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Arundells sale looms after £97,000 loss
ARUNDELLS will close today and could soon be up for sale after it made losses of £97,000 in eight months.
Sir Edward Heath’s former Cathedral Close home was due to go on the market last year but was saved at the 11th hour after pressure from protest group, The Friends of Arundells and a ruling by the Charity Commission which said the trustees of the Sir Edward Charitable Foundation had to investigate more ways of bringing in revenue.
However, visitor numbers this summer have been disappointing.
By offering ‘free flow’ visits every Thursday for £5, the friends hoped to attract 200 visitors a day and generate £30,000 a year.
But the average has been 70 people with only £4,000 raised.
Former Salisbury MP and Sir Edward’s close friend, Robert Key joined the trustees in March and said there is now no option but the sell the house – which is worth about £6 million.
“When I became a trustee I was very disappointed to see the state of the finances. It was very clear that unless something dramatic happened the trust would run out of money,” he said.
The trust hired Development Partners, a consultancy in historic house management, to produce a report which said the trustees will never be able to make Arundells pay with visitors alone, even if they held parties and weddings there. They said the only way it could work would be to get an endowment of between £8-15million but Mr Key said they would not be able to raise that kind of money before the funds run out next year.
“As the man who brought Ted Heath to Salisbury and was close to him, I am deeply disappointed that we have got to do this. I don’t want anyone to think we are not passionate about keeping the name of Ted Heath alive.”
Mr Key said the money from the sale of the house and some contents would fulfil the other objectives set out in Sir Edward’s will, including grants for music at Salisbury Cathedral, scholarships to Balliol College in Oxford and sailing training for disadvantaged young people.
They also hope to set up an exhibition of some items from the house at Salisbury Museum.
The Friends of Arundells were told about the decision at a meeting on Thursday night and said they will not give up fighting to keep the house open to the public. They are exploring other avenues, including talking to the National Trust about taking on the house.
Deputy chairman Gerald Gibson said: “Our volunteers are fairly angry and frustrated. We do feel steps could have been taken some time ago to rectify some of the issues. “For us this is the last chance and we want to keep a dialogue with the trustees as we look into other options. We need to act quickly if there is to be any chance and we will be trying to motivate people to write to the Charity Commission again.”
The Charity Commission can now take up to 30 weeks to consider whether to allow the sale.