Rarely, if ever, has a property deal been bedeviled with such stupefying controversy. Fawley Court has got it all: greed, cheap quick-profit motives, bent trustee-priests, grave robbing, wholesale incompetence, conflicts of interest, business pals falling out, court room drama and scandal, forgery, debts, institutional paralysis… political plots, and sub-plots of Shakespearian proportions. It’s all here. Paradoxically, because of these extraordinary shenanigans, it is clear that Fawley Court WILL eventually revert to Polonia. But… do we really want it?
At present Fawley Court appears – cursed or blessed – with many problems. The most alarming now coming to light are: that the burial ground of around one acre within which stands St Anne’s Church possibly contains five unmarked graves; some forty three urns with human remains are unaccounted for; together with the ashes of many dear departed which are scattered around Fawley Court’s protected parkland.
Planning permission for the burial ground was sought primarily by Fr. Józef Jarzębowski together with Marian priests Paweł Jasiński, and ‘George’ Frankowski. The application was submitted on 12 May 1961 by Marian solicitors Witham & Co (today Pothecary Witham Weld), and permission was granted by Bucks County Council on 1 June 1961. It is alleged – after Fr Józef’s death – that for a tidy sum one could have a grave at Fawley Court, “…but without a tombstone”(!).
It is mystifying given that Fawley Court has its own burial ground, why would Fairmile Cemetery in Henley be host to so many of Fawley Court’s (and Hereford’s Lower Bullingham’s), departed; teachers, priests brothers, and friends. All, (save for Fr. Józef), are buried at Fairmile, Henley… or are they?
The date for the appeal against Justice Hallett’s unusual ruling supporting Kenneth Clarke’s Ministry of Justice decision to exhume Fr Jarzębowski has been set for Wednesday, 28 March. For everyone’s peace of mind it would now make eminent sense to examine Fawley Court’s burial ground, and surrounding parkland with geophysic, soil perforator detectors for evidence of all traces of human remains. Also, the thus far very seriously neglected issues of: “good” title; the right to sell; the illegally removed charity status, Fr Józef Museum; the Charity Commission’s involvement in the Marian’s self-serving deed changes – these issues, and more, should all be investigated prior to any judgement on Fr Józef’s exhumation.
Meanwhile other curses, or ‘blessings’ besetting Fawley Court today, which must be righted, include: ensuring the professional, chemically delicate process of removing the dangerous asbestos in the basement of the main building; ensuring the right flood insurance is in place (it has now come to light that the picturesque ‘Venetian’ canal-waterway is in fact a flood regulator!); ensuring that the roof of Fawley Court’s main building – destroyed by a horrendous fire on 29 June 1973 – is both safe, and has adequate insurance; ensuring that worshippers, and public, can forthwith continue – as prescribed by law – to visit or pray at St Anne’s; ensuring Polonia’s right of ownership to the Pilgrims House – Pope John Paul II building; ensure regaining ownership of the St Faustina Apostolate ‘building’ (the disused, neglected flintstone chapel premises by the farm); ensuring that all the missing statuary at Fawley Court be restored, and that all Grade I, and Grade II listed monuments are professionally and properly maintained – particularly the scientifically important, beautiful orange-brick Water/Clock Tower, and the unique pink-brick stables and barns (English Heritage, Wycombe District, and Bucks County Council planning authorities as the Register of Parks & Gardens of Special Historic Interest are all alerted – particularly with a view to ensure that binding C2 uses are not being breached); ensuring that the disgraceful “Auschwitz-Belsen” gates be dismantled forthwith; ensuring that our cherished public rights of way throughout Fawley Court be returned at once, (complaints are being lodged with the Local Government Ombudsman at the outrageous manner in which both Wycombe District Council and Bucks County Council arrived at their – unlawful/ undemocratic – gates, and public rights of way decisions.
And finally, to ensure that all Fawley Court’s wild flowers, priceless trees (some privately planted by Polonia visitors years ago), and animal species are all lawfully protected. Particular attention is drawn to the plight of our good friends and one of our many “blessed” guardians, the newly discovered Brown Long-Eared Bats, Plecotus Auritis. Their families are living cosily under the eaves of the main building, naturally oblivious to the fuss and commotion around them, largely generated by the Charity Commission’s scandalous inaction.
It is the same Charity Commission which when asked about the absolute rotters, rascals and spivs hanging around Fawley Court, respond with; The purchaser of charitable land is not an issue for the Commission. Our interest is limited to the disposal by the charity and cannot extend to making judgements on the moral suitability of a purchaser. [Letter to FCOB Chairman, 3rd September 2010]. Moral maybe not. But what about the law?
Time and again the Charity Commission has been asked, indeed implored, to initiate a Section 8 Enquiry. With every days that passes – it has now been three years – the Fawley Court affair throws up evermore breaches and scandal. The Section 8 Enquiry is now imminent, but wherein lies the fault?
In an interview with the Financial Times, (15 January 2012), the former US security advisor Zbigniew Brzeziński concludes with a blistering attack on former Prime Minister Tony Blair, saying: That guy (Blair) is a lightweight… I don’t like his political morals and how he’s been enriching himself since leaving office. He preaches high moral language but… (Brzezinski pauses as if wondering whether to continue.) I have a visceral contempt for Blair… Not dislike. Just contempt.
Strong stuff. But what in heaven’s name has this to do with Fawley Court? Well, quite a lot really. Zbigniew Brzeziński has a point. In office, ‘saint’ Tony Blair was forever moaning about how poorly paid he was as Britain’s Prime Minister. The Labour Party, and its Government under Blair went around reforming and reshaping the Charity Commission, and the traditional concept of Charity and Trust values and its works and objectives beyond recognition. This spineless behemoth ‘oversees’ 190,000 charities. This is a multi-billion pound industry. But guess who today, now out of office, is racking up one of the fastest number of newly formed trusts/charities, and is now the new Charity system’s main beneficiary of Labours charity reforms? Why none other than our ‘saint’ (and recent convert to Roman Catholicism) Tony Blair. Little wonder that Zbigniew Brzeziński is scathing, saying he doesn’t like how he (Tony Blair) has been enriching himself since leaving office.
As for Fawley Court today? With the documents and evidence now coming to light like a white hot tsunami, revealing not only the serious malpractice surrounding its bogus ‘sale’, but also the number of intelligent, professional wealthy well-wishers who could have, and still could put Fawley Court back on its feet, demonstrates how we were a whisker away from losing something so precious.
Do we, Polonia, want Fawley Court back? You bet we do. But it is going to take a damn sight more protest in numbers, cohesion, work and unity to achieve this.