Four buildings remain on the site, two barns, a farmhouse and stables. As an ensemble, the structures demonstrate the medieval monastic economy. There is only one other similar set of extant twin barns in the UK. The stables are noted for their early sans purlin roof (rafters without supporting horizontal members) and splayed scarf-joint. Although these sturdy buildings remained in use until 1987, only the farmhouse is now occupied. The others have been left to deteriorate and have been subject to vandalism and arson.

Church and Monastery of St Francis and Gorton

THIS FORMER Catholic church in Manchester was built between 1866 and 1872 in the Gothic Revival style by the architect EW Pugin for the Franciscan Order. It met the needs of a largely Irish immigrant population. The building, which is clad in red brick with stone dressing, has an ornate interior of marble and alabaster alters and stained glass windows. Population decline led to the closure of the monastery and church in 1989. Since then the property has been vandalised, and left to deteriorate. The WMF project aims to turn the buildings into an inter-faith community centre to reflect the community that now surrounds it.