What next for Old Deanery?

January 30 2019
What next for Old Deanery?

THE future of The Old Deanery on Wells Cathedral Green will become the focus of attention again now that more details about its sale have been announced.

The Diocese of Bath and Wells decided last year to sell The Old Deanery and The Rib car park to fund new purpose-built diocesan offices at an alternative site on the outskirts of the city. It was estimated then that The Old Deanery, originally built as a home for the Dean of Wells 800 years ago, would sell for £3 million.

A former Dean of Wells, the Very Rev Richard Lewis, now Dean Emeritus of Wells, has suggested that one new use for The Old Deanery could be as an art gallery.

“It is not immediately easy to make a long list of the best uses to which the Old Deanery could be put,” he said.

“An immediate possibility however would be a significant art gallery; it could be an outpost of a major national collection. Approaches could be made to national collections, possibly the Tate Gallery that already has significant galleries in Liverpool and Cornwall. The square footage here is similar to St Ives, and they have got 10,000 paintings that they never show.”

Consultants have looked at the building and confirmed that it could be adapted for gallery use. That would allow the public to have general access to the building for the first time in its history – and would be preferable, said Richard, to seeing it turned into something such as a hotel.

“It would not be good if it went into private hands. A Russian oligarch could put his hand in his pocket and pull out his spending money to buy it,” he said.

“If I was still the dean I would be saying that it is part of 1,000 years of ecclesiastical history and it would be detrimental if that was to disappear for evermore.

“When you look at the frontage it belongs with the Cathedral and the museum and the other medieval building along St Andrew Street – it is a whole.”