Public fundraiser launched to move forward with Pugin Studios project in Ramsgate

The former Granville Hotel Photo Frank Leppard

The team behind a project to create a community arts club at the Granville Bars have launched a fundraising appeal.

Heritage Lab CIC hopes to raise £25,000 from public donations which will be matched pound for pound by the Architectural Heritage Fund.

The aim is to create refurbished spaces at the ‘Pugin Studios’ site for exhibitions, community events, shared working and conferences. Currently unused and in a state of disrepair, the building forms part of the Historic England at Risk Conservation area and part of Ramsgate’s Heritage Action Zone.

The original hotel bedrooms at the property have long been converted for private residential use and do not form part of the project.

The Granville Photo Frank Leppard

Heritage Lab had agreed to buy the 999-year leasehold to the seafront Granville Bars in 2019 but the COVID crisis thwarted their attempts to secure the necessary funding.

However, work was resumed after being granted £300,000 from the Government’s Community Ownership Fund in May. This was followed by a grant of £77,300 from the Architectural Heritage Fund in August.

Heritage Lab says it now needs the public’s help to get its flagship project open for next year.

The venue in Victoria Parade has been closed for 30 years. Heritage Lab says the project will reopen the former ballroom, bar and restaurant for uses such as hospitality, exhibitions, performances, interpretation space, community events and conferences. The lower ground floor will be for studios and co-working spaces for  professional artists. The scheme is predicted to create 100 jobs and apprenticeships.

Photo Frank Leppard

The former hotel building forms part of the Historic England at Risk Conservation area and Ramsgate’s Heritage Action Zone. The Grade II listed property was built in 1867 by EW Pugin and was previously the country’s premier health spa hotel, serviced by its own private train.

Regularly visited by princes and princesses, grand dukes, lords and ladies, writers, actors and the rich and famous from all over Europe, the Granville Hotel guest list represented a “who’s who” of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

With 26 spas and baths, a marble skating ring, theatre, and ballroom, it was the premier destination of its day, with guests arriving on the privately chartered first class ‘Granville Express’ train from London.

It was commandeered as a military hospital for the Canadian Government in the first World War, and medical officers who served there include the first Canadian to be awarded the Victoria Cross and a future Nobel laureate.

Later in the 20th century it was more widely known as a ballroom dancing venue and the Cave jazz club. Its public bar closed for the final time in 1991.

Matthew Mckeague, CEO of the Architectural Heritage Fund, said: “AHF is very glad to be offering match funding for Heritage Lab’s Pugin Studios crowdfunding campaign. We hope that this funding, along with the generous support of the public, will help Heritage Lab to fulfill their vision of reopening The Granville as a thriving community and arts hub.”

Rob Kenyon and Bernie Morgan of Heritage Lab CIC

Rob Kenyon, CEO & Founder, Heritage Lab, CIC, added: “We are delighted about the ongoing generous support of the Architectural Heritage Fund. The more we raise from this crowd funding campaign, the less we will need to borrow and the cheaper space will be for artists and the community.”

Find the fundraiser here


    • Whilst I agree with you in principle – it is also sacrilege that the magnificent architecture should have been allowed to fall into such disrepair.

      We can only hope that ”the team” is more successful than some of the other projects they have been involved with . . .

  1. why should joe public sponsor something that is of zero use or inerest to them ? let the arty farty mob back it – they want it – i dont

  2. Nobody else has wanted the space for years. If “art” is the only game in town, let’s all play!
    We haven’t got the sort of government that thinks “outside the box”. Especially if they are wedded to the idea that only private businesses should run things or get new ideas going.(I’m still waiting!!)
    So we are left with local activists to stimulate growth. And if local residents are keen on artistic endeavour, so be it.

    • Fair comment.

      I’m NOT anti-art… only anti-art in Margate, where it seems to be the default position, bringing nothing to the vast majority of people. I was in Rochester yesterday, and last week I visited Broadstairs. Both have thriving High Streets, with very few closed shops. Unlike the “regenerated” Margate! I just hope that Ramsgate doesn’t go too far in the same direction.

      • Re margate Peter

        You must have wondered more than a few hundreds yards from the Turner centre. The millions spent on the Turner centre only goes as far as a few hundreds yards. The rest of margate is still a sh*t hole

        • It is worse than ever. A couple of weeks back I walked down the lower High Street for the first time in months, and I was shocked by how many closed shops there are and how grubby everything is.

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