New Headquarters for the Churches Conservation Trust
The Churches Conservation Trust has announced plans to move its headquarters from London to one of its own sites: St Peter’s Church in Northampton and the neighbouring Old Black Lion public house, which is located on Marefair, in the centre of the town.
St Peter’s is one of the most important Norman churches in the country, famous for its striking two-tone Romanesque stonework. Next door is the Old Black Lion, a Grade II-listed coaching inn which dates to at least the 16th century. The pub, which closed for business in 2018, is the focus of a major National Lottery Heritage-funded regeneration project led by CCT.
In December 2021, in response to the Government’s requirement that ‘arm’s length bodies’ move away from London and the Southeast, the trustees of CCT decided to move the national office to the upper floor of the Old Black Lion. The move will mean that more of the Trust’s income will go towards the maintenance and repair of historic churches across England.
The ground floor of the Old Black Lion will reopen as a community-based pub, operated by a landlord who will pay rent to the Trust. CCT is taking a long lease on the site from its owners, West Northamptonshire Council; any profits the Trust makes will support its conservation work, including at St Peter’s Church. Securing the long-term financial sustainability of St Peter’s through the pub business is one of the main drivers of the regeneration project. Another is providing St Peter’s with first-class hospitality facilities, supporting the vibrant programme of events held there.
CCT was recently granted planning permission for the new offices, which will house up to six office-based members of staff as well as providing hotdesking for homeworkers and team meeting rooms, responding to changing patterns of work. The plans, by OMI and Crosby Granger architects, seek to conserve the historic building while introducing new features which will sustain its future use, including a lift and a function room, the latter with a large window in the form of a historic loading bay to the former hayloft offering views towards the church. Preparatory works on site at the Old Black Lion began in May 2022 and CCT will move to a temporary office in Northampton later this year until the works at the Old Black Lion are complete.
St Peter’s has a committed and enthusiastic group of volunteers – the Friends of St Peter’s Church – who arrange talks on local history, architectural and other topics, host events, and work to keep the church and churchyard open and valued. Through them, there have been open days where consultation on the project has taken place.
The St Peter’s and the Old Black Lion project is a new and innovative venture for the Churches Conservation Trust. The project addresses the problem of struggling high streets and closed pubs and has attracted match-funding from West Northamptonshire Council, HM Treasury’s Towns Fund, and the Architectural Heritage Fund, along with the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which is contributing the lion’s share of £1.8m.
Find out more on the project Facebook page