Gunpowder Mills Group retires, but representation carries on

After 20 years of keeping an expert eye on the Gunpowder Mills site, with particular interest in the history and archaeological remains on the site, the members of the Gunpowder Mills Group are retiring, and the group is to be disbanded. Much has been achieved over the time, in partnership with the GBC Parks and Leisure team, in trying to stabilise the ruins and manage the site. Not an easy task, with different priorities and management styles, and of course within limited budgets.

At its last meeting, the Group invited the local parish Council, St Martha’s PC, that has always had representatives on the Gunpowder Mills group, to consider continuing their involvement. As a result, the representatives from the Parish Council will consider whether they should form a sub-group of the Council, so that the dialogue and good relations with GBC can continue. It is envisaged that local expert advice and the support of the community will continue as before.

The local Annual Gunpowder Mills Meeting, chaired by the Parish Council, will meet as usual in the autumn. The date has been set, and the village hall booked for Thursday November 8 at 7.70pm.

The community would like to thank the gunpowder Mills Group for giving freely of its time and expertise, to make the Gunpowder Mills a better place.

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Chilworth2gether urges GBC at Council meeting not to sell off West Lodge

GBC, with Councillor Illman who represents West Chilworth being the lead Councillor making this decision, intends to apply to the Secretary of State to sell off West Lodge, the only building that remains intact at the entrance to the Gunpowder Mills site on Blacksmith Lane.

West Lodge is an integral part of the Gunpowder Mills Story. St Martha Parish Council, assisted by representatives from the Gunpowder Mills Group and Chilworth2gether have tried to find ways to retain the building in GBC ownership for future generations, and have consistently counselled against the sale of the building.

Here is the contribution made by Chilworth2gether to the full Council which met on Tuesday April –

“My name Maggie Scott, active member of Chilworth2gether, and member of St Martha Parish Council West lodge Working Group.

I attended the recent executive meeting at which regrettably, the executive recommended West Lodge be referred to the Secretary of State for the removal of covenants. These have never been revealed, but I surmise that they relate to the building having protections as part of our community’s open space.

So, my first question to Councillors is, at a time of major housing development, why aren’t Councillors seeking to preserve and enhance the open spaces we have to enjoy?
The whole of West Lodge is an important integral part of the historic Gunpowder Mills story –
Is it not counter-intuitive to sell off the only building providing shelter, electricity, drinking water and a toilet for the Gunpowder Mills Site, a scheduled monument categorised as Community Open Space?

At the Executive, a perfectly reasonable and obvious proposal was put forward by Councillor Reeves that GBC should create a separate Heritage Asset List. Councillors may not be aware of this sensible suggestion until it has been mentioned by Gavin tonight {Gavin Morgan, the previous speaker), because, surprisingly, it has not been minuted.

Were West Lodge to be included in such a list, it would immediately open up a path for the Council to enter a dialogue with the Parish Council as to how the building might be used and maintained in the future, within a different framework than Commercial viability, something a Historic Heritage asset is unlikely ever to be.

St Martha Parish Council has formally requested such a dialogue with the Council, but the Council to date has not responded to the Parish Council.

Surely a more creative way forward can be found by this Council than stripping the Borough of its Heritage little by little, including selling off this little building. These Heritage buildings have a different kind of value for the Borough, measured in different ways than a one-off cash in the bank transaction.

Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and we are all the poorer.

GBC has lots of alternative options other than selling it off. Councillors please consider forming a separate Heritage Asset list, and take a more creative approach to the future of heritage in the borough, including West Lodge. Thank you.

Chilworth Gunpowder Mills picture Gallery

Gunpowder Mills front page – illustrated with photograph of The Swing Bridge
swing bridge p2

aerial photograph of Gunpowder Mills site from the air – copyright Andrew Norris
air photo from north 2009

The Millstones
millstones at incorporating mills buildings 20-22

The Incorporating Mills
incorporating mills 1885 building 52

West Lodge building – used by workers to report for duty and leave any inflammable material
SONY DSC

Incorporating Mills building
incorporating mills 1860s buildings 20-22 p2

Expense Magazine building
SONY DSC

Incorporating Mills 1885
incorporating mills 1885 building 52

Gunpowder Mills map and historic information to download

Chilworth Gunpowder Mills Is a scheduled ancient monument. Enhance your visit to the Gunpowder Mills in their magic woodland set by downloading the following information and guided trail. See also a set of images showing the historic remains, shown under Gunpowder Mills Picture Gallery.

Thanks to Andrew Norris, Chilworth Gunpowder Group for the images, and to Glenys Crocker for permission to download the map.
walk leaflet 2010 rev2b page 1
walk leaflet 2010 rev2b page 2