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Bexley residents urged to save Sir Edward Heath's former home

PUBLISHED: 13:49 17 March 2011 | UPDATED: 09:27 18 March 2011

Prime Minister Edward Heath arriving at Chequers for a review of the Ulster situation in 1971

Prime Minister Edward Heath arriving at Chequers for a review of the Ulster situation in 1971

Archant

Residents intent on preserving a slice of their heritage could help save the period home of former Prime Minister and Bexley MP Sir Edward Heath.

Dining room

Arundells, the home in Salisbury where the politician spent 20 years, attracted 30,000 visitors last year.

But the Charity Commission is in the process of deciding whether this unique part of history, which contains many of his childhood possessions, will remain open to the public.

One of his constituents, Ken Little, 80, of Howard Avenue, Bexley, said: “I met him two or three times and he was a very good MP.

“He liked the people and used to walk around Bexley and Sidcup and have a pint of beer with them. He was about the people, which is what we want in a politician. We don’t get that today from MPs.

Front of the property

“Our son was severely handicapped and when I had trouble I went to him and he sorted it out.

“It wasn’t all about politics, he loved his music and boats and put Bexley on the map.

“We need to make our feelings felt to the Charity Commission to save this piece of history.”

The period property, which dates back to the early 18th century, is surrounded by a two-acre walled garden stretching down to the River Avon. Its collection of art works includes two paintings by Sir Winston Churchill, who presented them to the politician.

Photo Bexley Local Studies & Archive Centre

A young Edward Heath handing in his nomination papers for the 1950 general election where he stood as the Conservative Party Candidate for Bexley.

Visitors can see original political cartoons, photographs and intricately embellished Chinese ceramics.

During his time at the house, Sir Edward hosted dinner parties to which he would invite a group of prominent people with different outlooks on life and encourage lively debates on the issues of the day.

Among guests invited to his Sunday lunch gatherings were singer Toyah Willcox, Bob Geldof, Sir Roy Strong and Princess Margaret.

Former Erith resident and co-ordinator of the Friends of Arundells, Tony Burnside, 60, said: “This is a man who served the people for half a century, giving his life to the nation.

Tony Burnside

“Now it’s time for the public to come to his rescue and save it from being sold off.

“Over the three years, since the house has been open to the public, the guides have had stories embellished by listening to personal tales from people who knew him first-hand.

“It’s reckless to sell this property, which is part of our heritage.”

In his will, Sir Edward stated that the property would be left open to benefit the public. A charitable foundation was set up in February 2006.

The Arundells chairman of trustees proposed the closure and sale of the house, saying that it was not financially viable.

Mr Burnside added: “The people of Bexley can contact the Charity Commission to express their views on the proposal to help to keep it open for future generations to enjoy.”

Contact Tony Burnside, campaign co-ordinator www.thefriendsofarundells.org.uk

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