There was a blow for campaigners fighting to save historic Dunford House at West Lavington after it was revealed that the YMCA has asked its agents, Savills, to put it on the market, with a view to turning the house into a commercial venture.
Campaign leader Nick Cobden Wright, great, great, great grandson of the pioneering politician Richard Cobden, who lived at Dunford House, said he was still confident that an amicable solution would be found between the Cobden family and the YMCA.
“I am hoping this will happen soon as the longer this process continues the unrest and distress of so many people increases.
“As I have said on many occasions, I and the rest of the Cobden family are grateful for the YMCA’s custodianship of Dunford House.
“The Cobden family and friends are ready and able to preserve Dunford as per the original donor intent. Maintaining it as a Free Trade House for the community instead of a Free House for commercial gain surely is in everyone’s interest.”
Among several groups who have written to the YMCA in support of campaigners asking that the house is returned, is The Midhurst Society.
Spokesman Harvey Tordoff told chairman Mr Bailey he was ’disappointed’ to hear Dunford could be turned into a commercial venture. “Over 60 years ago, the Cobden family entrusted the estate to the YMCA to preserve Richard Cobden’s name and legacy.
“If the YMCA has found it can no longer honour the pledge made at the time it would seem fitting and proper the estate be handed back to the family.”
He said the memory of Richard Cobden deserved to be preserved. “By handing back what remains of the estate you would be ensuring an honourable end to the YMCA custodianship,” he told Mr Bailey.
He added: “In the hands of the Cobden family and local supporters Dunford House could become a beacon of enlightenment.”