Villa Frere granted highest level of protections by PA

To find Villa Frere, make your way to Pieta and walk behind St Luke’s Hospital grounds; there, you’ll see the entrance to this historical site and captivating garden that once welcomed dignitaries, scholars, gentlemen and many artists. Heritage Malta entrusted the care and operation of this garden to NGO Friends of Villa Frere a year ago, but the group – founded by local architect and botanical expert Edward Said – has been caring after the place for over six years.

The partnership agreement – the first of its kind – saw Villa Frère officially promoted, maintained, opened to the public and run by the NGO Friends of Villa Frère.

The villa has been in the news some time ago after it was threatened by an application that sought to build a 10-storey retirement home at Giardino Zamitello, which is adjacent to the villa’s gardens. For some years, the NGO has been working together with other organisations to appeal projects and developments that affect the Villa negatively, and just this week, they wrapped up another victory for the Villa when the planning authority granted it the highest level of protection from other developments.

Martin Saliba Chairperson of the Planning Authority’s Executive Council said “although most of this property, which is one of the finest examples of 18th century Neoclassical British architecture in Malta, has already been protected as a Grade 2 building for several years, we strongly feel that Villa Frere merits the highest level of protection. The heritage richness of this property is not only tied to the architecture of the villa and its terraced gardens but also important is the social and cultural experience that this property was exposed to.” 

The gardens of Villa Frere is open to visitors and regularly hosts events and activities.

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Perit Edward Said, Founder of heritage NGO Friends of Villa Frere said “We are very satisfied that the Planning Authority has upgraded to a Grade 1 monument status with the protection of Villa Frere. It reassures us that the sterling work and dedication many volunteers put into carefully conserving the existing fabric of the property over the last seven years and making it accessible to the public is not time-wasted. The Villa and its unique grounds standing are distinct and once internationally acclaimed. The estate attained a carefully planned yet organic design, defined by the Pieta’ hillside landscape rather than based on formality and symmetry which usually characterise Maltese gardens. Together with Heritage Malta we will keep working to preserve this State-owned property for future generations.”

In a post published yesterday, Edward Said thanked everyone for their support, but also reminded everyone that, while this level of protection goes a long way, there are still more threats to the Villa’s future.

Almost as if he knew, our resident Merill sang happily from his customary vantage point on the Tower of Four Winds early yesterday evening sharing our sentiment at the news that Villa Frere now holds the ultimate level of protection and recognition as a national monument. For this we heartily thank the Planning Authority, Superintendence of Cultural Heritage; we thank our partners in the project Heritage Malta and most of all we thank our now countless volunteers, supporters and benefactors without whom we wouldn’t have reached almost seven years of such accomplishments.

The road ahead is still a daunting one, with two planning appeals and three full development applications currently underway which if approved would impact directly on Villa Frere forever. Nonetheless we shall keep striving to safeguard this place, its context and rich memories that are now fully recognised as a jewel of Malta history and identity.

May 25, 05, 2020 – Published on Friends of Villa Frere by Edward Said

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