Concerning the Demolition of the Tor School and the Tor School House on the Chalice Well site (1971-1975):
In 1959 the Chalice Well Trust, founded by Wellesley Tudor Pole, acquired within its curtilage the Tor School and the Tor School House (once known as Anchor Lodge). The four principle objectives, or charitable purposes, of the Trust as recorded in the founding deed have remained the same since its inception. One of the powers of the Trust, or things it could do, was to: “Provide accommodation and in particular a hostel or guest house and refreshment for visitors to the said Chalice Well”.
By the early 1970s the Board of Trustees had increasing concerns about the deteriorating condition of the buildings. At no point did the then Trustees see the old Tor School as a building fit for pilgrims or visitors. The main unlisted school building was in a dangerous state. The outside wall was bowed out and in danger of falling into Chilkwell Street. As recently as 2012, a visitor who attended Millfield (as Tor School became), confirmed that internal metal supports were coming loose as the traffic thundered by and boys were shaken in their beds as they slept. The Trust commissioned a survey which declared the building was in ‘a dangerous state and should be demolished’.
There were ‘long prior consultations with local officials’ regarding the demolition and all would have proceeded quietly but for two things. Because the demolition would have meant the closure of Chilkwell St. the Council had asked for a postponement from June (the holiday season) to October. During this time the newly formed Glastonbury Conservation Society asked the Secretary of State to list the Tor School House (the Anchor Lodge building, not Tor School). This was duly done just before October thus preventing demolition. However it does appear there was not complete consensus as Alderman Humphrey Morland, Chairman of Glastonbury Conservation Society wrote, ‘I would like to see the lot removed. The Chalice Well Trustees want to make a beautiful garden there.’ (14-12-73)
The whole process then took nearly two years through hearings, appeals, solicitor’s letters etc. and finally in June 1975 the case for and against demolition of Tor School House was heard at a public inquiry in front of Inspector K. Dodds.
At the hearing the Chairman of Chalice Well Trust, C.L.S. Cornwall-Legh, gave evidence at length about the Trust’s purposes, its charitable status, the reasons for demolition (including the prohibitive cost of saving the Tor School house, improving access to the Chalice Well and it’s Little St Michael’s guest house, and also improving the gardens as visitor numbers were increasing quite quickly). The inquiry heard that the Tor School House was ‘in a very bad state of repair’ with ‘narrow passageways’ and a ‘hodge podge of rooms’ and in an ‘awkward juxtaposition to the main road’. It was just not feasible to restore such a building.
The Secretary of State, Anthony Crosland, considered all the evidence and said, ‘The public interest would best be served by granting listed building consent for demolition.’ He found completely in Chalice Well’s favour. It was pointed out that Glastonbury Conservation Society had cost the Chalice Well Trust thousands of pounds in legal fees over the period and never once spoke directly to the Trust before going into full-scale opposition. However Humphrey Morland said, ‘In my view the work of the Trustees of Chalice Well has been entirely for the benefit of the community in general and the town in particular. The Tor House School is badly constructed.’ It was pointed out that during this whole period there was never any expense to rate payers and Chalice Well Trust bore all the expenses of this episode.
Gradually thereafter the Trust was able to improve its accommodation, build a meeting room, and establish a small shop at the exit from the gardens. The lower garden was beautified and developed to include the flow- form falling into the vesica pool, the herb garden, eco toilets and provision of space for community events and celebrations including the Conversation Café at Wheel of the Year events.