Contractors HH Smith and Sons are expected to star work on revitalising one of Leeds’ most historic buildings thanks to funding from the National Lottery and Historic England.
The plans will see the First White Cloth Hall’s west wing restored, a new covered courtyard with atrium built and a new shopfront put in place.
Smith’s, with an extensive track record of dealing with listed buildings and heritage assets, will restore and reinvent the building in a project scheduled to be completed next year.
Built in 1711 to ward off competition from surrounding towns, the building played a key role in establishing Leeds as a dominant force in the textile trade.
In fact the First White Cloth Hall proved so successful that a larger cloth hall was required, but this was to the detriment of the building itself.
It went on to be used for a number of alternative purposes but gradually fell out of use and its condition declined, with most of the building being vacant by the 1960’s and the last small part of the building to be occupied was vacated around 2010.
First White Cloth Hall (Leeds) Ltd, a subsidiary of Leeds based developer Rushbond PLC, acquired the building in January 2017.
Since this time both they and their design team, led by Buttress Architects, have worked closely with Leeds City Council, Historic England and the Leeds Civic Trust to develop the transformational scheme. Work is expected to be completed for next Spring.
Mark Finch, Director of Real Estate at Rushbond said: “The story of the First White Cloth Hall is one that begs to be told – and what better way then to bring the building back into use and re-purpose it for the future. The project plays a pivotal role in the renaissance of Kirkgate – the area is already on the up with lots of good things going on, but this project will really elevate the interest and excitement in this historic part of the City. The collaborative spirit in which the Council, Historic England, Leeds Civic Trust, with our professional team, have worked together has been hugely inspiring and we thank them for their time, expertise and commitment on what is complex project’.
The restoration work is supported by £1m of public sector funding to support the private sector speculative investment being made; £500,000 will be provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s (HLF) Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) with a further £500,000 from Historic England through their Repair Grants for Heritage at Risk. .
Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for regeneration, transport and planning, said: “The Heritage Lottery Funding has been a godsend in getting the regeneration of Lower Kirkgate going, with three units sympathetically renovated so far, But it’s the restoration of White Cloth Hall that will make the biggest change to the landscape and be the catalyst for the remaining units to be improved.”