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Date: 31st January 2017

The £3m transformation of a former Victorian stable block into an educational hub is well underway.

Nick Barnes, Askham Bryan College (centre) with Paul Hammerton & Mike Hamm of Walter Thompson in front of Central Lodge, SP

Askham Bryan College has run courses from Stewart Park, Middlesbrough, for several years, but last year was awarded £3m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to turn Central Lodge at the heart of the Park into an agricultural and horticultural education facility.

Ownership of the buildings was transferred by Middlesbrough Council to  Askham Bryan College in 2015 with the aim of returning the buildings to their former glory, encouraging greater public access, and creating an educational hub for young people. The park is of international significance as it contains the site of Captain Cook's birthplace.

Repairs to Grade II listed Central Lodge will include extensive work to the roof and the general fabric of the building, the creation of lecture rooms, a science lab, a learning resource centre, animal handling areas, workshops and a reception area.

Nick Barnes, the College's Interim Director of Regional Centres, said: “It's great to see the work underway, and as each day goes by we're getting closer to seeing it restored to its former glory. It's particularly significant for the local community too. We've worked closely with the Friends of Stewart Park who have been very supportive and we're on target to begin running courses from Central Lodge in September.”

The building work is being carried out by Northallerton-based construction company Walter Thompson Ltd.

Site Manager Mike Hamm said the work was fascinating: “There is so much history here and we know we have a responsibility to handle the transformation sensitively. At the moment we’re in the process of carefully stripping back to what was originally built and we’re uncovering some beautiful tile work – and some graffiti that goes back generations. It’s restoration and renovation, but we’re working on a wonderful set of buildings. It’s a challenge, but really interesting work.”

Stewart Park was initially landscaped by Henry Bolckow, one of Middlesbrough's ironmasters and the borough's first mayor. Bolckow built Marton Hall in the park in 1858, and Central Lodge was part of the estate complex, housing a stable block, dairy and laundry.

The park was bought by Councillor Thomas Dormand Stewart in 1924 for the people of Middlesbrough. He intended it to be "a public possession, open and accessible to all the people for all time".

The funding has come from the HLF’s Heritage Enterprise programme, funded through money raised by National Lottery players. The programme is designed to help when the cost of repairing a historic building is so high that restoration is not commercially viable. Grants of £100,000 to £5 million bridge the financial gap, funding repairs and conservation work needed to convert derelict, vacant buildings like Central Lodge into new usable commercial spaces that can have a positive impact on local economies.

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Askham Bryan College,
Askham Bryan,
YO23 3FR
01904 772277