£350k plans could secure future of historic Hitchin building
- Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO
Plans have been revealed by a passionate charity group that could see a historic Hitchin building restored to its former glory.
Charnwood House, which housed Hitchin Museum until 2012, will again become the subject of scrutiny as campaigners continue to fight for its survival.
But it has been revealed that any planned renovation could cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.
In July 2015, the Charnwood Community Management Association (CCMA) was formed with a focus on acquiring and maintaining the building that formerly housed the Hitchin museum.
After receiving grant funding to survey the building and plan for its future, the group aims to restore Charnwood to a vibrant hub for the community, offering its space and resources to groups including those with an educational focus.
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Currently, Charnwood is owned by North Herts District Council, and is being used as a storage facility for a small number of items for the North Herts Museum that could be stored elsewhere.
Bernard Eddleston, chair of CCMA, said: “The whole building was originally given to the people of Hitchin, but it has been neglected by the council for the last 20 years or so.
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“Of course, the town hall saga didn’t help and everything was put on pause.
“Once the new museum eventually opened, we decided to reinvigorate our group and get everything going again – and we were finally given access to the building late last year.”
The CCMA conducted a “detailed” survey of the building, which indicated it would need major work done to repair it. Bernard estimates the cost of this could reach £350,000.
The CCMA argue the council should pay two thirds of that overall cost, and are accepting they will have to raise around £100,000 to fund their own modifications.
The Grade II–listed building has been rooted in Hitchin’s community since records first show its appearance as a private house in 1825.
The name ‘Charnwood’ was first mooted by Charles George Baron, a chartered accountant and Hitchin resident, in the early 20th century.
Cllr Ian Albert, NHDC’s member for finance and chair of NHDC’s Hitchin Committee, said: “Charnwood could be a fantastic asset for wide community use in Hitchin.
“We firmly welcome the ideas from CCMA, but we will also ensure that if the building can be developed for the community, that there is wide consultation with residents and local groups on how it could be best used and managed for the long-term.
“However, the council has limited resources. So we will also need to consider carefully the costs of any conversion works and how we can generate external funding to help transform the building.”
By 1938, when the building was owned by brothers and grocers Wallace and Hubert Moss, it was offered to then Hitchin Urban District Council as a town library, museum or for public use by residents.
These covenants stand today, namely that the building must be accessible for residents for public use. As such, Charnwood House is registered with NHDC as a community asset.
Cllr Keith Hoskins, executive member for enterprise and co-operative development, added: “While no policy decision has been made on the future use of the building yet, I think it’s fair to say that councillors are extremely sympathetic to the continued use of this building for the community and we’re encouraged by some of the initial thoughts expressed by CCMA.”
You can join the CCMA and let your thoughts be known on their website, charnwoodhitchin.org.uk/membership-form/