PLANS to demolish historic outbuildings behind what was once the home of George Eliot have caused outrage among her admirers.
Hotel and restaurant giants Whitbread want to pull down the outbuildings at Griff House where the great Victorian novelist lived for the first 21 years of her life.
But members of the George Eliot Fellowship which honours and promotes the work of the woman, who put Nuneaton on the world literary map are up in arms.
Whitbread’s application for listed building consent to get rid of the outbuildings is to be heard by the borough council’s planning committee next week.
The borough council’s conservation officer is in favour of their demolition, but the George Eliot Fellowship want Whitbread to think again.
Griff House attracts visitors from all over the world as part of a literary pilgrimage in the footsteps of the great writer, who was born Mary Ann Evans and rivalled people like Dickens and Thackeray at the height of her power.
George Eliot Fellowship chairman John Burton said: “We are urging Whitbread to devise a scheme which would preserve these buildings which the young George Eliot knew and worked in.
“We are also urging English Heritage to step in and include the outbuildings in the official listing of Griff House.
“When the Fellowship takes visitors to Griff House on George Eliot walks or tours they are amazed when we go round to the rear of the building and suddenly step back two hundred years to a simpler, more humble farmstead where outbuildings and farmhouse merge and where chickens still scratch away.
“As a girl, this would have been an area Mary Ann knew so well as she helped in the dairy or with the cheese making."
He added: “Thirty years later when George Eliot started her writing career, the girlhood memories of life in the dairy and the farmyard with its mud and its ‘plodding’ cows, all of the things which made ‘Adam Bede’ such startling read and a best seller, came from her imaginative interpretation of those girlhood memories from Griff House and its farm buildings and outbuildings.
“It is well established that Griff House forms part of the imaginative hinterland for ‘The Mill on the Floss,’ but it needs to asserted how important Griff and all of its buildings were in the early novels of the writer.
“Surely, it is not beyond the realm of our imagination to find a use for these buildings which would help to ensure the continuing success of Griff as a place of literary pilgrimage to a great writer.
“Our visitors from America and Japan every year would be staggered to think that we are going to allow them to be demolished.
“In economic terms, George Eliot is the area’s unique selling point and she does bring many visitors from all over the world.
“It would be sad if these visitors were to walk round the back of Griff House and see only an empty space.”
The application will go before planning councillors at the Town Hall on Monday.