The commitment of Askham Bryan College to breathe new life into a former Victorian stable block and lodge at the heart of a historic Middlesbrough park has received a boost with confirmation that £3million has been awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). This will enable the transformation of buildings within Stewart Park into an agricultural and horticultural education facility. The Park is of international significance as it contains the site of Captain Cook’s birthplace.
The Yorkshire-based college has run courses from Stewart Park for some years but the iconic buildings are in need of urgent repair. Two years ago Askham Bryan College pledged the restoration as part of a ten-year plan and to date, work totalling around £150,000 has been completed.
The major restoration will see an exciting new phase of the College’s partnership with Middlesbrough Council which transferred over several buildings last year. The aim is to return the buildings to their former glory, encourage greater public access, and create an educational hub for the region’s young people.
Repairs will include extensive work to the roof and the general fabric of the building, the creation of lecture rooms, a science lab, a learning resource centre, animal handling areas, workshops and a reception area. Heritage features such as the former butter churn dairy and Victorian laundry will be restored, and it is anticipated that the visitor information centre, café and courtyard will become vibrant public areas.
Welcoming the news, Liz Philip, Executive Principal of Askham Bryan College said: “Stewart Park and Central Lodge are hugely important to the Teesside community, and we envisage that this will have a major positive economic and educational impact on Middlesbrough, the Tees Valley and beyond. The restoration of Central Lodge means it will become a vibrant centre helping to increase future employment and life opportunities for the region’s young people.
“A key part of our plans is to make the building more available to the public, opening it to local groups, thus returning it to the heart of the local community. The grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund will accelerate our progress.”
She added: “We have worked closely with the local community groups and the Friends of Stewart Park who have been very supportive and we anticipate that our existing courses in animal management, horticulture and agriculture will be extended and new courses in forestry and arboriculture added. This is a hugely exciting chapter in the history of this historic park and Central Lodge in particular.”
The funding has been awarded through HLF’s Heritage Enterprise programme, which is designed to help when the cost of repairing a historic building is so high that restoration is not commercially viable. Grants of £100,000 to £5 million bridge the financial gap, funding the vital repairs and conservation work needed to convert buildings like those at Stewart Park into new, usable commercial spaces that can have a positive impact on local economies.
Councillor Tom Mawston, Chairman of the Friends of Stewart Park, said: “Stewart Park is an iconic part of Middlesbrough’s heritage, and the transformation brought about by the previous BIG and Heritage lottery funded restoration project is already helping to attract more than a million visitors a year. This latest funding award is great news, not just for the Park but for the town as a whole.
“It will enable the partnership with Askham Bryan to move on to the next level, and ensure these important historic buildings can be enjoyed for generations to come.”