Visitors take chance to see inside historic Fenland venue and give views on its future
Over 200 people took the opportunity to take a peek inside an historic Fenland venue which once hosted names like the Rolling Stones and Shirley Bassey.
The Wisbech Corn Exchange Conservation Trust opened the doors to the building, which dates back to 1811, as part of the annual Heritage Weekend Open Days.
The aim was not just to give people a chance to see inside the building, but to also to invite them to offer up ideas with what they would like to see provided at the premises located on North Brink in Wisbech.
Last year the building’s Trust, which is chaired by Norman Jacobs, was awarded £15,000 from the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) to look into whether proposals to restore and reopen the building as a multi-use venue for the town was viable.
The Project Viability grant is to allow the Trust to carry out a feasibility study to explore different options for the renovation, repair and re-use of the building, including a building condition survey, architect’s survey and outline designs, outline costings, business planning and further consultation with the community.
The final project is likely to cost millions but the Trust needs the public’s feedback on what they would like to see provided to ensure the massive investment is put to good use.
Mr Jacobs said the open days held last weekend (September 18 and 19) saw 150 feedback forms completed and handed back. A further 50 are available for people to pick up from the newly opened community hub based at Etcetera in The Row.
Live music, especially classical events, was one of the main suggestions from visitors, but other ideas included indoor markets, activities for younger children, a venue for marriages and wedding receptions and business and educational events.
Mr Jacobs said: “The idea of it becoming a place for people to get married and for wedding receptions is really nice because at one time the building housed the register office.
He agreed with suggestions about re-introducing live music to the venue but doubted they would attract the big names who graced the stage during the 1950s and 60s - the performance by the Rolling Stones was one of the band's first concerts outside London when they were first starting out.
People also liked the idea of musicals and shows by local operatics groups. Other suggestions included antique fayres and mayoral balls.
Mr Jacobs said: "The response we had with 150 completed forms was brilliant, and we had over 200 completed the same time lat year, but there are thousands of people in Wisbech so we would love to hear from more people, so we will be launching an online feedback form on our website shortly."
The Corn Exchange was built in 1811 following plans by Joseph Medworth, as an Exchange Hall and Gentlemen’s Club, the Corn Exchange became home to Wisbech Town Council in 1835, where it remains resident to the present day.
At the end of the 19th century, the Corn Exchange had become a centre for local events and entertainment. Soon after the Second World War, when the hall had served as a British Restaurant to help feed the local community, the council rented the hall for public entertainment.
This continued for almost the next 40 years until it closed its doors in the early 1990s, when a plan to turn the hall into a cinema was discussed but failed to meet planning approval and the building fell into disrepair.
To find out more about the building and the trust visit: https://wcxct.co.uk