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Last Updated: Monday, 16 August, 2004, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
Historic 'at risk' hall is saved
Apethorpe Hall
Apethorpe Hall was once owned by Henry VIII
A crumbling 15th century hall once owned by Henry VIII has been saved for the nation by the government.

Northamptonshire's privately-owned Grade I listed Apethorpe Hall is said to need about 6m worth of repairs.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said the hall, considered one of the highest priority properties at risk in England, was an irreplaceable treasure.

After compulsory purchase the estate will be repaired and may possibly be turned into a tourist attraction.

The hall has played host to Tudor and Stuart royalty including Queen Elizabeth I and King James I.

Ms Jowell confirmed on Monday that the 13-cottage estate between Corby and Peterborough would be compulsorily purchased after the recommendations of an independent inspector who headed a three-week public inquiry earlier this year into the estate's future.

While this is not a decision I take lightly, it is right that every effort is made to safeguard this wonderful piece of our heritage for everyone to enjoy
Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell
"Apethorpe Hall is a rare and beautiful building of truly national historic importance," she said.

"It is an irreplaceable treasure that without decisive action could be lost to us forever.

"While this is not a decision I take lightly, it is right that every effort is made to safeguard this wonderful piece of our heritage for everyone to enjoy."

The buildings were left to deteriorate during the 20 years they were owned by Wanis Burweila, a Libyan businessman and former ambassador who now lives in Greece.

They have been classed category A on the Buildings at Risk register since the first national list was compiled by English Heritage in 1998.

Fair price

Mr Burweila was served with a compulsory repairs notice in October 2001 but failed to take proper action to repair the estate, a government spokesman said.

He sold the estate for 1.35m in June 2002 - the day before a draft compulsory purchase order was served.

The estate's present owners, a property firm headed by Harold Winton, president of Queen's Park Rangers Football Club, objected to compulsory purchase, saying the government had no right to interfere.

The order, which will come into effect on Thursday, allows the government to buy the site at a fair price.

The freehold will be transferred to English Heritage which hopes to sell it to a private owner who will maintain it, but also allow the public to tour the building each year.

English Heritage said funds are available to meet the full cost of repairs and work would begin as soon as possible so the property could be put on the market.

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