The Paths Not Taken


Before his nervous breakdown Geoff Herbert was running a successful detective agency in Derby.   The doctors advised a less stressful occupation, so he sold his business and apprenticed himself to a potter in Brailsford, a few miles north of Derby.   Nearing the end of his apprenticeship he set out to look for premises of his own, which had to be well away from Brailsford.   In his searches he stumbled upon a vast abandoned stable block out at Staunton Harold.

My family had acquired the semi-derelict stables when we bought the adjacent Home Farm, back in 1955.   We carried out essential repairs and sought to find a viable use for them.   Our first application to the local authority was to turn them into fourteen houses;   this was turned down.   Some time later we proposed to knock out internal walls and use them for bulk storage;   this too was refused.

So when Geoff Herbert came to see us in 1974 we sent him off to the council offices with no expectation of seeing him again.   To our surprise he came back with permission granted.   We let him the former coach house, now Paint a Pot, for ten shillings (50 pence) a week.

Shortly after this we were notified that the building had been ‘listed,’ Grade II, with the requirement that it be maintained in good condition.  So my father and I sought a meeting with the planning officers saying, in effect, you require us to maintain the building but we must be able to use it for something.   They had anticipated our question and, maybe prompted by Geoff’s application, said ‘we would favour conversion to craft workshops and accommodation for craftspeople.’    This was new territory for us, but after nineteen fruitless years we had a path to follow.   We placed advertisements, and the Ferrers Centre was born.