Press release from Gloucester Civic Trust.
By Hugh Worsnip
FOLK SALE GOES THROUGH.
The future of Gloucester’s finest range of Tudor, timber framed buildings has been assured following its sale by the City Council.
After five years of negotiations, the former Folk and Regimental museums at 99-103, Westgate Street have been acquired by Gloucester Historic Buildings, a building preservation trust, with access to charitable funding for their upkeep.
Government imposed cuts in public spending meant that the City Council could no longer operate and maintain the 500-year-old, Grade 2* listed buildings opposite Saint Nicholas Church, which had been owned by the council since 1933, and restored to form one of the few folk museums in the country.
Now, GHB will lease the buildings to Gloucester Civic Trust to be operated by CT volunteers and re-opened, partly as a museum promoting much of the former collection, re-enactment days, a catering operation and the letting of meeting rooms, as well as a permanent office for the Civic Trust.
The deal has been settled following years of talks with the council, the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the Civic Trust to ensure the 500-year-old buildings are in a good state of repair on transfer. In the meantime, the Civic Trust has been granted a licence in 2019 to operate some services as “The Folk of Gloucester,” while a business plan was hammered out.
Martyn White, chairman of Gloucester Historic Buildings, and a trustee of the Civic Trust said: “An off the cuff remark in 2016 by Councillor Neil Hampson, the then City Mayor, set off a chain of events that has finally led to one of the most important days in the history of the Gloucester Civic Trust. The Mayor posed the question: “what if the Civic Trust took it on” as a way to best preserve the buildings and bring them back into public use.
“First we had to establish a framework of heads of terms which could be approved by the Heritage Lottery Fund which provided a £630,000 grant in 2009 and retained an interest in the building. “Because of the closeness of the parties involved, the entire document pack had to be independently reviewed by a large solicitors’ practice in Cheltenham.
“Seven contracts later we have completed the sale. It is the start of a new era for the Gloucester Civic Trust.”
Folk spokesman, Alex Bailey, said: “We plan to open on May 22 following two years of work by the operations team and welcome visitors free of charge. The wheelwright’s, cobbler’s and carpenter’s workshops will be open for the first time in many years.
“The following Bank Holiday weekend there will be a music event and the café and Tudor garden will be open. Visitors can learn about our plans, in partnership with the City Council, to deliver a culture and heritage vision for these much-loved buildings.”