Historic Ancoats Dispensary gets Heritage Fund Lifeline

Posted on 25 July, 2014 by Cliff Goodwin

Campaigners fighting to save a historic Manchester hospital have been awarded more than three-quarters of a million pounds to stabilise the 140-year-old building before its conversion to an enterprise hub.


The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) award will allow the Ancoats Dispensary Trust to carry out vital structural work on the Grade II listed former inner city hospital before applying for a full £4.5m restoration grant. The trust has already teamed up with heritage specialist Igloo Regeneration to prepare a business plan for the Victorian red-brick building.

Opened in 1874 to provide healthcare for families living in the Ancoats area of Manchester the hospital has been immortalised in two creative works: in a painting by LS Lowry and the novel Mary Barton by writer Elizabeth Gaskell.

An early blueprint for the trust’s rescue scheme envisaged using part of the site for medical facilities while the building would be converted for use as studios for innovative businesses, such as fashion and graphic designers, photographers and new digital companies.

Trust co-ordinator, Linda Carver, said the £770,000 cash injection was the result of a massive commitment from all concerned.

“We very much hope that the dispensary will play its part in the wider regeneration activity in the New Islington area and will not only be a community hub for the local area, but will also attract visitors and Mancunians alike,” she added.

Neglected almost from the day the National Health Service abandoned the Mill Street site in 1989, it was acquired 12 years later by regeneration specialists Urban Splash which announced plans to convert the dispensary building into 1,800sq ft of commercial space and 16 apartments.

The company had hoped to receive £1m in funding from the North West Development Agency, but the organisation was axed when the coalition Government came into power. In 2012 Urban Splash applied for a listed building demolition order and despite planning officials recommending approval, Manchester councillors agreed to defer the decision.

During the campaign to save what was left of the dispensary — every other building on the site had already been bulldozed — Manchester’s Victorian Society described it as “a roofless shell secured by scaffolding” and lobbied for its eventual inclusion on a list of Britain’s “Top Ten Endangered Victorian Buildings”.

Sara Hilton is head of HLF North West. “Our trustees were inspired by the passion and commitment demonstrated by the local community to secure Ancoats Dispensary and felt it was important that HLF support them,” she said.

“The Heritage Enterprise grant programme was designed to enable local people to revive these types of much loved buildings so that rather than being an eyesore, they can play a positive role in the economic and cultural landscape of their local communities once again,” explained Hilton. “Although there is still a long way to go to secure the future of the dispensary, our funding enables the trust to take the important next step with its development partner Igloo.”

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