“Creative Land Trust and Purcell collaborate to transform former Fire Brigade accommodation into creative artists’ hub“
Purcell and Creative Land Trust collaborate to transform former Fire Brigade accommodation into creative artists’ hub
Alice Billings House is a step closer to an exciting new lease of life as a major creative hub, having secured a funding grant of £467,172 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, in a bid worked submitted by Creative Land Trust with support from Purcell. The grant enables the project to progress to the next critical stage of development.
In 2021, Creative Land Trust won the contract to convert the Grade-II listed buildings in the London borough of Newham into artists’ studios. Purcell were appointed as Architects to bring this derelict Grade II building and its long neglected civic quarter into a thriving vibrant place, creating a place where fascinating historical stories from the site’s past can be better understood and will provide inspiration for a creative future for approx. 80nr resident artists, with a permanent home for a dynamic community heritage and arts education programme.
Having undertaken extensive condition surveys and carried out feasibility studies for Creative Land Trust, Purcell’s transformative design proposals for the buildings will sensitively create artist and maker spaces within the Grade-II listed north block. A new building will provide a permanent community activity space as home for the new heritage and arts education programme. It will include a café and exhibition gallery, fully accessible, visible from the surrounding public realm, and enjoying the amenity of the adjacent courtyard garden.
The correlation between heritage buildings and creativity is well-established and the new hub is envisioned as a catalyst for a wider regeneration of the area, providing accessible and affordable spaces that inspire engagement from across the local neighbourhood. It is also widely recognised that a thriving artistic community brings with it measurable economic benefits locally, driving social activities and improving liveability.
Alice Billings House is one of Newham’s most historic buildings and is owned by the Local Authority. Built in 1905-6 as firefighter’s accommodation for the West Ham Fire Brigade, the site houses two three-storey detached buildings surrounded by a walled garden and once shared the grounds with the local fire station. A historically significant practise and hose-drying tower are one of the features that led to the north block, along with the courtyard walls, being Grade-II listed. The property has been unoccupied for many years and is currently on the Heritage at Risk Register. Sensitive restoration and regenerative design of one of Newham’s few listed buildings will protect the original features and retain an important layer of local history, bringing it back to life for public benefit.
Visiting Alice Billings House prior to refurbishment
Images courtesy of National Heritage Lottery Fund, Photographer Andrew Baker
Gordon Seabright, CEO of the Creative Land Trust, said:
“We are thrilled to celebrate this important funding grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, marking a pivotal moment in the transformation of Alice Billings House into a vibrant creative hub for Stratford. The grant allows us to take a giant leap forward in realising our vision for this historic site and has been achieved through our close partnerships with the talented and committed Purcell team, our friends from London Borough of Newham and the Architectural Heritage Fund. Together, we are breathing new life into a piece of Newham’s heritage while creating much needed space where artists and creative communities can thrive. This funding is not just an investment in a historic building; it’s an investment in the very heart of Stratford, fostering creativity, cultural engagement, and community wealth building for years to come.”
Liz Smith, Chair and Regional Partner for Purcell said:
“Nowhere is this spirit of physical, social, cultural, and environmental restoration encapsulated more clearly than in the reimagining of Alice Billings House. It is an inspiring example of Local Authority and the Creative Land Trust coming together to provide much needed investment in local communities, to bring this significant building back into public use and we are delighted to have attained National Lottery Heritage Funding to realise our vision. We are thoroughly enjoying working with the Trust to deliver workspaces and affordable studios for artists and creatives to come together and grow with the building, continuing the story for the next generations.”
Eillish McGuinness, Chief Executive, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:
“I’m thrilled that we have been able to provide significant support to revitalise and preserve the remarkable heritage of Alice Billings House. Saving heritage is core to what we do, and we look forward to seeing the fantastic restoration of this site improving the condition and understanding of the important heritage it holds, reducing the amount of ‘heritage at risk’, and delivering a transformational project for communities across London and further afield. National Lottery funding will help to ensure this heritage space will be valued, cared for and sustained for everyone’s future.
Images from Alice Billings Connects, the Alice Billings House cultural programme.
Photographer Monika Szolle
About Creative Land Trust
Creative Land Trust was founded to tackle a long-standing problem for London, and indeed other global cities. The loss of affordable workspace, and consequent outflow of artists and makers, present a serious threat to the wellbeing and prosperity of a city so reliant on creativity for its success. Artists are unable to focus their time on their practice due to the instability inherent in relying on temporary workspace, and expert studio providers are displaced from their locations despite years of building equity. Creative Land Trust is making space for art to overcome these challenges.
Purcell is the largest team of heritage experts working in architecture. Our work ranges from award-winning sustainable new buildings, conservation, restoration, retrofit, and adaptive reuse of existing buildings, as well as masterplanning and heritage consultancy. Ranked No. 10 in the AJ100 list of top UK architecture firms, we have an outstanding portfolio of world-class projects across the UK and Asia Pacific and are ranked No.1 for heritage in the WA100 listing.
Current projects include our role as heritage architect for a major reworking of the Sainsbury Wing at the National Gallery with Selldorf Architects and our £40m restoration and upgrade programme for Manchester Town Hall. We are continuing our extensive conservation works to the Palace of Westminster. Recently completed projects include our extension to the chapel at Radley College, awarded the RIBA South Building of the Year and a RIBA National Award 2023, the remodelling of the National Portrait Gallery in collaboration with Jamie Fobert Architects and the new Photography Centre at the V&A Museum.
About The National Lottery Heritage Fund
Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future. www.heritagefund.org.uk.
Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund
Since The National Lottery began in 1994, we have awarded £8.8billion of National Lottery and other funding to more than 51,000 projects across the UK.