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Restoration work to restore town’s historic appeal

SIX historic properties in Gosport’s town centre are to be given long overdue facelifts as part of a plan to spruce up the area and attract more visitors.

A total of £400,000 is being shared out among the owners so they can restore their frontages and enhance the historic character.

The businesses are the first to successfully apply for grants, funded by Historic England, as part of Gosport’s high street heritage action zone scheme – HSHAZ.

By improving properties in the High Street and Stoke Road conservation areas, and celebrating Gosport’s rich heritage, the scheme aims to breathe new life into the town centre and make it more appealing for shoppers, tourists and investors.

And more properties are set to benefit as the scheme continues.

The initial six properties are:

  • The former Royal Arms pub on Stoke Road. A local landmark, with a decorative wrought-iron and stained glass canopy and glazed brick façade, it was a favourite watering hole of submariners on shore leave. The rear of the pub is now supported accommodation for young people with disabilities. It is hoped the vacant front portion of the building will soon be brought into use as a café.
  • 8 Portland Buildings. This forms the prominent corner of an impressive row of art deco shops at the western end of Stoke Road. The location of Bull’s hardware store for 60 years, it is now home to Blitz Photography.
  • 65 Stoke Road – one of the oldest buildings on Stoke Road, dating back to the early 1800s, when the area was first developed as Bingham Town. The three-storey building, with a shop at ground level and a flat above, is currently vacant.
  • 15 North Cross Street – another three-storey building with a shop at ground level, dating to the early 1800s. Once a butchers shop, it is home to Goodwins Photography.
  • 18-19 North Cross Street – thought to date back to the 17th century. Once two shops with flats above, it is now a single shop – Electro Trade – with a flat above.
  • 20 North Cross Street – also originally two properties, now a shop with a flat above. Dating from the early 18th century, the property was once used by an undertaker, with a passageway to the left for horse-drawn carriages. It is now home to Weddings of Distinction.

Ari Davis, owner of the former Royal Arms, said: “I’m extremely excited that this historic building, which means such a lot to the people of Gosport, will be restored to its former glory.”

Blitz Photography owner Georgina Reid said: “The grant is wonderful opportunity for our building and we look forward to seeing it brought back into its original condition for future generations to enjoy.”

Lisa Grafton, owner of 65 Stoke Road, said: “I had full support from the HSHAZ team and the architect involved and they both made it very easy for me to apply for the grant to repair my building. I’m really happy to have a substantial sum with which to restore the building to its former glory.”

Karen Goodwin, owner of 15 North Cross Street said: “Having been established in Gosport for 38 years, it’s a huge privilege to receive this grant and restore our old and much-loved building to its original, period condition. I work with images, so the enhanced building can only give my studio a perfect backdrop.”

The grants will help the owners repair and improve those features which contribute most strongly to the character of the buildings. In the case of the Royal Arms, this will mean the comprehensive restoration of its prominent stained glass and wrought-iron canopy.

The Leader of Gosport Borough Council, Councillor Graham Burgess, said: “We’re delighted to see these grants awarded as part of the high street heritage action zone. After months of careful planning we’re looking forward to seeing the scaffolding go up and this work to restore the character of Gosport’s historic centre begin in earnest. We wish all the owners every success with their projects.”

Clare Charlesworth, head of region for Historic England in London and the south east, said: “This is a significant investment which will make a lasting difference to the look and feel of Stoke Road and North Cross Street. It’s great to have enthusiastic building owners on board that want to share in celebrating and enhancing Gosport’s historic streetscape.”

Work on the six properties is expected to start in the spring. The grant programme has proved extremely popular, with demand for grants outstripping supply. Consequently, the HSHAZ team is currently not seeking new applications.

PICTURED: The magnificent Royal Arms facade in Stoke Road, Gosport, has been a major cause for concern over the past decade, with conservationists desperate to protect its stained glass canopy. Photograph by James O Davies