National Trust seeks reassurance on future of King’s Lynn Arts Centre

Liberteas to mark the magna carta anniversary at The Reed Barn Peckover House.'Teresa Squires G/M @ Peckover ANL-150615-061938009
Liberteas to mark the magna carta anniversary at The Reed Barn Peckover House.'Teresa Squires G/M @ Peckover ANL-150615-061938009

The owners of Lynn Arts Centre are calling for the building to remain “publicly accessible” following last week’s closure announcement.

King’s Lynn Arts Centre Trust is shutting part of the site on December 31 after it has become “financially unviable”.

The National Trust is seeking reassurance from West Norfolk Council that the buildings will be maintained and open to the public as far as possible.

St George’s Guildhall and the associated buildings have been owned by the National Trust since 1951 and leased to the council, which is more than half-way through a 99-year lease.

The four galleries will be closed. The Guidhall and Crofters Coffee House and Riverside Restaurant are not affected by this announcement.

Teresa Squires, National Trust general manager for West Norfolk, has thanked the volunteers on the arts centre trust.

She said: “We are saddened to hear that King’s Lynn Arts Centre Trust who occupy part of the site will be closing. The Guildhall was built in 1457 and is the largest surviving medieval guildhall of its kind in the country.

“The building has a long association with the arts, with evidence that William Shakespeare once performed here, and today it is established as a home to the arts in West Norfolk.

“It is disappointing that the valiant efforts of the trust over the last four years to make the site accessible to the public through the provision of the arts centre, have had to end due to lack of funding.

“We are grateful to the Arts Centre volunteers who have often opened up the Guildhall to members of the public, including National Trust members, on a request basis.

“We are particularly keen to receive reassurances from the council that the building will continue to be well maintained and remain publicly accessible if possible.

“Moving forward, we will be looking to work closely with the council to ensure long-term options for the building are fully examined and that the site is still cared for as befits such an important part of the town’s history.”

The National Trust was gifted the site in 1951 following a public campaign to save the site from development.

Since 1951, these buildings have been leased to the council on a 99-year full-repairing lease.

The council has leased the buildings to the arts centre trust since 2012.

The arts centre trust has seen a decline in funding over the last three years. It had 240 supporters in 2012 but this has dropped to around 80.

Income recorded for the trust in the last financial year was £185,986 but it spent £196,389.

Council leader Nick Daubney said the authority will have to look closely at the future of the site. He said: “Clearly, we will have to think about and discuss what the future might hold for the site.”

The Shakespeare Barn, the Fermoy Gallery, the Red Gallery and the old Warehouse are affected.