Update on the future of The Pales, September 2021
The Pales is a meeting house without its own Local Meeting. Its future has been under consideration for years. The recent threshing meeting reaffirmed that it is fondly regarded as a place of great spiritual and heritage value, and it should not be sold off as a private residence. It should be kept as a special place, open to Quakers and others to visit, and possibly stay overnight at, benefitting from all that the site has to offer. The adjoining cottage is in desperate need of refurbishment. Southern Marches Area Quaker Meeting does not have the people, the will, or access to funds, to make this happen. However, Addoldai Cymru, (the charity, backed by the Welsh Government to take care of all types of special places of worship in Wales other than Church-in-Wales properties), expressed an interest in taking it on and had very promising initial meeting with the Pales Management Group in June.
A second meeting with Addoldai Cymru was held at the Pales in August, at which they reiterated their interest. They are looking actively at the possibility of having a warden in the cottage, stimulating wider activities, beyond just having the building open to visitors; growing the use of the campsite, possibly with other accommodation if practicable; linking with proposed pilgrimage routes. This is a new type of venture for Addoldai Cymru, but their enthusiasm may have been helped by a highly fortuitous encounter in York between their vice-chair and Martin Williams, the former Friend-in-residence at the Pales for 21 years! Addoldai Cymru are currently looking into sources of finance and hope to present firm proposals to us around Christmas 2021.
The Next Stage
It seems likely that Southern Marches Area Meeting will be asked to gift the whole site to Addoldai Cymru, with guarantees of continued Quaker access to the meeting house and schoolroom, use of the burial ground, involvement in steering committees, appointment of warden etc. Addoldai Cymru would be investing many tens of thousands of pounds in improvements to the site, principally the cottage. Quakers throughout the Area Meeting have been urged to consider now if they are comfortable with continuing along these lines, before negotiations reach a more advanced stage. To date, including the Area Meeting held on 11th September, reaction has been supportive. Any Friends from other AM’s, or others from the local community and interested groups, who have views on this general direction of travel, are asked to contact the Pales Management Group. Decisions on the nature of the building improvements, provision of visitor accommodation on site, the warden’s role and employment status, governance, financial and legal aspects etc will be addressed once it is formally agreed to proceed. We are not looking for detailed proposals or questions at this stage.
The options of either selling the entire site, or of the AM keeping The Pales and developing it, would seem to be unlikely outcomes now, and would not be in line with the discernment process of the AM so far. There has been some consideration given to perhaps selling part of the site, including the cottage, but with conditions on future activity to protect the site’s unique nature. The potential capital receipt, and perhaps the initial commitment of someone buying in to develop the site, are attractive, and we have discussed this with Addoldai Cymru, but we both see problems with this. Even if appropriate conditions on a new owner can be drawn up, they would be very difficult to enforce in perpetuity. Addoldai Cymru do not want to be saddled with a neighbour at some point in the future, in an adjoining building, who damaged rather enhanced the essential atmosphere of the whole site.