St Martha Parish Council, supported by CHilworth2gether and Chilworth Gunpowder Group, submitted a proposal to take over the management of West Lodge, in a bid to stop the building being sold off for development.
The plan is to restore the building and breathe new life in it, creating the opportunity for a new meeting room for the community, an educational base for visiting students, a base for volunteers, and a focal point for St Martha Parish Council business.
A strong contingent of GBC officials and elected Councillors, together with officers representing Parks and leisure and the Asset Department, met the West Lodge Steering Group to discuss the proposal.
The Parish Council stressed that the purpose of the exercise was not to raise a commercial rent from the property, but to work in partnership with GBC to assist them to use West Lodge to fulfil various of the Council’s objectives, including providing more educational opportunities; and to help progress the Management Plan for the Gunpowder Mills site. It would be a partnership.
After responding to questions, both elected Borough Councillors, Councillor Richard Billington and Councillor David Wright, spoke in support of the initiative.
Officers have agreed to go away and look in detail at the proposal and devise a way forward.
When Guildford Borough Council Asset department announced they intended to sell off West Lodge earlier this year, Chilworth2gether, St Martha Parish Council and the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills Group each wrote a letter of concern to GBC and to our local borough Councillors.
West Lodge is an historic asset, integral to the Gunpowder Mills and situated at the entrance to the site on Blacksmiths Lane. Unfortunately when the rest of the site was recognised as a scheduled ancient monument, West Lodge was not included because it was being used for temporary accommodation at the time. However, it was Listed at Grade II. Selling it off separately would sever it from the rest of the site, and would mean the Gunpowder Mills site would forever lose the only surviving building (with power, water and toilet facilities) on the site able to provide for uses in support and appropriate to the site, as identified in Guildford Borough Council’s own adopted Conservation Management Plan.
Residents may recall that two years ago, Chilworth2gether hosted a well supported public meeting, when villagers came together to suggest how the little building could be used in the future. There was clearly plenty of support for finding a new purpose for the vacant building.
With St Martha Parish Council in the lead, the three organisations have now come together and formed a working group to see whether it might be possible to offer GBC another solution to selling it off. It has already signalled to GBC its intention to provide an alternative way forward, which would give the building a new lease of life and a new purpose, with a strong emphasis on heritage, community and education.
Here we are in action in the Gunpowder Works, coppicing straggly hazel and encouraging new growth.
We meet at the weekends several times a year and spend a good morning in the fresh air, doing something really useful and helping to preserve our heritage site as a peaceful place for a quiet walk, and a haven for wildlife, including dormice.
Do feel free to join us at our next working party. Come for as long, or as short a time as you can spare – you will be welcome. Meet at the picnic area at the bottom of Vera’s path.
Countryside Wardens Nick and Alison work with the group, provide tools and even a drink. They check on safety and ensure everything we do contributes to the Management Plan for this historic site.
Paul Wingfield has sent us this short video, which is available to watch as part of the picture gallery. Alternatively, here is the Youtube link
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3HTdL8E4qZU where you can slect to view it
Gunpowder Mills front page – illustrated with photograph of The Swing Bridge
aerial photograph of Gunpowder Mills site from the air – copyright Andrew Norris
The Incorporating Mills
West Lodge building – used by workers to report for duty and leave any inflammable material
Incorporating Mills building
Expense Magazine building
Incorporating Mills 1885
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.