Local environmental charity, Friends of the Cotswolds has formally received the keys to the Old Prison from Cotswold District Council in an official handover of ownership which took place yesterday.
The Old Prison at Northleach, formerly owned by Cotswold District Council, is now under the ownership of the Friends of the Cotswolds following the completion of the purchase of the site on 18th July. Plans to fully realise the site as a vibrant visitor centre and historic asset for the local community can now be developed, including the appointment of a new house manager, the reinstatement of the cafe and the submission of an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Chairman of the Friends of the Cotswolds, Simon Randall, is overjoyed at becoming the new owner of this important heritage building: “A great deal of work and effort has gone in to making this a reality. I am extremely grateful to everyone who has supported us over the last couple of years and in particular to our many volunteers who have helped with organising events and fundraising events. We certainly couldn’t have done it without their help. We are now looking forward to an exciting future ahead.”
Martin Lane, Cotswolds Conservation Board; Neil Fletcher, Northleach with Eastington Town Council; Diana Ray, volunteer; Cllr Barry Dare, Cotswold District Council; Simon Randall, Friends of the Cotswolds.
Cllr Barry Dare of Cotswold District Council said: “”I am very pleased that this group of locally-based people has come forward to take ownership of the Old Prison because this will ensure that its future is in good hands – in particular, the public will be able to access the renowned Lloyd Baker collection of artifacts which is of great significance to our local heritage. From a taxpayer’s perspective, it was no longer viable for Cotswold District Council to maintain the building, and this solution paves the way to the creation of a superb resource which will benefit the local community.”
The 18th century building currently houses the Escape to the Cotswolds visitor centre and the unique Rural Life Collection. As well as conserving and improving access to, and interpretation of, the Old Prison and the Rural Life Collection, plans for the site will enable the development of a central hub for the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
• The Friends of the Cotswolds is a charity started in 2007 whose purpose is to conserve and enhance the Cotswolds whilst raising awareness of our natural environment and provide activities and facilities for visitors and people living and working in the Cotswolds. Visit: www.friendsofthecotswolds.org
• The Northleach House of Correction is one of four houses of correction built in Gloucestershire in the 1790’s to the design of the then High Sheriff, Sir George Onesiphorus Paul. Paul was the inspiration and driving force behind the reorganisation of Gloucestershire’s prison system, the first such scheme of its kind in the country. Today the keeper’s house, female cells and police station along with the front façade and perimeter wall all survive, as does the court room.
• The ‘Escape to the Cotswolds’ visitor centre tells the story of the Cotswolds landscape and is open between April and October, Wednesday to Saturday, 11am to 4pm.
• The Rural Life Collection is a personal collection of agricultural and rural history by Miss Olive Lloyd-Baker who was born in 1902 to a distinguished Gloucestershire family. When she died in 1975 the “Lloyd-Baker Collection” was accepted by HM Treasury in lieu of estate duties and its ownership transferred to Cotswold District Council. Since the 1980’s further additions to the collection were made by generous donations from local people, once it was housed at Northleach. At the heart of the collection are 23 farm wagons and carts, with regional and national significance as locally-distinctive examples.
• The Cotswolds was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1966 in recognition of its rich, diverse and high quality landscape. www.cotswoldsaonb.org.uk
• The Cotswolds AONB is looked after by the Cotswolds Conservation Board – an independent organisation established in 2004 which has 37 members – 15 nominated by local authorities, 8 by parish councils and 14 appointed by the Secretary of State.
• The Cotswolds is the second largest protected landscape in England after the Lake District National Park and represents 10% of the total AONB area in the UK. It covers 2,038 square kilometres (790 square miles), stretching from Warwickshire and Worcestershire in the north, through Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, down to Bath and Wiltshire in the south.
• Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), along with National Parks, are considered to be the most special landscapes in the country and belong to an international family of protected areas. There are 38 AONBs in England and Wales, and a further eight in Northern Ireland. For further details, visit: www.landscapesforlife.org.uk. For details of the 15 National Parks in England and Wales visit: www.nationalparks.gov.uk