The purchase of Downside Abbey from the English Benedictine community by the hotelier and entrepreneur Sir Rocco Forte has caused alarm in the Catholic community. Downside – an imposing gothic complex which became symbolic for many of the renewed confidence of an essentially ‘English’ Catholicism – is to become a landmark luxury hotel.
‘Echoes of Downton Abbey, for American visitors,’ said a spokesman for the group. ‘What people want these days is something with class and nostalgia. The buildings certainly have style and the former chapel will do service for grand banquets and as a venue for celebrity weddings. Sir Elton John has already taken an interest. Who knows, a second marriage may be in the offing.’
Fawltless Towers, as the properly is to be renamed, will be a no-expense-spared refurbishment in the high Victorian taste. All the accommodation will be in suites, some of which will have as many as five rooms.
‘We are hoping to attract African heads of state and people like that,’ the spokesman went on. ‘And Russian oligarchs.’
A press release by the English Benedictines said that the time had come to move into a less grandiose and more sustainable building. ‘We want to bring Downside into the twenty-first century with cutting- edge, echo-friendly architecture. You could call it our “less than grand design” ‘.