Gainsborough’s House project gains big boost after council gifts heritage site for free
A proposed regeneration of Gainsborough’s House in Sudbury has gained a huge boost from a Babergh District Council donation, as an assessment finds the project could add almost £3 million per year to the local economy.
Babergh’s cabinet voted this month to gift Gainsborough’s Chambers, a site it bought for £235,000 four years ago, to the Gainsborough’s House Society free of charge, in support of the society’s ambitious £8.7 million project Reviving an Artist’s Birthplace – A National Centre for Gainsborough.
The council cited an economic impact assessment by the society in its decision, which predicted the project could create 60 temporary full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs, nine permanent FTE jobs and 20 indirect FTE jobs.
The analysis also stated the project, once completed, could inject £2.9 million into the local economy, a 72 per cent rise on the museum’s contribution from 2015/16.
John Ward, leader of Babergh District Council and chairman of Babergh’s cabinet, said: “We’ve always been very keen to support Gainsborough’s House and the fantastic work it does. That’s why we bought this property in 2014.
“Since then, we’ve leased it to the Gainsborough’s House Society, but the time has now come for them to take over completely and I’m delighted we’re able to gift the property to them.
“Their project could have a huge impact on Sudbury, both in cultural and economic terms, and we are proud to be a part of that.”
The council is now in the process of transferring the ownership of Gainsborough’s Chambers, so it can be incorporated into the project.
The regeneration has so far received donations of more than £8 million, including £5.2 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, with plans to renovate the Grade I listed Gainsborough’s House and create a new structure containing a number of art galleries.
Formerly the home of a labour exchange, the Weavers Lane property, which is adjacent to Gainsborough’s House, had previously been leased to the society at a yearly rent of £12,000, since Babergh District Council acquired the site in April 2014.
Mark Bills, director of Gainsborough’s House, said: “It was thanks to Babergh District Council’s purchase of the site that our vision to create a National Centre for Thomas Gainsborough even got off the starting blocks.
“So we are absolutely thrilled, as we take the final steps towards securing this £8.7 million investment for Sudbury, that the council has decided to generously gift us this land.
“It really means a lot to us and also shows how much the council and the community supports our vision to make a real difference to the town, its residents and businesses.
“It’s terrific news and brings our project another step closer to reality.”