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At the end of October, Dorset County Council decided not to grant a new 99-year lease to Sherborne House Trust because the trust could not guarantee enough income to maintain the house in the long term.

Trust chairman John Miller felt they could have supplied an income in the “shorter to medium term”, but could not persuade the council to give them more time to come up with an acceptable business plan.

Frink made Dorset her home for the last 16 years of her life. It was always her wish that her sculpture be displayed in a natural setting and preferably in the county that she adopted as her own. Sherborne House planned to hold a permanent and rotating collection in the house and grounds and was funded by the Art Council for several years.

Now, some of her sculptures have been moved to Yorkshire’s Sculpture Park, but the rest remain at Sherborne House, with an undertain future ahead of them.

Like Frink, Mr Miller believes: “It is important that her archive stays in the Country, better still the county. The worst scenario would be work falling into the hands of private owners, where the public would never be able to view the masterpieces again.”

Mr Miller thinks the Grade 1 listed house will sell for about £4m, and he expects that the land will be used as a building site for new houses and flats. He is now hoping that the buyer decides to work with the trust and allow the arts programme to continue. “What we need is a developer with an artistic vision, then wonderful things could happen,” he said.

The existing programme runs to August 2008 but the house could be forced to close as early as Spring next year.

By Laura Nightingale