Hanging Chapel Lease

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As the future of the Hanging Chapel has become such a fraught issue over the past two weeks, lots of people have written in or spoken to us about there views. Sadly  the letter which we publish below was received several days after the copy deadline for our September issue. It should be of interest to residents as this is the first time we have received correspondence from a member of the Lodge, who as tenants of the Hanging Chapel clearly have a view on recent events. I should add that items 5 and 6 of the “misconceptions” listed below may well be misconceptions, but did not appear in our article Hung Out To Dry. 

The notable exception being the assertion that the lease is not a full repairing lease. This is something we have noted before but in much more depth in our September issue out this week. So this assertion is especially interesting not least because it was clear from the public meeting that the Town Council, via the clerk clearly believed that it was a full repairing lease. Not surprisingly that was a view shared by the public and other councillors present many of whom will not have seen the lease. Indeed there were also members of the Lodge present at the public meeting who did not voice an alternative view. 

Now it is clear that there is a difference of opinion on the nature of the lease, this will make resolving the issue of the Hanging Chapel and more importantly the issue of who pays for the repairs, a lot more tricky.

The letter is published in full below and will also appear in the printed edition of the October Leveller:

Mr A Lee,  Editor, The Langport Leveller

Dear Mr. Lee,

I read your article “Hung out to dry” with interest.

There seem to be several misconceptions about arrangements between the Freemasons who use the Hanging Chapel and the Langport Town Trust (“the Trust”) which owns it.

1) The building is leased by the Trust to the Portcullis Lodge of Freemasons no. 2038.  In recent years two other Lodges started to use the building and they help with the rent paid to the Trust by the prime tenants – Lodge No 2038 (“the Lodge”), and with other expenses.

2) Contrary to repeated assertions the lease is not a full repairing lease.  The Lodge is only required to maintain the parts of the building it uses.  External maintenance of the building – and specifically the stonework – is the responsibility of the owner, i.e. the Trust.

3) We have more than fulfilled our responsibilities during the one hundred and more years that the Lodge has rented the building, which I believe was previously derelict.  We installed the stained-glass windows – which remain our property.  In the early years of the 20thC we built most of the present ante-room.  In the 1970s we fully re-roofed the building and built the barrel ceiling.  We installed the lavatory and drainage.  We have twice had the building professionally re-wired.  We improved security following a break-in.  I could go on.

 4) When the lead was stolen from the roof of the ante-room causing massive damage to the building, we organised the external and internal repairs and re-decoration, which were very extensive.  In accordance with the terms of the lease the repairs to roof and ceiling were – quite properly – paid by the owner’s insurance.  The rest of the cost was covered by a Lodge member.

 5) It has been said we pay a “peppercorn” rent.  Not true.  We pay £2500 each year which is – I understand – a reasonable rent for such a building.   The Trust has already approached us about the expired lease and the Lodge Secretary is in regular contact with the Clerk.

6) It has been said that the Chapel is closed to Langport residents and to the wider public because it is used by the Freemasons.  Not true.  We have an obligation, which we very much welcome, to make the building accessible to the public.  Conducted visits can readily be arranged through the Lodge Secretary (secretaryatportcullis2038@gmail.com).  From time to time the Lodge holds open days – often coinciding with the Langport Walk.

I am not now an officer of the Lodge but I write this letter with the full knowledge and approval of the present Master, the Secretary and the Portcullis Lodge Committee.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Audemars, Somerton (full address supplied)