CONFIRMATION that supermarket giant Lidl is exploring sites for a new store in Hexham has reignited calls for the town’s former workhouse buildings to be retained.
After it emerged the site on Corbridge Road had been the subject of a pre-planning application inquiry lodged by the German discount chain, members of Hexham Civic Society have spoken out against the demolition of the buildings.
The organisation has long argued that the significance of the deteriorating structures, some of which date back to the 1830s, means they should be protected and preserved as evidence of Hexham’s social history.
Chairman of Hexham Civic Society, Roger Higgins, said: “While we would enthusiastically support a scheme which develops the workhouse buildings for an alternative use, along with sensitive development of the adjacent car parking site, we are implacably opposed to demolition of the workhouse buildings.”
He added that they were not opposed to Lidl or other supermarkets occupying suitable sites in Hexham.
“We are of the opinion that the buildings are most suited to being redeveloped as housing and have worked with students from Newcastle University to come up with proposals,” said Roger.
The workhouse was once home to 300 of the town’s poorest people at a time.
It was extensively remodelled between 1880-1883 to include a new administration block, a master’s house and two sick wards. Striking murals in the old dining room survive to this day.
Civic society member, Paul Wharrier, said: “There is a signature – E or G Swinburne.
“If the paintings are by the Edward Swinburne, who was born in Capheaton, he lived until 1847 and has work in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
“We hope that by drawing attention to this little known part of Hexham’s history, the buildings, together with the murals, which most people are unaware of, may be saved from demolition.”