Campaign to keep manor
TEXTILE artist Nicola Vesey Williams has launched a last ditch attempt to retain Urchfont Manor as an adult education facility, even though it has now closed.
Wiltshire Council closed Urchfont Manor on Sunday, making 29 out of the 30 staff redundant, but Mrs Vesey Williams, of Upavon, believes the fight is not over.
Wiltshire Council has owned Urchfont Manor since 1945 when it turned it into a residential adult education centre but now says it is not appropriate to deliver adult courses.
It plans to sell the Grade II* listed building on the open market and it has applied for planning permission to change staff and residential accommodation on the site to residential use.
An offer by the sons of Urchfont Manor’s former deputy warden, Tom Barklem, to buy the property remains on the table.
Mrs Vesey Williams said: “I don’t know why Wiltshire Council are hell bent on selling Urchfont Manor as a private property when there’s a good offer (from the Barklems) to keep it as an adult education centre. It’s a win win situation.”
Mrs Vesey Williams posted a petition on Wiltshire Council’s website. It calls for the council to retain Urchfont Manor as an adult education facility or support any bid by a purchaser for the property that intends to maintain it as a residential adult education centre.
The online petition had 425 supporters while a written petition received 109 signatures. Mrs Vesey Williams teaches textiles and has attended numerous courses at Urchfont Manor.
She said: “I go to other venues for courses but nothing matches Urchfont. It had an international reputation for textile classes. “It had a wonderful environment which was conducive to creating wonderful things.
“The closure of Urchfont Manor is extremely devastating for me. “I moved to this area four years ago from London. To me, Urchfont Manor has been a lifeline. I have learned new skills and met new people. “Lots of people went there and I think it offered a lot to the community that you couldn’t measure necessarily in monetary terms.”
A spokesman for Wiltshire Council said Mrs Vesey Williams’ petitions would be considered by the Cabinet at a meeting in November.
He said Urchfont Manor would be marketed later this month and the council would consider any offers, including as an educational facility.
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