A CAMPAIGN group has collected more than 2000 signatures on a petition that calls for Rose Castle, the historic residence of the Bishop of Carlisle, to be saved for the people of Cumbria.
Last year, the Church Commissioners announced plans to sell Rose Castle and Bishopscourt, the Bishop of Rochester’s palace (News, 28 May 2010). The Assets Committee of the Church Commissioners was due to consider Rose Castle’s future yesterday, and a final decision is expected beore the end of the year.
The Friends of Rose Castle have drawn up a proposal for its continued use. Their preferred option is to keep it as a see house with office facilities that support the bishop and with rooms for hire, as well as a visitors’ attraction.
One of the campaigners, Jane Hasell-McCosh, said that it was vital that Rose Castle, which had been the Bishop of Carlisle’s residence for almost 800 years, was not lost to private ownership and turned into a hotel or a health club.
“We must preserve our Cumbrian heritage for the public good. It is an amazing place, and, as with many ancient churches, the tranquillity is not just rooted in the natural beauty of the place, but in a tradition of prayer and dedicated lives that have been at its heart down the centuries.”
Dr Michael Green, whose wife is the daughter of a former Bishop of Carlisle, David Halsey, and who grew up at Rose Castle, has written an open letter to the Church Commissioners criticising their lack of engagement with people in the north of England. He says that “the perceived abrogation of the Church Commissioners’ responsibility as custodian of an asset that belongs to the nation . . . should at least be subject to an open, accountable process of consultation prior to any proposed disposal.”
The secretary to the Church Commissioners, Andrew Brown, said in a letter to The Daily Telegraph that the Commissioners had consulted the Friends of Rose Castle.
The Commissioners were conscious of their “custodial role in relation to such historic bishops’ houses”. Clergy housing had never been treated as an investment asset that was required to produce a commercial return, and there was nothing new in changing a bishop’s residence.
The present Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, did not move into Rose Castle on his translation to the diocesan see last year.