Protests and petitions head for the former Indie editor, now First Church Estates Commissioner, about the Bishop of Carlisle’s delectable former home.

Pressure is growing on the Church of England’s estate commissioners, led by the former Independent editor Andreas Whittam-Smith, to drop plans to sell off one of the most beautiful houses in Cumbria.

As things stand, the partly 13th century pile of Rose Castle near Dalston, is set to be offered for sale after the departure of the Bishop of Carlisle and his associated offices to Keswick.

Carlisle is a smaller diocese with many demands on its resources, and the commissioners say that Rose Castle needs repairs estimated at some £1.7 million on top of an annual maintenance budget of £150,000.

Local opinion, however, is very pro-castle, and one of Carlisle’s former bishops, Rt Rev Graham Dow, produced a report suggesting that church use could continue viably if the two towers were converted into large homes for sale or rent, supplemented by three smaller flats. A bonus of this would be the storage of church archives in a safe and, for researchers, very agreeable place, while the grounds have potential for public opening.

There’s oodles of enjoyable history – Wordsworth and Coleridge found the castle ‘all but perfect – cottage comfort and ancestral dignity’, and its occupants included the delightful-sounding Bishop Rainbow who spent 20 happy years there between 1664 and 1684. And even with the home conversions, there’d still be room for a cafe.

The campaigning group Friends of Rose Castle is co-ordinating heavyweight appeals for a rethink by the commissioners, or at the least, a delay while more thought is given to the castle’s future.

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