MBE award for heritage services

Janet Allan, New Years honours
Janet Allan, New Years honours
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HERITAGE restoration projects both in New Mills and Manchester have helped earn a High Peak woman an MBE.

Janet Allan, of Dale Road, New Mills, has been given the prestigious award for services to heritage in the North West in the Queen’s New Year Honours list. The award is in recognition of work she has been involved with around the restoration of listed buildings.

Speaking of her award, Mrs Allan, 77, said: “I was very surprised but it’s all very exciting.

“I can think of half a dozen people who should have had it rather than me.

“I just hope that it helps the projects I’m involved in to get some more publicity. I’m very proud to be involved with both of them.”

One of the schemes Mrs Allan is currently involved with is the project to convert a former New Mills chapel into a community arts centre. Work is now well underway at the Grade II listed St James the Less on Spring Bank where builders and conservationists are undertaking the painstaking task of refurbishing and restoring the building which will be transformed into a studio and performance venue.

The project is led by the St James the Less Preservation Trust, which purchased the building from the Diocese of Derby when it closed as a place of worship.

As well as the studio space, the work is to include redesigning the former vestry to accommodate toilets and washrooms and a new-build annexe at the rear which will accommodate bar facilities and a multi-use function room.

It is expected that it will open as the Spring Bank Arts Centre in early summer.

Mrs Allan is also involved with work to refurbish and restore the former home of writer Elizabeth Gaskell in Manchester.

Best known for her novel Cranford, Elizabeth Gaskell wrote most of her books while living at Plymouth Grove, Manchester and Mrs Allan is heavily involved in the project to open the house up to the public.

It was as librarian at the Portico Library in Manchester that she involvement in restoring buildings began.

And her love of books including Elizabeth Gaskell’s work led her to this project, which she has been involved in for around 15 years. Work on restoring the house is well underway with the first phase now complete. However funding is needed for the refurbishment of the interior of the house at 84 Plymouth Grove.

An application for lottery funding has been submitted to help towards the project and a variety of other fundraising activities continue to take place to add to the total needed.

“Elizabeth Gaskell is very much a part of the heritage of Manchester,” Mrs Allan said. “She is Manchester’s most important writer and wrote Cranford which everybody knows. She wrote several books about Manchester in the 1840s and 1850s and lived in the house for about 15 years.

“She wrote everything except her first book during that time.”

And Mrs Allan, who said she would like to see both projects through to completion, paid tribute to those also involved: “Our volunteers and the people who do the job just for the love of it, they add so much to what we do and that is what is great about this country.”