THE TRANSFORMATION of a “hidden gem” in the town centre has begun.
Once at the heart of town life as a bustling butcher’s shop in Bridge Street, Henson’s Slaughterhouse has laid empty since the 1970s.
But after being awarded £340,000 from Stratford Town Trust as part of its £1million CommYOUnity Challenge earlier this year, Escape Community Arts is bringing the historic building back to life.
The Stratford-based charity, which is renowned known for using the arts to support people across Warwickshire, was hoping The Old Slaughterhouse Arts and Heritage Studio – as it will now be known – could showcase the town’s history and its people.
And having secured all the relevant planning permissions, work finally started on the project to turn the vacant building into an arts and heritage centre earlier this week.
The projects will see a new entrance, floor and windows installed as well as a mezzanine level, kitchen, toilet and utility space.
It also includes plans for workshop benches to transform into exhibition display units and an upstairs section, which will house a multimedia suite for youngsters to produce animation and film.
A garden area will also be built, from which vintage teas will be served to visitors.
Offering exhibitions, arts and media workshops, inter-generational and schools projects, the building’s original heritage will be retained throughout.
The slaughterhouse will also provide volunteering and training opportunities as well as apprenticeships for young people across the district.
And 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.
The new building is expected to open next March with a D-Day display and Stratford veterans as special guests – including Brian Henson, whose father built the slaughterhouse in the 1930s.
Karen Williams, Escape project manager said: “It is such a gem of a space, so versatile – it will be a real hub for Stratford and its history so we can’t wait for to progress.”
Work has already begun on the other two projects to share the CommYOUnity Challenge prize.
Stratford Samaritans won £420,000 to help pay for a communities hub to provide a range of support to vulnerable people in the district.
And Stratford Athletics Club scooped £240,000, which is being used to build a community centre next to its track within the grounds of Stratford School.