A SLICE of Stratford’s history was unveiled as a new heritage centre opened its doors to the public for the first time.
Having stood abandoned for half a century, the building formerly known as Henson’s Slaughterhouse has been transformed into The Old Slaughterhouse Arts and Heritage Studio.
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.
And on Friday (May 22) special guest Brian Henson, whose father built the slaughterhouse in the 1930s and who spent time working in the business himself, officially cut the ribbon – made from a string of silly sausages – on the new building.
He was joined by more than 100 people including a number of Stratford’s D-Day veterans, who were involved in the 70 Years On documentary made by 14-year-old Bill Jones.
And the grand opening has been followed by a week of Escape-based activities on the site.
Speaking about the opening, Escape project manager, Karen Williams said: “I am incredibly proud to have been part of this project and to see it reach this stage from where we were in the beginning is just incredible.
“Escape has always worked at the heart of the community to celebrate local stories and heritage and I would like to thank all those who supported our vision and transformation of this unique building for the town.”
Following an opening week of activities, The Old Slaughterhouse, which is tucked away behind Sheep Street, will divide its time between being a workshop on weekday mornings and an exhibition space in the afternoons and on weekends.
Work on the project began back in September and since then significant renovation and restoration work has taken place on the original windows, floors, meat hooks and hanging rails – original features, which have all been retained.
With a new entrance, mezzanine level, kitchen, and utility space, the slaughterhouse will now offer exhibitions, arts and media workshops, inter-generational and schools projects.
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.
The centre will also provide volunteering and training opportunities as well as apprenticeships for young people across the district.
And plans have been put in place 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.