THE transformation of Ilkley's Manor House is to begin after the trust formed to turn it into a vibrant tourist destination was awarded a grant.
The money - £5,000 - from the Architectural Heritage Fund will enable the long process of refurbishing the historic house and cottages, with a view to bringing them back into use for the benefit of the wider community, to begin.
Ruth Pitt, a member of the Ilkley Manor House Trust said: "We will be using this money, in conjunction with generous local donations already pledged, to carry out a feasibility study and to begin preparing our major bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund, which we hope will support our ambitious plans to create a wonderful heritage, arts and community centre for our town and to offer visitors across the district an important destination that will delight and inform in equal measure.
"This will be a long journey. However, negotiations for the transfer of the Manor House from Bradford Council to the Ilkley Manor House Trust are progressing apace. We are currently interviewing for a part-time centre manager and will be making an appointment shortly and we already have in place the preferred suppliers we intend to work with if further funds can be secured. We hope that a new website will soon be up and running and we will be announcing a public consultation meeting within the next few weeks. In the meantime we hope to start renting out space at the Manor House for a variety of uses soon. People can contact us with any queries in the first instance via our Facebook page @IlkleyManorHouse
"Previous open weekends at the Manor House have demonstrated a huge groundswell of support in the town for an exciting destination of this nature, catering as we hope it will for all ages and for local people and visitors alike."
Sir Rodney Brooke, Chairman of the Ilkley Manor House Trust said: "This is the first step in the transformation of the Manor House. It will be a great asset to the Ilkley community, a place where local groups can meet and where exhibitions can take place. It will attract visitors from elsewhere. It will explain Ilkley’s unique cultural heritage - the rock art on the Moor, the Roman fort, the Saxon crosses, the Norman church and the Victorian spa town. It will increase footfall in the town and bring trade to local businesses."
Bradford Council - who closed the Manor House Museum in 2015 - confirmed in March this year the Manor House Trust was free to take over the site and run it as a community asset.
Costs to run it into a heritage and arts centre will be at least £650,000. Generous donations from the public have already topped £200,000. Talks have been held with Historic England about the ways the buildings can be adapted to become a lively hub for a 21st century community. Talks have also taken place with the Heritage Lottery Fun.