Work is to begin on a project to revitalise one of Leeds’s most historic buildings thanks to £1m funding from the National Lottery and Historic England.
Working alongside contractors HH Smith and Sons, the plans will see the First White Cloth Hall’s west wing restored, a new covered courtyard with atrium built and a new shopfront put in place.
Built in 1711 to ward off competition from surrounding towns, the building played a key role in establishing Leeds as a dominant force in the textile trade.
In fact, the First White Cloth Hall proved so successful that a larger cloth hall was required, but this was to the detriment of the building itself. It went on to be used for a number of alternative purposes but gradually fell out of use and its condition declined, with most of the building being vacant by the 1960s and the last small part of the building to be occupied was vacated around 2010.
First White Cloth Hall (Leeds), a subsidiary of Leeds based developer Rushbond, acquired the building in January 2017.
Since then we have worked closely with the developer, Leeds City Council, Historic England and the Leeds Civic Trust to develop the scheme.
Mark Finch, director of real estate at Rushbond, said: “The story of the First White Cloth Hall is one that begs to be told – and what better way then to bring the building back into use and re-purpose it for the future.”
“The project plays a pivotal role in the renaissance of Kirkgate – the area is already on the up with lots of good things going on, but this project will really elevate the interest and excitement in this historic part of the city.”
Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for regeneration, transport and planning, said: “The Heritage Lottery Funding has been a godsend in getting the regeneration of Lower Kirkgate going, with three units sympathetically renovated so far.
“But it’s the restoration of White Cloth Hall that will make the biggest change to the landscape and be the catalyst for the remaining units to be improved.”
Trevor Mitchell, Historic England, planning director for Yorkshire Historic England, added: “We’ve been campaigning for years to save this birthplace of the city’s economy and our partnership has come together just in time to rescue it from collapse. Rushbond’s plans will give it a new lease of life and another boost to Kirkgate – the oldest street in Leeds.”
David Renwick, head of Heritage Lottery Fund Yorkshire and the Humber, also said: “This project clearly demonstrates how by investing in heritage, the National Lottery can have a direct impact on the economic health of our local communities. Thanks to Lottery players, this investment in First White Cloth Hall will be a vital piece in the regeneration puzzle of Kirkgate, revitalising the area for future generations.”