Wednesday, 11 March 2015
A landmark Worcester building will be transformed into high quality teaching space as part of the development of the University of Worcester’s City Campus.
The University has exchanged contracts for the purchase of the County Furnishings building on Castle Street, which shares a historical link with the University’s Charles Hastings building across the road.
The County Furnishings building stands on the site of the old county gaol. It is understood that in the early 1800s, bodies of hanged prisoners would be taken, via a tunnel under Castle Street, to what was then the Worcester Royal Infirmary hospital, where they were used for medical practice. The University of Worcester’s Infirmary Museum, within the former hospital, which now forms part of the University’s City Campus, tells the story of this historical, gruesome link.
The current art deco building, with its impressive clock tower, was designed and built more than 70 years ago for Lord Austin, founder of the famous Austin Motors, in 1939 as a car showroom. Over the years, it has been used by various car companies including H A Saunders, Mann Egerton and Rover. In the 1990s, it housed Rowe Carpets of Kidderminster.
County Furnishings moved in around 10 years ago. Director Susie Scholes said: “We are really pleased to be able to pass this historic building on to the University and very much look forward to seeing it restored, in the same way as the former Infirmary has been.”
The University will transform the building into high quality teaching space. The University’s capital developments programme has re-focussed on the development of the University’s City Campus as the refurbishment of the listed, former County Furnishings building will take place in parallel with the planned refurbishment of the former Headquarters building of the Worcester City Council’s Orchard House complex. This complex, was purchased by the University last year and becomes available to the University from next month.
Together, these new buildings, when refurbished, will provide a range of new facilities for students, community and business users at the heart of the City of Worcester. Previous refurbishments by the University have won national plaudits, including the best retro-fit building in the UK for 2012. This policy has also contributed to the University becoming one of the greenest universities in the UK – it is currently ranked 2nd of 156 universities and colleges by People and Planet.
In a further development, the University has announced that it has agreed to pause the development of the University Park site to the west of Worcester.
A joint statement from the University and its development partner Wrenbridge says: “The University of Worcester and its development partner Wrenbridge have worked in partnership since 2011 on the development of University Park. Following the successful completion of projects to construct the St John’s Medical Centre and Sanctuary Housing’s care and assisted living village, the University of Worcester and Wrenbridge have decided to place the project on hold.
“Wrenbridge will focus on its £500m project pipeline throughout the UK. The University is undertaking a comprehensive review of its own estates development strategy having recently made a number of other acquisitions in Worcester.
“Wrenbridge and the University of Worcester would like to jointly thank all of the consultants and partners who have contributed to the successful developments at the Park over the past 4 years.”