ONE of Colchester’s most loved and longest-standing art galleries and its on-site tea room are set to close after being hit by financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Colchester Institute and Wilkin and Sons have announced the Minories art gallery and the Tiptree Tea Room, in East Hill, will close down on financial grounds.

The college still has three years of its lease to run, but had been subsidising the art gallery from its core funding for a number of years.

With significant a financial impact coming from the coronavirus pandemic, the Colchester Institute Corporation Board felt it had little option but to close down the operation with immediate effect.

Alison Andreas, principal and chief executive of Colchester Institute, said: “It is really unfortunate that despite considerable efforts of our on-site team over the past two years, the site remains financially unviable for the college.

“We will continue to care for the building in accordance with our lease and we will support the Victor Batte Lay Trust to identify a new tenant at some point in the future.

“We would like to thank all of our supporters, including the Victor Batte-Lay Trust, the Friends of the Minories, Wilkin and Sons, Colchester Arts Society and many other stakeholders who have contributed to the site over the past 12 years.”

Scott Goodfellow, joint managing director of Wilkin and Sons, said it was with regret the firm decided to close the Batte-Lay tea room.

He said: “Whilst the venue itself is beautiful, we have not had the footfall we had hoped for. “We would like to thank all our customers and also the Minories Galleries and Colchester Institute for their support during our tenure.”

The Victor Batte-Lay Trust was set up in the 1950s and the Minories, a Grade II listed building, was sold on the strict condition it would continue to be used for artistic purposes.

Colchester Council’s former portfolio holder for business and culture, Tim Young, said he was concerned to hear about the Minories.

He added: “It holds such a special place in the history of Colchester and wonderful memories for so many people.

“I have asked the council to facilitate meetings with the Victor Batte-Lay Trust to make sure it survives and thrives as a beacon of art, culture and enjoyment for future generations.”