Almost 10 weeks on from a devastating fire, The Rye Conservation Society (RCS) has raised its deep concerns at the state of The George Hotel on the High Street. In a letter to the Chairman of Rother District Council, the RCS expresses its fears that the historic building will deteriorate further in the coming months with the onset of winter. The frame of the damaged roof can clearly be seen from the tower of St Mary’s church (see picture) which will allow rain to penetrate deep into the building.
In their letter, RCS said, “The Society’s concerns are twofold. The first is the structural integrity of the fire-damaged tiled mansard roof at second floor level. A major part of the timber frame at this level appears to have been destroyed leaving the roof slope standing alone, open to the weather and to any gales which might occur during the coming autumn and winter.” The Society went onto to point out that, “a partial collapse of this is highly likely to endanger the public and block the High Street. There is also the question of the integrity of the fixing of the tiles themselves which, if they are dislodged by wind and or rain, could well travel some distance across the street endangering residents, visitors and surrounding properties.”
The Society’s second concern relates to the inaction to protect the Listed Building following the calamitous fire on July 20. While the Society recognised that it can take time to get the necessary building consents, they stressed that “it is essential and urgent that steps are taken to fully protect this building, the local residents and owners of adjacent properties and visitors to our historic town”.
The George Hotel is a Grade II listed building consisting of a range of structures, some dating from the 15th century. The part that sustained the principal structural fire damage was the second floor, which dates from the 1790s and is directly above the section refurbished as the beautiful Assembly Rooms in 1818.
Editor’s Note: Since publishing the above article, Alex Clarke, the owner of the George has given Rye News the following statement:
“We appreciate the concerns of the RCS, but would like to reassure its members and the general public that the conservation and protection of our beautiful hotel building and its immediate surroundings is our highest priority. Since the fire, we have been in talks with several experts in historic buildings, including a dedicated Conservation Officer, in order to agree a strategy for clearing the site in a way that is safe, efficient and, crucially, sympathetic to the fabric and structure of the building. It’s essential that we correctly set up all of the systems for repair and restoration along the entire length of the building, or the process could be further delayed.
“We are very aware of the urgency of the situation, but rushing into what is an exceedingly delicate programme of restoration would be a mistake. We are building a team of structural engineers and project managers, all of whom have excellent heritage credentials. We are exceptionally grateful for the continued support from the Rye community we have received.
“While the repairs at The George will be extensive and time-consuming, we are confident that the steps being made now in this planning and enabling phase will lead us to a successful and sensitive restoration that will bring our beloved hotel back to its former glory.”