12th century monastery hit by golf balls 31 times in last five years

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir September 15, 2022 11:00

The best-preserved medieval monastery in Devon and Cornwall, Torre Abbey, has spent £20,000 on repairs due to being hit by golf balls from a neighbouring nine-hole golf course.

A Freedom of Information request to Torquay Council has revealed that the historic building and art gallery has been hit by golf balls 31 times since 2017, costing the local authority about £20,000 in repairs.

The building, founded in 1196 as a monastery for Premonstratensian canons, is now a grade I listed wedding venue.

The authority has said that it is struggling to rent out the venue due to leaks caused by holes in the roof. The Spanish Barn, which seats 200 guests, had previously proven popular with couples because of its rustic appearance, high beamed ceilings and parquet flooring, reports The Times.

In 2017 the council spent £12,500 to repair the barn’s roof due to a “significant number of holes created by golf balls hitting it and breaking the slates” from the Torre Abbey Leisure Centre, which has operated in the same location for 80 years.

A spokesman for Torquay council said that since 2017 the holes have continued to be created by golf balls with some reports of double holes — two or more holes created close together, forming a large opening in the roof.

He said: “It is believed the double holes have been caused by the layout of the green and the direction of the players’ strokes. The number of holes in the roof is impacting on the ability to hire the Barn due to rain coming through. Torquay Council will therefore need to invest in the fixing of this in the near future.”

The council estimates that the repairs will cost about £20,000.

Torre Abbey. Image from Facebook

The spokesman added that a long-term review of activities at the leisure centre, which is a tenant of the authority, was under way and would form the basis of any future recommendations on the type of activities permitted in the area.

The golf course had previously attempted to fit netting to “catch” errant balls but the council voiced concerns that stakes used to hold the nets in place could damage the archeological sites that may be buried underneath.

“We have been continuously reviewing the use of public space around Torre Abbey as part of the phased restoration of this important heritage asset,” added the council.

“We are acutely aware of the damage to the roof, and we have discussed our concerns with the ‘pitch & putt’ tenant, who recognise the problem. The damage is accidental, but it remains a concern.

“A strategic review of the bay’s open spaces which includes the area in front of the Spanish Barn, down to the sea, will be given due consideration next year alongside the needs of the council’s events strategy and the need for improved access to Torre Abbey, to increase footfall.

“There will be further public consultation and community engagement once we resume work on our open spaces strategy.”

Torquay Council also noted damage to the building’s windows which are set to be repaired next year.

Heath Parkin, who owns the golf course, says measures have been taken to rectify the problem.

He said: “The bottom line is the problem is historical dating right back to when the course was designed over 80 years ago. A golf green was made right next to the barn which meant balls would always be hit in that vicinity.

“We rectified the problem last season by completely removing the green from that area and constructing a new green in another part of the course. So now nobody hits any balls anywhere near the direction of the Spanish Barn, so the problem is solved from my perspective.”

The Spanish Barn earned its name in 1588 when nearly 400 Spanish Armada sailors were crammed inside in poor conditions after they were captured off the Devon coast by English naval forces under the command of Sir Francis Drake.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir September 15, 2022 11:00
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