The recent success of the National Winter Beer Festival was due, in part, to its venue in the iconic Roundhouse – the former Midland Railway engine shed – that now houses a wide range of events. Yet the Roundhouse languished for years with an uncertain future before being creatively re-used and promoted by Derby College.
On the other side of the tracks, The Brunswick Inn, with its own brewery, has been voted CAMRA Pub of the Year. The Brunswick was the first ever purpose built railway travellers inn, as were the adjacent 57 Railway Cottages the first in the world. Yet these too languished under threat of demolition for years in the 1970s until rescued by the Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust.
So why is it that buildings like the former GNR Warehouse on Friargate, The Hippodrome, Allestree Hall and the pretty Smith’s Clocks building on Queen Street, currently languish without any clear future? And where are the Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust (DHBT) that rescued so many Derbyshire buildings throughout the 70’s 80’s and 90’s? Without them we would not have half a dozen of the oldest buildings in Wirksworth, or the Cavendish Arcade at Buxton.
Like many trusts and businesses the DHBT has had difficulty responding to the changing economic climate, and, whilst ‘beavering away’ to monitor historic buildings at risk and encourage others to maintain and re-use them it has been unable to lead by example for some time.
But, hopefully now, all that might change. The Trust, with the aid of a £29,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is undertaking a detailed study of how it can become more effective in today’s economic circumstances and save more historic buildings at risk of dereliction or demolition.
Integral to this study is the initial scoping of how to rescue and re-use the 12 buildings in Derbyshire thought to be most at risk. Whilst this short list has yet to be finalised, it is likely to include those buildings, referred to earlier, in Derby, and will certainly include the former Wingfield Station and the iconic complex of Mills at Belper.
The study will also analyse how it can engage the communities that care about these buildings and offer opportunities for training in the fields of building conservation crafts, architectural research and community action.
The Trust are interested to hear from the general public of historic buildings they consider to be at risk, and also from those people who would like to help make it happen, even if only by spreading the word. The Trust seeks assistance from a wide range of people, skilled and unskilled, experienced or just interested, and from a technical, promotional, business or community background. There is hardly an experience or skill which would not be of use!
This scoping study will conclude with a conference in the Autumn , at which all will be welcome, to disseminate its findings and hopefully, with public support, work with the Heritage Lottery Fund to rescue these neglected buildings and put them to good use. Not just for drinking beer but for holiday and other leisure uses, offices, homes and education for working, living and learning.
If you think you might able to help in some way, however small, please contact us