Tuesday, April 7, 2015

News: Rotherham retailers relocate as restoration is revealed

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A number of independent retailers are moving into new premises as the wraps come off two historic buildings at the centre of the heritage-led regeneration of the town's High Street.

Local businessman, Chris Hamby is creating a complex of mixed-used retail outlets focusing on listed buildings and this week the scaffolding came down to reveal the hard work put in to rescue Rotherham's oldest surviving non-religious building, the Three Cranes, and the prominent Georgian town house at 29-29a High Street.

The former Three Cranes Inn, that occupied a timber framed building dating back to the 15th Century, is thought to be the oldest domestic building in the town and was probably built as a merchant's town house around 1600. The grade 2* listed building is the only timber framed building to survive in Rotherham town centre. It is on English Heritage's "at risk register" and has been in a state of disrepair for many years.

Now housing Hamby's own antique centre, the restoration will allow for rooms above to be used as a heritage centre given the historic nature of the building. Conscientious owner Chris has also highlighted the historic fabric of the building by leaving certain features on show. This includes remnants of an earlier wing that consisted of a medieval open hall block that retains evidence for a high status "coved" area at one end, known as a dais, in addition to the remains of a vaulted undercroft beneath.
The Georgian town house was just a shell of a building containing the remains of a burnt-out Italian restaurant at 29A High Street. It was once occupied by the Badger family, a notable family of solicitors and lawyers. A new Victorian shop frontage and Doric door has been installed with the upper floors being converted into flats. An independent retailer is set to move across town to take the impressively restored unit.

Hamby's shoe shop is set to move back from 19 High Street into the former John Mason Jewellers building at the top of the High Street that was restored in a previous round of the heritage initiative. Independent fashion retailers, Yella Brick Road and Things That Boys Like are joining forces to expand into the vacated unit at 19 High Street whilst the Holy Ghost Tattoo Collective takes on their vacated unit in the Imperial Buildings.

The project has been backed by a £750,000 long term capital finance loan from Rotherham Council that has secured £677,000 of Heritage Lottery Funding (HLF) for additional, much needed works.

The work is part of the £3m Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) scheme that sees property owners and long term lease holders secure grants enabling them to restore, renovate and repair their historic buildings which are all within a conservation area. The aim is to encourage new shops, apartments and businesses to locate in the town centre.

An additional £140,000 was approved by the council, in the form of a long term capital finance loan and the council's cabinet approved further funding, in the form of an additional £300,000 loan and £190,000 grant, to enable the works to be finished.

Rotherham is a "Portas Pilot" using government and private sector funding to support retail which has helped to reduce vacancy rates, boost footfall and increase shopper satisfaction. A focus has been on creating a different and vibrant retail offer by supporting independent traders.

Like Yella Brick Road and Hamby's, Wray's Butchers has secured a grant from the council and is currently fitting out new premises on Effingham Street in what was the former Ilkeston Co-Op Travel shop. The family business has been trading in Rotherham for over 50 years, most recently on Upper Millgate.

Chris Taylor, owner of Wrays Butchers, said: "We are very proud to be in Rotherham town centre. The supermarkets wiped out many independent butchers but our customers have been extremely loyal and we have worked hard to keep our prices very low without losing our product quality.

"The new location will mean that the company can continue as it always has but the extra space will mean there will be opportunities to offer new products and even better deals.

"The investment in the new shop has been significant and the company is very grateful for the Town Centre Business Development Grant we were allocated from the Council."

Co- director of Wrays Butchers, Deborah Taylor, added: "The support and encouragement we have received from the Retail Investment Team at the Council has been brilliant. They are as passionate as we are about making this work and helping Rotherham town centre become a vibrant and enjoyable place to shop."

Hamby's website
Rotherham town centre website

Images: Tom Austen

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