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Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Outrage as banker who bought 175ft Gothic tower for £425,000 is now selling it for £2MILLION - after £3million in taxpayers' cash was spent on restorations so it could be opened to public

  • Tower built in 1838 was rescued by campaigners' and taxpayers' money after storm damage in 1987
  • Visitors were previously allowed to enter it in summer and enjoy the views of the Kent countryside it offers
  • But the trust which used to own the site went into liquidation and it was snapped up by a banker for £425,000
  • The owner is trying to sell it for £2million, prompting concern about the public investment and future visits 
Locals are angry that an historic tower which was restored using public money could now be sold off for a huge profit by a banker who looks set to quadruple his money on the site just 12 months after he bought it.
Campaigners fought a long-running battle to keep the stunning Hadlow Tower near Tonbridge in Kent open to visitors after £3million in grants from Historic England and the Heritage Lottery Fund were pumped into its restoration.
But after the trust which owned it went into liquidation, it was snapped up for £425,000 a year ago by accountant Christian Tym, who has now put it on the market for £2million.
Musician Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber is among the critics of the latest sale and has said he fears the public money invested in the site could now end up in private hands.
Locals meanwhile are upset that the site, which attracted hundreds of visitors to the picturesque village, could now become closed to the public. 
A banker is expected to quadruple his money on Hadlow Tower in Kent, despite public money having been used to restore it
A banker is expected to quadruple his money on Hadlow Tower in Kent, despite public money having been used to restore it
The gothic tower was built in 1838 in the grounds of Hadlow Castle in Kent by Walter Barton May but it was damaged in the Great Storm of 1987 and, following a public campaign to restore it, has now ended up in private hands
The gothic tower was built in 1838 in the grounds of Hadlow Castle in Kent by Walter Barton May but it was damaged in the Great Storm of 1987 and, following a public campaign to restore it, has now ended up in private hands
Banker Christian Tym is trying to sell the tower for £2millionLord Andrew Lloyd Webber has criticised the proposed sale
Banker Christian Tym is trying to sell the tower for £2million. Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber has criticised the proposed sale
The tower was turned into a home after a long-running battle by campaigners in the local area in Kent
The tower was turned into a home after a long-running battle by campaigners in the local area in Kent
Lord Lloyd-Webber told the Daily Telegraph: 'A huge amount of public money was spent on this project... if it's going to be sold, it should be returned to Historic England and the Heritage Lottery Fund. It can't go into the pocket of a private person. I don't think the public purse should be used to speculate – this seems to have slipped through the net.'
John O'Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, added: 'With so much taxpayers' money being spent on the restoration of this historical site, you'd think that the owner would agree to allow members of the public to visit on occasion.'
Hadlow Tower cost £3million to restore, and that money was granted on the condition that it be accessible to the public for 28 days every year. But is understood no visitors have entered the Grade I listed building since it was bought by its current owner last summer.
There are now fears among villagers that the rules keeping the eight-storey tower accessible to the public could be bypassed by any new purchaser.
Historic England, who funded part of the tower's make-over, say the covenants which ensure public access 28 to the building 28 years a year are still in place and the current owner or any future owner could be forced to repay public investment if the rules are not upheld.
A spokesman for the body said: 'Hadlow Tower is a stunning Grade I listed building which was once on Historic England's Heritage at Risk register.
'It was restored in large part thanks to public money and it is only right that the public should be able to enjoy the Tower inside and out. 
'Otherwise, they would be in breach of contract and could be required to repay a proportion of the public money given as grant-aid by Historic England and other partners. Any new owner would be subject to the same conditions of the deed of covenant as part of the sale of the Tower.'
At the foot of a large, spiral staircase which leads up the tower, the owner will be able to sit at this attractive writing desk
At the foot of a large, spiral staircase which leads up the tower, the owner will be able to sit at this attractive writing desk
The property was bought after the owners went into liquidation and has since been renovated by its current owner
The property was bought after the owners went into liquidation and has since been renovated by its current owner
Among the many unique features of the property is this huge fire place in a octagonal sitting room
Among the many unique features of the property is this huge fire place in a octagonal sitting room
The one-of-a-kind, 175 ft gothic tower was built in 1830, but fell derelict before being rescued by the artist Bernard Hailstone in the 1950s.
After it changed hands, a community action group fought to get the tower restored after it was severely damaged in the Great Storm of 1987.
Locals formed the The Save Hadlow Tower Action Group, and poured £50,000 of their own cash into the building, raised through fundraising projects, which topped up cash from Heritage England and the Heritage Lottery Fund. 
Hadlow Tower was then bought by The Vivat Trust for £1 after a compulsory purchase order was made by the borough council in 2011.
Campaigners financed and staffed a visitor centre on the ground floor, and from 2013 it was open to the public weekly in summer.
Restoration on the castle was completed in February 2013 and it was shortlisted for the 2014 Kent Design Awards.
Known locally as 'May's Folly', the tower then received a multi-million-pound restoration and later rented out as a holiday home for £1,954 a week. 
It was rumoured the motive of man who originally built the tower was to create a vantage point to spy on his estranged wife
It was rumoured the motive of man who originally built the tower was to create a vantage point to spy on his estranged wife
It is now on the market for £2million, provoking criticism of how its owner seems to cashed in on the public money invested
It is now on the market for £2million, provoking criticism of how its owner seems to cashed in on the public money invested
The tower has four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a dining room, a kitchen, a drawing room and a media room
The tower has four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a dining room, a kitchen, a drawing room and a media room
The tower has a large spiral staircase running up to the top, where beautiful views are offered of the Kent countrysideThe tower has a large spiral staircase running up to the top, where beautiful views are offered of the Kent countryside
The tower has a large spiral staircase running up to the top, where beautiful views are offered of the Kent countryside
In 2016, the the tower owners went into liquidation and Hadlow Tower was put on the market for offers over £1million.
It was sold to Christian in 2017, who is married with four sons, who said he was attracted by 'the novelty factor.'
Campaigners reported that 700 people visited the castle in 2017 - with the numbers dwindling in 2018 to zero.
The Heritage Lottery Fund said it expected Christian to report to it in August with evidence of his compliance.
Mr Tym was unavailable for comment. The estate agent organising the sale however previously said that he did not intend to sell the building so quickly, but found it unsuitable for his family.
The castle is listed as containing a media room, castle drawing room and four bedrooms. It also comes with almost three-and-a-half acres of grounds and a lift to all floors. 
The completely unique property includes a number of stained glass windows and quirky features
The completely unique property includes a number of stained glass windows and quirky features
Many of the rooms are near-circular, with this king-size bed looking out over the surrounding countryside from one floor
Many of the rooms are near-circular, with this king-size bed looking out over the surrounding countryside from one floor
Critics say the public money invested in the project should go back into the public purse rather than into private hands
Critics say the public money invested in the project should go back into the public purse rather than into private hands
Building began in the late 1780s and was commissioned by Walter May whose son Walt added a 170ft octagonal tower in 1838.
After the son died the tower was owned by the High Sheriff of Kent and later by Harley Street specialist Dr MacGeagh.
During the Second World War the castle was used as a watchtower by the Home Guard and Royal Observer Corps.
Restoration on the 130ft Grade-I listed castle was completed in February 2013 and it was shortlisted for the 2014 Kent Design Awards.
The tower was previously advertised on swingers website Club Aphrodite - inviting '25 couples or 50 singles' for some 'Gothic castle folly'.
It said: 'Enjoy threesomes, foursomes and moresomes in the intriguing candlelit rooms created for the fulfilment of the eccentric, original owner's medieval, baronic fantasies.'

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