Castle mystery as monks quit

MONKS have left Todmorden causing concern for the future of a historical landmark.

The Losang Dragpa Centre, a Buddhist centre based at Dobroyd Castle, Todmorden has closed its doors after 12 years.

Fears have been expressed as to the future of the building, which fell into disrepair when left empty before the Buddhists arrived in 1995. And scheduled work for renovation of the roof has been left in the balance.

Todmorden Town Councillor and a Friend of Dobroyd Castle David O'Neill expressed his shock at hearing the news of the Buddhists' sudden departure.

"I heard there had been a meeting last Friday at which they decided to close it and now it's shut. I'm obviously really concerned about the building because I remember when it was closed for years before the Buddhists' bought it. My first fear was they were just going to leave at once but there was someone there when I went up," said Coun O'Neill, who lives close to the castle, which has been run as an approved school for boys by the Home Office and then as a privately run school for boys with emotional and behavioural problems before its transformation into a Buddhist centre.

"There were a number of people interested in turning it into a hotel or a computer centre before the Buddhists bought it but as far as I understand there was a covenant placed on the building by the Fielden family stipulating it must be used for educational purposes," added Coun O'Neill.

In March this year the Buddhists celebrated their successful bid for funding to renovate the leaking roof and save the intricate stone-work, which dates back to 1869. The grant for 127,000 from English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund would have gone a long way to funding the repairs and the Buddhists were hoping to raise the remaining funds to complete the scheme, which it is estimated will cost in the region of 200,000.

Trevor Mitchell, team leader for English Heritage in West Yorkshire, said he was aware the Buddhists were closing the centre.

"We have just found out about it. It's early days and we will contact them formally about how they want to proceed.

"They have had a small development grant of around 10,000 or 15,000 to find out what needs doing. The risk to the public purse is relatively small," said Mr Mitchell.

"But even though they have closed the centre it doesn't mean they have walked away from the building. People are still there at the moment looking after it."

During its time as the Losang Dragpa Centre the castle was home to about 20 monks and nuns at any one time and offered a range of activities for visitors, including meditation courses, weekend retreats, a cafe and annual summer fairs.

The castle was bought by the monks of the New Kadampa Buddhist Tradition for 320,000 in 1995. The tradition has centres in 40 countries worldwide with over 40 centres in England alone. In February this year the tradition acquired the 18th century 38-bedroom Chateau de Segrais set in 56 acres, just outside Le Mans in France.

No-one from the New Kadampa Buddhist Tradition was available to comment on the closure of Losang Dragpa Centre.