A new charity is being set up to transform one of Sheffield’s forgotten gems from ‘ugly duckling’ to ‘swan’.
The Old Town Hall in Waingate has lain disused for some 20 years, and the once majestic former courthouse and council chambers is showing the signs of its neglect.
The Friends of the Old Town Hall, which has spent two years campaigning for its restoration, has now been awarded £7,700 of Lottery funding to form a charity.
The Castlegate Preservation Trust’s primary aim will be to acquire the Grade II-listed building and bring it back into use, but it will also seek to preserve the wider heritage of the historic quarter.
“Castlegate is hugely important in Sheffield’s history,” said Valerie Bayliss, who chairs the friends’ group.
“This is the old town, the place where the city began. It played a big part in Sheffield’s civic and community development and its history deserves to be better-known.
“People see it as a run-down, unattractive area and maybe don’t realise it contains around 18 listed buildings and structures and another 14 of real heritage value.
“That’s a wonderful basis for heritage-led regeneration. We are already talking to the city council and others about developing plans co-operatively.
“But the Old Town Hall has to be our priority. It’s a grubby, neglected ugly duckling of a place when it should be a swan. And it’s probably the key to getting Castlegate on the move again. We are very grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for giving us the means to take a big step forward.”
The grant will pay for the friends’ group to get professional advice on its business plan and funding strategy, and to train the trustees of the charity.
The group has already applied to the Charity Commission to register the new trust, which it hopes will be done by the end of the year.
As well as preserving Castlegate’s rich architectural and historical assets, the trust will strive to involve the local community in protecting the heritage on its doorstep.