Victorian Society encourages opposition to George Eliot Visitor Centre plans

Image: The outbuilding at the rear of Griff House (The George Eliot Fellowship)

Plans to replace agricultural buildings that were once part of the author’s childhood home have come under fire

The Victorian Society are calling on the public to oppose the partial demolition of 19th-century writer George Eliot’s former farmstead.

Agricultural buildings associated with Eliot’s childhood home would be replaced by an enlarged ‘replica’, housing the George Eliot Visitor Centre and Museum, if plans are carried out.

The creation of the new visitor centre and museum is a project by the Griff Preservation Trust, and would see the replacement of the existing outbuilding on the Griff House site, on which also sits the farmhouse, now a Beefeater restaurant and Premier Inn Hotel owned by Whitbread plc.

The two-story red brick farmhouse was the home of novelist, journalist and translator Mary Ann Evans, known best by her pen name George Eliot.

Guy Newton, Conservation Adviser at the Victorian Society said the organisation supports the creation of the museum and visitors centre, in principle.

“However, it is crucial to get the details right to ensure harm to a designated heritage asset is mitigated,” Newton added, describing the buildings as “essentially authentic George Eliot artefacts”.

“Many historic house museums have previously lost their service areas – be those domestic or agricultural – in the mistaken belief that they were of no interest and irrelevant to the history of a house and its inhabitants. We must not repeat the mistakes of the past by destroying these agricultural buildings that were a part of George Eliot’s childhood home.”

It will be deconstructed and rebuilt to create an exhibition and sales area, which will house temporary and permanent exhibitions relating to George Eliot, and a meeting and learning space on the first floor.

The planning application is currently before Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council.