Bright future dawning for historic Whaley Bridge canal warehouse

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Volunteers are working to transform a precious historic canal warehouse in Whaley Bridge into a community and music venue.

Whaley Bridge Community Group have been chipping away for the past eight years slowly repairing parts of the town’s transhipment warehouse.

After making slow progress fixing windows and doors and reclaiming derelict land on the Grade II*-listed building , they are now preparing to take it to the next stage.

Regular markets are already held at the site of the industrial gem but with major work on the electrics, plumbing and roof planned, the building will be a major community hub in the next few years.

The community group, headed up by Neville Clarke, is now planning a number of events, including antiques fairs and beer festivals at the site to generate some income.

However the long-term plan is to see the building become a venue for weddings, music and other events – with the upstairs area possibly rented as office space.

The two-storey warehouse – through which the Peak Forest Canal runs – was originally built in 1801. Following the arrival of Cromford and High Peak Railway in Whaley Bridge during 1831 it became a major interchange between the canal and the railway.

However, after the closure of the Whaley Bridge section of Cromford and High Peak Railway in 1951 it fell into disuse and was essentially derelict by the 1970s.

It is owned by the Canal and River Trust who are working with the volunteers to see it come back into use.

Neville, 44, said: “We have something of historical significance here which a lot of people come to Whaley Bridge to see - so it’s a shame not to see it being used.

“I would like to see it become a music venue where bands play at least once a month - the canal rolling through it is a great feature and it sounds great acoustically.

“We would have to have all the safety features and barriers up to scratch but we could safely take up to 200 people.”

Warehouse manager Neville told how the group was now in the process of becoming a community interest company - which could pave the way for accessing funds from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and other bodies.

The community group is working with the Canal and River Trust to have the electrics repaired but ‘tens of thousands’ of pounds was needed to repair plumbing and a leaking roof in order to have the building removed from Historic England Heritage’s at Risk Register.

Neville said: “It’s a great space for musicians but we need a lot of money to make it safe so we’ll try a variety of events in the next year to see it in use. We’re open to ideas.”

l The next market at the warehouse will be held on April 6 from 9am to 2pm and will feature live music.