Renovation

Sitting proudly at the top of the town’s High Street the Town Hall has been at the heart of the town’s civic, economic and social history for the past 250 years.  After many years of fundraising and development work, the Town Hall underwent a major renovation in 2013.  Originally designed by renowned Midland’s architect William Baker, and built around 1765, the Town Hall was no longer fit for purpose in the 21st Century. Damaged stone and brick work, a lack of any insulation, no modern heating or equipment and no disabled access resulted in this iconic Grade II* Listed Building being used less and less.  The 2013 renovation has resulted in a new life and purpose for the building, sensitively balancing the building’s history with modern day comforts, ensuring its future is safe for the people of Bishop’s Castle for generations to come.

Before the renovation

Bishop’s Castle Town Council has worked for many years to secure sufficient funding to renovate the Town Hall. Over the years repairs and maintenance had been carried out but the building was becoming used less and less due to its lack of heating, insulation and modern facilities.

A Condition Survey confirmed that whilst the building’s basic structure was sound previous alterations and cement based repairs had damaged its fabric and reduced both the sustainability of the building and its architectural impact. Under extensive cement render and pointing, the fabric was retaining moisture which was damaging and causing the building to be excessively cold. Ill-fitting door and window frames and an inadequate heating system further exacerbated these problems. Access for people with poor mobility or pushchairs was challenging. For anyone in a wheelchair it was impossible to go inside the building.

After many years and many attempts to secure major grants the Town Council was successful in securing £676,800 from Heritage Lottery Fund. This together with awards from the Pilgrim Trust, Shropshire Council, Shropshire Hills Leader Programme and a major local fundraising campaign enabled the Council to finally progress this important project.

During the renovation

In the spring of 2013 the renovation works contract was let to J Harper and Sons and work started on site in June.

There were a number of surprises once the demolition work began, not least the discovery of a solid concrete floor underneath the floorboards in part of the Market Hall. This resulted in the need to remove this completely opening up the Town Hall and the former gaol in the basement for all to see for the first time in probably more than a century.

The site was opened to visitors as part of the English Heritage Open Days in September 2013 and photographs and film captured the building in its rawest form.

After the renovation

Since reopening in 2014 the building has been revitalised as the light and airy feel attracts a stream of visitors to admire the view from the large south window down the street towards the church and  surrounding countryside.  They take advantage of the helpful visitor centre staff and the many activities in the hall.  There are regular art exhibitions, frequent markets, concerts and talks as well as private hire opportunities. Come and see for yourself.

 

Background to the project

The Town Council successfully bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund and Shropshire Council in 2011 for resources to appoint architect Philip Belchere and Project Manager Samantha Hine to work with the project team and develop the renovation scheme.  In September 2012 sufficient funding was secured to take the renovation work forward.

History Overview

Records show that the Town Hall was built around 1765 on the site of the earlier Guildhall.  As part of the Town Hall Renovation project considerable heritage research has been undertaken to improve our knowledge and understanding of the building’s history and its important role in the town.

 

Get Involved

As part of the renovation scheme considerable research has been undertaken resulting in a clearer understanding of the history of the building, the town and the area.  If you would like to learn more, or get involved in sharing this heritage with others please contact us.