Barrow Hill Roundhouse steams ahead in bid for £100k fund

Barrowhill Roundhouse. Alexa Stott marketing manager.

Barrowhill Roundhouse. Alexa Stott marketing manager.

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The historic Barrow Hill Roundhouse rail centre has successfully got through the first stage of a bid for £100,000 of Heritage Lottery Funding to preserve the site as a national treasure.

Judges have been greatly impressed with the development of the centre, off Campbell Drive, and its array of diverse events, attractions and commercial roles alongside its ambitious plans for the future.

As well as being a mecca for rail buffs as the last surviving roundhouse turntable in the UK, it attracts thousands of revellers to its annual Rail Ale Festival and has become an attractive venue for musicians after Jools Holland performed at the venue to great acclaim.

Marketing manager Alexa Stott said: “It says a lot for our team that we got past the first round of the HLF bid at our first attempt and to unlock the £100,000 of funding we will have to make a further financial contribution towards the centre ourselves and show we can raise further funds as well.

“So throughout 2015 we’re working with architects, conservation experts and activity planners to develop the second stage of our bid for the HLF grant which will help us press ahead with our plans.”

The fantastic line-up for 2015 stands as testament to the centre’s ambition and flexibility to diversify and to attract hardcore rail enthusiasts while drawing in tourists, families, schools and even businesses for function events.

The annual Rail Ale Festival in May attracts about 6,000 people while Jools Holland’s sell-out concert was enjoyed by about 1,800 music lovers and plans are under way for the centre to host a Destination Chesterfield marketing team event.

A shuttle train will also be running from London to the Rail Ale Festival due to national interest and this will forge the centre’s presence in the capital city.

Alexa added: “We need to expand our audience and there are plans for a new cafe, guided tours and meeting facilities with a commercial side.

“We’re developing with old and modern railway stock, doing carriage overhauls and providing training for youngsters who work on the railways.”

The centre submitted its HLF application in September and was delighted to have learned in December that it has made it through to second stage of the bidding process.

A decision on the HLF grant is expected to be announced in 2016.

Planned 2015 events so far include the following:

A Steam Day with the Morayshire engine features an opportunity for visitors to ride behind the Morayshire on the site’s internal shuttle on March 14.

A Rarities Diesel Gala on April 18 and 19 with loco displays, train rides and trade stands.

The Rail Ale Festival will be held on May 14, 15 and 16.

There will be a range of events peppered throughout the next 12 months with plans underway for another concert which will all be confirmed as the year unfolds.

Visitors are always welcome to see the centre’s marvellous collections of historic locos, engines and trains between 10am to 4pm every Saturday and Sunday.

Anyone wishing to know more about the centre or to help as a volunteer or supporter can call the roundhouse on 01246 472450 or visit www.barrowhill.org.

FOUNDER

Rail and train-spotting enthusiast Merv Allcock helped rescue, revive and found the Barrow Hill Roundhouse.

Merv set up the Barrow Hill Engine Shed Society charity with volunteers to run the successful attraction.

British Rail closed the site down and they were going to demolish it in 1991 before the society stepped in.

Chesterfield Borough Council was impressed with the society’s efforts and agreed to buy the site from British Rail and the council leases it to the society who have turned the attraction into a heritage success story.

Merv, 49, said: “I started the project to preserve the Roundhouse in 1989. I heard they were due to close it in 1991 and started a campaign to save it and others joined me. I had lived in Inkersall and came to the Roundhouse as a little boy and was a trainspotter.

“I worked in computers and became a professional musician and created time to concentrate on the Roundhouse during the day.

“I knew they were closing railway depots and knew there would be a demand for a turntable and the demand has been massive and I could never have predicted how things have developed and grown.

“We’re bidding for the HLF money but there is also a lot of commercial activity here which is growing nicely too. It’s really exciting and we’ve a great management team and our volunteers are very happy.

“These days we have a commercial operation, a beer festival and music concerts and we offer a mix of things.

“My goal is to expand what we have and get the HLF grant and take the Roundhouse into a new era with corporate events and more commercial use and keep a link with the modern railway system.

“This way we will be in a great shape to move into the next 50 years, so the roundhouse will become established as a national treasure.”

HISTORY

The North Midland Railway reached Staveley by 1841 when the original Barrow Hill station opened and it was renamed Barrow Hill and Staveley Works in November, 1888.

In 1866 the Midland Railway signed an agreement with Staveley Works to operate the works’ internal private railway for 100 years and due to increased traffic the roundhouse was built. The roundhouse is an example of 19th century railway architecture and it is the last surviving, operational roundhouse engine shed in Great Britain. It was built and completed by November, 1870, and it was in continuous use until it was closed by British Rail in 1991.

During its peak the Barrow Hill Roundhouse housed up to 90 engines in the 1920s. Over the years it was used by steam and diesel locomotives and diesel shunters.

The Barrow Hill Engine Shed Society was formed in 1989 and worked with Chesterfield Borough Council to get the site listed before the authority bought the building.

Volunteers and funding from the council and other sources helped refurbish the site and in 1998 the engine shed re-opened its doors to the public.

Around 30,000 people now visit the Roundhouse every year.