Thursday, 29 August 2013

The National Centre for Craft and Design celebrates its 10th anniversary (Part One)

The History and Origins of the National Centre for Craft and Design in Sleaford 

This year The National Centre for Craft and Design celebrates its 10th anniversary. In July, I attended the celebrations with my son; I especially enjoyed the current ‘Growing’ exhibition and joined in many of the “Make and Take” activities that were available to visitors.

The title of the exhibition got me thinking about how artists develop over time. One of the activities was a quiz which ran through the building, one of the questions being, “What did the building used to be?” My knowledge of the building extends as far as I remembered being told that it used to be a seed factory. The old adage sprung to mind, “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow”.

So how did this humble seed factory find it’s way to becoming such a strategic focal point for the Crafts Industry in Great Britain?

The PeaRooms (Image by Finnur Hannard)
It started life as The Pearoom in Heckington which was built in 1870 by the Great Northern Railway Company and shortly afterwards leased to the internationally renowned seed firm of Charles Sharpe of Sleaford. Locally grown peas were brought to the Pearoom by horse and cart with peas from further afield being delivered by rail for sorting and then exporting. It was used in this manor right up until 1961.

In the 1970s, with the help of Government grants, fundraising activities, hard work by many volunteers and leadership by the Heckington Village Trust, the Pearoom was converted into a heritage, craft and tourism centre for the village. It was operated by the Village Trust, a team of dedicated volunteers, until a licence was granted by the trust for North Kesteven District Council. Thus began an important relationship between the local council and craft makers and designers.

When the lease expired a decision of what to do with the craft centre needed to be taken. The chosen option was to move the centre and to develop the old Hubbard and Phillips Seed Warehouse in Sleaford, which was disused and in poor condition. The building had been used by the same company since 1890 and finally closed it’s doors in 1972.

The approach taken by the architect, Frank Shaw Associates has been sympathetic and reflects the industrial heritage of the old building. Leaving the original exposed steel work combined with the use of modern materials such as the stainless steel architraves and lighting panels in the main gallery to reflect the building’s past. 

The Building formed one of the major redevelopment projects of the seven years Sleaford Pride Regeneration that began in 1996. On 7th October 2003, the building was opened officially by The Princess Royal and so became the largest dedicated contemporary craft exhibition gallery in England had been created. It was recognised as a nationally significant development by the Arts Council of England in 2003.

Some say the title for the building was taken from the Hubbard’s family name to commemorate the building’s origins. “The Hub” as it was formerly known, was a significant part of the very successful Sleaford Pride project, as it was the “Hub” of Sleaford Pride. Over the years, the term “Hub” has been used in many different concepts, transport hub, university hub and it was felt that perhaps the title was no longer relevant to the continual development of this contemporary craft venue.

In 2011, the building changed its title to The National Centre for Craft and Design thus marking the changes. Amongst the changes a number of new partnerships formed including linking the NCCD with the Design Factory, an organization that “promotes artistic integrity, raises the standard of craft and design and commercially supports and develops the very best designer/makers in craft practice today” and LOV Lincolnshire One Venues. 

From humble beginnings, the origins of the Pearoom and the old Hubbarb and Phillips seed factory will certainly not be forgotten. There is one phrase that greets visitors on entering the building:-

 “This used to be a seed warehouse it still is” 

The National Centre for Craft and Design celebrates its 10th anniversary (Part Two)

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