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Plans Submitted for Restoration of Former Austin House into Art Facilities

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Plans have been submitted to create top class arts facilities for students in Worcester.

The University of Worcester has registered a planning application with Worcester City Council to turn the former County Furnishings building in Castle Street into high quality teaching and learning space. It is expected that the new facilities will be open in September 2018.

The art deco building, with its impressive and distinctive clock tower, was designed and built in 1939 as a car showroom for Lord Austin of Austin Motors. Over the years it has been used by various motor dealerships, including HA Saunders, Mann Egerton and Rover. In the 1990s it became the home of Rowe Carpets of Kidderminster, and most recently was used by County Furnishing for the sale of soft furnishings.

The large open plan spaces of the building lend themselves naturally to art and design based courses, giving students plenty of freedom for creative thought and activity.

The University has been working with Cardiff-based GWP Architects to develop a sympathetic restoration of the building, which will see large studio and exhibition spaces created inside. The exterior will remain largely unchanged.

Professor Sarah Greer, Deputy Vice Chancellor, said: “We are thrilled to be bringing this historic and important city building back into use. We will be carrying out a sensitive restoration, retaining as many original features as possible, including of course the iconic clock tower, while creating excellent facilities for students on a range of art and graphics related courses.”

The Grade II Listed building stands on part of the site of the old County Gaol, which closed during the early 20th Century. It is understood that in the early 1800s, bodies of hanged prisoners would be taken, via a tunnel under Castle Street, to what was then the Worcester Royal Infirmary hospital, where they were used for medical practice. The University of Worcester’s Infirmary Museum, within the former hospital, which now forms part of the University’s City Campus, tells the story of this historical, gruesome link.

The University has already carried out preparatory work at the site, including archaeological investigations.

The plans are currently with Worcester City Council for consideration.

If you are interested in studying art, or taking a degree in a range of other subjects, the University of Worcester has places available for well-qualified applicants through Clearing this year.

The Clearing hotline – 01905 855111 – is now open for those collecting BTEC results and Access qualifications and will remain open as A-level results are released on Thursday, August 17th.