One Million Pound Milestone
At the start of January the millionth pound of investment from the Townscape Heritage Initiative grant was spent in Prescot. That’s one million pounds spent on Prescot to repair, restore and re-use historic buildings and spaces as well as provide heritage skills training, qualifications and work experience and to connect people with Prescot’s heritage. So much of Prescot’s character is formed from its history and so it is important that that heritage is used as a foundation to inform the future.
At this happy milestone we thought it would be a good time to take a look and see just what £1,000,000 worth of investment has brought to the town. Be prepared for a photo-heavy post but I think you’ll agree, it’s something for Prescot to be proud of.
1. Beautiful Buildings
The most obvious impact of the THI has been the repair and restoration to the buildings, especially the traditional shop frontages which had often been lost or removed by modern alterations and unsightly fascias. Historically Prescot was a market town and retail has always formed part of the character of the streets.
11 Market Place, before and after and 44 Eccleston Street in 1903 when it was a chemist, then empty after being vacated by Poundbakery and last year just as the final touches were being put to the frontage.
40 High Street (Prescot Dry Cleaners) and 19 Eccleston Street (Andrew Louis) – a totally rebuilt shop frontage and a semi-restoration with original details uncovered that had been hidden behind the modern signage.
The new frontages at 54-56 Eccleston Street help brighten the shops and enhance the quality of the Victorian brickwork above. The restoration of the shopfronts was based on a photograph of the street taken in the first decade of the twentieth century.
The shop frontages are an obvious way of seeing the impact THI Funding has had, however what cannot be seen from the street is the internal work that has often been carried out. A good example is 29-31 Eccleston Street, home of Millicans Opticians
2. New Homes in historic buildings
Although the frontage has been one of the most successful THI projects behind the scenes we have transformed the rooms above the shop into four new flats. These flats are now occupied and add an important element to the town, occupied buildings are more likely to be looked after and add life to the street rather than empty abandoned windows.
Other internal works have been more substantial as the next photos will show…
These shots of the gutted interior of 13-15 Atherton Street show the sheer amount of work carried out, entire floors and ceilings removed and even a whole new roof-frame built around the original late eighteenth century timberwork to keep it preserved.
Talking of roofs, many of the THI funded buildings have had extensive roof repairs from simple re-setting of slates to the removal and re-lining of gutters and also rebuilding entire chimneys!
3. Smarter Streets and better public realm
Of course the THI work extends beyond just buildings and we’ve also invested in new public realm schemes such as Leyland Street where large unmanageable trees had blocked a lot of light from the upper windows of the properties and had overwhelmed the street.
New manageable planting and an improved surface have really opened up the street, including re-establishing the canted bay windows of the converted houses and, taking the lead from original windows opposite, re-introduced coloured glass.
4. A new way to look at history
As the THI cannot fund art the budget was used imaginatively to help facilitate an interpretive mosaic panel. Local artist Bernadette Hughes and Susan Whittle were inspired by local residents and schoolchildren to tell the history of Prescot. The display incorporates images from the museum, as well as a record of the work done through the Heritage Lottery Fund.
5. Partnerships, Training and Skills for the Future.
Alongside this we’ve had a great number of events supported by the willing people of Prescot. These have included training events with building professionals and students from local colleges, the Elizabethan Fayre, visits from the University of Central Lancashire and also Liverpool John Moores University and wonderful days exploring traditional crafts.
(Clockwise from top) Rag rugging with Alison Bailey Smith, St Helens College students help to make a memorial garden, THI Officer Owen Barton showing UCLAN students some of the historic buildings, JLMU students ‘Building Stories’ through research and the rather creepy plague doctor/apothecary at the Elizabethan Fayre.
The THI has also funded four Historic Environment Interns to study for an MSc in Building Adaptation and Conservation at UCLAN. As the fourth and final intern I’m glad to say that my three predecessors, Chris, Dan and Hannah have all gone on to get good jobs in the Heritage sector becoming Heritage at Risk or Conservation Officers in different authorities.
The largest single development funded by the THI is the rebirth of Prescot Market Place. An international competition organised by the prestigious Royal Institute of British Architects was won by architectural practice Mark Wray and SEED Landscape Design. This will rejuvenate the tired Market Place and breathe new life into this part of Prescot.
As part of the ground work, visitors and locals got the opportunity to get hands-on with archaeology and along with Rob Philpott and Harold Mytum got to reveal the forgotten pieces of the past beneath the paving stones. You can download and read the report here!
Work is due to start on the Market Place in early 2018 and when finished along with Shakespeare North and other developments will make Prescot a town that can face the future with the sure footing that comes from knowing where it came from.