Tuesday, 5 April 2011

In the comfort of Reigate Priory - problem solved

Update March 2015 - the problem of Reigate Priory's leaking roof is solved and all is well.

Original post in 2011: While the spring sun shines and the cherry trees blossom beautifully, it is easy to forget the bitterly cold weather of three months ago, but not the damage that it did to roofs, gutters and roads across the country.
Sadly our town's magnificent historic Grade 1 listed building, home to Reigate Priory Junior School and Reigate Priory Museum, took a terrible blow from the snow. The museum is currently closed and the treasured artefacts have had to be temporarily rehoused to keep them safe. That means the museum collection would be inaccessible to the public for the foreseeable future. I do hope Surrey County Council will be able to get the Priory roof put right soon, and treat it as a priority to restore the museum collection to its rightful home in the centre of Reigate. After all, the items were donated by local residents for the good of the local community, and part of our heritage.
Exactly a century ago in 1911, our beloved Reigate Priory was a private country mansion which was often rented out for rich and famous tenants, and a popular choice for weekend house parties. On 28, 29 and 30th October of that year, it was the location for a vital three-day meeting of top Government and Admiralty figures. Here, Admiral Lord Fisher could advise and educate the new First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill about the wisdom of having a battleship fleet fueled by oil, rather than coal. As well as oil fueling greater speed for the ships, it was going to be a darned sight cheaper than solid fuel, and would save on personnel! What a practical decision was made here. Now, with a hundred years of hindsight it was not especially original as an idea, but still, such discussions required a suitable, comfortable environment where these decision makers could be sheltered from outside events and focus on the job at hand.
Reigate Priory's 19th century addition of the library area has long been a source of water leaks. Presumably because Winston Churchill described the meeting as being "in the comfort of Reigate Priory" in his book, The World Crisis, he was not inconvenienced by such unfortunate events here a century ago.

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