A MULTI-MILLION pound rescue mission is underway to save an historic Warwick landmark from falling down.
The Lord Leycester Hospital has been at the centre of town life for 700 years but it has suffered natural wear and tear over the centuries and is now in desperate need of restoration, as is the old town wall below it.
Some £3million is needed for repairs and improvements and a bid for a £1.8million Heritage Lottery Fund grant is set to be made, with the rest of the cash coming from various other sources.
The bid also includes provision for new disabled access, opening up areas not previously accessible to the public, and providing new visitor facilities.
Warwick District Council has agreed a contribution of £100,000 in support of the lottery bid, with council chiefs keen to avoid seeing the property join two other historic town sites – The Masters House, part of St Michael’s Leper Hospital in Saltisford, and the remains of the Old Castle Bridge, in the shadow of Warwick Castle – on English Heritage’s ‘At Risk’ list.
The leaning Lord Leycester – which looks like it is about to tumble into High Street at any minute – is made up of a cluster of timber-framed buildings around the town’s Norman gateway, and is recognised as one of Britain’s finest examples of medieval courtyard architecture.
For nearly 200 years it was home to Warwick’s medieval guilds, and during Elizabeth I’s reign became, under the patronage of Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester, a place of retirement for old soldiers who had fought in the Elizabethan era wars. Retired soldiers, known as the Brethren, live in the Lord Leycester to this day.
The building has also had its moments in the tv spotlight – featuring in everything from the classic BBC period drama Pride & Prejudice to long-running sci-fi series Dr Who.
District business spokesman Coun Noel Butler said: “It is vital that the Lord Leycester Hospital survives and that its designated heritage assets, which are of the highest significance, are appropriately maintained for the enjoyment and education of future generations.
“Without a significant financial investment there is a danger that the Lord Leycester Hospital, and the town wall, could soon be considered to be heritage ‘at risk’.
“It is in the public interest for the council to work in partnership with the Lord Leycester Hospital as it will bring huge benefits for the town.”
Heidi Meyer, recently appointed Master of the Lord Leycester, was delighted to receive the support of the council.
She said: “Many thanks to Warwick District Council for showing this level of recognition and support to what we are trying to achieve at the Lord Leycester – that is creating a centre of gravity for Warwick that embraces all elements of the community and a seven century history of governance and philanthropy in Warwick.
“I have no doubt that the level of support the council has agreed, will go a very long way in demonstrating to Heritage Lottery Fund that we have the support of the local authorities and I am exceedingly grateful.”
Visit www.lordleycester.com for further information on the Lord Leycester Hospital.