Friday, 8th September 2017
Looking back at The Station, ten years on.
Richmond Railway Station was built in 1846 and formed the terminus of the branch line to Richmond. The station closed in 1969 and was converted for use as a Garden Centre.
In 2002 the old Richmond Station building, now a 2* listed building, became redundant and the owner, Richmondshire District Council planned to sell it to developers. The District Council held a public meeting where developers were invited to present their ideas for the building, but the ideas put forward were not generally welcomed by those attending.
Under the direction of a small community group, the Richmondshire Building Preservation Trust was formed in 2003 and given time by the Council to come up with a proposal for a new use of the building. The Group consulted widely to help formulate ideas for the building and with a modest source of funds from local people, help from the Architectural Heritage Fund, a vision was created supported by a feasibility study.
The vision was a multi-use venue which ideally incorporated a Cinema, Meeting rooms, Cafe – Restaurant, Arts display space and some form of visitor attraction. It also had to be self-sustaining financially.
The Trustees sold this vision to Yorkshire Forward and to Richmondshire District Council who as the owners gave the Trust twelve months to come up with the £2.3M estimated by the feasibility study.
The Trust was a completely voluntary group with no significant funds, some business acumen but no experience of a project of this scale.
The Trustees networked to locate all possible funding options. Yorkshire Forward, the regional development agency had already given a commitment, European funds and the Heritage Lottery Fund were also identified as significant sources. The grant applications, and private fundraising was done almost entirely by the Trustees or by supporters who all gave their time for nothing.
A significant part of the total was raised by the volunteers through events held in the empty building and at other venues.
Sufficient progress had been made during 2004 that the District Council agreed to prepare a lease for the Station building, and work commenced in 2006. Finally, £2.75m was spent to re-open the Station in November 2007 as a venue for Film, Food and Art with all the funds being raised.
When the venue opened, no one was sure if the projections of visitors would prove accurate, however it soon became apparent that if anything we had been conservative in our estimates. The majority of the spaces were let to our various tenants, who soon established an excellent reputation with locals and visitors to the town.
The Trustees were amazed and delighted by the wider recognition of what had been achieved with many awards and commendations being won during 2008*
The opening was not without its problems and it took a lot of hard work by the Trustees to resolve the various teething troubles that were bound to affect a major project such as this. Fortunately the business model worked overall and an operating surplus was achieved in the first year, and in nearly all years following.
The management of the building was far more complicated than we expected since it was a multi-use space, consideration had to be given to the needs of the various tenants which sometimes conflicted with each other or with the Trust’s activities. It has taken most of the last ten years since we opened to get a successful operating structure, although happily the more than 300,000 visitors annually only saw the ducks and not the furious paddling below the water.
Looking back after 10 years from the opening in 2007, we realise how much has been achieved. The original work and fundraising was probably the biggest project of its kind at the time, in the region, possibly nationally, managed entirely by volunteers. Learning how to operate the business was a challenge for the Trustees, in some ways just as difficult as the build phase. We now have an excellent Manager with her team of staff that means the Trust can turn its attention to some new and exciting challenges “Making Buildings Better”.
*Awards during 2008
Regional Winner and National Finalist – Nationwide Community and Heritage Awards
Winner – Category – Historic Restoration, Yorkshire Rural Awards 2008
Commendation in the Best Tourism and Leisure Project 2008 Category – Pro Yorkshire Awards Sponsored by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors
Yorkshire Winner, Social and Community Category, Action for Market Towns
Winner, Yorkshire and Humberside Business Link – Most Innovative Social Enterprise Award
Winner – Community Initiative Category – Richmondshire Citizenship Award.
Winner – National Railway Heritage award.
Significant and named contributor to the ‘Great Town of the Year’ Award 2009 for Richmond.