Historic Red Tower to become modern community centre

L/R: Chairman of Red Tower CIC, Barry Beckwith, and Managing Director of Croft Farm Construction, Phil Gledall.

Historic Red Tower to become modern community centre

A refurbishment is underway to transform one of the UK’s most unusual historic buildings into a 21st century café and community hub.

The Grade 1 listed building in York, which was the scene of a medieval murder over a trade dispute during its construction 500 years ago, is to be refurbished by Croft Farm Construction.

The internal fitting out of a £90,000 contract has started for owner, not-for-profit Red Tower Community Interest Company (CIC), which secured a 30-year lease from the City of York Council in February 2017.

After refurbishment, the property, which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument (the highest classification of protected building), will incorporate meeting and events space, LED lighting, a café, kitchen and WC as a community hub for residents, visitors and businesses.

Funding is from Yorventure’s Landfill Communities Fund, City of York Council and Two Ridings Community Foundation. Profits will subsidise community use.  

Dunnington-based Croft Farm Construction, which refurbished Clementhorpe Maltings, Bishopthorpe, national residential winner in this year’s Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) awards, was recommended and appointed after a tendering process.

Managing director, Phil Gledall, says: “While this is a small project, it was irresistible because of the exciting challenge of working on such an unusual historic building with a remarkable background.

“I doubt that any of us involved– and one is an apprentice joiner – will get to work on anything similar in the rest of our lives.

“It is wonderful to be part of a project breathing new life into a property which has lain empty for centuries because no one knew what to do with it until Red Tower CIC developed its vision to revitalise it as a community hub.

“The structure and listings associated with The Red Tower restrict how we can work and we are applying traditional skills and attention to detail, such as fastening into mortar joints rather than brickwork, so as not to damage the ancient fabric.”

The Navigation Road area was affected by severe floods during Christmas 2015 destroying a pop-up café, run by volunteers who now run Red Tower CIC.

The refurbishment, which has been designed by York architects, Holland Brown, incorporates measures to minimise flood damage, including a steel, rather than timber-built, glass-enclosed staircase, polished concrete work surfaces and kitchen cabinets on castors for fast removal.

Red Tower CIC chairman, Barry Beckwith, says: ”The Red Tower has been dormant for far too long and it is our duty to provide a quality community resource.

“We are delighted that work has started and are confident that Croft Farm Construction will do a first-rate job. 

“We want The Red Tower to be available during crises so comfort and information can be made available.

“Since a local men’s club closed there is no community facility and we want to give local people, including many elderly and infirm, a new meeting place. 

“Charitable advice organisations are also keen to use The Red Tower as an outreach centre. We have already hosted Older Citizens Advocacy York (OCAY), a healing clinic and hope to create a community cinema and entertainment such as folk nights. 

“Our lease includes gardens east and west of the tower with growing beds offering vegetables free to local people.

“We have also held free residents BBQs and plan to work with the newly-formed Walmgate Community Association which covers Walmgate  and  the Navigation Road estate badly-affected by the 2015 floods.”