THE RACE is on to find the cash to enable vital restoration work on one of Lyme Regis’ landmark historic buildings.
The fundraising appeal to save Belmont, former home of writer John Fowles and Coade Stone inventor Eleanor Coade, has received a huge boost with a donation of £500,000.
As a result, The Landmark Trust now hopes to start restoration work this autumn but must first find another half million pounds to meet the close to £1.3 million target.
If restoration work is not started in October it may have to be delayed for another year as there are only a few months each year when the roof can be taken off so that there is minimal disturbance to the colony of bats living there.
Anna Keay, Director of the Landmark Trust said, “This grant is a tremendous boost to our appeal and I thank everyone who has helped us already raise £1.3 million.
“We dearly want to start work this autumn to ensure the fragile fabric of the building does not have to endure another winter but still need to raise a significant amount of money.
“Please help us to make this happen and bring this important part of Lyme Regis’ heritage back to life.”
Belmont was the seaside villa of Eleanor Coade, the 18th century inventor of Coade stone, a material which still survives today in many of the UK’s most significant 18th-century buildings and landscapes.
Belmont was also the home of John Fowles, one of the most influential British novelists of the 20th century who wrote The French Lieutenant’s Woman, which he completed at the house.
Currently standing empty, decaying and at risk Belmont is a Grade II starred listed fine, early example of a maritime villa, a new building type that sprang up in the second half of the 18th century with the rising popularity of seaside holidays.
Today the fabric of the building is deteriorating, the parapet is sagging, there are rotten wall plates and lintels, the stone skin is coming away and water is trapped behind impermeable cement render. The urgency of the appeal was highlighted in March when a chimney and some of the Coade stone urns had to be removed due to their declining state.
Caroline Stanford, the Landmark Trust’s Historian said, “Mrs Coade is a fascinating, unsung figure and John Fowles a defining author of our time. Their lives have become entwined at Belmont.”
Since acquiring the house in 2007, Landmark has commissioned extensive research by a team of experts including archaeology, paint analysis, structural analysis and documentary research to establish the history, development and current state of the building in order to devise the plans for its restoration. All planning and listed building consents are already in place and restoration work can begin as soon as all the funds are secured.
Once restored, the building will be given a secure future as self-catering holiday accommodation for eight people, with income from holidays supporting its ongoing maintenance.
Belmont will also be available to the UEA Creative Writing School for MA students to use for two intensive weeks every year, living and writing together as part of their programme.
John Fowles was very keen that Belmont should be used by writers and enjoyed as a place of inspiration and education.
Those staying in the building will be able to enjoy Fowles’ former writing room on the first floor, with its views over The Cobb, where he wrote several of his best known works.
The charity will open a museum room in the former stables to tell the story of Mrs Coade, John Fowles and Belmont’s other past inhabitants and there will be regular open days when the whole site will be open.
For further information on the campaign or to make an online donation visit landmarktrust.org.uk/support-us/projects-and-appeals/belmont