The arson attack that tore through Wythenshawe Hall on Tuesday morning has been labelled as typical of the disconnect in society by a descendant of the family who once lived there.
Richard Jackson, chairman of the Friends of Wythenshawe Hall Group, holds the famous Tatton family in his lineage, and helped open the historic building to the public four years ago.
Speaking after Greater Manchester Police appealed for help in catching the culprits, Mr Jackson could not believe why people would wilfully seek to destroy the beautiful 16th-century building.
“You can imagine that we are devastated at how this has happened,” said Mr Jackson.
“There’s just this feeling in our society and throughout the world that people will attack something that they don’t even know, which is depressing.
“What’s the matter with these people?
“We don’t understand why somebody wants to punish us, and destroy such an asset.
“We need to reach out to the younger people – to make them realise this is theirs as well.
“It’s not my house, it’s everybody’s house, and so from that point of view they need to look after it, not burn it down.”
The Friends of Wythenshawe Hall Group raised sufficient funds to open the Grade II listed building to the public after it had lay dormant for two years due to lack of council funds.
Following the latest blow, there had been some fears that the building, which holds regular historical and community events, might be left unused once more – something Councillor Sue Cooley defiantly dismissed today.
“There’s a determination that this iconic building, although it’s damaged, will not be destroyed and will be repaired as soon as humanly possible,” she said.
“When I heard the news, I shed tears, because it means so very much to me and to so many other people in Wythenshawe.
“I could perhaps live with it if I thought it was accidental, and I maybe naively assumed it was the electrics, but finding out that someone had deliberately tried to destroy this building made me very angry.”
Speaking to the assembled press this morning, Inspector Luke Breakspear from GMP confirmed that the force was treating the case as arson.
Officers and fire fighters have seized items from within the building which have been singed, and are now being forensically examined.
The Hall lies in Wythenshawe Park, five miles south of Manchester city centre, and with the park regularly used as a shortcut, the police have appealed for potential witnesses.
“We are trying to eliminate those who have genuinely used the park just as a cut-through, so please come forward if you have,” he said.
“You might have seen something that might be relevant to the case so please come forward.
“We are also asking for any private CCTV because that might hold some key to finding the people responsible.”
In addition to catching those responsible, attention now turns to helping to restore the building.
The Friends group has set up a JustGiving page with the aim of raising £250,000 to repair the building itself, and any items damaged, which you can find here.
Anyone with any information can contact GMP on 0161 856 4882.