An Accidental Craft Centre
In 1955 my parents bought the former stable block of Staunton Harold Hall, semi derelict and ‘thrown in’ with the Home Farm. We repaired the roof and then tried for nearly twenty years to find a use for the building. We had plans prepared to turn it into fourteen houses turned down by the council. We even planned to knock out the internal walls and store potatoes there for the crisp factory in Ashby. Luckily that was turned down too. In 1973 the authorities put a ‘Grade II listing’ on the building, stipulating that it be maintained and kept in repair. At that point I requested a meeting with the planning officers at Coalville and said to them, ‘We both want to see this building kept up, but you must permit some viable use for it’. They had anticipated the question and to my surprise said, ‘we would favour craft workshops and accommodation for craftsmen’.
I knew nothing about the craft movement but we advertised locally and in 1974 our first tenant, a potter, rented a couple of rooms at £1 per week. Gradually we renovated and let further buildings as workshops, and then added a tearoom and a gallery. Forty years on the whole building is used.
Several other ‘craft centres’ have opened locally over the years, gradually morphed into retails units, and closed down. We insist that our workshops and studios are ‘making’ units promoting British craftmanship. I believe that this has been the secret of our continuing success.