A LONDON-BASED architect made an instinctive, but impulsive bid to purchase one of Barry’s most iconic landmarks at auction on Thursday (March 27).
The successful bidder, a man with Barry connections who wants to remain anonymous at this stage, paid £60,000 to acquire the 19th century grade II-listed Watchtower, at Cold Knap, following the auction at the Park Inn Hotel, Cardiff.
The Lot 42 purchase followed an intense bidding war at the hotel and via phones at the Paul Fosh Auctions event which attracted significant interest and saw producers from BBC Homes Under The Hammer capture proceedings on tape.
The Vale Council-owned Lias limestone building was built around 1860 as a coastguard station and has also seen use as a tea room.
The new owner, a Welsh-born, RIBA chartered architect, who has successfully run his own office for ten years, said he had grown up in Barry and spent a lot of happy months during the summers enjoying Barry and the surrounding area.
He said: “Barry has a special place in my heart and when I heard that the auction was taking place I felt that I had to go along and take a look. I am looking forward to giving a bit back to the town if I can.
“I'd no intention of making a purchase until the lot was being presented by the auctioneer. I acted on impulse mostly but knew instinctively that this was something I wanted to be part of.
“It was thrilling to feel the excitement in the room. You could sense how much this building means to the local community.
“As a child and in my teens and twenties I'd visited Cold Knap often and I know the building and area well.
“I'm still getting to grips with the fact I've gone and bought it, but from the moment that it came to my attention in the auction I know that this will be a project that will be sympathetic to the building's heritage and its place in the community.
“I'd love to hear from anyone who has an idea or a view on what they would like the Watchtower to become. I can't promise to get back to them all, but it's clear the people have fallen in love with this building as I have. They should have the opportunity to present their opinions on its future.
“My intentions are initially to seek agreement with the authorities to execute works to ensure no further sea or weather damage occurs and thereafter to develop it and ensure it can continue as a functional and landmark building.
“It's too early to say what the final outcome will be. I'm very excited about this both personally and as an architect, professionally.
“We will need some time to work through the process before we can outline any kind of plan. We are working firstly to understand who all of the stakeholders and groups who we will want to speak with and discuss things with beforehand are. We don't expect anything to happen very quickly.”
Art4U founder Glyn Pooley, who had held a long desire for the two-storey property to have a community use, said: “I would like to see it used to put on an annual exhibition in the summer with art works, literature and heritage memorabilia relating to the Watchtower and the surrounding area. It could be a hub for art, knowledge and learning. Its location makes it an ideal building to be used as a spiritual battery for those who want to mindfully contribute to our community in a gentle, life enhancing way."
Vale Council director of development services Rob Thomas said he was pleased at the considerable interest.
He said: “The council now looks forward to discussing proposals for the building with the new owner. The receipt will assist the council in its ongoing commitment to regeneration activity in the Vale."
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