The Guildhall Gateway Project
Tavistock is the eastern gateway and ‘urban jewel’ of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site. At its heart is the Victorian Guildhall (built in 1848) which contains one of the earliest examples in the country of a purpose-built combined courtroom and police station. The Guildhall exemplifies how the Dukes of Bedford used their mineral wealth to create an outstanding example of a planned metal mining town with magnificent public buildings. The Gateway Centre project will restore this iconic ‘At Risk’, Grade II* listed building and ensure its viable long-term use.
In February 2015, Tavistock Town Council, supported by Tavistock Heritage, made an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for grant funding towards the restoration of the Guildhall, a project with a total value of around £1.7 million. After successfully navigating both application rounds, the project received 'Permission to Start' from the HLF in September 2018, with construction work due to commence in 2019.
The project is a key step in the implementation of strategic plans for the Guildhall and for Tavistock’s wider heritage, which have been developed over the last decade through extensive public consultation by a broad-based partnership of public, private and voluntary sector organisations.
The Guildhall is, therefore, a particularly fitting location for a Gateway Centre that will introduce visitors to Tavistock’s role in both the World Heritage Site and the wider South West mining landscape, including Dartmoor. Through interactive displays users will learn about Tavistock’s international architectural and historical significance and be stimulated to explore the town and nearby heritage sites either on their own or by participating in one of the activities provided by the Gateway Centre staff and volunteers. Part of the Gateway Centre will be designed as a Police and Magistrates’ Museum which will interpret and provide public access to the courtroom and cells which will be conserved, as far as possible, in their original condition. These heritage facilities will be managed by the newly formed Tavistock Heritage Trust, who will deliver a coordinated, diverse, experiential learning, events and volunteering programme which will enable more people to visit the town and engage with its heritage.
Tavistock Town Council will use one part of the building complex to deliver public services through a ‘one-stop-shop’, giving friendly access to council and partner services including information on health, social services and housing in a central location. There will be space for town council offices, peripatetic working areas and meeting spaces that will be available to the local community, either free or at affordable rates.