The developers of one of the most historic houses in Trowbridge have denied removing the roof to allow the weather to ruin its interior.

Ashford Homes in Bradford on Avon is working on a major project to convert the Grade II* listed Courtfield House in Polebarn Road into four luxury apartments.

The company is also building a further 16 new homes – being marketed as Courtfield Gardens – in the 1.65-acre grounds of the 17th century house built for a wealthy clothier.

Since starting the project last year, Ashford Homes has worked with Wiltshire Council and Historic England to redevelop the house, which was once on Historic England’s ‘at risk’ register.

Wiltshire Times: The covering is now gone from the roof of the historic Courtfield House, leaving the interior open to the elements. Photo: Trevor Porter 70512-2The covering is now gone from the roof of the historic Courtfield House, leaving the interior open to the elements. Photo: Trevor Porter 70512-2 (Image: Trevor Porter)

But the chair of Trowbridge Civic Society, Glyn Bridges, recently contacted Wiltshire Council’s conservation officer and Historic England to complain that the removal of the roof was allowing the elements to damage the interior.

He said: “The Civic Society is very concerned about the state of Courtfield House.

“For a very long time it was fully covered but a few weeks ago the cover was removed and since then there have been a number of very heavy rainfalls.

“One can only imagine the damage this amount of water is doing to the interior of this Grade II* property.

“To the cynic it would seem that the developer wants the building to be in such a state as to require its demolition. I am sure this is not so but we thought it necessary to bring this matter to your attention.”

Tom Griffiths, development director of Ashford Homes, said: “Given the significant amount of time and care that we have invested in this project, that is a rather disappointing allegation.

“Works are progressing in close consultation with Wiltshire Council’s Conservation Officers and Historic England as required under the conditions of our listed building consent.

“The roof needed to be removed to enable us to assess its structural condition and to agree those elements can remain, which require remedial strengthening, and which require replacing.

“Ensuring that this work is undertaken safely and with due care to the listed building does of course take time and necessitates the use of specialist contractors, but we look forward to ensuring that the building is made watertight as soon as possible.”

Cllr Nick Botterill, Wiltshire Council's Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning, said: “We have been working with the developer and Historic England to support a safe and timely restoration of Courtfield House, a Grade II* listed property.

“The covers have been removed to facilitate restoration works down through the property as the interior is currently an unsafe work environment.

"This was deemed to be the best option as the only alternative would be for demolition contractors to create a safe work environment from the ground upwards which would have led to the loss of more of the building fabric. Neither of these options is ideal but safety is always the paramount concern for building works.

“We visited the site on 9 January 2024 and the works are progressing well.”

Having been empty and derelict for several years, Courtfield House was falling into disrepair and was placed on Historic England’s “at-risk” register before work started.

Historic England said: “The roof structure of the house was in poor condition with a collapsing valley gutter.”

A Historic England spokesperson added: “Live permission was granted in October 2022 for works on the property, this permission expires after three years.

“I have flagged this with our inspector but often our engagement stops when we provide our advice,

"It is for the Local Planning Authority to discharge the conditions which, if part of the consent, would include methodology for stripping the roof coverings.”

Work on Courtfield House is expected to be completed by the summer of this year. The homes are being marketed through sales agents Cobb Farr in Bradford on Avon and Chase Buchanan in Trowbridge.