Wymering Manor has stood since 1581, an important Tudor landmark that reminds us of our long history. But it has been empty and decaying since 2006. The city council wants to sell it, but nobody will buy – quite possibly put off by damage caused by woodworm and water.
So what is to become of this part of our built heritage? Surely the best way forward is to find both funding and a use for this grand old building so that it can be restored and once more play a part in local life.
So we applaud Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt and local conservationists, who have come up with a plan to turn Wymering Manor into a community centre, with its ground floor used for events and room hire, plus a boutique, themed hotel on the upper floors.
Plus, three times a year the house could play on its reputation as ‘the most haunted house in Britain’ by opening its doors for ghost hunts and tours
This isn’t just pie-in-the-sky thinking. English Heritage has already added the building to its ‘at risk’ list and has confirmed it as its ‘number one priority’ Portsmouth building.
Just as encouragingly, the Heritage Lottery Fund has indicated it believes the building’s refurbishment should be a priority for the city. Although no guarantees have been made about any money, these are promising noises.
Ms Mordaunt says that she’s been told there’s an 80 per cent acceptance rate for such schemes and is itching to get an application in for £750,000.
This would make the community centre and hotel plan a reality and allow those involved in the project to go looking for additional funding from other bodies.
Of course, the worry is that the city council may dispose of Wymering Manor before the 18-month application process for lottery cash is complete – if it can find somebody willing to take it on.
But we hope that doesn’t happen and that the council can manage to prevent the manor’s condition deterioriating as it waits for what could be a new and exciting future.