THE COUNTDOWN is on until a new heritage centre celebrating Stratford’s history opens its doors.
In less than two months what was formerly Henson’s slaughterhouse will re-open as The Old Slaughterhouse Arts and Heritage Studio.
Having stood abandoned for half a century, the building, which is tucked away behind Sheep Street, is set to be brought back to life as an exhibition and workshop space.
The project is the vision of Escape Arts and has become reality thanks to Stratford Town Trust and its £1million CommYOUnity Challenge.
One of three winning projects, the Stratford-based charity was awarded £340,000 to help fund the Grade II listed building’s transformation.
Work on the project began back in September and has seen significant renovation and restoration work on the original windows, floors, meat hooks and hanging rails, which have all been retained.
With a new entrance, mezzanine level, kitchen, and utility space, the slaughterhouse will offer exhibitions, arts and media workshops, inter-generational and schools projects.
It will provide volunteering and training opportunities as well as apprenticeships for young people across the district.
A garden area will also be built, from which vintage teas will be served to visitors.
And plans are also afoot for workshop benches to transform into exhibition display units with a separate upstairs section designed to house a multimedia suite where youngsters can produce animation and film.
When it is complete, The Old Slaughterhouse will divide its time between being a workshop on weekday mornings and an exhibition space in the afternoons and on weekends.
A permanent exhibition charting the history of Henson’s and the slaughterhouse trade will be the first to be installed with other quarterly exhibitions set to be devised by two steering groups.
Brian Henson – whose father built the slaughterhouse in the 1930s and who spent time working in the business himself – will be special guest at the grand opening on May 22 and Stratford’s D-Day veterans – the subject of another exhibition – will also be invited.
Escape project manager, Karen Williams said: “We have been extremely fortunate to have support from a wealth of local companies and I would like to thank them all for offering their services either free-of-charge or at heavily discounted rates.
“I would also like to praise the work of the staff who have helped create something that less than two years ago was just an idea on a page.
“It’s an incredible project, one that I’m proud to be part of and I can’t wait for the people of Stratford to get involved too.”
And Helen Munro, chief executive of Stratford Town Trust, added: “Escape have done a fantastic job taking a small abandoned building and making it something really special.
“It will be such a valuable resource for Stratford, a hidden part of the town’s history, and a place from which so many other hidden stories will be discovered and archived.”
The view from the outside of The Old Slaughterhouse Arts and Heritage Studio. 12.015.005.strat.jm6
The space has been completely transformed although many original features including the floor have been retained. 12.015.005.strat.jm5
The view from above. 12.015.005.strat.jm3
A largely discounted bespoke kitchen was provided by Stratford Kitchen & Bathrooms and fitted in the building. 12.015.005.strat.jm4
This is how the building looked less than six months ago. The window has since been knocked through and turned into the building’s main entrance.