The market town of Guisborough is an ancient settlement on the northern edge of the North York Moors, perhaps best known for its Priory, founded by Robert-de-Brus II in 1119 AD. Once a place of pilgrimage, in more recent times it has become a stopping off point for tourists who are en-route to the North York Moors, or the many nearby coastal resorts of the Yorkshire coast.

The town hall in 1880 showing the arch at the west end still in use as a stall
Guisborough Town Hall. Photograph: Brian Gleeson
Guisborough Town Hall. Photograph: Brian Gleeson

Passing through the town, the remains of the great east window of the Priory dominate the skyline, but for many years the large and imposing building at the town’s central road junction has been neglected, falling into disrepair and a home to pigeons. This unloved building was Guisborough’s Town Hall.   It was also an embarrassment to a town which prided itself in its rich architectural heritage.

Built in 1821 using stones from the demolished Tockets Hall, the home of the Chaloner family, and further extended in 1870, the current Grade II listed building stands on the site of an ancient toll booth. It included a covered shambles, which was an open market, as well as both a prison and also a court house.

With a view to preventing further deterioration and to return the building to its original purpose as a focus for the town and the wider hinterland of East Cleveland, the building was purchased by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council in 2015.

The future of the building is now in the hands of a representative group of local people who have formed The Guisborough Town Hall Gateway Project in partnership with Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council.  Quite a mouthful, but one which illustrates the intention to develop the Town Hall into a building that will not only reflect and help to preserve the rich heritage of the area, but to be a focal point serving the whole of East Cleveland, and one which will spearhead the future prosperity of the area. Seeking ideas from the community, the focus is on providing a gateway for tourism in and around Guisborough with high quality yet affordable accommodation of a type not readily available in the Tees Valley combined with heritage interpretation, tourist information, and flexible commercial space on the ground floor. There is an awareness that a major future income stream for the area will be through tourism, and as such the project group still seeks and welcomes ideas and participation.

This is a long term project, and will require considerable funding. Some of this will be raised by local fundraising activities, donations and local community grants however with an estimated cost of just over £1.6 million, the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), our partners and the generosity of National Lottery players is key to our success.

We were awarded £10,000 from HLF in July 2017. This generous sum has allowed the project team to:

  • Inform how the project should develop in terms of both heritage, interpretation and building design.
  • Test and agree the future options and viable uses for the building, and prepare the project team for the task ahead.
  • Embark on a programme which will thoroughly survey and confirm the heritage of the building in the context of its surroundings.
  • Employ the services of North of England Civic Trust to guide us through the viability and application process of the project

The project team have visited similar HLF schemes to identify best practice, and are undergoing training to enhance the range of skills required to progress and monitor the development of the building and its subsequent management once it becomes operational.

This project is complicated, demanding and long term. There is great passion to bring the Town Hall back to life, and the project has brought together a group of dedicated local people, who reflect the various elements of the town, and bring with them a rich and wide variety of expertise. It is a project about the future, schools and colleges are involved, with some of the students being important members of the development team.

We reached our first major milestone by submitting our development phase Heritage Enterprise bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund on 22 November 2017.

In March 2018 it was announced that the project has been awarded a round one pass with development funding of £104,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  

July 2018 – July 2019 – A dedicated project manager and design team led by Beaumont Brown Architects were appointed and proposals developed along with detailed business, activity and management plans. 

August 2019 – Our proposals were submitted to the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

December 2019 – We were told that we have been successful with our bid and have been awarded ~£1.1 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

January 2021 – Despite the challenges of COVID-19 and Brexit we have started work on site!

Thank you to all National Lottery players for making this possible!

This project is different to many. It is exciting. It is long term, with plans that, when completed, will dovetail with the wide range of existing projects which make this region so very outstanding.

Check out some of the letters we have received in support of the project:

Guisborough Town Council

Laurence Jackson School

Redcar & Cleveland Council

De Brus Group

Anna Turley MP

Lord Gisborough

Feel free to get in touch via the form below with any questions regarding the project:

Part one of our project documentary

Drone footage of the Town Hall