February 24, 2024

South West News

South West News from Gloucestershire to Cornwall

St Austell community event celebrates town centre improvements delivered by Townscape Heritage Scheme

Image shows three people standing in front of an ornate water fountain

Photo – St Austell Town Council Mayor Crystal Pearce unveils the restored ornate grade II listed water fountain and new water bottle refill, alongside Andrew Richard, Cornwall Council project lead for the St Austell Townscape Heritage Scheme and Fleur White, the ceramic artist who designed to plaque.

The St Austell community came together at the town’s annual Garden Festival on Saturday (June 24) to celebrate the landmark completion of St Austell’s Townscape Heritage Scheme – a five-year project to reimagine the town for the benefit of residents, visitors and the local economy.

The £1.5m National Lottery funded initiative, led by Cornwall Council in collaboration with St Austell Town Council and St Austell BID, has repaired and regenerated historic buildings and public spaces in St Austell’s conservation area including:

  • The restoration of St Austell’s Grade II listed 1844 Market House, which has been transformed into a vibrant community space and home to local independent businesses.
  • Shopfront façades and signs revitalised with handmade botanical ceramic tiles and new bespoke ceramic murals that have been commended in the Cornwall Buildings Group 2023 Awards.
  • The Trinity Centre transformed into a hub for local people offering meeting and training rooms, with a new café set to open shortly.
  • The restoration of the Holy Trinity Church historic marble drinking-water fountain, dating from 1890, complemented by a new water refill point

Image shows the front of a two storey building

Feedback from residents and stakeholders contributed to an extensive independent evaluation report conducted earlier this year that praised the investment in the town and the delivery of the much-needed improvements to revitalise St Austell’s town centre.

The ambitious project, which began in 2018, inspired positive change for long-term impact and has successfully transformed 12 historic buildings across the town involving local artists and using traditional high-quality repairs – revitalising shopfronts, signage and reinstating missing architectural detailing.

The scheme has also facilitated new community spaces, recreational and work areas, accommodation and improved level access to public spaces.

Louis Gardner, Cornwall Council portfolio holder for economy, said:

“Involving the community and working with local stakeholders has been key in rejuvenating public areas and bringing empty or underused buildings back to their best. It’s fantastic to see how their commitment and enthusiasm for St Austell has resulted in the Townscape Heritage scheme having a significant impact on the appearance of the town centre conservation area, increasing its appeal to visitors and investors, and complementing other local initiatives of benefit to the town centre environment and economy.”

Anne Double, Cornwall Councillor for St Austell Central and Gover, Strategic Partnership Group and Grants Panel Member, adds:

“The Townscape Heritage Scheme has definitely made parts of our high street look a lot better. By restoring and improving these historic buildings we’ve breathed fresh life into them and are gaining more momentum with new innovative projects on the horizon.”

Drawing inspiration from St Austell’s rich China Clay heritage, and strong horticulture connections with the famous sub-tropical gardens close-by, botanicals and ceramics play a central role in bringing to life the array of new public features.

The extensive works to the sites in St Austell were all undertaken by heritage specialists, using quality materials and time-honoured methods to preserve historical features, in keeping with the local environment.

A snapshot of improvements made from St Austell’s Township Heritage Scheme:

  • The Holy Trinity Church marble drinking-water fountain, of ornate design which dates to 1890, is now comprehensively repaired. Cornish ceramist Fleur Winter was commissioned to design and create a new custom ceramic tile plaque for the historic fountain, which is complemented by a new water refill point for passing visitors.
  • The shopfront façades and signs of both Café Tengo (1 Fore Street) and artisan shop Coral & Moss (1 Vicarage Hill) have been revitalised with handmade botanical ceramic tiles, created by Studio Hotmess and Parasite Ceramics and 2-6 Bodmin Road, which is occupied now by Moustache Jacks Street Burgers, also hosts a bespoke new ceramic mural frontage, created by artist Marian Brandis. All three are shortlisted for commendation in the Cornwall Buildings Group 2023 Awards.
  • St Austell’s Grade II listed 1844 Market House, designed by Christopher Eales, has been transformed into a vibrant community space following a substantial restoration. Work included exposing the original stone pillars and arched ceiling inside, sash window refurbishment, new clear glazing to ground floor openings and doors and new traditional ceramic signage, alongside bespoke planters created by local artist Paul Jackson.
  • The Trinity Centre, positioned opposite the Grade I listed Holy Trinity Church and adjoining the Market House, 3 Market Street is now a hub for local people offering meeting and training rooms, with a new café set to open shortly. The detailed building restoration works have preserved the heritage of the building, revitalised an office space, complemented by the addition of a unique ceramic mural depicting St Austell designed by by Caroline Allsup-Evans with tiles produced by Flookan St Austell Ceramics Hub.
  • The former Tregarne Sunday School (Trevarthian Road) is a notable building, and part of the story of Methodism in Cornwall. Identified as a ‘Building at Risk’, after 25 years vacant it was sold for conversion to residential in 2021. Now sensitively restored, the work included re-roofing in local slate, repaired original doors and arched headed sash windows incorporating coloured glass and EV charging for cars and bikes.

The projects funded through the Townscape Heritage scheme provide innovative, creative high quality reference points that add local distinctiveness through use of clay. This is an uniquely St Austell outcome that will hopefully inspire similar future work in the town.