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Setting up a Building Preservation Trust

Do you know of a historic building which needs to be rescued? Are you willing to take a lead on bringing it back into use? If so, you may want to consider setting up a charitable organisation to provide an effective mechanism to do so.

Gayle Mill in North Yorkshire is a 19th century sawmill which has been restored by the North of England Civic Trust and is now open to the public
Gayle Mill in North Yorkshire is a 19th century sawmill which has been restored by the North of England Civic Trust and is now open to the public

There are some 180 such organisations around England specifically dedicated to rescuing historic buildings and there are many advantages to setting up what is known as a Building Preservation Trust (BPT).

BPTs exist in many shapes and sizes, from those set up to rescue a small local building, to those that operate at a county or regional level up to a few larger organisations which will consider buildings across the country.

Industrial sites which have been rescued in recent years by BPTs include:

  • Cromford Mill and the Derwent Valley; now a World Heritage Site, the Arkwright Society have been repairing buildings in the area for a number of years, with the latest being the Cromford Railway Station. Cromford Mill is now a major visitor attraction, the railway station has been converted into office accommodation and a further building used in the smelting of lead has been turned into a holiday cottage
  • Murray's Mills, Ancoats, Manchester: this textile mill was repaired by Heritage Works, a BPT and commercial elements were brought back into use. Other parts await residential development
  • Dewars Lane Granary, Berwick-upon-Tweed: an 18th century granary in use until 1985, which has been brought back into multiple use including the only Museums Libraries and Archives Council Grade I exhibition space between Newcastle and Edinburgh, a heritage interpretation centre, bistro, youth hostel and meeting rooms

Cromford Railway Station in the Derwent Valley has been converted into office accommodation by the Arkwright Society
Cromford Railway Station in the Derwent Valley has been converted into office accommodation by the Arkwright Society

Finding funding

Being part of an organisation which brings a historic building back into use is an enormously rewarding activity and not as difficult to set up as you might think.

As charitable bodies, BPTs are eligible to apply for grants or other funding for project development, options appraisals and rescue projects from a number of sources, including Historic England, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF). Other sources of funding may also be available.

As part of the Industrial Heritage at Risk project the AHF has created a specific grant scheme, with the support of Historic England, that is available to organisations who are considering taking on an industrial site. 

This can provide funding at the earliest stages, so organisations can look at the potential for projects at sites. The funding is intended to encourage voluntary sector organisations to take on industrial buildings at risk and find viable and long-term sustainable solutions for them. Further details are available by contacting the AHF: email ahf@ahfund.org.uk or telephone 020 7925 0199. 

Useful resources

The AHF also provides advice and guidance on how to set up a BPT as does the UK Association of Preservation Trusts.

The Prince's Regeneration Trust website provides further help and guidance, and case studies which focus on industrial buildings. These sources also include information on grants and their funding criteria. 

There are many BPTs in existence and a web search on Building Preservation Trusts will give you access to many organisations who show examples of what they have achieved and who will normally be very willing to provide help. The link to the Conservation Bulletin publication below contains articles on the work of both BPTs and the Architectural Heritage Fund.

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