MoD’s Kneller Hall Plan Hits Bum Note

There’s growing concern locally about the recent Ministry of Defence announcement of plans to sell Kneller Hall. The sale of the Hall in Whitton will form part of wider MoD property strategy to raise funds and plug funding gaps. It is sure to have developers rubbing their hands at the prospect of acquiring the listed building and its adjoining land. Kneller Hall is home to the Royal Military School of Music and has been home to Army bands since it was taken on by the War Office in 1857. The prospect of breaking that 150 year link and seeing the listed building pass into private ownership has met with strong opposition from local people, local councillors of both the blue and yellow persuasion and Twickenham MP Tania Mathias.

"Kneller Hall" by Jonathan Cardy - Own work UK freedom of panorama. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Kneller Hall” by Jonathan CardyOwn work UK freedom of panorama. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Dr Mathias has said she was ‘dismayed’ to hear the announcement of the plans and that she will be fighting against them.  She has asked to meet with ministers to try to persuade them to reverse the decision. Meanwhile Council Leader Nick True, aka the Blue Baron, has got himself into ‘slamming mode’ once again. In an El Brute press release he says, “This is a decision which the people of Twickenham and Richmond-upon-Thames Council will seek to resist in any way possible… Kneller Hall is an important piece of not just local, but national cultural and military heritage. It should not be tossed away to please junior accounting clerks in the Treasury with no understanding of the place of military music in London’s life and our nation’s military history.”  Wallop! ‘Ave it! In your faces ‘Junior accounting clerks in the Treasury’, you have been warned!

An online petition has been set up to try to save the Kneller Hall from being sold off. To be continued…

LINKS
* Save Kneller Hall Facebook
* Online Petition
* Richmond Council page
* Tania Mathias MP page
* Kneller Hall – Army site
* Kneller Hall – wikipedia

14 Comments

Filed under Council, Local Issues & News

14 responses to “MoD’s Kneller Hall Plan Hits Bum Note

  1. The Heritage of Army Music is important to us all and to give the Commandant of Kneller Hall his due, he has personally been developing the Army Music Museum since 2012 for accreditation as an official MOD Museum. The reason for this is that as a Private Collection, as the Museum formerly was before his tenure, if the Museum had to move the Commandant and his 2 Trustees of the Museum would have to fund the move of the Museum to either Chatham Barracks or Minley Manor Barracks out of the Museum’s charity funds (registered at the Charity Commission of England and Wales as number 2737620) which at the last audit totalled only £5987.40. This amount would be insufficient to insure and transport £100,000 worth of artefacts and re-house them in new, which they would have to purchase, display cases at a new location.

    On the other hand should this Museum be accredited as an official MOD Museum with the Heritage Branch, then not only would the MOD pay for the removals they would also fund a civil service post of curator.

    I regret that a Public Meeting at Kneller Hall on 18 March 2016 stands little chance in swaying the MOD on this issue: alea iacta est.

  2. The Commandant confirmed the future of Kneller Hall on 29 Feb 16:
    1. The Royal Military School of Music is definitely moving out – the decision is firm and irreversible.
    2. It will be a good move for Army Music – Kneller Hall is not fit for purpose.
    3. New Recruits will get a purpose built facility & he hopes the Army, Royal Marines & Royal Air Force music schools will merge into one Defence Music School.
    4. There will be a public meeting at Kneller Hall on Friday 18 March at 7.30 p.m. with Tania Mathias MP.

  3. It is a bit clumsy to say that our musisicans have been enduring “ageing single living accommodation and sub-optimal facilities that do not meet appropriate training standards”. So for how long has that been going on then Under-Secretary of State for Defence?

  4. Tania Mathias’ adjournment debate is at: https://twickerati.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/kneller-hall-sale-plan-petition/ with a reply from Mark Lancaster, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, who said:

    ‘ . . the facilities in which they are currently homed are ageing, inefficient and not fit for purpose. How can it be that an organisation that contributes so much at home and overseas is expected to train and operate out of an old and failing site? The school and the headquarters have a very small footprint. There are 43 military and 30 civilian staff permanently employed at the site. Regardless, it is unfair that those 73 people have to endure ageing single living accommodation and sub-optimal facilities that do not meet appropriate training standards. The fact is that the site just is not designed for its current use. It is a stately home, not a school, and it is definitely not a military training facility. To bring the site up to standard for its current use would cost at least £30 million.

    So what can we do with the site? Do we invest over £30 million of taxpayers’ money in an ageing site that houses fewer than 75 staff? Should Defence invest in a site where maintenance costs will continue to rise over the years? Is that really in the best interests of Defence and military capability, and the best use of taxpayers’ money? . . ‘

    Relocation to Chatham or Minley in Hampshire is the plan.

  5. When the MOD spokesperson told Vince Cable in January 2015 that “”We currently have no plans to dispose of Kneller Hall. We keep all our sites under review, to make sure they meet the needs of Defence in the most efficient and cost-effective way” she may have not been briefed on Project CLEF, initiated circa January 2012 by the Royal Military School of Engineering of which the Royal Military School of Music is a campus. (Previously Kneller Hall had been part of the Sandhurst Group of colleges but transferred to be part of Chatham’s Group around that time). As confirmed by the Commandant of Kneller Hall in his interview to Forces TV of 23 January this year the project has now narrowed the future location of Army Music to either the Royal Engineers Barracks at Minley Manor or Chatham itself. It might be in the Public Interest to know exactly when this decision was taken by the Royal Military College of Engineering as it would be wrong for incorrect information to have been given to a constituency MP (also then a Cabinet Minister) by the MOD particularly as there will be a debate on this issue in Parliament next week on 24 February?

  6. Vince Cable’s proposed meeting with the Commandant of Kneller Hall a year ago was cancelled by orders of Army HQ because its Project CLEF was already 3 years into detailed planning, with the Commandant of Kneller Hall, and possibly controversial as it involves civilian job losses (The academic and instrumental professors plus catering/cleaning staff etc).

    Tania Mathias will need the “Toby Jessel” spirit and more to persuade the MOD to do a 180 degree turn on this issue. She should request sight of the Army HQ Project CLEF papers before the debate in Parliament next week?

  7. John S Simons

    They cannot sell it for housing!! I know.😄

  8. Debs

    Dont despair, perfect opportunity to meet the area school needs?

  9. David

    Mathias and True need to stop posing that they can run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. Theyback the ToryGovernment. They both vote for it at Westminster. They should have the guts to stand by its decisions locally and not be two faced hypocrites.

    • David

      Really? You think it takes more guts to back their own party’s government than to oppose it? Personally I want local representatives, regardless of party, to look out for local interests, which is exactly what they seem to be doing.

  10. Paul Luton

    Well ….. If we could save the original Kneller Hall – built by Christopher Wren for Sir Godfrey Kneller, (nee Gottfried Kniller ) pupil of Rembrandt and court painter to Charles II it would be worth getting excited about. The existing Victorian bloat rather less so.

  11. Alan Winter

    Huge kudos to Tania if she can get this decision reversed! Go Tania!