CASTLEFORD Heritage Trust has unveiled grand plans to turn the town’s former flour mill into a major heritage and arts centre.
The trust is close to signing a deal to buy the mill on Aire Street from current owners the Canal and River Trust (CART) and will apply for Heritage Lottery Funding in the new year.
Castleford Queen’s Mill Project will see the building converted into a centre which will include a sculpture and art gallery, cafe and craft classes, heritage centre, community space, and it is hoped a training restaurant for young chefs and a school of sculpture, teaching skills like boatbuilding repair and stonemasonry.
It will also start using the stone mill wheels to grind flour, which would be used in a bakery, along with baking classes, while the trust plans to get the water wheel working again to generate electricity.
An anonymous benefactor has given the trust an interest-free, indefinite loan, which will allow it to buy the mill outright, while lottery funding would allow it to refurbish the building.
Alison Drake, trust chairman, said: “This centre is for the whole of the Five Towns and surrounding areas, not just for Castleford. It’s for the community and visitors, and we’re hoping it will become a regional destination.
“It’s also important to say we don’t need council or public money to buy the building, although we are working in partnership with the council.
“However, our benefactor wants to know the community is behind us so we are launching a fundraising campaign on Monday to raise £50,000 to give us a base to get the necessary surveys done and so we have a contingency fund. We need to show the trust is sustainable.
“If 10,000 people across Castleford and the region give us £5 each, we would have the money, so we are asking people to show their support. We already have £100, just in the last few days from people saying ‘here’s my fiver’, just from a few conversations I’ve had.”
The mill – for years operated by Allinsons – closed nearly two years ago when current leaseholders ADM Milling moved out. The trust is currently in negotiation for the company to buy out the lease.
Alison added: “We were invited by the Safe Anchors Trust, who we work with, when Princess Anne visited to launch a boat, and we had the chance to tell her about our plans.
“I told her the mill was built in the year of Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee, and we want to buy it in the year of our queen’s diamond jubilee. She was most interested and said ‘you must continue milling in that mill’.”
Lorna Malkin, trust manager, said: “We want to have the theme ‘Made in Castleford’. The idea came about because in across Europe and parts of this country Roman brooches have been found, which when translated have the words ‘made in Castleford’ on them.
“So right back as far as 2,000 years ago people have been saying that, and when you think about all through the life of the town, the industry produced here, glass, pottery, bricks, textiles, as well as the people made in Castleford, like Henry Moore, we want young people to say ‘I’m made in Castleford’ and to be proud of that.
“Hopefully the mill will showcase some of the things being made in the town now, which will hopefully include flour and other manufacturers. It would be nice to have creative industries in there, but obviously we also need to let space commercially to make it pay.”
Interior and landscape architecture students from Leeds Metropolitan University are already working on designs for the building and its surroundings, while building conservation students at York University are also involved, and Sheffield Hallam students are working on heritage and community projects and funding.
Wendy Rayner, community specialist on the trust’s Castleford Mill Project steering group, said: “We don’t want the mill turning into anything else apart from for the community. Castleford is known for its industry, but it’s never been put on the map and I think this will do it, with a status symbol like that.
“It can also create jobs and training, there’s so much industry lost here I think the youth of this town needs something like this to look forward to.”
To get involved in fundraising for the mill project, contact Castleford Heritage Trust on 01977 556741 or call into Bridge Arts on Sagar Street.
Landscape architect students at Leeds Metropolitan University have also set up a Facebook page to track the progress of the project. Visit www.facebook.com/CastlefordQueensMillProject to find out more.