Devastation as National Trust plans to close Shute Barton

A petition has been launched to keep medieval manor house Shute Barton open to the public.

The house in the village of the same name near Axminster dates from the 14th century and was owned and lived in by Cecily Bonville, whose family built the property.

Her great-granddaughter, Lady Jane, was Queen of England for nine days in 1553 before she was executed. It is believed she may have visited the property.

Now according to the Daily Mail, National Trust bosses have told volunteers that the property is to be closed to visitors to allow it to operate ‘solely as a holiday cottage’.

The property’s website says it is available to rent for nearly £1,000 for three nights in April. That price increases to more than £3,700 for a seven-night stay in September next year.

It comes after Devon Live reported that four much-loved National Trust properties in Devon could be closed to the public or open on a booking-only model as the charity battles to claw back huge losses caused by the coronavirus lockdowns.

(Image: National Trust)

Historian Dr Bijan Omrani, who is also a Shute resident and is the acting chairman of the Parochial Church Council, said the closure of Shute Baron ‘does not make any sense’ and added that its closure put Britain’s heritage ‘at risk’.

A petition which has been launched by Bijan Omrani in a bid to overturn the decision has received more than 600 signatures and climbing.

In a statement made on the petition page, a spokesperson said: ”The National Trust has taken a decision to close Shute Barton to the public.

”It will now become exclusively a holiday house, available only to a few people who can pay over £2,000 a week in rental costs.

”The decision was taken without any consultation or public announcement.

”Shute Barton is one of England’s most historic non-fortified manor houses. Its history goes back to before the Wars of the Roses.

”Two of England’s most powerful women of the Medieval and Tudor Periods – Lady Jane Grey, the “nine-days’ Queen of England”, and Lady Cecily Bonville – are both associated with it.

Shute Barton Manor near Axminster
Shute Barton Manor near Axminster

”It has the largest fireplace in England.

”It is an integral part of the region’s history and identity.

”It is also an essential part of community life.

”When open to the public, the local 13th-century church, St Michael’s Shute, provides tea and cake to the visitors, raising much needed thousands of pounds for its upkeep.

”This loss puts the church in jeopardy.

”Local volunteers have always acted as guides, and the local primary school took part in open days.

”The community are devastated by this decision, which means that an integral part of its history will now only be available to a few rich people from the outside.”

Shute Parochial Church Council had criticised the plans to close Shute Barton to day visitors on four weekends a year and maintain it only as holiday accommodation.

Villagers fear the loss of visitors will affect other parts of the community, including the church, which benefits from people who come to visit the National Trust manor.

A spokesperson for the National Trust said: ”Like most charities the National Trust has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, we are facing financial losses of more than £200 million, meaning we have had to look at how we can continue our conservation work and offer our supporters the best possible experience over the coming years, with far fewer resources.

“Shute Barton has been a holiday house and will remain as holiday accommodation.

”It was also open to the public for four weekends a year.

”We will continue to work with the local community on how we can offer public benefit here. ”

For more information, or to sign the petition, click here.

Devon Live – Devon News