300-year-old folly in Cirencester included in English Heritage's register of buildings at risk
A CIRENCESTER folly that has fallen into a state of disrepair has been described as a building in “very bad” condition by English Heritage.
The ruinous King Alfred’s Hall, which is located deep inside Cirencester Park, is included on a register of historic buildings at risk of being lost through neglect, decay or inappropriate development.
Unknown by many people in Cirencester, the hall was built as a sham ruin in 1732 by the first Earl Bathurst and the poet Alexander Pope.
The Grade-II listed building, which is now unrecognisable behind a wall of scaffolding and creeper plants, was described by Standard reader Ken Aardvark as a “disgrace”.
A nearby warning sign, put up by the Bathurst Estate, forbids walkers from going near the ruin as it is “potentially dangerous”.
Lord Allen Bathurst, 9th Earl of Bathurst, said it was “exceptionally sad” that the iconic building had been left to deteriorate but that a huge amount of money would be needed to bring it up to standard.
He also explained that due to its remote location, it was unlikely that King Alfred’s Hall would ever be used as anything other than a folly.
“Bearing in mind it is located in the middle of a woods, access to it is very difficult. However I would like to see it restored enough to stop any further damage,” he said.
Historians believe that the building, which was partly used as a banqueting house, is the earliest example of a mock Gothic castle, which were popular during the 18th century.
Peter Grace, a Cirencester-based historian, echoed the views of Lord Bathurst and said that any renovation work would prove costly.
He also said that it would be good for the town if a use for the crumbling building could be found.
"King Alfred's Hall is one of those buildings that just seems to have always been there. I wouldn't want to see it pulled down." he said.
King Alfred’s Hall has also been identified by the Folly Fellowship, a campaign group that works to protect historical buildings from being left to rot, as one that is in need of repair.
The hall itself is owned by the Trust of the Earl’s Fund, which looks after wood and parkland across Cirencester and was formerly part of the 8th Earl of Bathurst’s estate before his death in 2011.
A spokesman for the Trust said that it is not known how much money would be needed to renovate the hall and that it had been on English Heritage’s list for many years.
“We are in contact with English Heritage about this property and what can be done with it,” he said.
For more information and pictures on King Alfred’s Hall, visit www.wiltsglosstandard.co.uk.
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