Minister for Leveling Up, Union and Constitution MP Neil O’Brien is in Ramsgate today (19 May) to meet the team behind an ambitious project which has just received government funding of £300,000.
The project to save Pugin’s Grade II listed Granville Hotel in Ramsgate from obscurity is back on track thanks to a grant from the government’s Community Property Fund.
The investment has been awarded to the Ramsgate Heritage Lab community benefit corporation to create renovated spaces at the historic site for exhibitions, community events, shared work and conferences.
Heritage Lab had agreed to purchase the 999-year lease of Granville Bars Pugin Studios in 2019, but the COVID crisis thwarted their attempts to secure the necessary funding. Government funding means the plans for the Grade II listed architectural property, built in 1867 by EW Pugin, can be taken over.
Previously the first thermal hotel in the country, served by its own private train, the future of the building seemed uncertain.
Currently unused and in disrepair, the building forms part of the Historic England at Risk Conservation Area and Ramsgate Heritage Action Area.
The goal is to create a creative hub and event space called Pugin’s Studios.
The hotel’s original rooms have long since been converted into a private residence and are not part of the project.
Bernie Morgan, Chairman of the Heritage Lab CIC, said, “We are thrilled to get this fabulous project back on track and look forward to reopening this incredible architectural gem and giving it a productive future and being the focal point once again. of the community.
“The myriad of large, once-thriving venues the community used to use have been converted to other uses, leaving nowhere for the community and volunteer groups to hold large events, and despite the acceleration in demand, there are few spaces suitable for the creative industries.”
Rob Kenyon, CEO and founder of Heritage Lab CIC, said the offer was originally made last August but was not successful. A new submission was made earlier this year and Heritage Lab received news of the grant award on Monday 16 May.
He said: “It has been a whirlwind week. The aspiration is to get people here by the summer of next year.
He revealed that Heritage Lab was considering taking on a number of smaller Ramsgate projects, expressing interest in Winterstoke China as a possibility.
When complete, the project will support up to 75,100 jobs and apprenticeships and provide a low-cost and, where possible, zero-cost venue for dozens of local community groups.
Minister Neil O’Brien said: “This is a fantastic victory for the local community who, with the help of government, will now work to bring a piece of our shared national heritage back to life.
“I think it’s a big step towards regenerating the town, building on funding from Leveling Up and High Street.
“This building is beautiful and it’s unbelievable that it is so run down. There is so much potential with space for work and offices but also performances and the main hall will be an ideal space for weddings and the events.
“People working here in the future will help regenerate Ramsgate and gain that critical mass across Thanet.”
The minister said the aim for areas like Thanet was to “keep making it happen” with grants and initiatives “to keep building momentum”.
With the Pugin Studio, he said it would mean “a lot of different things to different people” in terms of regenerating heritage and architecture, but also helping the creative community and the city’s economy.
The grant money will mean that the project can do enough work to start using the space with the aim of generating more investment later.
South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay added: “This is the start of a long journey. With this property, and others in Ramsgate, there is such a state of disrepair that the possibility of getting a commercial operation to look at it would be beyond their abilities. He needs that corn seed funding to get started, and then to get matching funding from vendors like the Heritage Lottery.
“We lack large spaces in Ramsgate and this main room can be used for weddings and events. The good stuff from central Ramsgate is then spread out to East Cliff.”
Pugin’s Chambers will bring the property designed and built in 1867 by Edward Welby Pugin back to life. Once a major Ramsgate and UK landmark, the treasures behind its condemned facade have been hidden away for around 30 years. All that remains inside of its glorious past is a sequence of spectacular, but abandoned, public rooms facing the sea.
Regularly visited by princes and princesses, grand dukes, lords and ladies, writers, actors and the rich and famous from across Europe, the Hotel Granville’s guest list represented a “who’s who” from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
With 26 spas and baths, a marble ice rink, a theater and a ballroom, it was the premier destination of its day, with guests arriving by private first class ‘Granville Express’ train from London.
It was requisitioned as a military hospital for the Canadian government during World War I, and doctors who served there include the first Canadian to be awarded the Victoria Cross and a future Nobel laureate.
Later in the 20th century, it was more widely known as a ballroom dance hall and a Cave jazz club. Its public bar last closed in 1991.
Edward Welby Pugin was the eldest son of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, one of England’s greatest architects, who pioneered the Gothic Revival style of architecture in the early 19th century.
Edward became an acclaimed architect in his own right taking over his father’s practice, designing and completing over 100 Catholic churches – including a number of cathedrals – across the British Isles before his untimely death at the age of 41. years.
Heritage Lab was established in 2018 and uses grants and philanthropic investment schemes to find new, sustainable uses for historic buildings and community assets. The plan is to create studios, community spaces, entertainment, workspaces, jobs, training opportunities and build city pride.
Anyone interested in contributing to the project, making a donation or being kept informed, can register on http://heritagelab.org.uk/join/