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Landmark tourism bid for Halesowen Abbey
8:30am Thursday 13th September 2012 in News
A ONCE-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a regional tourist attraction at Halesowen ’s 13th century ruined abbey hangs in the balance as trustees scramble to raise up to £3 million.
The scheduled ancient monument - commanding the same importance as Stonehenge - is on the market as part of Manor Abbey Farm - a unique 242 acre estate.
Offers of £3 million are sought for the whole estate, but it has been split into several lots with the abbey included with the six-bedroom Victorian farmhouse and 42 acres at £1.5 million.
Its trustees are now in a race against time to find the funding to buy at least part of the site ahead of other interested parties to realise their vision of developing it as a top tourist spot.
Their general secretary Mick Freer said: “We can only have sporadic visiting to the abbey at the moment because of the conflict of people living in the farmhouse and their privacy, so the sale provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
English Heritage is keen to see the site opened up for public benefit and Mr Freer said the whole farm - which also includes on old infirmary - is of historic interest.
Ancient pathways criss-cross the land, off Manor Way, which could be opened up and the trustees would like to see the farm provide accommodation for educational visits.
“It’s location, close to the motorway, also makes it a wonderful point for directing people off to other tourist attractions like the Black Country Museum, Hagley Hall and the Severn Valley Railway,” said Mr Freer.
But he acknowledges that raising the minimum £1.5 million needed is a long shot and fears that any scale of development will be scuppered if the estate falls into the hands of several owners.
He said: “Halesowen Abbey is an important part of our local heritage and – whoever ends up buying the site – it is essential that we do everything that we can to protect it.”
The trustees are meeting with English Heritage, Dudley Council and historian Julian Hunt, author of The History of Halesowen, to discuss the plans and possible funding opportunities on November 2.