Leeds nostalgia news: English Heritage grant for Leeds’s oldest building...

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Leeds’ First White Cloth Hall has received an English Heritage Grant towards securing the building’s long term future.

As reported by Times Past in November this year, Leeds Civic Trust chiefs claimed the company which owns the Grade II* listed First White Cloth Hall on Kirkgate, which dates back to 1711, had failed to protect it from the elements.

Dr Kevin Grady, director of the Trust, called on the building’s owners and Leeds City Council to find a way forward. Now, it looks as though that may have happened.

English Heritage has given a grant of £45,000 to the First White Cloth Hall in Leeds this week. The money will be used to investigate its condition and give a clear picture of what further works are essential to, as English Heritage said: “rescue this integral piece of Leeds’ history.”

In a statement, it said: “The aim of this project development grant is to secure a viable future for the First White Cloth Hall.

“The project will include a survey of the building’s condition to give an idea of costs for repair, archaeological recording and a conservation plan will be written to clearly demonstrate the building’s importance.

“A further key part of the project is to hold a consultation with the local population and heritage groups, opening up discussions about the building’s future.”

It went on: “The Grade II* listed building is one of the oldest surviving cloth markets in Yorkshire and its construction in 1711 was critical to the city’s development as the centre of the county’s textile trade.

“The building is in a poor condition and has been on the Heritage at Risk Register since 1999, declining in recent years with successive owners unable to carry through their proposals for repair work.

“English Heritage has been working with Leeds City Council and the owners for several years to help realise their plans for regeneration and the grant offered this week is the next positive step towards bringing it back into use as part of the wider revival of Kirkgate.”

Craig McHugh, Heritage at Risk Principal for English Heritage in Yorkshire commented: “English Heritage are delighted that Leeds City Council have been able to secure an agreement with City Fusion to take this project forward.

“We’re looking forward to historical discoveries being made about this fascinating site as the archaeologists get to work and to seeing fresh proposals from the design team for its future use.”

Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for transport and the economy, also welcomed the news.

He said: “This a significant and positive step forward in the restoration of this historic building which will help this important project to progress.

“We know there has been genuine concern over the future of this site and that’s why we’ve been working hard alongside English Heritage to get things moving and bring it back into use- and this grant will help us to do just that.

“Although these things take time, we are confident that through this project, we can secure sustainable new use for the building and make it a key part of the regeneration of the Kirkgate area.”

In recent years part of the First White Cloth Hall deteriorated to the point where it was unsafe to enter, so emergency demolition works took place in 2010 to secure as much of the building as possible.

These works revealed there was more original fabric to be restored in situ than first thought and archaeological surveys through this new English Heritage grant-aided project will further unravel the building’s history, creating ideas for its future use.

English Heritage is the Government’s statutory advisor on the historic environment and provides advice on how best to conserve England’s heritage for the benefit of everyone.

While most of England’s heritage is in private hands, it works with all who come into contact with it - landowners, businesses, planners and developers, national, regional and local government to help them understand, value, care for and enjoy England’s historic environment.

From spring 2015, the body will become Historic England, a Government service championing England’s heritage and giving expert, constructive advice and English Heritage, a charity caring for the National Heritage Collection of more than 400 historic properties and their collections.

For further information about our work, please visit their website: www.english-heritage.org.uk