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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

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Public meeting to discuss Workington Hall’s future

A meeting to find a shared vision for the future of the neglected Workington Hall will be held next week.

Workington Hall photo
Workington Hall

Workington Heritage Group wants to revive the fortunes of the Grade I listed building and hopes to have it open to the public in time for Christmas.

But before they move to the next stage of their plans they need to hear what the people of Workington would like to see done with it.

This will allow them to attract the funding needed for a feasibility study to find out how much the preferred option would cost.

Representatives from the county, borough and town councils, the civic trust and the Workington Sports councils have been invited to the meeting on Tuesday at 9am.

Helen Fowler, of the group, said: “The aim is to get as many ideas as possible about the future of the hall. We want to hear their visions and comments.

“This time we mean business. We are determined.”

She said the meeting was by invitation to keep the numbers “manageable”.

“But at every stage we will keep the public aware and consult with them,” she added.

The press have not been invited to the meeting but will be kept informed of the results.

Jmercia Haughan, of the group, also stressed that members wanted to help improve the surrounding parkland not just the hall itself. One of the ideas is to bring a walled garden back into use, said Ann Wareing of the group.

Allerdale council has pledged that money from the sale of Curwen Lodge at the entrance to Hall Park will be used to support the initiative.

Chris Rolle, head of business and property, said: “We have sold it to the Derwent and Solway Housing group with a view to the property being brought into use for domestic purposes, following a long period when it was empty.

“The proceeds from the sale are intended to be used within the Hall Park area to support other projects and initiatives such as the walled garden.”

Ben Brinicombe, project and regeneration manager for Derwent & Solway, confirmed that the housing association had bought it for about £50,000.

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 as a ruin.

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.

Previously the ruin was used to stage Shakespeare plays. It was also open for guided tours, school trips and medieval re-enactment. 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. The family lived on the site from the early 1200s but gave the hall to Workington Borough Council shortly after World War Two on condition that it became the town hall.

Former Workington man Andrew Doyle, chief executive of The Land Group, previously said he wanted to create a £10 million business centre in the ruins of the hall.

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