Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Cairndhu Saga: I

I have received an interesting piece of information from Thomas Norrell relating to Cairndhu House, near Larne in County Antrim. I have written about the House here.

"I am currently in touch with Built Heritage (DOE NI) relating to Cairndhu House (former home of Sir Thomas & Lady Dixon). This indeed is a saga, seemingly an endless one! I blame Larne Borough Council for the entire situation, along with the Department of Health for selling it off in the first place to a Council with absolutely no interest in our heritage.

The Council only purchased Cairndhu to get a piece of land to add to the Carnfunnock Country Park next door. When the Council sold to Lord Rana, it lost over £900,000 in the process and left the ratepayers having to pay for this mistake over the next 30 years or so.

Lord Rana of course promised to maintain and indeed restore Cairndhu (as is generally required), but also seemingly signed an agreement that he could only purchase if he did not demolish any part of the house.

As Lord Rana soon discovered, he couldn't then demolish the back kitchen wing to make room for his new hotel (to be linked to the original house by a glass covered bridge / corridor), nor could he acquire the gate lodge from the current owner, so he sold it to McKenzie Ltd, a building firm.

However, this Company also owns another Company of which Lord Rana is a Director and now the Company, as owner, is no longer obligated to keep to the agreement as this did not extend to any future owner. The Company has made a planning application for 84 town houses & some 20-odd gate-house type bungalows in the grounds.

Meantime as you probably would be aware, all the fire-surrounds were stolen from Cairndhu, including the very famous one from the main entrance hallway. Over the past two years or more I had complained to the Department about vandals breaking in and causing damage, so I requested (twice), repair orders against the owner (at that time, Lord Rana).

Windows were to be bricked up and a steel door at the front entrance. Unfortunately Lord Rana omitted to brick up the back windows in the main yard, which led to more vandalism. After a further order to repair, the remaining windows were bricked up.

Now due to complete negligence on the part of the owner, Cairndhu has suffered very severe damage - nothing short of criminal on the part of the owner, as they have failed to protect it yet again.

I have now requested that the Department either repair & renovate the place and send the bill to the owner, or if this fails, then the Department should seize the entire property from the owner. It is more than a saga - it is an absolute disgrace that this particular heritage has been allowed to get into such a terrible state.

I am determined that Cairndhu shall not be demolished.

When Larne Borough Council owned the estate, it was beautiful and internally intact. My only worry is that although the Department has the power to do what I have suggested, the current financial situation may well prevent anything being done to save the place or ensure its protection.

I am also in contact with the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society and with any luck they might be able to put some pressure on the Department to do something urgently. If you wish, I can keep you informed of any developments - I'm waiting on a reply from the Department".

Thomas Norrell


Anonymous said...

What an absolute disgrace.... J.

Anonymous said...

Thomas, congratulations for all your efforts on this. It is a shame when these properties fall into the hands of people lacking in social conscience. I for one will not be frequenting any of Lord Rana's hotels, and will urge friends and family not to either. Keep you your good work and keep us informed. Anon.

Anonymous said...

Yes, quite right! I seem to remember some fuss over an extension to his own house in Malone Park. One hopes HMG could refrain from bestowing on him further honours until he has done right by Caindhu; the Dixons legacy must be treated with the respect it deserves.


Anonymous said...

this whole episode is disgusting. The amount of times I see once beautiful and majestic demesnes being 'developed' is heartbreaking. Lord Rana is an individual beneath contempt.

Anonymous said...

Hello Lord Belmont & all other supporters & friends of Cairndhu House - unfortunately to date, I have had no reply as yet to my "special delivery" letter to the Built Heritage Unit of the D.O.E. (NI), nor indeed have I even had an acknowledgment from that Department or the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society to which I sent a copy with a covering letter. However, I suppose it is early days as it is only about 10 days since this event took place, though I did specify the urgency of the matter clearly and paid the Post Office the fee of £10.20p to get both letters delivered quickly, but perhaps that action no longer works like it used to, especially in this day of high tech communication - eventhough there does seem to be more paper-work involved despite the fact they keep telling us that computers will do away with paper. So in a sense, there shouldn't be any difference as to which method of communication is used - so where is the problem? Maybe they have to dig out the files relating to my previous communications of a couple of years ago, to catch up on what has been done so far, or to be precise, what has not been done. I will give them another few days, by which time more damage & destruction will undoubtedly be carried out, if not by people, by the weather. It would be my further intention to send a copy of my original letter direct to Mr Poots, the Minister for the Environment to ascertain the position. If the Built Heritage Unit cannot be bothered, then Mr Poots has to be. I should then be in a better position to let you know what is happening (with any luck). Thomas Norrell.