Tuesday, September 13, 2011

News: Chequered past of Rotherham's historic properties


Listed buildings on the High Street in Rotherham town centre are finally set for a new lease of life after Rotherham Council's cabinet approved a loan to facilitate the purchase and subsequent re-development of key properties.

The £750,000 long term capital finance loan from the council to local businessman, Chris Hamby will facilitate the purchase and subsequent re-development of Nos 17, 19 and 21 High Street along with the listed buildings know as "The Three Cranes" and the former Georgian Town House and The George Wright Building.

The loan will also secure £677,000 of Heritage Lottery Funding (HLF) for additional, much needed works to the listed buildings.

The buildings have been disused for a number of years with a fire at the Italian restaurant earlier this year, the latest in a line of problems.

The former Three Cranes Inn occupied a timber framed building dating back to the 15th Century. An earlier wing consists of a medieval open hall block that retains evidence for a high status "coved" area at one end, in addition to the remains of a vaulted undercroft beneath. This building represents a potentially unique survival for South Yorkshire of in situ medieval domestic architecture on a burgage plot.

The grade 2* listed building is on English Heritage's "at risk register" as showing signs of structural decay and faulty rainwater goods.

The buildings have had occupiers ranging from a butcher's, Wakefield Army Stores, Freeman Hardy Willis, and latterly a discount store.

The grade 2 listed George Wright Building (pictured above) is an early 19th century former office built in a Tudor Revival style with columned entrance and arched windows, and tall octagonal turrets rising above the battlemented parapet of its roof.

The building has been sold a number of times with little done to protect the heritage of the buildings. In 2008, the council were forced to serve an urgent works notice and subsequently a repairs notice on the owner, enabling them to carry out emergency repairs to make the building weather tight.

The building was famously occupied by George Wright & Company in the 1800's who designed and manufactured elaborate stoves and fireplaces. It was later used as a wine bar and restaurant.

The Georgian town house that now contains the remains of the Italian restaurant at 29A High Street was occupied by the Badger family, a notable family of solicitors and lawyers.

In 2009, the council's cabinet approved the compulsory purchase of some of the buildings from the liquidator in the administration of Blandford Associates Limited for £455,000. However, Yorkshire Forward withdrew the grant funding for the project in 2010.

The Leader of Rotherham Borough Council, Coun. Roger Stone, described Mr. Hamby's plans as "absolutely brilliant news for this part of Rotherham's High Street."

He said: "Mr. Hamby made a formal request to the authority for a long-term loan, which will be paid back over 25 years. After careful consideration by our finance officers, we have agreed in principal to that and officers are now working on drawing up a formal loan agreement including appropriate security.

"As I have said many times before, this council has to look at ways to help people and businesses for the greater good of Rotherham as a whole. This loan will do that because it allows Mr Hamby to access lottery funding to regenerate an important part of the town centre.

"In this current economic climate the restoration of these buildings would be impossible without the involvement of a co-operative private owner who can access the lottery funding before. This is a once-in-a-decade opportunity and I applaud Mr Hamby's enthusiasm and wish him well in his plans."

The buildings are key to the £3m Townscape heritage Initiative which is supported by funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Rotherham Borough Council.

The project 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.

Chris Hamby's Rotherham store has recently undergone a £250,000 renovation works as part of the THI scheme to restore the former Mason's Jewellers to its former glory.

Hamby's website

Images: Edward Symmons


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