Manchester

Wythenshawe Hall fire: Man jailed for arson attack

Jeremy Taylor Image copyright David Dixon/Geograph
Image caption Jeremy Taylor admitted arson at a hearing in July

A man who set fire to a 16th Century Tudor mansion, leaving it partly destroyed, has been jailed.

At its height, 50 firefighters tackled the blaze at Wythenshawe Hall in Greater Manchester on 15 March 2016.

The roof and upper floor of the Grade II-listed timber-framed hall, built in 1540, were left completely gutted.

Jeremy Taylor, 28, of Cheadle Hulme, admitted arson and was jailed for four-and-a-half years at Manchester Crown Court.

Taylor had initially pleaded not guilty and was due to stand trial, but changed his plea in July.

In sentencing Taylor, judge Martin Redlands described it as "a single act of selfish folly".

After the sentencing hearing, Gary Logan, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said Taylor started the fire "for reasons only known to himself".

He was prosecuted after DNA and CCTV evidence linked him to the crime, he added.

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Media captionSmoke could be seen rising over the historic property

Paul Selby, vice-chairman of the Friends of Wythenshawe Hall, said: "We don't know why he did it and at the end of the day we all just wish this had never happened.

"He's a young man and he's ruined his life. There are no winners in this."

The stately home is owned by Manchester City Council, which is partly funding the repairs, along with money from insurance and charity fundraising.

Mr Selby said the cost to repair the damage would run into "millions, easily".

"Most of it can be restored but it's not original. We've lost hundreds and hundreds of years of history. It's not like we can just go down to B&Q to get the materials.

"It's not just us who have suffered, it's the much wider community. There are many, many people who have worked at the hall and in the hall who have been left devastated. It's really sad."

Mr Selby said repair work was progressing "slowly" and the "lengthy process" must be approved by Historic England.

Unique stained glass windows damaged in the fire were also being replaced, he said.

He added: "It won't be until we get the scaffolding down that people will be able to see its beauty, and the progress that's been made."

Image copyright Friends of Wythenshawe Hall
Image caption The building remains encased in scaffolding while repair work continues

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