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Door opens for revamp

PUBLISHED: 11:06 16 October 2009 | UPDATED: 08:42 01 August 2010

PART of an historic building in Bungay is set to go under the hammer with the hope of restoring an attached Georgian doorway.

It is one of three units that make up the 16th century Merchant's House in St Mary's Street, and had been leased as a Londis convenience store for the past few years.

PART of an historic building in Bungay is set to go under the hammer with the hope of restoring an attached Georgian doorway.

It is one of three units that make up the 16th century Merchant's House in St Mary's Street, and had been leased as a Londis convenience store for the past few years.

However the shop now has been repossessed and the unit is expected to go to auction at the beginning of December.

While the loss of the convenience store has been branded sad by many in the town, the possibility for a change of ownership has been cautiously greeted by those wishing to see restoration work carried out at the grade two listed property.

The unit is part of the Merchant House, which used to be the town's guildhall and survived the great fire of 1688.

An elaborately-decorated Georgian doorway, which is no longer in use, is part of the unit, and has been of particular concern to people campaigning for the preservation of the town's heritage.

The left hand pilaster has come off completely and is now propped up in the doorway, and the door has been infected by dry rot- with some of the panels pushed in by vandals.

Martin Evans, secretary of the Bungay Society, said that despite the doorway's cultural significance, the Bungay Society tends not to draw attention to it on their historical “walkabouts” because of the state it is in.

He said that the Bungay Society had been campaigning for it to be restored, however as the building was privately owned they had reached a dead end. “We've been on to it for months,” he said. “The problem has been an absent landlord. You can't repair someone else's property, our hands have been tied.”

However he added that he was cautiously optimistic about a change of ownership. “Now we might get the chance to get it repaired,” he said. “Some people who have shown an interest talk quite sensibly about preservation. Perhaps now after the auction it could have broken us out of the impasse we were in. It may be the end of a long-running story, but with a good result at the end of it.”

A repossession notice appeared on the door of the unit on Thursday last week, stating that the tenants had 14 days to move out their personal things.

John Warnes, mayor of Bungay, said he was “sad” to see another shop close in Bungay. “We don't have another retail outlet like that in the town,” he said. “We don't like empty shops in the middle of the town.”

And Bungay man Charles Lombard, of St Mary's Street, was a regular customer at the shop. He said: “This is a tragedy for the town, for despite its shortcomings it was nearly always open, early and late, seven days a week - a much appreciated facility.”

The tenants, who ran the Londis store and the landlord of the unit, were both unavailable for comment last night.

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