KING’S LYNN: Museum plan for Purfleet House
The owner of Lynn’s historic Purfleet House is hoping that it can still become part of a new tourist and visitor attraction despite the current harsh economic climate.
Property developer Roger Gawn bought the Grade II-listed building, adjacent to the iconic Custom House which he owns and leases to West Norfolk Council as the town’s tourist information centre, in 1999.
He would like to see a small museum in Purfleet House focusing on the history of optics and their significance to shipping over the centuries, as he said this was the origin of navigation used by the likes of Lynn’s famous seafaring son, George Vancouver.
Mr Gawn, of Melton Constable Hall, explained: “They used optical devices to enable them to navigate using the stars.”
Outside, he envisages placing a three-masted boat, reflecting those early days, in the Outer Purfleet to draw visitors to that area, and a restaurant and bed and breakfast-style accommodation within Purfleet House.
He had hoped the museum plan would come to fruition about three years ago but the promoter was unable to get funding for the idea. However, he has not given up hope that alternative funding might be found through other means and possibly public donations.
Mr Gawn said: “I actively welcome all levels of interest there may be in this project. Any inquiries can be left with Lloyd Sandy, the manager at Sowerbys estate agents, and I have instructed them to put up a board on the property to this effect – but it’s categorically not a For Sale sign!
“We are proactively considering everything that we can possibly do with the property and I am accessible to anyone with an interest in any way at all, so that all possibilities for the future can be explored.”
The fate of Purfleet House, once the home of Sir John Turner, a 17th century merchant, Lynn MP and town mayor, is causing Lynn Civic Society concern. It wants the borough council to seek a compulsory purchase order on the building as it claims nothing is being done with it.
But Mr Gawn said he is a conservationist and preservationist and has had a new roof put on the building and extensive structural work carried out internally. “It is a shell waiting to be fitted out,” he said.
In 1999, he got planning permission to divide the property into three sections; with an office at the front facing King Street, a house behind and a restaurant in the yard to the rear.
He said: “Purfleet House extends from 1 King Street to the probation office building on Purfleet Quay. The main section of Purfleet House, including the original magnificent staircase, sits at 1 King Street.
“I fully refurbished this principal section several years ago and it is occupied by Sowerbys estate agency, who do a good job of looking after it.
“The rear section was, in fact, near derelict when it was purchased and none of it was used residentially but instead was occupied by a local firm of accountants.
“The main building part of this rear section was acquired by me, under lease, in 2005 and now has a completely new roof on it and the internal structural problems have been addressed. It remains to determine its best use.
“Anyone can find a use for a building if they can afford it and it gains approval from the planning department. My aim, just as I did with the Custom House, is to find a valuable, social and civic use for it for the long term in a sustainable and commercially viable way.”
Mr Gawn said all of the main existing interiors, with fireplaces, cornices and panelling, were in place and new floor joists, brickwork and blockwork to stabilise the building.
He added: “Some panelling was removed to deal with unstable walls and is stored in the building, as are all of the new windows for the openings facing the Purfleet.
“The basement has a new waterproofed concrete floor and structural piers rebuilt or repaired. In essence, therefore, the building is now ready for the next stage once its future is decided.”
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Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 13 C
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