Tuesday, 9 September 2014
Guest Blog - An Update from the retired Curator of Church Farmhouse Museum by Gerrard Roots
As expected, Barnet's Assets, Regeneration & Growth (ARGhhhh!) Committee voted last night to offer Church Farm to Middlesex University on a 7-year lease, rent-free, and also cough-up £280,000 towards the costs that Middx has identified as necessary for refurbishments- refurbishments needed only because Barnet has so grossly neglected the building for many years.
I, Theresa Musgrove (blogger 'Mrs Angry') and Jeremy Teare submitted pertinent written questions to the Committee, and Theresa and I were present to ask supplementary questions. We might as well have stayed at home. One might have thought that with the consignment of Cllrs Rams & Coleman (the main architects of Church Farm's demise) to the political graveyard there could now be a sensible discussion about the future of Church Farm: but, no- the effluvia from their rotting corpses still permeates the 'debating-chambers' of Barnet council.
Chairman Cllr Daniel Thomas proved, if more proof was needed, that he had no understanding of history, of the importance of museums, or of the common good, but ,perhaps, even more disturbingly, his new mantra, 'protecting services, not buildings,' revealede that he, like the rest of his cloddish Tory chums, is incapable of recognising that the Council has a 'duty of care' towards any listed buildings it owns. The responsibilty is statutory, not optional, but why should the Deputy Leader of the second biggest borough in London be expected to be aware of that?
Of the Committee members, only Labour Councillor Pauline Coakley Webb spoke about Church Farm as a much-loved museum, and as a significant historic building. In reply, Cllr Thomas stated that it was obvious that nobody really cared about the Museum, because Hendon Ward (in which Church Farm is sited) had returned, yet again, three Tory councillors at the elections last May. The fact that Church Farm, which had by that time been shut for three years, was an asset not just for Hendon but for all of Barnet (and beyond), and that his- increasingly beleagured and flouncingly defensive- collection of Conservative 'colleagues' snuck in to control Barnet in May by one seat seems not have impinged on this wannabe (anywhere-else-but-in- Barnet) Conservative MP.
After the meeting, a former Chair of the Friends of the Museum, aptly quoted Oscar Wilde: 'They know the price of everything, but the value of nothing'. Moreover, in Barnet, only Barnet's Tories actually know the price: the rest of us, the humble oiks who pay these posturing dolt's allowances, were excluded from the deliberations on the financial details of the lease between two publicly- funded bodies: Barnet Council and Middlesex University.
Middlesex University has, despite Barnet's claims otherwise, no proven expertise in dealing with an old and 'vulnerable' (English Heritage's description) Grade II* building. But then two baboons with lump-hammers would have been more adept at preserving Church Farmhouse's fabric than Barnet Council has. Perhaps Middllesex will make a better job of it.
Now, to me, there remain two major issues: Barnet claims that the lease to MU includes 'community use' of the building in the evenings, and at week-ends. There were no 'consultations' with the 'community' before the Council report (after all, this is Barnet) but Cllr Thomas reassured us that these would be forthcoming at some unspecified time. If such 'consultations' actually materialize then we must engage withe them. More importantly, we need to know what Barnet Council ( if it is still in existence in 2021) intends to do with Church Famhouse when the lease runs out. Perhaps we should make our overtures to London Borough of Capita now: 'Please sir, can you return this lovely !7th century building that we have all paid for into a public museum? Please, sir! Oh, please, sir!'
Editors Note : This is a video we made with Gerrard Roots Earlier this year
Guest Blogs are always welcome at the Barnet Eye