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12-month project to reopen historic Cumbrian hall to public

A heritage group hopes to have Workington Hall open to the public in time for Christmas next year.

Workington hall photo
Workington Heritage Group outside the hall

The Grade I listed hall fell into disrepair in the 1970s and has been out of bounds to the public for nearly a decade amid safety fears.

But members of the Workington Heritage Group hope the hall, which has been added to the English Heritage at risk register, will be made sufficiently safe to be reopened in just over a year as a ruin.

The Workington Heritage Group and the Workington Hall Action Group have joined forces to revive the fortunes of the building after decades of neglect.

Jmercia Haughan, of the group, said: “We would very much like to have it in use by 2013. Our primary aim is access to the public.

“One of the things we need to do is to encourage people that the hall will have a life because they are all disappointed they have lost it.”

Fellow member Helen Fowler added: “English Heritage will give Allerdale Council some time to do it up and if they don’t they will step in, do it themselves and bill the council.”

The group will also hope to have the hall lit up at night as it was a decade ago.

Mark Jenkinson, of the group, said: “Members of the public will notice that night-time trials will be taking place with a view to a future permanent display.

“It will put it back in people’s minds and showcase it to the town.”

Members also hope to work in partnership with other groups who use the grounds, including the Friends of Workington Parklands and the West Cumbria Guild Of Model Engineers.

The group is planning to get a feasibility study carried out to see what can be done with the hall and how much it would cost.

A steering group, formed in 2005, considered ways of using and improving the space but when a study commissioned by the council said that renovations would cost in the region of £15m, the idea was thrown out.

A more manageable figure of £9.6m was agreed upon to be drawn from various funding bodies.

Not so long ago the Curwen Heritage Theatre used the ruin to stage Shakespeare plays. A decade ago, it was open for guided tours and school trips. Medieval re-enactments were held there during the town’s Curwen Fair.

It was even used as an outdoor ice rink at Christmas, attracting thousands to the town.

The hall’s neglect was described as “criminal” by a members of the Curwen family.

Two years ago, Susan Thornely and her son Eldred Curwen called for more to be done to revive its fortunes.

Their family lived on the site from the early 1200s but gave the hall to Workington council shortly after World War Two on condition that it became the town hall.

English Heritage said the hall was suffering from a lack of regular maintenance and had been attacked by vandals.

Mary Queen of Scots is said to have spent her last night of freedom here.

Parts of the building were designed by the famous John Carr and others are medieval, including part of a peel tower built in the time of Border warfare.

The hall has suffered from chronic neglect since the 1940s when it was given to Workington Borough Council by its last owner.

Have your say

how do i join them as i would like to help

Posted by alan day on 22 November 2012 at 08:45

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