Detailed attention for Suffolk landmark

PISA'S leaning tower needed a multi-million pound fortune spent on it to stop it falling to the ground but Suffolk's more modest equivalent needed no such dramatic attention.

PISA'S leaning tower needed a multi-million pound fortune spent on it to stop it falling to the ground but Suffolk's more modest equivalent needed no such dramatic attention.

While steel "suspenders" were fixed to the Italian landmark, soil siphoned from under its raised north side and the ring of concrete around its base widened to ensure the 800-year-old bell tower stayed in place, work on the Cupola House in Bury St Edmunds was almost entirely cosmetic.

There were fears that cracks in the ornate domed tower on top of the Grade 1 listed 17th Century house – which has for many years been a well-known pub and is reputed to have been visited by novelist Daniel Defoe – could put the structure at risk.

But new owner Alan Romaine, who is restoring the whole building to its former glory, said experts found the cracks were nothing to worry about: "It has been thoroughly checked out and found to be completely stable. Any movement that has occurred is historic and nothing should move in the future.

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"Walking around the town from some angles the lean can and will be seen – it's something you would expect from a timber frame building which is more than 300 years old."

The pub, in The Traverse, has been on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk register for three years but it will not go on this years list to be published in July following the restoration project.

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English Heritage experts were concerned at the general state of the building, particularly the Cupola and the roof but say the work will secure the building's future.

The Cupola House, which was owned by Bury brewer Greene King, was sold to Mr Romaine and his brother Paul, who run a development firm in the town, earlier this year.

Mr Romaine said restoration work on the roof and the rest of the exterior would be complete within weeks and the scaffolding encasing the cupola itself had now been removed.

He said he was delighted with the progress of the project and said workmen would now move inside to begin work on the interior restoration: "I have just seen the Cupola from the bottom of The Traverse and it looks really good.

"It's been in a poor way for 10 years so now it's been restored it really does stand out. Soon all the scaffolding outside will be down and people will be able to see what we've done – the reaction so far has been extremely positive."

He is spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on turning the Cupola House into a bar and restaurant and believes it has the potential to be one of the town's top attractions: "Hopefully we will open in September and things are looking good at the moment.

"It's a fantastic building with a lot of history and lots of people are looking forward to it reopening. We have had a lot of men working on this project – builders, decorators, roofers – and they are really happy to be here. It's an interesting building and I think they are pleased they will be able to say they helped to restore it when it's finished."

He says constraints on development inside mean the look of the interior will not change much but Mr Romaine is hoping to add a contemporary twist.

A spokesman for English Heritage confirmed that the building would not feature on this year's Buildings at Risk register. He said: "We are very pleased that it is being taken off and we hope it will now enjoy a safe future."

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