Dronfield Hall Barn, Dronfield, Derbyshire

What’s so special about this place?

Listed Grade II*, Dronfield Hall Barn is built around the high quality oak king post framework of an early 15th century timber-framed manor house, the oldest surviving domestic building in the town. Evidence within the structure suggests the Hall may have had a Medieval dais canopy, positioned above the Lord of the Manor’s seat at the high table when entertaining guests of distinction. It was converted to a barn in the 17th century, clad in sandstone and roofed in stone slate. The barn formed part of the Hall Farm complex of buildings owned by the Rotherham-Cecil estate, with cottages and workshops standing in front.

Its most important function now is as a unique community hub, using a networking model to bring together the skills and resources of local people.

Why was the building under threat?

The building, with surrounding land, was gifted to the Peel Centre in 2004 on condition that it was used for the benefit of the town’s community.  Unused for over ten years, it was in very poor condition, rapidly deteriorating, and unsafe. Dronfield Heritage Trust was formed from volunteers in the town to take on the project. Over 3000 townspeople voted for the building to be a heritage, natural history and arts centre, but it was a serious challenge. The Grade II* listing allowed minimal changes to the envelope and the small footprint, an L shape with 20m x 6m main range with a 6m x 6m south wing, presented huge difficulties for public gatherings.

How Was It Saved? 

A grant from the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) in 2008 funded an Options Appraisal, and an AHF Project Development Grant in 2012 enabled the bids for capital funds. The Trust, using the skills of its retired professionals, also garnered hundreds of letters of support and recruited 280 Friends of Dronfield Hall Barn. The Trust has developed the Friends group, drawn in expertise from volunteers to use their skills to benefit their community. £1.45m was raised from The Heritage Lottery Fund, Viridor Credits and Garfield Weston. Most importantly, the donations from generous private individuals across the town tipped the fund over the £1.3m mark and enabled a start on the construction work in January 2015. 

Project: Dronfield Hall Barn
Client:  Dronfield Heritage Trust

New Use: restored building opened in February 2016 as a heritage, natural history and arts centre providing volunteering opportunities, working with older people.

Find out more at: http://www.dronfieldhallbarn.org

Professional team:

Architects:  Mitchell Proctor
Quantity Surveyors:  Patrick Meads and Associates
Structural Engineers:  Project Design Associates
Project Design Associates: M & Design Consultants:  E P Consulting
Main Contractors: W M Birch and Sons Ltd

Other Project Funders:

Heritage Lottery Fund £1,269,400
Local donations £188,979
Vindor Credits £149,000
Garfield Weston Foundation £40,00
Charles Hayward Foundation £2,500
Total £1,649,879


How Is The Building Used Now?

The restored building now has a first floor exhibitions gallery and functions space topped by the medieval timbered roof. The heritage visitor centre and refreshment area is on the ground floor. A contemporary extension provides high specification catering kitchen, visitor cloakrooms and an education/seminar facility. The building has an advanced audio-visual facility throughout for heritage and visitor information. This uses unique software designed and developed by volunteer IT specialists. 4000 items from the town archives are digitally captured and all townspeople can access these.

Rather than compete for audiences with existing voluntary organisations, the Dronfield Heritage Trust created a unique partnership scheme for the principal heritage, natural history and arts groups in Dronfield. Their members become members of the trust, their experienced volunteers develop and deliver activities and the trust provides professional help with membership management, finance, event bookings and publicity. This network connects and networks all the organisations, enabling each to recruit for trustees and members from a wider pool, strengthening the whole community, and opening opportunities for sharing ideas. Total memberships now exceed 1000. Their subscriptions, publications and activity participation fees provide 50% of core income and room letting fees for catering, functions and meetings provide the remainder. Over 120 registered volunteers are involved in all aspects of the operation from management to stewarding.

How Did The AHF Help?

The AHF funded an Options Appraisal in 2008, which identified that a sustainable community hub could be run from the restored building. The building suffered from repeated vandalism and it proved difficult for the Trust to sustain its volunteers: the Cold Spot Grants proved useful in enabling further development of the initial ideas. In 2012 an AHF Project Development Grant enabled the Trust to bid for and secure capital funding.