In the UK's not too distant past large areas of buildings were being cleared to make way for modern often concrete structures and many of our historic buildings were caught up in this rush to modernise with many being lost, abandoned or altered beyond recognition. Conservation of buildings was still in its infancy though gaining strength from the apparent lack of respect for their significance and the important contribution they made.
Towns and cities were losing their individual identity and becoming increasingly dull and uniform with this eventually leading to the announcement of the European Architectural Heritage Year (EAHY) in 1975. Late in 1973 Alan Bemrose was tasked with the organisation of the (EAHY) for this area and decided to establish something more permanent. This resulted in the formation of a group consisting of local council officers, professionals, representatives of civic and other societies and other Derbyshire authorities along with a few interested lay people. Being structured so that the trustees who offered professional services would be unpaid, a separate panel of paid professionals was also formed to make up a technical panel.
Early on in the Trust's development it was decided that it should operate on a rolling fund model with available grants and low interest loans that were then offered, being used to provide the capital to complete the building repairs. Promotion of the Trust throughout the county helped to highlight the plight of the many buildings at risk and owners were inspired to complete repairs and several demolition orders were lifted.
The Trust concentrated its own efforts on saving the buildings for which no easy solution was available by providing its own programme of repair. In the spring of 1976 work had commenced on the Toll Bar Cottage on Kedleston Road Derby, a dilapidated 19th century building which was repaired and sold at auction. Whilst the work on this building was being undertaken the Trust acquired Stud Farm Cottages Boythorpe Chesterfield, a building which was once an 18th century farmhouse though converted into two cottages in the 19th century. Once the work was completed these properties were also sold at auction.
Over the next few years the Trust continued to use the "renovate and resell model" and it was successfully used for other projects including twenty terraced cottages at Golden Valley in Riddings, The Old School House at Twyford and 42-46 The Market Place Bolsover.
By 1979 the Trust had completed many projects several of which had won awards and the following years would see it to continue to have success with its work in Derby and Wirksworth. Their work in Derby would involve the rescue of an early group of houses and an inn which were built by the North Midland Railway company between 1841 and 1843. After three years work seventeen different house types were restored and modernised with outside areas also upgraded to provide gardens and car parking. Also included in the project was the restoration of The Brunswick Inn which has since gone on to be one of Derby’s most successful pubs and has recently been named Derby CAMRA pub of the year (2016).
Whilst heavily involved in the Derby Railway Terraces, work was also underway at Wirksworth where the Trust was working in partnership with The Civic Trust to renovate several buildings in the town. These included 1-3 Greenhill, a fine stone house built in about 1631 by William Hopkinson, a local wealthy lead merchant and the former Blacksmiths Shop which stands opposite. Following restoration both properties were retained by the Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust and are now partially occupied by the Trust which has an office in the Greenhill building with the remaining space being let to commercial tenants.
Over the next 15 years the Trust successfully completed many exciting projects including Barlborough Old Hall and the Buxton Thermal Baths in the 1980s and the Derby Arboretum Lodge in the 1990s.
To find out more about the Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust’s first twenty years here
This history has recently been updated by Maxwell Craven, the Trust's honorary historian.
Since the late 1990s the Trust has remained active though its role has been more in an advisory capacity with buildings at risk still being identified and investigations into their reuse being carried out.
In recent years changes in the way historic buildings-at-risk are funded, has heralded the need for building preservation trusts to re-examine their roles and the way they operate. Recognising the need for rejuvenation within the organisation to successfully complete projects in this restructured environment, the Trust approached The Heritage Lottery Fund for funding assistance in 2015 and this was awarded in early 2016.
The Trust are now leading a significant National Lottery Heritage Fund project at Wingfield Station - find out more about it here.