A matter of concern
There are unconfirmed reports that Ombersley Court in Worcestershire, the closest Britain gets to a forgotten jewel in the 21st century, could be developed as a care home (Letters, page 24). The late owners, Lord and Lady Sandys, strictly maintained the privacy of the house; indeed, no original material on it has been published since 1953, when Country Life ran a series of articles. From this account and its illustrations, all subsequent publications have derived their information.
The achievement of Lord and Lady Sandys was to occupy, maintain and manage the property successfully as a home from the 1960s. The house’s outstanding contents were preserved and the fabric was kept in good repair. Now, the executors of Lord Sandys are faced with important and far-reaching decisions about the building and its contents —some of which have recently appeared on the market— that deserve publicity.
Potential plans to convert Ombersley Court into a respite care home would run in the face of current trends; country houses do not conform easily to the specialist needs of modern care. It would also require major changes to the building and, assuming planning consent is given, must be vastly expensive. To accommodate a care home, the contents would also have to be reorganised and reduced.
historic england is reported to be provisionally supportive of such a scheme on the grounds that it would provide public access to the building. however, if the conversion compromises the fabric and precipitates the further break-up of the collection, how is the public served?