Group holds key to Old Prison's future
SUPPORTERS have raised the money to buy The Old Prison at Northleach and give the beleaguered building a "bright new future".
The Friends of the Cotswolds aim to complete the sale of the grade two* listed base by spring and begin transforming it into a fully-fledged visitor centre.
Cotswold District Council sparked outcry by putting the property on the market.
But it announced the environmental group was its preferred bidder in June.
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The Friends – working with the building's tenants Cotswolds Conservation Board – pledged to keep the Museum of Rural Life and nationally- renowned Lloyd Baker Collection of agricultural artifacts open for the community.
It was feared the property could be sold to developers.
The Friends' bid was backed by a 1,200-signature petition which helped sway the district council's decision.
Friends chairman Simon Randall said: "We hope there will be a bright future for the full community heritage hub we all want to see.
"We've raised the funds to purchase the building, with help from £20,000 from Grundon's landfill tax.
"But we have a series of milestones to reach and are appealing to people to help us with our fundraising."
The group's plans include restoring the existing collections, re-launching a cafe and opening a shop to showcase local food and produce.
Visitors can already see the old courtroom and cells, but the cellar could also be opened up with its bread oven, laundry and the remains of a prisoners' treadmill.
But first it must find an initial £100,000 to make the 18th century property wind and water-tight. Then it must raise around £600,000 to improve the centre's exhibitions and information and create better access.
"The building as a whole is in good structural condition as it was built as a prison, but the roof has to be repaired and the glazed areas replaced with more energy efficient glazing," said Mr Randall.
"We will apply to the Heritage Lottery Fund for half of the money, but must raise the other half. Our campaign involves contacting individuals and companies to see if they're interested in sponsoring certain parts of the complex. We'll organise a few events of our own."
Northleach mayor Neil Fletcher said: "The original museum was closed by the district council, which let the building run-down so it hasn't had a happy past but it's turned a corner."
The centre holds an open day from 2pm to 4pm on December 2, with Santa, a decorated Christmas tree and a chance to put a "prisoner" in a cell.