The George: RCS serious concerns

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The fire damaged roof of the George Hotel

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.”

5 COMMENTS

  1. It will that take time to plan and instigate repairs but that doesn’t mean that the structure could not be protected.
    It is obvious that full scaffolding and a “top-hat”, will be required irrespective of the details of the repairs. So why isn’t it there already? RCS is correct that exposure to the weather will lead to further damage/deterioration of the structure. That would increase costs and present higher risks, so it is worrying that the scaffolding isn’t there already.

  2. Of course it needs protecting and scaffold is the obvious solution but if you were asked to put up what would be in effect a large amount over a long period the one question you would need answering from day one is.
    Who’s paying?

  3. There is a statutory legal duty for any owner of a Listed Building to maintain and repair it. Of course the owners here have had a great shock, their livelihood is damaged even now at risk perhaps, and they will have a lot to do, especially in satisfying their insurance claim and protecting their commercial viability. Our complete sympathy and best wishes must be extended to them and they must be helped more than criticised. But RCS do have valid points and action needs to be taken immediately as suggested. The property should be surveyed if not already to determine its stability, and a plan of emergency action initiated to preserve and protect both the historic structure and its context. The owners with their agents should be in touch with the Council and English Heritage with a full plan of action, timings, details, and arrangements to allay these fears and both the Council and importantly English Heritage should be on board to collaborate and support the owners to help and guide them in the repair of this building. It should not be a case of us against the owners, but more the whole of Rye in support of the restoration of this important and valuable property and community asset.I am sure that we all in Rye wish the owners well in this difficult but essential task.

  4. It does seem very unusual that a scaffold covering the building and the roof hasn’t been put up in the first week after the damage as is the norm. This would protect the building and the public should anything come loose and reduce the extensive damage internally, has a LBC application even been submitted ? Rother are painfully slow but they couldn’t stop temporary protection.

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