Frank James Memorial Hospital.
A RESPECTED Victorian architect could hold the key to unlocking cash required to save crumbling Frank James Memorial Hospital.
Friends of Frank James hope to tap into new funding by persuading English Heritage (EH) to upgrade the historic building’s listed status from Grade II to Grade II* or even Grade I.
They are pinning their hopes on architect John Thomas Micklethwaite (1843-1906), surveyor of the fabric at Westminster Abbey in the late 19th century, who is also believed to have worked on the hospital.
Micklethwaite, a pupil of George Gilbert Scott, worked in partnership with architects Somers Clarke around the time Frank James was designed. He designed several notable churches.
Ian Pickard, of the Friends and a chartered surveyor, said: "If, as we believe, Micklethwaite worked on Frank James, then it is probably one of only a handful, if not possibly the only, secular building he designed."
Mr Pickard said EH offered £10 million grants to 191 Grade I and Grade II* listed buildings last year.
The hospital, built as a seaman’s mission, was put on the conservation body’s list of buildings which it felt are "at risk", having suffered from years of neglect.
A higher grade of listed status could make restoration more difficult but that had to be weighed against potential grants, Mr Pickard added.
"Given Frank James has been standing empty and abandoned for ten years, I don’t believe we have much option, unless the owners are prepared to fund the entire costs of restoration themselves, which is extremely unlikely."
The owners of the building were not aware of the Friends’ intentions but there was no obligation to inform them, he said.
The Friends plan to submit a bid to EH in the next few weeks.
The Friends’ gardening sessions to tidy up the site will mark its second anniversary in March.